Universally seen as an unforced error (Rich Baehr thinks he should have released them last summer), Mitt Romney has agreed to release his tax returns for an unspecificed number of years plus his estimated taxes for 2011.
"We just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did," Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace. "It just was a distraction. We want to get back to the real issues in the campaign: leadership, character, a vision for America, how to get jobs again in America and how to rein in the excessive scale of the federal government."
The decision comes a day after Romney's campaign sustained a blow in South Carolina, where former House speaker Newt Gingrich won the state's primary after a last-minute surge. Romney had been the front-runner in the polls there just a week ago, but Gingrich finished more than 12 percentage points ahead of him.
In the interview, Romney said Gingrich's strong debate performance Monday, in which he aggressively chastised moderator Juan Williams, contributed to the former congressman's last-minute surge.
Romney also acknowledged that he had a tough week of attacks by his opponents, including criticism of his time at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital, and had to contend with the announcement that, despite being declared the early winner of the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum officially prevailed in that contest.
"Speaker Gingrich had a good week," Romney said. "His debate sparring with Juan Williams was a good opportunity for him to show some strength. Was not a great week for me. We spent a lot of time talking about tax returns and of course the changing vote in Iowa."
Mitt Romney is not as rich as Teresa Heinz, whose husband, John Kerry, was the Democratic nominee in 2004. Where the Kerry's put their money - radical think tanks, companies doing business with our enemies - never became an issue in the campaign.
Now, all of a sudden, rich Mitt is being taken to task for his very successful business career. Part of the reason it's become an issue is because Newt Gingrich made it one. But it was always going become a point of attack for the class warfare gambits being pushed by the Obama campaign. Romney erred in not lancing the boil much earlier; release every scrap of information - including tax returns - take the necessary hit, and move on. If he had released everything a couple of months ago, people would have forgotten about the issue by summer and by the fall, when the Obama campaign would begin railing against Romney's wealth, it would have been decidedly old news.
A strategic blunder that may yet cost Romney the nomination.