Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Romney, Obama campaigns spar over tax returns

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Friday rejected a new call from the Obama campaign to release five years of tax returns, while trumpeting a surge in support for the Republican ticket since Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his running mate.

The sparring over Romney's tax returns came as President Barack Obama defended his record on Medicare in a new campaign advertisement that accused Romney and Ryan of undermining the program, which provides health insurance to the elderly.

In a letter Friday to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina pledged that if Romney released five years of tax returns filed from 2007 to 2012, the Obama campaign in turn would stop criticizing the Republican candidate for not making public more of his returns.

Messina said the offer addresses Romney's apparent "fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide."

Messina said the request "is surely not unreasonable," noting that the five-year period would span the years that Romney has been a presidential candidate and noting that other White House hopefuls, including Romney's father, have released more returns in the past.

Rhoades promptly rejected the offer, telling Messina in an email: "It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending."

He said that if Romney's tax returns "are the core message of your campaign," Obama will have ample time to discuss them between now and Election Day. "In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy."

The rival campaigns distributed the letter and the email reply to reporters.

The Obama campaign's challenge to Romney followed the former Massachusetts governor's comment to reporters Thursday in South Carolina that he had paid a federal income tax rate of at least 13 percent in each of the past 10 years.

Romney focused Friday on raising money for his campaign, with a fundraiser at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., the Associated Press reported.

In the week since Romney tapped Ryan to serve as his running mate, the GOP presidential ticket has seen a boost in the polls as well as in fundraising, social media and other metrics, Rhoades argued in a new campaign memo released Friday morning.

Since the announcement Aug. 11 in Norfolk, Va., the Romney-Ryan campaign has raised more than $10 million online, Rhoades wrote. As much as $7.4 million of that amount was raised online in the first three days since Romney made his vice presidential pick public.

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