Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claims that Mitt Romney didn't… (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA )
WASHINGTON – The presidential campaigns traded barbs Sunday over Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more tax returns and the candidates’ competing economic plans.
Romney supporters accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of lying when he said an unnamed source had told him that Romney hadn’t paid taxes for 10 years.
Democrats urged the Romney campaign to release more tax returns to prove how much Romney had paid. Obama campaign strategists and their allies have seized on the tax issue as a way to highlight Romney’s wealth and bring attention to some of the former Massachusetts governor’s overseas investments.
Both sides seemed to welcome the heated exchange as a way to highlight the differences between the two parties’ plans to boost the economy. Obama accuses Republicans of protecting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Romney says that making the wealthiest pay more will hurt small businesses and slow job growth.
Twice last week, Reid claimed on the Senate floor that a person whom he described as having worked at Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital, had called his office and said that Romney hadn’t paid taxes.
Romney said Reid’s claim was false and he should “put up or shut up” – and reveal his source.
On Sunday, the campaigns sent emissaries to the morning interview shows to ratchet up the rhetoric.
“I think he’s lying,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN about Reid. “I think he’s created an issue here. I think he’s making things up.”
“I’m not going to respond to a dirty liar,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said during an interview on ABC’s "This Week." The host, George Stephanopoulos gave him a chance to temper his remarks.
“You stand by that — you think Harry Reid is a dirty liar?” asked Stephanopoulos.
“I just said it,” replied Priebus.
The Obama campaign has used Romney’s refusal to release as many years of tax returns as previous candidates to bolster its effort to portray the Republican as someone who is hiding parts of his past from voters. Campaign surrogates on Sunday said that Romney could clear up the issue simply by releasing more information . The Romney campaign has released his 2010 returns and says he will release his 2011 returns later this year.
“We can put all this to rest tomorrow. Romney can go to Kinkos and photocopy his tax returns,” Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs told CNN’s Candy Crowley, adding that the 2010 return Romney did release revealed he had a Swiss bank account that he had not previously disclosed. “The whole world would know what loopholes he’s taking advantage of and what his taxes are,” Gibbs said.
For the Obama campaign, Romney’s tax payments highlight their claim that the wealthy are not paying their fair share.
“It’s the middle class that needs money in their pocket right now,” Obama’s top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. “That’s what’s going to grow the economy,” he said, adding that Obama has cut taxes for the middle class by $3,600 dollars for the average family.
Axelrod passed up a chance to explicitly back up Reid’s claim about Romney’s taxes. “I don’t know who Harry was talking to,” he said.
In an interview with CNN broadcast Sunday, Romney said it would be an “enormous mistake for us to raise taxes on anyone right now.”
“If your priority in this country is to punish success, vote for President Obama. If your priority is to create more success and more jobs, vote for me,” Romney said.
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