Tax Returns Have Romney in a Bind

National Journal Staff

The Obama campaign closed last week by poking Mitt Romney in the eye with an offer: disclose five years of tax returns and it will forgo any criticism for not releasing more.

The offer came in an open letter—clearly a stunt—and the Romney campaign declined. But the exchange did make a point. Romney’s stance on releasing more tax returns put him in a no-win situation, a curious move for a campaign in a tight race.

If Romney discloses more returns, he risks criticism over whatever devices he has used to lower his taxes and he stokes the rich guy image. It he withholds them, he fosters the idea that he’s hiding something—though it’s unlikely the returns contain anything illegal or improper—and allows the Obama campaign to keep flogging him.

The Romney campaign has said it is not disclosing more because that simply gives Obama more ammunition to attack him. They also argue there are more important issues to discuss, like employment and the economy. That’s all true.

The Obama campaign says Romney could end all this quickly with a disclosure, and that many other candidates have released more than two years of returns. That’s true, too.

Left unsaid, however, is that the Romney campaign has made a calculated – some might say cynical – decision that the issue of unreleased tax returns will not resonate with voters. And that means whatever is inside those returns just might.

—Glen Justice
 

NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT

Obama Campaign This Time Around: Brutal 
[National Journal, 8/20/12] Compared with the gauzy memories most have of the sunshine and post-partisan pixie dust of 2008, Obama’s reelection effort is the toughest, most aggressive in American history. And Romney advisors believe that Obama’s playing a dangerous game. 

Romney to Obama: Start Telling Truth on Tax Hikes NEW!
[National Journal, 8/20/12] Romney leveled harsh accusations at Obama on Monday in New Hampshire, appealing to the president to tell the people the truth on taxes – the truth allegedly being that Obama is raising taxes for middle-income Americans.  

Is Todd Akin Toast in Missouri?
[National Journal, 8/19/12] There’s been much heated commentary after Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP’s Senate nominee, commented on Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes that Akin is not dropping out of the race, but the Obama team will be quick to pounce. 

Romney’s Abortion View Overrides Ryan’s in Response to Todd Akin 
[National Journal, 8/20/12] In their response to Akin’s remarks, a statement said Romney-Ryan would “not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” signaling that Ryan’s opposition to allowing abortions in cases of rape will take a back seat to his new boss’s view. Romney called Akin's comments "inexcusable"  while Obama called them "offensive."

Ryan Hailed Akin’s ‘Leadership’ During Missouri Senate Primary
[TPM, 8/19/12] Akin earned gushing praise from Paul Ryan last year when he declared his candidacy for Senate. Akin touted Ryan’s praise as a major asset, prompting his GOP primary rivals to accuse Akin of misleading by implying Ryan had endorsed him in the race – which Ryan had not. 

Political Conventions: No More Dead Doves, But They Still Matter
[National Journal, 8/20/12]  In 1988, 51 percent of voters decided who to vote for during the convention or right afterward. It is no surprise then, as National Journal's George Condon writes that strategists work so hard to try to script and control every minute of the conventions. Meanwhile, on Monday the Democratic National Convention named Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as speakers, and the Republican National Committee announced that Ann Romney would kick things off.

Where is Mitt Romney Campaigning?
[Slate, 8/17/12] Here’s a handy interactive graphic that shows where Mitt Romney’s been campaigning since April, when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. The winners of Romney love thus far: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Tropical Threat Emerges For GOP Convention 
[National Journal, 8/20/12] Next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa could face an unwelcome visitor: a tropical storm, or, at worst, a hurricane, that threatens to disrupt the program.  

I Went to Church With Mitt Romney 
[BuzzFeed, 8/20/12] As a member of Romney’s traveling press corps, BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins – a fellow Mormon – has followed the candidate across the country over the past months. But on Sunday, Coppins got the unique opportunity, along with several other reporters, to follow Romney to church. 

As Mormon Leader, Romney Became Master of Many Keys
[Washington Post, 8/19/12] A close look at Romney’s leadership in the Mormon church shows how his actions sometimes clashed with his political positions, but also a man as orthodox and committed to his faith as any presidential nominee in history. 

Romney, Ryan Try to Calm Skittish Seniors About Medicare
[Associated Press, 9/20/12] In a New Hampshire town hall, Romney and Ryan will try to explain to voters – particularly seniors, who reliably cast ballots – that their proposal to offer a private alternative to Medicare would not affect anyone over age 55. Some 14 percent of the state’s residents are over the age of 65.

Romney, Ryan Turn Medicare Attacks Back on Obama
[ABC News, 8/20/12] With the Republican National Convention just a week away, Romney, Ryan and their surrogates are using Medicare to hammer Obama, focusing on a $716 billion cut in funding for the program that was part of the Affordable Care Act. 

Obama Campaign Roiled By Conflict
[Politico, 8/20/12] Obama’s campaign team, celebrated four years ago for its exceptional cohesion and strategic focus, has been shadowed this time around by a succession of political disagreements and personal rivalries that haunt the effort.

Ryan’s Fed Policy Views Well Outside the Mainstream
[Reuters, 8/19/12] Ryan doesn’t quite want to end the Fed; he just wants to strip the central bank’s powers to respond to economic downturns. He has even hinted at sympathy for the days when the U.S. dollar was tied to gold.

Opinion: Obama’s Gotta Go
[Newsweek, 8/19/12] This week’s Newsweek cover touts Niall Ferguson’s article, “Hit the Road, Barack: Why We Need a New President.” Ferguson writes that Obama has failed to deliver on his promises.

 

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