MORNING LINE -- January 24, 2012 at 9:30 AM ET
Romney Releases Tax Returns
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at Monday's GOP debate on NBC. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
Mitt Romney told Brian Williams of NBC News during the debate Monday night that there would be "no surprises" when he released his tax returns.
The Romney campaign previewed the release for a handful of news outlets, which reported that he will disclose $21.7 million in income for 2010 and an estimated $20.9 million for last year, nearly all of it profits, dividends or interest for investments. He will pay $6.2 million in taxes for the two years, according to the early previews ahead of a Tuesday conference call for reporters.
Time's The Page reported that the 2010 return is more than 203 pages thick and noted that in 2010, Romney paid a 13.9 percent tax rate while President Obama paid 26 percent and Newt Gingrich paid 31.6 percent.
The campaign said the full 2010 tax filing contains three returns, six schedules, 18 forms and 69 statements. View them here.
Team Romney offered three points as the returns were made public:
Mitt Romney is a great American success story. Without American success stories like Mitt Romney, there could be no America. The jobs he helped create continue to multiply and grow. The prosperity generated continues to grow. The returns will show that the Romneys paid more than $6 million in 2010 and 2011 in taxes.
The Romneys have been extraordinarily generous in their charitable giving, donating over $7 million from 2010-2011, averaging over 16% of his income.
Third, Mitt Romney has been scrupulous about observing the requirements of the tax code. His income is reported and taxed in full compliance with U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed. His good name means everything to him. Throughout his life in this and in other matters, he has conducted his personal and business affairs so as to be beyond reproach.
Former Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Fred Goldberg reviewed Romney's returns and found they reflect the "complexities" of the tax code. He said on a conference call arranged by the Romney camp that the candidate has "fully satisfied" his obligations to pay taxes.
"I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more," Romney said at Monday night's debate in Tampa. "I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes."
"Will there be discussion? Sure. Will there be an article? Yeah. But is it entirely legal and fair? Absolutely," Romney said. "I'm proud of the fact that I pay a lot of taxes," he added.
The Democratic National Committee released a memo Tuesday morning from communications director Brad Woodhouse, contending Romney's release of his 2010 and 2011 tax returns would "do little to put to rest the serious questions that have plagued him about how he made his $200+ million fortune."
Romney indicated Monday that he planned to only release the last two years of tax returns. "I think it'll satisfy the interest of the American people to see that I pay my taxes," Romney said.
But after first backing off his stance of not releasing his returns, and then moving up his timeline for doing so, the question now is whether he can hold off releasing returns from previous years if and when the calls to do so grow louder.
Romney sharpened his attacks on Gingrich's character and leadership style at a Monday morning press conference in Tampa, and the former Massachusetts governor brought that more aggressive strategy with him to the debate Monday night -- hoping to blunt the former speaker's momentum following his South Carolina victory last Saturday.
"The speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994. And at the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace," Romney charged. "In the 15 years after he left the speakership, the speaker has been working as an influence peddler in Washington. And during those 15 years, I helped turn around the Olympics, helped begin a very successful turnaround in the state of Massachusetts."
Earlier Monday, Romney had suggested that Gingrich might have engaged in "potential wrongful activity" when he in 2003 he pressed members of Congress to pass a Medicare drug benefit despite being a registered lobbyist. The former Massachusetts governor also called on Gingrich to release all documents from a congressional ethics investigation he faced in the 1990s.
Gingrich responded that the American people are not looking for someone who is going to offer more of the same. "They're not sending somebody to Washington to manage the decay," Gingrich said. "They're sending somebody to Washington to change it, and that requires somebody who's prepared to be controversial when necessary."
But the former speaker also indicated he would only take on Romney's charges to a point. "I'm not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney's misinformation," Gingrich said. "I think the American public deserve a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama."
The two leading GOP contenders also sparred over Gingrich's past work for the government sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which Romney argued had damaged the former speaker's electability.
"I don't think we can possibly retake the White House if the person who's leading our party is the person who was working for the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac," Romney said, accusing Gingrich of "making over a million dollars at the same time people in Florida were being hurt by millions of dollars."
Gingrich said the payments were for "strategic advice" he offered Freddie Mac -- and noted as he has before that not all the money went directly to him, but to one of his companies. "The fact is I've had a very long career of trying to represent the people of Georgia and, as speaker, the people of the United States. I think it's pretty clear to say that I have never, ever gone and done any lobbying."
Here's a clip of the exchange via NBC.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum urged GOP voters to back his candidacy, arguing if Romney or Gingrich are the nominee the president will be able to make the election a choice and not a referendum on the last three years.
"My path to victory is to tell the people of Florida and tell the people of this country of someone who's here that presents a very clear contrast with the president of the United States -- someone that will make him the issue in this race, not the Republican candidate," Santorum said.
Santorum also defended his 18-point re-election defeat in 2006, noting that it was a "meltdown" year for Republicans.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, meanwhile, was pressed by Williams on whether he would consider a third party bid if he does not win the GOP nomination.
"Unlike others, maybe they should run and daydream about being in the White House," Paul said. " I just don't sit around daydreaming about it. But I'm in the race and I'm in a good race."
The candidates also were asked to weigh in on the seven-year-old controversy involving Terry Schiavo. The Tampa Bay Times has more here.
NewsHour reporter-producer Quinn Bowmann (@quinnbowman) chatted with Republicans as they left the debate in Tampa. Watch his video here.
President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, and present his case for a second term, with a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showing his approval rating at its highest mark in more than a year.
A majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- expressed a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama, a five-point increase from last month, and the most since April 2010. (Be sure to read ABC News pollster Gary Langer's full post to see how the favorable ratings of Romney and Gingrich have shifted over the last month.)
