Mitt Romney, one of the richest people ever to seek the presidency, says he doesn't intend to release his tax returns if he wins the Republican nomination. That would break a long-standing tradition observed by the candidates from both parties. After Romney's announcment, Democrats inevitably pounced: "What is it that he doesn't want the American people to see?" asked Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Obama's reelection campaign. The Democratic National Committee launched a website, www.whatmittpays.com, where visitors can calculate what their tax bill would be if they were taxed at the 15 percent rate reserved for those who, like Romney, get nearly all of their income from investments instead of a salary. Which will hurt Romney more — making his tax forms public, or hiding them?
He'll have to release them sooner or later: Romney is just giving "Democrats another excuse to play class warfare," says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. This move puts Mitt in a "no-win situation" — if he doesn't hand over the documents, the distraction will hurt him; if he changes his mind and does release his returns, he'll "look weak and like a flip-flopper." He knows he's eventually going to have to give in or face sustained pressure — so he might as well get it over with.
"This will not stand — Romney refuses to release tax returns"
Releasing the returns could be worse than hiding them: Romney would be "the first post-Watergate candidate not to release his returns," says Grace Wyler at Business Insider, but hiding them is probably smart. He's a mega-millionaire, thanks to his investment banking days, and most of his retirement income comes from capital gains that are taxed at 15 percent. In this economy, admitting that you pay lower taxes than struggling middle-class Americans is a sure-fire way to lose an election.
"Forget the flip flops, here's what could really cost Mitt Romney the election"
The issue will cost him either way: Romney says he has no plans to release the returns, but he might change his mind down the road, says Alexander Burns at Politico. "That's about as good an answer" as guy worth as much as $250 million can give. "But the issue is an easy target for President Barack Obama." It won't be hard to suggest that Romney avoids taxes poorer people pay. The question is, how much do voters care?
"Here we go again, tax return edition"