Romney’s biggest weakness has arguably been his tax returns. Reasonably or unreasonably (I’m in the latter camp), Democrats have hung the business guru’s tax history as an albatross around his neck. Harry Reid even made the patently false claim that he had info to prove that Romney paid no taxes at all for ten years. Why? To support the story line that Romney’s nothing more than a rich old white guy who doesn’t care about the average American.
“If you don’t think our country should be run by people who think you need a yacht for your opinion to count, then now’s the time to show it.”
That was DCCC political director Kelly Parker, appealing for $3 donations marked for President Obama. Democrats have been able to wield the 1% hatchet pretty well against Mr. Romney, and the tax return attack has been a natural extension of that strategy. “Why won’t he release more returns?” they ask. “Is he hiding something? Is he a felon or a tax fraud?”
Romney’s bobbed and weaved his way around the question with a modicum of success – which is exactly how he got through the problem in the primaries. But just as it seemed the tax issue had passed by in the rearview mirror, new 2011 data released by the campaign throws up a billboard off to the side of the road, offering Democrats an exit from the tough road of criticism they’ve faced over the Obama “recovery.”
From Politico’s Burns and Haberman:
Republicans are hopeful a piece of the information released Friday that he’d always promised — Romney’s full 2011 tax return — adds little to change the story. Voters already know that Romney is rich — now they know his effective tax rate was 14.1 percent last year.
Yet even without the new releases, polls showed Democrats have successfully branded Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy linked to a questionable web of international financial dealings. Releasing additional years worth of tax returns probably wouldn’t help Romney reverse that perception, if that’s even possible at this point.
It was the summary of 20 additional years worth of data, providing tax rate averages but no income information, that could raise more questions.
“My initial reaction to it is, once again, the Romney campaign wants the worst of both worlds,” said Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince. “All the summary does is raise lots of questions on what the summary hides. At the same time, it completely left everyone hungry for more. … (And) they’re conceding that (that) information is somewhat relevant to being asked for and they’re also continuing to hide it. It’s not like they’re trying to have it both ways — they’re trying to lose it both ways.”
While I suppose it is a good thing that Romney’s decided to honor his pledge to release his 2011 returns, the timing of the release doesn’t bode well for the candidate. It would have been better to release last year’s returns when the controversy over his taxes first came up months ago – best to get all the uproar over and out with at once. But at this point in the campaign, Friday’s release and a prayer for some strong debate performances are probably the best his campaign can do.