GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a Romney campaign surrogate, went on CNN today and offered some aggressive pushback against the Obama campaign demand that Romney release his tax returns. “Governor Romney has been very successful,” Chaffetz said. “Get over it.”
The “get over it” quote this is naturally drawing some attention this morning, since it projects a certain tone-deafness that the Romney campaign presumably doesn’t want associated with questions about his wealth. But there’s another line in the interview worth considering. Asked by Ryan Lizza whether Romney should release his returns, Chaffetz said (emphasis mine): “I think he has released them.”
This claim sounded familiar. And sure enough, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer was pressed on MSNBC yesterday on the tax records, and he said (emphasis mine): “The accusations have been proven completely false. The Governor has released his tax records.”
It looks as if the claim that Romney has already released his tax records is now the official response. Romney has only released his 2010 returns and an estimate for 2011, and so it’s true that he has released his tax records for that year. But he has not released his tax records in the manner that other presidential candidates — Romney’s father included — have.
It’s hard not to conclude from this new talking point that the Romney campaign has decided that he won’t be releasing any more returns. Chaffetz’s claim that the American people won’t care about this notwithstanding, this seems like a gamble. This issue is a simple one, and it’s made more potent by revelations about Romney’s offshore accounts.
It remains to be seen how relevant this will be if the recovery continues to sputter and voters decide to make this election all about Obama. But as Paul Krugman noted the other day, what a man does with his money is a pretty good clue to his character — and if Romney doesn’t want people to know this, there must be a pretty good reason for it. That’s a pretty easy thing to understand.
It’s also easy to see how this might help reinforce the Dem framing of Romney as the walking embodiment of an economic system that’s rigged in favor of the rich, and as someone who is used to operating as if the normal rules (in this case, the norm in presidential elections) don’t apply to him. It’s not clear that repeating again and again that Romney has already released his returns when he hasn’t will mitigate this.