What could be worse for Mitt Romney's prospects than the "rolling calamity" that is the story of his campaign? Apparently nothing -- not even changing the subject to his long-concealed tax returns.
And changing the subject is of course the point. With the surprise release of a 20-year tax summary, along with his promised 2011 return, Romney hopes we'll all finally stop talking about his incompetence as a candidate.
Unfortunately for him, the move gains him nothing on the tax front, and it actually amplifies the rolling calamity narrative (so dubbed by conservative columnist Peggy Noonan): that Romney is a values-deprived flip-flopper who can't manage his way from one news cycle to the next.
First, the tax fail. Romney's non-release release does not answer the real questions about his taxes, while it does remind most voters of how much less he pays than they do. As the AP reports:
Several tax law experts said Friday that Romney's newly released tax returns would not be much help in uncovering the most persistent mysteries of the candidate's sprawling finances -- whether he used aggressive tax-deferral strategies, what are the specifics and tax advantages of his numerous offshore investments, what is the source of his massive retirement account and what are the details behind his now-closed $3 million Swiss bank account.
So Romney has just given his tax issues new life. Why can't he just show us the details, as do nearly all other presidential candidates, and as he himself insisted of running mate Paul Ryan? He is in effect performing a strip tease with his taxes -- not likely to decrease interest.
In other words, Romney's release of only a summary of his taxes looks both disingenuous and incompetent -- just the qualities that make him so unelectable.
And that's where he really messed up, yet again.
If there was any chance the rolling calamity narrative might lose momentum, Romney has just spun it right back up. He might as well paint that phrase on his bus, as he prepares to barrel off toward his final collision with Election Day.