As we mentioned in this space Monday, Mr. Obama plans to lay out an economic blueprint to the chamber -- and the country -- at 9 p.m. EST Tuesday.
The president is expected to use his address to call for an increase in domestic energy production, Deborah Solomon and Laura Meckler report in the Wall Street Journal.
Previewing the president's speech Tuesday morning in an appearance on CBS, top Obama aide David Plouffe said the administration is happy to have the election be a referendum on the president's achievements.
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times, meanwhile, looks at the Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the Republican giving the official response to the president's speech Tuesday.
Tune in to the NewsHour at 9 p.m. EST for our coverage of the president's address, the GOP response, and special analysis from New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post. And online, NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni will host the NewsHour's State of the Union watch party.
FOCUS ON FLORIDA
As Susan Page said on Monday's NewsHour, Floridians had "better brace themselves" for a wave of attack ads now that the wife of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is going to funnel $5 million to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future super PAC.
The $5 million donation from Miriam Adelson would match the amount previously given by her husband to the super PAC. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times has the details on the contribution.
With the election set for a week from now, Gingrich has taken the lead. He has a 7.4 percent average lead, according to Real Clear Politics.
The Miami Herald notes that some counties have as little as 48 hours of early voting before the Jan. 31 primary, fewer hours than previous years because the turnout is expected to be below 50 percent.
A LONG WAY TO 1,144
"The delegates is what counts," Paul said Monday night. To illustrate just how long a journey the road to the GOP nomination could be, check out this New York Times chart.
Gingrich holds a lead of 23 delegates based on the three contests. Romney closely follows with 19 delegates, and presumably would also get the two delegates won by former candidate Jon Huntsman. Santorum has 13 delegates and Paul has three.
But consider that both Paul and Santorum plan to hit the road instead of stay in Florida to nab its 50 delegates in the winner-take-all contest. Here's a look at the calendar ahead, compiled by NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns.
Feb. 4 Nevada Caucus (28 delegates)
Feb. 7 Colorado Caucus (36 delegates)
Minnesota Caucus (40 delegates)
Feb. 28 Arizona Primary (29 delegates)
Michigan Primary (30 delegates)
It takes 1,144 delegates to earn the Republican nomination. And that's mathematically a long way off.
2012 LINE ITEMS
Ron Paul is using a dust-up between his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and the Transportation Security Administration to raise some coin. The senator refused a TSA pat-down on his way to Washington and was briefly asked to wait. Paul's office said he was "detained" but TSA did not agree with that characterization.
The elder Paul used it to call for eliminating the TSA, but sent an early morning email asking supporters to give to a "mini-Money Bomb" to bring more attention to the issue. He wrote:
"Rand was able to speak up for liberty today thanks to the platform he has as a U.S. Senator. I'm proud of my son's stand, but just imagine those who receive this kind of treatment every day in our nation's airports and can't fight back? The elderly. The disabled. Little kids. All victims of an out-of-control police state that, while doing nothing to make us safer, is working overtime to strip away our freedoms, our rights, and our basic dignity. Thanks to your support, I have a chance to stand up for all those who have been assaulted by the TSA and END these abuses once and for all. As President, I pledge to do everything in my power to strengthen our national security by ending the theatrical sham that is the TSA."
The pro-Obama health care law group Protect Your Care bought a television ad targeting Daniels' response to the president's speech. A source told the Morning Line the ad will run on broadcast networks in Indiana and on national cable on CNN and MSNBC.
It highlights a 2006 Daniels speech to the Teamsters when he opposed any changes to Indiana's labor law.
Former U.S. senator and one-time "Law & Order" star Fred Thompson endorsed Gingrich Monday night.
TWEETS OF THE LAST 24 HOURS
@byronyork: Gingrich on Fox: I should have protested NBC silencing debate audience: 'In future debates, we're just not going to allow that to happen.'
@pbsgwen: cane sugar. beet sugar. newt knows things.
@StevenTDennis: Warren Buffett, who is worth ~$40 Billion, paid about $7M in taxes in 2010. Romney is worth <$250M & paid $3M.
@jamesoliphant: Hold music for Romney call is soft jazz version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is skipping the State of the Union. "There's no job requirement of any kind that a congressman be there," Lamborn told the Denver Post. He said he thinks Mr. Obama "will be in full campaign mode and will use the address as an opportunity to bash his political opponents."
Willie Nelson will headline a fundraiser for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who is locked in a Member-vs.-Member primary against fellow Democrat, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, in Ohio thanks to redistricting.
The National Law Journal's Marcia Coyle explains the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that police violated the Constitution by attaching a GPS-tracking device to a car owned by a Washington, D.C., club owner, eventually leading to a cocaine-trafficking conviction.
Economics correspondent Paul Solman talked to Mr. Obama's recess appointee Richard Cordray. He quizzed the would-be Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leader (a former Jeopardy champ) about his appointment's legality, his plans to police financial firms and some Bible trivia.
Notorious tweeter Sen. Chuck Grassley found his account hacked on Monday. Among the fake tweets sent out by the hacker: "I really wanted Herman Cain to get president this year."
Roll Call tallies Sunday show appearance for members of Congress and finds the Republicans get more face time.
Democrats are worried the Wisconsin recall could divert resources from other big elections, The Hill reports.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Rick Santorum makes three Florida campaign stops -- in Okeechobee, Fla., at 9 a.m., in Stuart at 11:30 a.m., and in Punta Gorda at 4 p.m.
Mitt Romney delivers a prebuttal to the State of the Union in Tampa at 10:30 a.m., and holds a housing event in Lehigh Acres at 3:20 p.m.
Newt Gingrich holds a pair of Florida rallies -- in Sarasota at 1:45 p.m. and in Naples at 5 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.