Carney declines to condemn Reid’s Romney tax attack

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to condemn Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s unsupported claims that Republican candidate Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for a decade.

Carney’s decision to allow Reid’s attack to stand will likely aid Obama’s campaign strategy, which seeks to paint Romney as an out-of-touch Richie Rich who can’t be trusted by swing voters to recognize and respond to their economic hardships.

Any media coverage of Romney’s complex business deals and tax filings aids Obama’s negative strategy — and also keep attention away from the stalled economy.

Carney’s support for Reid came during Monday’s press conference when he repeatedly refused to criticize or address Reid’s allegations, despite the lack of evidence.

“I would refer you to Sen. Reid. … He knows his source,” Carney told Fox News’ Ed Henry during the Aug. 6 daily press conference.

“The president has not expressed an opinion to me on this,” Carney added. “He believes in the tradition of releasing tax returns [and] this is an issue that was raised by contenders” for the GOP nomination, Carney continued.

Conservatives and libertarians have slammed Reid for his unsupported claim that Romney didn’t pay taxes for a decade, and have portrayed him as a later-day Sen. Joe McCarthy.

Romney “didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Reid told The Huffington Post July 31. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?” Reid claimed. He has more recently said that a Bain Capital source — who Reid will not reveal — gave him the information.

Carney’s apparent neutrality puts the tax issue back in the headlines and gives a green light to other Democrats to make claims about Romney’s taxes.

There’s little sign that the establishment media, or progressive leaders, will condemn Reid’s tactic enough to damage Obama’s election chances.

If swing-voters feel alienated from Romney, they’re less likely to vote for him — or even just vote against Obama. That could be critical in several swing states, such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado, despite the stalled economy, record deficit and high unemployment rate.

So far, Obama’s election campaign has spent more than $100 million on negative ads aimed at Romney’s image.

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