Mitt Romney with some of his Benjamins

Now that Mitt Romney is claiming he paid at least 13 percent in taxes ever year but still refusing to release more returns, it has given the Obama campaign an opening to keep up pressure on the issue. The latest move by the Obama team to keep the issue in the news is to offer the Romney campaign a deal. In a public letter Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, offered to basically drop the issue if Romney would simply release five years of returns. From the letter:

This request for the release of five years, covering the complete returns for 2007-2012, is surely not unreasonable. Other Presidential candidates have released more, including the Governor’s father who provided 12 years of returns.  In the Governor’s case, a five year release would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President.  It would also help answer outstanding questions raised by the one return he has released to date, such as the range in the effective rates paid, the foreign accounts maintained, the foreign investments made, and the types of tax shelters used.

To provide these five years, the Governor would have to release only three more sets of returns in addition to the 2010 return he has released and the 2011 return he has pledged to provide.  And, I repeat, the Governor and his campaign can expect in return that we will refrain from questioning whether he has released enough or pressing for more.

Not surprisingly the deal was quickly rejected by the Romney team but success was never really the point.  Merely offering the deal has already succeeded in its goal.

While Romney refusal to release more returns is not a political death blow, it does make him look bad. A majority think Romney should release more and his refusal does make it look as if he is hiding something.

With only 81 days until the election, every day spent talking about something that makes Romney look bad instead of talking about something that make Obama look bad is a real victory for the Obama team. The fact that with what is basically nothing more than a quickly written blog post the Obama campaign can breathe new life into Romney’s tax return story shows how poorly the Romney team has handled the PR on this issue. By stubbornly refusing to put an end to this by simply releasing more returns, Romney is going to let the Obama team keep riding this thing all the way to November. I can think of probably a half dozen openings that will likely emerge in the coming weeks that will give Democrats more chances to revive the topic.

It is rather amazing the number of new cycles Romney has allowed the issue to eat up in a election Romney was supposed to make all about Obama’s handling of the economy.