Mitt Romney, shown greeting supporters Saturday in Columbia, S.C., admitted… (Tracy Glantz / The State )
Reporting from St. Petersburg, Fla. — Conceding that his refusal to release his tax returns immediately was "a mistake" and "a distraction" that helped cost him a South Carolina primary win, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday that he would release his 2010 federal return this week, along with an estimate of his 2011 taxes.
"We made a mistake in holding off as long as we did," Romney said on "Fox News Sunday." As a result, he added, the issue became "a distraction" as he attempted to halt Newt Gingrich's surge in the first Southern primary.
"Speaker Gingrich had a good week," Romney said. "It was not a great week for me. We spent a lot of time talking about tax returns and the changing result in Iowa."
Romney said that, as a businessman, he's faced setbacks and come back before and said he would again.
Trying to put the issue of tax returns behind him, he said he would release his 2010 return on Tuesday along with an estimate of his 2011 tax bill. But he brushed off a suggestion from moderator Chris Wallace that he follow the pioneering example his father, George Romney, set in the 1968 presidential campaign, when he released a dozen years of federal returns.
"I'm not going back to my dad's year," Romney said, calling that a time before the Internet and maintaining that there was already "plenty of information" available about his financial holdings in the required public disclosures he has already made.
Romney was asked three separate times about his Mormon faith, which, exit polls suggested, probably hurt him in South Carolina, where conservative Christians cast almost two-thirds of the ballots.
"I don't think in the final analysis that religion is going to play a factor," said Romney, who defended his practice of donating 10% of his income to his church as a character issue — a promise kept, he said, to God.
Romney also signaled his intention to hit Gingrich as a Washington insider, calling him "a lobbyist," though the former House speaker never registered to lobby.
"I just don't think Washington can fix Washington," Romney said.