by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Writing for Commentary‘s “Contentions” blog, Alana Goodman notes that another leading congressional Democrat is supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s contention — not backed by any evidence — that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney failed to pay federal taxes for years.
Pelosi’s comments will at least help extend the news life of this story, giving the Obama campaign more time to hammer Romney to release his returns. But are Democrats also taking a risk with this attack?
Larry Sabato argues they are in USA Today:
Team Obama’s tactic isn’t without risk, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia. “Suppose Romney reverses course and releases the extra tax returns, and they show that he did pay substantial taxes,” Sabato said. “Both Reid and Obama would have to apologize, I would think.”
Sabato, however, concludes that the Obama campaign has made the calculation that Romney, who became wealthy in his years in private equity, won’t release more returns. “Every new complicated return gives Democrats and the media lots of openings for negative charges and stories,” he said.
Obama or Reid apologize for a slanderous statement about Romney? Don’t hold your breath. Democrats are tacitly supporting Reid’s comments because they don’t see a downside here. Even if Romney releases his tax returns and proves Reid’s baseless claims false, the story won’t be about Reid — it’ll be about whatever is in Romney’s returns. And if Romney’s previous tax documents are any indication, Democrats will have a ton of fresh attack fodder that has nothing to do with tax dodging. His income and his investment information will probably be more than enough to keep the DNC busy for a few weeks.
On the other hand, if Romney doesn’t release his returns — the most likely scenario at this point — then Democrats will have a few weeks to slime his reputation with baseless claims about tax fraud. It’s a win-win for them.