Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, appears to have one sole mission until November: Find a way to get the Mitt Romney tax returns released.
The tax returns battle began in the primaries when GOP rivals asked the former Massachusetts governor to release the information. Romney has released the past two years' of returns and refuses to share more.
Now Reid has gone full force in questioning Romney's secrecy, and doesn't appear to have any reason to stop.
"This is a calculated move by an ex-boxer going after what he thinks is a serious weakness in his opponent's defense," Jim Manley, Reid's longtime communications advisor, told The Washington Post.
Romney Tax Returns: Not Your Typical Reid Rant
Reid has said an unnamed source told him that Romney has failed to pay taxes for 10 years, a claim Romney has vehemently protested.
Reid has repeatedly drawn attention to Romney's refusal to release the documents. The Democratic leader claimed he received the information from an unnamed investor at Bain Capital, the firm founded by Romney.
He's even made it a family affair, pointing out that Romney's father, George Romney, released 12 years of returns when he ran for office in 1968.
"Mitt Romney can't do that because he's basically paid no taxes in the prior 12 years," Reid said.
Romney has said that Reid's insistence must be due to President Obama's request. Jay Carney, President Obama's press secretary, has been asked repeatedly about the tax returns questions, but defers to Reid.
On Monday, Carney said: "I would refer you to Sen. Reid. … Only Sen. Reid knows his source."
The Senate majority leader has a reputation for outlandish and offhanded comments. Reid has called George W. Bush a "loser and a "liar." He brandished former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan a "hack," Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas an "embarrassment," and the war is Iraq he deemed "lost."
The no-tact leader has also called Capitol Hill tourists "smelly," and his aides "fat."
But the relentless attack on Romney is different; it's much more aggressive and prolonged.
"Usually, these are sort of one-line comments here. This seems to be more of a full-court press on Romney. He seems to see a vulnerability here, and keeps pushing it," David Damore, a professor at the University of Nevada, LV, told NPR.
Reid is not holding back and he doesn't care about any counterattacks because he doesn't plan on running for re-election.
"I don't think he sees any downside to this. Again, he's driving the narrative for these last couple of weeks," said Damore.
Reid's even willingly taken the blows from Republican senators who say Reid's allegations are "beneath the dignity of his office," and have called him a "dirty liar."
Reid has spurned requests to divulge his own tax returns, saying there's no need because Senate financial disclosure is enough.
Romney's Tax Return Rebuttal
Romney told Fox News' Sean Hannity, "It's time for Harry to put up or shut up. Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with, because of course that's totally and completely wrong."
Romney's main defense so far seems to be a bit of misdirection. He said former GOP presidential hopeful John McCain also released two years' worth of tax returns in 2008, with no backlash for not disclosing more.
"The Obama team had no difficulty with that circumstance," Romney told Businessweek. "The difference between then and now is that President Obama has a failed economic record, and is trying to find any issue he can to deflect from the failure of his record."
Romney in an Aug. 7 interview with Bloomberg News said he's not a business being evaluated by potential investors, when asked whether he would want to see five years of financial information for a firm in which he might invest.
"We have a process in this country, which was established by law, which provides for the transparency which candidates are required to meet," Romney said. "I have met with that requirement with full financial disclosure of all my investments, but in addition have provided and will provide a full two years of tax returns."
Whether or not the Romney tax return hoopla actually makes a difference in Election 2012 will be discovered in just three more months.
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