Commentary Magazine


Dems Back Reid Attacks on Romney’s Taxes

Democrats are starting to throw their support behind Sen. Harry Reid’s completely unsourced attacks on Mitt Romney’s tax returns. While the Obama campaign hasn’t endorsed Reid’s comments explicitly, it’s been using them as an opening to smack Romney for his failure to release more than two years of his tax information. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is defending Reid’s credibility, calling his allegations “a fact”:

“Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact,” Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a Sunday interview. “Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes.”

Both Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus came out swinging against Reid on Sunday over his claims about Romney potentially not paying taxes. Asked to respond to Priebus calling Reid “a dirty liar” over the situation, Pelosi initially responded, “Who?” She went on to say that Priebus doesn’t know what he’s talking about since he wasn’t part of Reid’s conversations.

“Well he doesn’t know that,” Pelosi said. “Harry Reid is a person who is, as we know, A, is a fighter, B, he wouldn’t say this unless it was true that somebody told him that.”

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.

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