President Barack Obama’s campaign vowed Friday that if Mitt Romney releases five years of tax returns the campaign would stop criticizing him for not releasing more. Mitt Romney's campaign chief Matt Rhoades quickly shot down the offer.
The proposed deal came in a letter from Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to his counterpart in Romney’s campaign, pressing the tax return issue one day after Romney said he had “never paid less than 13 percent on taxes.”
“Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide,” Messina wrote. “So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more — neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.”
Rhoades responded with a letter of his own, writing that it was "clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending."
"If Governor Romney's tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days," he wrote. "In the meantime, Governor Romney will continue to lay out his plans for a stronger middle class, to save Medicare, to put work back into welfare, and help the 23 million Americans struggling to find work in the Obama economy.
See you in Denver."
The renewed focus on Romney's tax returns came after Romney called the issue "small-minded" on Thursday.
Speaking in South Carolina at Greer airport ahead of a fundraiser, Romney said that he had recently reviewed his returns over the past decade and “never paid less than 13 percent.”
That number would rise to “well above 20 percent” if his charitable contributions were factored in, he said.
Obama’s camp was not impressed.
“We would say: 'Prove it, Governor Romney,'” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Obama.
Democrats have hounded Romney relentlessly about his tax returns, with Sen. Harry Reid recently asserting, without providing proof, that Romney paid no taxes in several years.
"Until Mitt Romney releases his tax returns, Americans will continue to wonder what he's hiding," Reid's spokesman told NBC News.
Romney has until now only released his tax returns from 2010, which showed a 13.9 percent effective tax rate. He has said he plans to also disclose his 2011 return.
His wife, Ann Romney, told NBC’s “Rock Center” this week that there would be no new tax disclosures, explaining that, “the more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed.”
Obama’s campaign manager said in his letter Friday that a five-year release “would appropriately span all the years that he has been a candidate for President.”
Meanwhile, a Democratic super PAC released a new ad for swing states Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Virginia that said Romney would only pay 1 percent under the budget proposed by running mate Paul Ryan, The Associated Press reported.
"Romney and Ryan. If they win, the middle class loses," the ad said.
The developments came as Romney continued a week of fundraisers in non-competitive states with no public events planned for Friday. His running mate Paul Ryan campaigned Friday in Glen Allen, Va.
"Virginia is a very important state – you have heard it from everybody," he told an overflow crowd at a high school in the town, a suburb of the state capital of Richmond, emphasizing Virginia's role as a crucial swing state come November.
Romney and Ryan will likely campaign together again twice next week beginning in New Hampshire on Monday, Politico reported.
The pair had not been expected to join forces on the stump until after the GOP convention, but Romney campaign strategists were seeking to capitalize on the way Ryan's addition to the ticket has provided, according to Politico, a "psychic boost" that has energized Romney.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, were back in Washington Friday for official business.