Look for the Romney hemorrhage starting Wednesday morning

It doesn’t matter if Mitt Romney wins the Iowa caucuses tonight. He is about to experience a severe political hemorrhage over his refusal to disclose his tax returns.

Full disclosure: I am supporting President Obama for re-election because I agree almost entirely with his policies and I disagree with every Republican candidate on the fundamental issues I care about most.

But I must say I have admired Mitt Romney for a long time — for his business and political careers and, especially, for being a good father. I met two of his sons on different occasions in the “Green Room” (holding hospitality room) at Fox News Channel, where I am a contributor. And I remember thinking, “Whatever I like or dislike about Mitt Romney’s politics, he must be a great man to inspire such love and loyalty by two sons.

I also have many Republican friends who are strong Romney supporters, and whom I greatly respect, such as Mark DeMoss, a conservative Republican media specialist who represents many Christian evangelical organizations and has become a good friend of mine.

I became increasingly critical of Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign when he flip-flopped on some core issues that meant a lot to me — such as opposing Newt Gingrich’s position that an illegal immigrant who has been in the country for 25 years, with a job, family and history of paying taxes and being a good citizen, should be forced to go back to his country of origin without a system for allowing him to earn his way into U.S. citizenship. George Bush, John McCain and most decent people I know support Gingrich’s position. Why wouldn’t Mitt Romney, a moderate conservative and great dad with a big enough heart to inspire such love and devotion from his children?

No reason, except pure pandering. Which doesn’t shock me; it just disappoints me.

So getting to the topic at hand, whatever happens tonight in the Iowa caucuses — by the way, I predict Rick Santorum will eke out a victory over Romney, with Ron Paul in a virtual dead heat with Romney (there, I didn’t wimp out and say “too close to call”) — I predict that Romney is about to head down in the polls, will be wounded and will keep bleeding to the point of hemorrhaging starting tomorrow morning.

The conventional wisdom already is predicting this because Newt Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul and, if they stay in the race, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will all start hammering on Romney as the front-runner for some of his “liberal” positions, such as on choice and “Romneycare.”

But I don’t think this normal phenomenon of bashing the front-runner is going to be the key factor that will put Romney in great political danger.

I think the key factor will be Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns, which will bring into critical mass Romney’s biggest candidate vulnerability: the idea that he lacks candor and authenticity.