With each passing day, the pressure on Mitt Romney to release more tax return intensifies, threatening to drown out Romney’s economic message and leading observers to conclude that the stuff he is trying to hide must be pretty darn bad if it’s worth all the hits he’s taking.
As Ben Adler points out in The Nation, the subject of Romney’s taxes is an area of rare agreement between the right and the left—both sides want Romney to release his taxes, though for different reasons. The left suspects that Romney might be hiding something, while the right thinks he’s damaging his entire cause by refusing to get it out of the way—particularly now in July before voters really start paying attention.
“He already is perceived by much of the public as an out-of-touch fat cat,” Adler writes. “Every day Romney is forced to play defense on his secretiveness is a day he spends reminding people that he is far richer than they are and still pays a lower tax rate, since his income is mostly capital gains. He, and his supporters, would rather he was talking about the high rate of unemployment. If Romney is going to ultimately cave on his taxes anyway, he would do better to get them out now, while swing voters are not yet paying close attention to the campaign, than in September or October.”
Every day that he stonewalls on the taxes is also another day that political observers engage in more speculation about what could be contained in Romney’s taxes. After all, we already know about the offshore bank accounts and the tax shelters.
Sources from Bain told the Huffington Post that if Romney knew he would have to spread all of his tax returns before the public eye, he would not have run for president. Romney did provide 23 years of tax returns to John McCain in 2008 when he was being vetted as a possible vice presidential candidate. While McCain has said his reasons for not choosing Romney had nothing to do with the contents of the tax returns, top McCain advisor Steve Schmidt said on MSNBC that it’s not worth the cost to Romney to release the returns. This comment came from a guy who has seen them.
“The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later — after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits,” Adler writes. “There will surely be a press feeding frenzy over new returns, but better to weather it in the middle of July.”
A poll by Public Policy Polling revealed that 56 percent of Americans and 61 percent of independents think Romney should release his returns from the last 12 years, while just 34 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents say he should not. Those are the kinds of numbers that should strike fear through the Romney campaign if their guy is truly serious on this one. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be a fly on the wall at Romney campaign headquarters, where members of his own staff have to be wondering what in the world is on those returns that has their guy so spooked?