The Washington Post

Romney’s tax challenge

I think the polls coming out of Florida today are unreliable. Mitt Romney probably has no clear picture of where he really stands, but it is safe to assume his position is about to get worse.

Romney has now released part of his tax returns, and that will be today’s story. His income is impressive, but it’s not particularly flattering in today’s campaign context. It is Russian roulette; no one knows if there is still a bullet in the income tax release chamber. If Romney is lucky, the campaign will have just one day of brutal facts and one additional day of clarifications, revisions and cumbersome explanations. That means the cloud over his Florida campaign cannot really lift until Friday, unless his campaign receives a huge gift of a gaffe from Newt Gingrich.

It may be akin to cannibalism for Republicans to attack a successful private businessman, but the flavor is too strong. Romney’s wealth is teed up to be the issue for the next few news cycles.

Unforeseen events and effective attacks on Gingrich could dilute the story before Florida’s primary next Tuesday, but it will consume valuable time. Don’t misunderstand me — until I see the news from his full tax release, I still think Romney is the favorite in Florida, but everything his campaign does for the next week must be close to perfect. Romney has no room for error.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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