After a week of constant criticism on his Medicare proposals, Mitt Romney decided to fall back to something a little less contentious: his tax returns!
In a press conference with reporters this afternoon, he was emphatic about his dutiful taxpaying. “I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent," he said. "I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year.”Will Romney release his tax returns to verify this information? No, he won’t. Which means that we haven’t actually learned anything new. Without releasing his returns, there is no way he—or the press—can prove that this is the rate he paid. He can’t even disprove Senator Harry Reid’s allegations that he paid a zero percent tax rate, which, when you think about it, is an incredibly low bar.
And so, less than a week after calling for a more substantive campaign, Mitt Romney has returned—of his own volition—to thing that prompted the call in the first place. Tax returns were never exactly a winning issue for the former Massachusetts governor; the conventional wisdom was that they were harming his favorability and potentially leading him to defeat. Re-opening the question only gives Democrats an opportunity to launch more attacks on his lack of transparency. But on balance, even this might be preferable to a constant conversation over Medicare, which has the potential to harm Romney’s standing with older whites and seniors—the people he needs to win the election.
So They Say
"While I appreciate, I have great admiration for and respect for and a long relationship with Senator John McCain ... one place I would not go for advice on vice presidential running mates is to Senator McCain."
—Jay Carney, responding to John McCain's suggestion that the Obama administration replace Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Daily Meme: So, Is This an Issues Election or Not?!
- Ideas man Paul Ryan is on the trail now, so now we're finally going to get to talk about issues instead of gaffes!
- That's at least what all the headlines this week would tell us.
- As Jesse Taylor writes, "Rest easy—despite no actual new policy proposals and an explicit disavowal of the main substance Ryan is known for, this is a campaign that has been elevated to the highest levels of discourse! We will have many serious discussions about the future!"
- Because Paul Ryan is the "Sarah Palin of substance." To which Jon Stewart responds, "You can't just say a thing is just like another thing, but without the traits that define that thing. Then you're not talking about that thing. 'This thing is amazing! It's like a bicycle without wheels or a handlebar.' And you're like, 'Yeah, it's a chair.'"
- Jokes aside ... where are the issues we were promised? According to Ezra Klein, everyone needs to chill out. Actually, "This is what a serious campaign looks like."
- It's useful to remember too, as the Prospect's Paul Waldman notes, that negativity and personal attacks don't immediately render a campaign issueless and not serious.
- Kevin Drum thinks we need to cut journalists and politicos a break because substance doesn't change. "Once you've outlined both campaigns' positions on something, there's not a lot new you can say about it. So you either repeat yourself (boring!) or report on campaign nonsense (non-substantive!)."
- Which is a perfect excuse for all the posts on Ryan's physique and sartorial acumen.
- In the end though, whatever you think of the overall seriousness of the campaign season, "the hype of a changed campaign" post-Ryan is overblown. Alec Bings "predict[s] continued noise pollution from here to November."
What We're Writing
- Paul Waldman unpacks all the Medicare details being debated on the campaign trail in a four-page magnum opus.
- Trying to swiftboat a sitting president who happened to order the attack on Osama bin Laden ... not so smart, writes Jamelle Bouie.
What We're Reading
- Donations from Texas, New York, California, Nevada, and Washington, D.C., make up two-thirds of every dollar contributed to super PACs from January to June this year.
- Nate Silver breaks down where things stand in the big Senate races.
- Andy Kroll profiles Democratic super donor Harold Ickes.
- Jonathan Cohn writes, "if somebody here is raiding Medicare, it’s not Obama."
- Hamilton Nolan: "What is the point of working out forever if it won't help you lift a car off your trapped baby? The day someone answers that question to my satisfaction is the day Paul Ryan is elected president of the United States."
- Moderates are dropping like flies out of Congress lately.
- As the GOP preps its big fete, Tampa is trying to play down its reputation as the strip-club capital of the country.
Poll of the Day
According to polling experts who have been watching presidential elections for quite a while, only 3 to 5 percent of voters are up for grabs in 2012—a number that could drop even further if turnout isn't as impressive as in 2008 and swing voters stay home. But even this small pool of voters is enough to fight tooth and nail for. As the political director for Romney's campaign says, “There’s a very small slice of people who are genuinely undecided, but it’s enough to win the presidency.”
For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.