THE RACE: Spat over Romney's taxes could hurt him

July 18, 2012 - 11:40 AM
Romney 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands during a campaign event at Horizontal Wireline Services on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 in Irwin, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mitt Romney's reluctance to release additional tax returns could be costing him politically and handing ammunition to President Barack Obama's reelection team.

More and more influential Republicans — including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — are urging Romney to produce the additional information now and get it out of the way.

Polls suggest controversies over Romney's taxes and tenure at Bain Capital are hurting his poll numbers when voters are asked how he's running his campaign.

If the past is any guide, the pressure will keep building

President Richard Nixon famously tried but failed to shield various financial transactions from Congress. And President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton fought a losing battle to prevent the release of financial documents from their failed Whitewater real estate investments.

Obama's campaign is waging an advertising blitz in battleground states seeking to "define" Romney as a former corporate raider who reduced his tax liability through complicated, murky overseas transactions. His stubborn stance on tax returns just feeds that narrative.

Romney, who has released two years of tax information, says he won't hand the Obama team more ammunition to "pick over" and use against him, noting that John McCain only released two years of returns in 2008, as did John Kerry in 2004.

But Kerry previously released returns during Senate runs. And McCain might not be the best example. Some of the same allegations leveled against Romney — including hiding the extent of his wealth — were used against McCain.

McCain's inability to remember how many houses he and his wife Cindy owned became a staple of late-night TV comedians.

It also doesn't help that George Romney, the candidate's father, released 12 years of returns in his 1968 presidential run.

Romney held a town-hall rally Wednesday in northwestern Ohio. Obama was briefed on the nation's widespread drought and was attending a campaign fundraiser.

__

Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum. For more AP political coverage, look for the 2012 Presidential Race in AP Mobile's Big Stories section. Also follow https://twitter.com/APCampaign and AP journalists covering the campaign: https://twitter.com/AP/ap-campaign-2012