Earlier this week Mitt Romney announced that he has never paid less than 13 percent on his tax returns, while insisting again that he will not be releasing anything more than what he has already produced — one year of returns for 2010, with a promise to release his full 2011 returns sometime soon.
So that should have ended this debate, which the presidential candidate and his supporters appear baffled is still an issue in the news. But is it still an issue, a week before the Republicans nominate Romney in Tampa to be their presidential standard-bearer this fall?
As the surrogates for the Romney and Obama camps crowded the Sunday morning public affairs shows, the issue of the former Massachusetts governor's tax returns were again referenced, in between discussions on Medicare, whether Joe Biden made a racially coded comment last week on the campaign trail, and whether the rhetoric coming from the Democrats is just too divisive.
But it was up to Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace to ask Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie when in fact the country will get the chance to see more of Romney's returns. Romney to date has released only his 2010 returns, along with an estimate for 2011.
WALLACE: OK. Governor Romney has promised to release his 20l1 tax returns, this year's tax returns before the election, as soon as they are completed and the dead line is October 15th. When should we expect them? GILLESPIE: You know, I'm not sure, Chris. They are being finalized. There's a lot of forms that have to come in from other entities that the governor doesn't have control over. But people have ample information, as they have last year's tax return, they'll have the most recent tax return for this year as well. And by the way, you can go on to the Web site and see personal financial disclosures going back to 2002.
WALLACE: But he is going to release this year's tax returns.
GILLESPIE: Yes, that'd be two years of full tax returns, which by the way is consistent with what John McCain did in 2008. It wasn't an issue in 2008 because President Obama was not trying to distract from a four-year-long record of failed policies.
WALLACE: All right. The deadline is October 15th. That would be three weeks before the election. That would seem to me to be a crazy time to release tax returns.
So, strategically, you got to make a decision when you want to release these tax returns because you know it will be at least a distraction, if not an attack point for Democrats.
GILLESPIE: Sure. Look, October 15th is the deadline for the IRS on an extension. We have said, as soon as they are ready, we're going to release them. And I believe they'll be ready before that.
WALLACE: The Friday after the Democratic Convention.
GILLESPIE: I'm not sure when it will be ready. That's up to certified public accountants. Not me.
On NBC's >Meet The Press, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley referenced the Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts, accusing Romney of "tax avoidance" and sort of being unpatriotic.
"At a time when the country needs everyone's help to accelerate our nation's recovery, he is hiding his money in offshore accounts and betting against the future of the United States, hardly the credentials of the person that we should elect-" before he was cut off by host David Gregory, who asked Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to respond.
"That's just flat wrong, Martin. This is the same reckless and slanderous remarks that Harry Reid said a couple of weeks ago, and this is not what the American people care about. This is below their dignity. This is about how we get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work and Obama's just flat failed..."
Over at CBS' Face The Nation, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Romney was "tantalizing with tidbits" to the voters with his modest releases of tax forms so far and should release 12 years of income taxes, like President Obama did in 2008, and like his father, former Michigan Governor and GOP presidential candidate George Romney, did while running in 1968.