10:40 am Jul. 16, 2012
As their personal assault on Mitt Romney entered a second week, Democrats had a new message for the Republican nominee.
"As Mitt Romney said once to his own Republican colleagues, 'stop whining,'" said Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, on ABC's "This Week."
That message was echoed by Stephanie Cutter, the president's deputy campaign manager, on "Face the Nation."
"Just a few months ago in the Republican primary Mitt Romney said to his opponents, who he was crushing at the time, 'stop whining,' and I think that's a good message for the Romney campaign," said Cutter, who was also the topic of considerable discussion on all the shows, for suggesting on a conference call with reporters last week that Romney might have committed a felony if he overstated his involvement in Bain Capital to the S.E.C.
Cutter's tough talk made Bain the primary topic of conversation on Sunday morning, even as the president's surrogates downplayed the suggestions of criminality.
"I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say those documents were accurate and what he's telling the American people now is not," said David Axelrod. "I'll give him that."
Republicans expressed anger over the attacks on Romney's personal finances and history with Bain, but seemed unsure of how to respond to them substantively.
Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney, was a late addition to "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union," and on both shows, Gillespie explained the discrepancy between the S.E.C. filings and Romney's explanation, by saying Romney had "retroactively retired" from Bain, an awkward phrasing that the Democratic National Committee immediately seized upon, emailing the quote to reporters.
Democrats used the Bain talk to keep questioning Romney on his taxes too.
"Instead of whining about what the Obama campaign is saying, why don't you just put the facts out there and let people decide rather than trying to hide them," Cutter said, when asked if Romney could expect an apology for her felony suggestions. "The tax returns is exactly just about that."
Kevin Madden, who served as spokesman for Romney in 2008 and is taking an expanding role in the campaign, reiterated Romney's point--made in a flurry of television interviews on Friday afternoon--that he had already more than complied with the law.
"I mean the disclosure laws that we have right now are being dutifully followed by this campaign," Madden said. "He has complied with them one hundred percent and that's the reason that you're even having this discussion is because he's gone above and beyond the laws. Not just the F.E.C. disclosures but releasing the tax returns."
Madden didn't get much cover from conservative commentators on the roundtables.
"He should release the tax returns tomorrow," Bill Kristol said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's crazy. You gotta release six, eight, ten years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two and then make a serious speech on Thursday in which he says, 'OK, we've had this ridiculous picayune debate on whether or not I took my leave from Bain and when I didn't and you can now look at my tax returns.'"
Conservative columnist George Will agreed, on a separate program, though he didn't seem to think Romney would budge.
“The cost of not releasing the returns are clear, therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them," he said.