I assume the reason that Mitt Romney isn’t releasing his tax returns is a good one. Obviously, his able campaign leadership has decided the pounding it is taking is not as bad as the pounding it would take if it released the returns.

I’ve been in situations before where you try to pick the least worst decision and then live with the consequences. And sometimes, you can’t even offer much of an explanation of why you appear to be doing the wrong thing. So I won’t second-guess the Romney campaign on its decision.

However, as I’ve said before, when things aren’t going well in a campaign, you get not only anonymous criticism but also a lot of free advice. My free advice is, now that the campaign has made this decision, it needs to manage it better, starting with extricating the candidate from this ugly situation.

Carter’s last post highlights an awkward interview that Romney gave that included this subject. The Romney campaign knows there is a huge appetite to move this story, so any new utterance by the candidate himself breathes life into another round of repeating the unflattering details.

Romney should have a formal, repetitive answer for us anytime anything about his tax returns is mentioned. He should then say, “That’s all I’m going to say about it,” and refer the questioner back to the campaign. As I’ve said in the past, the campaign should have designated a dry, informed expert to deal with personal taxes, private equity carried interest, offshore accounts and the like. 

The problem will be managed, not solved. The candidate shouldn’t manage or have anything new to say about the problem. Stick to attacking Obama on the wacky things he says about private business and the deteriorating economy that is Obama’s fault.