The Washington Post is reporting that Mitt Romney will be (purportedly) releasing his tax returns in April. They are also reporting that he said he “pays an effective federal tax rate of about 15 percent.” (link).
I think this is the strongest/best news the Obama camp could have hoped for.
It is extraordinarily unlikely that Romney is understating his tax rate. It would make him look bafflingly out of touch with his personal finance. This is the sort of thing a Palin could get away with (not that she would make a similar statement, but her milieu is more accepting of the folksy gosh-darnnit I just pay what my accountant tells me to pay), but would appear damagingly out of character for Romney.
If there is more than a couple percent shift, it’s likely that it is below 15 percent. Per above (i.e. his level of financial savvy and personal organization), and particularly because the issue has been in the air for some time (and if not raised by opponents it would have been raised by is staff as a potential issue), it’s likely that he already knows exact figures. So the mild equivocating and stalling (“about” 15 percent; I’ll tell you exactly after the primary is locked up) suggest that the actual numbers could be damaging. That’s not certain, of course, but he has a greater incentive to hint they’re as high as possible.
Assuming it is 15 percent, it will have the historic appearance of being tailor-made for the current inequality zeitgeist. It is the opposite of Santorum heading into Iowa just as it was his turn to be the anti-Romney. Even the standard Republican line of job-creator has taken a massive hit by political infighting. Following the Buffet Secretary letter, the Occupy movement, and even the relatively weak economy, a 15 percent tax rate will cast him as the political opposite of Reagan’s ‘welfare queen’.
There’s his choice to all but declare rates to be 15 percent now but actually release them in April. Reneging on the promise will be costly by handing the Democrats a What-Is-He-Hiding commercial. Through the timing of the eventual release he’s ensuring that it will be a news-cycle event, not just an issue raised by the Obama campaign. That means it will have come up twice, keeping it alive longer than necessary. And it will be coming up in the midst of the general. He has a it’s-mine-to-lose-it lock on the primary; weathering the same storm twice and during the general seems to have no gain and all risk.
There are other reasons, but the last one I’m mentioning is potentially the most damaging to his electoral aspirations. April. Spring. Occupy. There’s no sign that the Occupy movement is fading into yesterday’s news, and lots of reasons to think that as spring arrives (and school ends) it will reach another peak. Even if the protestors (not just students) do not rejoin the ‘occupy’ part of Occupy, they will still be charged with its underlying themes—themes that are particularly unfriendly to an astronomically wealthy candidate who paid less taxes then they did. And all this is happening as the climate gets warmer, when putting activists in the field is easier. Romney already faces an enthusiasm gap within his own party; this will both hurt that and bolster the passions of the anti-Romney/pro-Obama side of the equation.
Aside from a hastily written OP, is there some political strategy I missed? Or is obvious OP obvious?