Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, and Newt Gingrich… (David Goldman / Associated…)
Under fire from his GOP rivals, Mitt Romney on Thursday pledged to eventually release his tax returns, but suggested they would be made public only after he had secured the presidential nomination.
"I'll release my returns in April, and probably for other years as well,” Romney said at the Republican debate in South Carolina, adding that he would do so if he were the nominee.
He swiftly tried to pivot off the issue to President Obama, whom he accused of playing "90 rounds of golf" while doing little to cure the nation’s economic woes.
PHOTOS: Charleston Republican presidential debate
But Newt Gingrich called on Romney to release his tax returns now. Channeling Rick Perry, who in the days before he quit the race Thursday made a similar demand of Romney, Gingrich said, “If there is anything that would help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination. If there’s nothing in there, why not release it?” he asked.
Gingrich made a show of releasing his most recent tax return during the debate by posting it online. For 2010, the return showed that Gingrich and his wife, Callista, owed federal taxes of $994,708 on an adjusted gross income of $3,142,066.
Romney, whose personal wealth is estimated to be more than $200 million, acknowledged this week that he pays taxes at a rate close to the 15% standard for investment income. Gingrich’s tax rate is 31.5%.
At one point, the moderator, CNN’s John King, asked Romney if he would follow the example set by his father, George Romney, then the governor of Michigan, who in the 1968 presidential campaign released 12 years of returns because a single year, he said, “could be a fluke.”
“Maybe,” Romney replied, as a few in the crowd at the North Charleston Coliseum booed.
He said he would “release multiple years,” but added, “I’m not going to apologize for being successful. I’m not suggesting these people are doing that, but I know that Democrats will go after me on that basis, and that’s why I want to release these things all at the same time. “
Rick Santorum was also asked if he would release his returns.
"Well, I do my own taxes, and they're on my computer, and I'm not home," he replied. "So -- and there's nobody at home right now. Until I get home, I won't get them. When I get home, you'll get my taxes."