They're still not on the same page.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was a thorn in Mitt Romney's side during the Republican presidential nominating process, pressing the former governor for months to release his tax returns. Perry has since become a Romney ally, but he's apparently not finished causing trouble for the GOP nominee.
"No matter who you are or what office you are running for, you should be as transparent as you can be with your tax returns and other aspects of your life so that people have the appropriate ability to judge your background," Perry said yesterday, straying far from Romney's preferred line.
Romney protests that he is not legally obliged to release any tax returns. Of course not. He is no longer in the realm of the private sector, though, where he can comply with the letter of the law with the Securities and Exchange Commission and leave it at that. Perceptions matter.
Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient). But he's a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won't be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later -- after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits. There will surely be a press feeding frenzy over new returns, but better to weather it in the middle of July.
National Review is not just another conservative media outlet. The magazine has unique influence and reflects the perspective of the conservative establishment. Howard Kurtz noted yesterday's piece and said, "If he's lost National Review, he's lost the right." Kurtz added this "feels like a turning point."
And yet, as of last night, Romney disagrees. He's heard the calls from within his own party, but, at least for now, the presidential hopeful says he simply doesn't care.
In an interview with the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh late yesterday, Romney said Democrats would "look for anything they can find to distort, to twist, and to try and make negative," so he feels he has no choice but to keep the materials hidden from voters.
Of course, by that logic, Romney shouldn't give speeches or do interviews, either, since those rascally Democrats might try to distort, twist, and make negative the things he says out loud. This is not, in other words, much of an excuse for indefinite secrecy.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports today that while there are clear divisions within the Republican Party over Romney's handling of the issue, there are also divisions among the candidate's own staffers.
The political pressure on Mitt Romney to release more of his personal income tax returns is causing some divisions inside the GOP presidential candidate's camp, according to a Republican strategist close to the campaign.
Although some advisers are arguing privately that Romney needs to release additional filings to curb the political fallout, others are resisting that suggestion, reflecting the candidate's longtime reluctance to publicly disclose information about his personal finances.
For what it's worth, Matthew Dowd, a strategist with the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, said on NPR yesterday that Romney would have to do something to deal with his Bain/disclosure problems "within 48 hours."
And what happens if Romney doesn't? Dowd didn't say, but the implication seemed to be that the damage to the Republican's campaign would be lasting and significant.