COLUMBIA, S.C. – Under pressure from rivals and a few allies alike, Mitt Romney said today that he will release his tax returns on Tuesday and not wait until April, as he seeks to bury swirling questions about his finances that have shadowed his campaign for the last week.
Appearing on Fox News a day after his loss to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina Republican primary, Romney said he would release his 2010 returns and an estimate of his 2011 returns.
“We made a mistake holding off as long as we did,” Romney said. “It was a distraction. We want to get back to the real issues in the campaign.”
Gingrich, who had been calling on Romney to release the returns, applauded his rival’s decision not to wait until April, well after the Republican primary is likely to be settled.
“I think that’s a very good thing he’s doing,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I commend him for it,” Gingrich said, “and I think it’s exactly the right thing to do and as far as I’m concerned that particular issue is now set aside and we can go and talk about other bigger, and more important things.”
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a top Romney supporter, was among those urging the former Massachusetts governor to release the returns sooner rather than later. He said today that Romney has nothing to hide.
“I’m happy he’s doing it,” Christie said on NBC. “What the American people are going to see is someone who’s been extraordinarily successful. I don’t think the American people want a failure as president. I think they want someone who succeeded at whatever they’ve tried.”
Last week, Romney resisted demands that release his tax returns before April, saying he wanted to avoid “drip by drip” criticism from Republican rivals during the primary and from Democrats in the spring, should he win the nomination.
But his refusal to make the records public led Romney’s rivals to ask what he might be hiding and cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the candidate’s vast wealth, investments and tax rate.
Romney, whose fortune is estimated at between $190 million and $250 million, acknowledged last week that he pays an approximately 15 percent tax rate and described as “not very much” the $374,327 he reported earning in speaking fees last year.
As they appeared on the Sunday talk shows, both candidates sought to spin the results.
Gingrich, seeking to ride the momentum from his South Carolina victory as the race turns to Florida, cast himself as an insurgent, outsider candidate taking on the Republican establishment. He said that his South Carolina win showed he had tapped into a deep vein of “anger at the national establishment.”
“One of the things Florida voters get to decide is do you want the establishment’s candidate, Governor Romney, or do you want someone who stands for a conservative, populist approach that would profoundly change Washington, and that’s Newt Gingrich,” Gingrich said.
“I’m happy to be in the tradition of Ronald Reagan as the outsider who scares the Republican establishment and, frankly, after the mess they’ve made of things, maybe they should be shaken up pretty badly,” he said.
Christie said the result in South Carolina was “clearly disappointing” for Romney.
“We had a bad week as a campaign, and a bad result last night,” he said, but Romney is ready to fight on in Florida.
Foreshadowing the tough attacks to come, Christie said Gingrich had “embarrassed the party” when he was fined $300,000 for an ethics violation in 1997 and then forced out as House speaker.
Gingrich lobbed his own attacks. On CNN, he accused Romney and his aides of erasing their hard drives as they left the Massachusetts governor’s office. He also accused Romney’s staff of wiping out evidence of their deliberations as they helped craft Massachusetts’s universal health care law.