ByÂ Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor
Mitt RomneyÂ will not release any more tax returns, he has said emphatically.
And even if Mr. Romney had been inclined to follow the advice of some prominent fellow Republicans and release a few more recent returns, he really canâ€™t, at least right now. If he did, he would look as if he had caved to pressure. No presidential candidate wants to look weak.
So can the uber-wealthy Romney ride out the storm over his unreleased returns and not look as if heâ€™s hiding something? Probably not, say political strategists. Though he is not required by law to share his tax returns, he is by tradition â€“ all the more because it was his father,Â George Romney, who pioneered the practice during his own presidential campaign in 1968.
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Some Republican strategists agree.
â€œI do think sometime in August, on a Friday before the convention, Romney will likely have a tax dump of some kind,â€ says a former staffer onÂ John McCainâ€™s 2008 presidential campaign. TheÂ GOPÂ convention begins Aug. 27.
The aide believes that if there had been something alarming in any of the 23 tax returns Romney handed over to Senator McCain four years ago when he was being vetted as a possible running mate, he would have heard about it. There wasnâ€™t.
Even though the aid believes Romney will eventually release the additional returns, he doesnâ€™t think he should, unlike formerÂ Republican National CommitteeÂ chairmanÂ Haley BarbourÂ andÂ Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (In January, Romney released his 2010 return and his estimated 2011 return.) But he suggests that if Romney does eventually put out several more returns, he had better brace himself.
â€œThis hit will not be three days,â€ he says. â€œAnyone who thinks it will be that short has never done hand-to-hand combat with these guys.â€
President ObamaÂ is determined to paint Romney as a â€œcorporate stooge,â€ the former aide says. â€œPeople do not understand the tax code. It is more convoluted than college football’s [bowl system]. The brilliance of Obama’s current campaign strategy is that he has put the burden of educating the voter on Romney.â€
Of particular interest has been the 2009 tax return. It is the one recent return that has not either been released or included in the stack of returns Romney handed the McCain campaign four years ago. Some press reports have speculated that Romney may have paid zero tax that year, or another recent year, a conceivably legitimate outcome, had he claimed big losses on investments.
On that score, the Romney campâ€™s wall of silence on the unreleased returns is starting to crack.PoliticoÂ asked Romneyâ€™s spokeswoman Wednesday if there was a year when he paid no tax.
â€œNot true,â€ Andrea Saul said.
That does not eliminate the possibility that Romney paid very low taxes at some point â€“ lower than the effective 13.9 percent rate he paid in his 2010 return, already far lower than that of the typical American taxpayer. Multiple years of super-low tax rates, no matter how legal and legitimate, would further Romneyâ€™s image as part of the privileged 1 percent.
Romney has justified his decision not to release more tax returns by saying it would only invite more unfair attacks from the opposition.
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