Mitt Romney’s Harry Reid problem

at 06:38 AM ET, 08/06/2012

Talk of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s allegation that Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes at all for 10 years dominated the Sunday talk show circuit as Republicans denounced the (still-unsubstantiated) charge.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to reporters in the Capitol in Washington in this file photo taken April 24, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar,” noting that the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate had still not made public who allegedly told him about Romney’s tax history. (Romney, for his part, has said he paid taxes every year.) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the head of the Republican Governors Association, called Reid’s allegation a “reckless and slanderous charge”.

The amping up of Republican rhetoric amounts to a recognition that no matter how unfair they believe Reid’s charge is (and they believe it is in­cred­ibly unfair), the allegation is churning up the tax return issue and needs to be pushed back on — hard.

At its root, the problem for Romney on this matter is that he and Reid are simply not playing by the same set of rules. Here’s why.

1. Reid isn’t up for re-election until 2016 (if he even decides to run again, since he will be 76 years old that year). 2. His allegation against Romney only strengthens his hand among his Democratic colleagues — in and out of the Senate. 3. He’s not running for president and, therefore, isn’t subject to the same sort of transparency demands that Romney is. 4. He’s far less well-known than Romney, meaning that by engaging Reid, the Republican presidential nominee is punching down in a big way.

“He’s fearless and shameless,” said Jon Ralston, the leading political journalist in the state of Nevada and a man who has watched Reid’s career closely. “The most dangerous man is one who does not care.”

The shaming of Reid, which is clearly what Republicans — Romney included — are now set on doing, then, likely won’t work. Several close Reid allies insist he simply will never reveal the alleged source of the Romney tax information and, they argue, politically speaking he won’t ever have to, since the allegation — as we noted above — does little harm to Reid’s political career.

In politics, a charge unanswered is a charge believed. It’s why Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s (D) slow response to charges regarding his service in Vietnam — allegations Kerry clearly believed were beneath contempt — wound up playing a major role in his defeat in the 2004 presidential election.

“I just believe that this hurts Romney more,” said one senior Republican strategist who follows Nevada politics closely. “If he doesn’t produce his tax returns, this will probably continue. If he finally relents, then Reid just says ‘thank you.’”

Reid is among the most Machiavellian politicians operating today (or ever). He picked this fight with Romney on purpose, knowing that the Republican nominee was — due to the rules of politics — fighting with at least one hand tied behind his back.

And it’s why, whether you like what Reid is doing or not, he’s created a problem that Romney and the Republican Party have to figure out how to handle — and quickly.

Romney raised $101.3 million in July: Romney kept up his campaign’s torrid fundraising past last month, pulling in more than $100 million in July.

The $101.3 million raised between Romney’s campaign, the RNC and a joint fundraising committee between the two is slightly less than the $106 million Romney raised in June, but unless Obama’s campaign significantly ramped up its fundraising efforts, it’s likely to extend Romney’s cash advantage.

Romney led Obama by about $25 million in cash on hand at the start of July, and he increased his bankroll from $170 million to $185.9 million at the end of the month.

Obama hasn’t released his July numbers yet.

Obama adviser took money from group tied to Iran: Top Obama aide David Plouffe accepted $100,000 in speaking fees from a company with ties to Iran, the Post’s Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten report today.

Plouffe earned $100,000 in 2010 for two engagements in Nigeria with a subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company that has worked with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm.

A White House spokesman noted that the company has only come under scrutiny since Plouffe delivered the speeches. Plouffe was also a private citizen at the time, though he has since joined the president’s White House team.

“At the time, not even the most zealous watchdog group on this issue had targeted the Iranian business interests of the host’s holding company,” said spokesman Eric Schultz. “Criticism of Mr. Plouffe now for issues and controversies that developed only years later is simply misplaced.”

GOP convention headline speakers announced: Seven headline speakers have been announced for the Republican National Committee, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Scott will be joined by 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Many of those names have been tossed around as potential vice presidential picks for Romney (albeit unlikely ones); their speaking slots mean they can probably be crossed off the list.

Scott’s selection is particularly interesting given his long-struggling approval ratings (36 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll) and his loose ties to the party establishment. But given that the event was in his home state, his role was probably unavoidable.

Fixbits:

A new Obama ad hits Romney for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood.

Romney doesn’t want the Federal Reserve to enact a new stimulus program.

A new Romney ad hits Obama for not visiting Israel.

Clint Eastwood, whose Super Bowl ad for Chrysler was derided by conservatives as essentially a campaign ad for Obama, endorses Romney.

McDonnell writes an op-ed criticizing Obama on welfare-to-work.

Romney says the wealthy will be fine no matter who wins the 2012 election.

A new poll of the Missouri GOP Senate primary from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows businessman John Brunner leading a tight race, 35 percent to 30 percent for Rep. Todd Akin and 25 percent for former state treasurer Sarah Steelman.

Americans United for Change and AFSCME are going up with a $280,000 ad campaign against five Republicans: Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Senate candidate Rep. Denny Rehberg (Mont.), and Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Jim Renacci (Ohio) and Dan Lungren (Calif.). The ads focus on the Bush tax cuts.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) says Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) would be a good pick for Romney’s running mate.

Must-reads:

Obama associate got $100,000 fee from affiliate of firm doing business with Iran” — Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Washington Post

Record Spending by Obama’s Camp Shrinks Coffers” — Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty, New York Times

Presidential race becomes a question of nature vs. nurture” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Romney’s heavy August workload” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

U.S. Officials Brace for Huge Task of Operating Health Exchanges” — Robert Pear, New York Times

GOP freshmen run away from incumbency” — Alex Isenstadt, Politico

Campaigns drown supporters with fundraising e-mails in the race for cash” — Dan Eggen, Washington Post

Romney, the rich and the delicate politics of wealth and class” — Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post

In Kansas, Conservatives Vilify Fellow Republicans” — John Eligon, New York Times

The Square and the Flair” — Noam Scheiber, New Republic

 
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