So a lot of Republicans wish Mitt Romney would just get it over with and release several years of tax returns. If you want evidence that Romney’s drowning in the Bain deluge, there it is. His allies think a complete accounting is his only lifeline.
But only a tiny circle of people really know if that’s true. And for my money the one to watch is Steve Schmidt.
Remember, in the VP vetting process Romney gave the McCain campaign over 20 years of tax returns. Schmidt ran that campaign and my hunch is he has the best combination of political smarts and actual knowledge of what’s in the returns to make the call.
Six months ago, he didn’t think it was worth it. Here’s what he said on MSNBC in January:
I think that he`s the front-runner in the race. I think he`s the most likely person to be the nominee of the party. And I would never advise him to disadvantage himself with issues like his taxes, against what is precedent for campaigns.
I think that he will probably do what presidents and vice presidents typically have done with regard to the release of their taxes. But if it was good enough for John Kerry, it ought to be good enough for Mitt Romney. He shouldn`t release information that disadvantages himself and opens up a lot of attacks.
I could be wrong about this. But if Schmidt cries uncle, I think we’ll have reached the point where the attacks Romney’s weathering right now are more harmful than what’s in those returns. And the fact that we haven’t reached that point yet suggests they’re full of ugly stuff.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.