“It’s foolish on its face and shocking that a president of the United States would not understand the power of entrepreneurship and innovation,” Romney said. “It is an attack on the very premise that makes America such a powerful economic engine.”
For the often-reserved Romney, the fresh attacks marked a substantial escalation in aggression for a candidate who has struggled to answer questions about his business career and personal tax returns. The former businessman, who would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents if elected, has so far released just one year of personal income tax returns and promised to release a second.
That’s a stark deviation from a tradition created in part by Romney’s father, George, a presidential candidate a generation ago who released 12 years of his returns.
A defiant Romney has accused the Obama campaign of using the issue to distract voters from his handling of the economy less than four months before the Nov. 6 election.
But it’s unclear if Romney’s new strategy will be enough to change the subject. Several prominent Republicans joined Democrats in pushing Romney for more transparency.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who challenged Romney for the GOP nomination — became the latest top conservative to pressure Romney to open his finances. Perry, who has released his tax returns dating back to 1992, said anyone running for office should make public as much personal information as possible to help voters decide.
The conservative National Review also urged Romney to release more tax returns even though it agreed with him that Obama’s camp wanted them for a “fishing expedition.”
“By drawing out the argument over the returns, Romney is playing into the president’s hands,” the magazine said in an online editorial. “He should release them, respond to any attacks they bring, and move on.”
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Romney will not bow to the pressure.
“The governor has gone above and beyond what’s required for disclosure,” Madden said. “The situation remains the same.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who features prominently in speculation about Romney’s choice for a running mate, vigorously defended Romney’s limited tax release.
“There is no claim or no credible indication that he’s done anything wrong,” Pawlenty said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”
Pawlenty accused Obama’s campaign of “hanging shiny objects before the public and the press, and the press is taking the bait.”
Romney’s wife, Ann, meanwhile, shed some light Wednesday on her husband’s vice presidential search. A top aide to the candidate earlier had suggested that an announcement could have come by the end of the week.
In an interview with ABC News, scheduled for broadcast Thursday, Ann Romney said her husband had yet to settle on a candidate.