Romney To Release Tax Returns After South Carolina Defeat

Jan 23 2012 | 1:32pm ET

For weeks, Bain Capital co-founder Mitt Romney enjoyed a comfortable lead in polls for the South Carolina Republican primary. On Saturday, he was trounced in the actual primary, thanks in no small part to criticism of his refusal to release his tax returns, as is customary for presidential candidates.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, finished far behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has skyrocketed since finishing with just 13.3% of the vote at the Iowa caucuses (which Romney narrowly lost, after initially being declared the winner, by 34 votes) and 9.4% in the New Hampshire primary (which Romney won as comfortably as Gingrich won the South Carolina vote.

Within hours of that stinging loss, Romney completed the turnaround on his tax returns, promising to release them tomorrow. That move represents a complete 180 from December, when Romney said he had no "current plans to release the tax returns."

Romney, one of the wealthiest men to ever seek the presidency, then said he'd release them if he was elected. But as his Republican opponents continued to hammer away at him on the issue, he said he'd release them in April.

"We just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did," Romney admitted yesterday. "It was just a distraction."

Romney's reluctance to release his tax returns presumably stems from the fact that they'll show he pays a much lower tax rate than most, because most of his income comes in the form of capital gains from his investments with Bain and his share of profits from funds launched by Bain before his retirement 11 years ago. Romney admitted last week that he probably paid the capital gains and carried-interest rate of 15%.

The potential Republican challengers to President Barack Obama in November now move to Florida. Romney's once commanding lead there has evaporated, according to a pair of polls, and he stands about eight points behind Gingrich in the Sunshine State.

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