Jul 17, 2012.
Dear Mitt, these are the ropes. It's time to fight or go home.
There's no doubt Mitt Romney took a beating this past week. As the week wore on, he looked more and more like a punch drunk boxer reeling in the ring. He couldn't seem to get his gloves up to deflect the hits that kept coming, much less return a punch.
Even some of his biggest supporters started shouting from ringside that it was time for the moderate from Massachusetts to fight back.
"Romney has said before that he doesn't want to have to light his hair on fire," Sarah Palin said on Fox News. "Well, there are a lot of his base supporters, independents, who are saying, 'Well, light our hair on fire, then!'"
But Romney seemed unable to muster much of a defense, and his best attack sounded like a petulant kid in a schoolyard yelling, "Am NOT!"
"Romney's just not a fighter," Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots, told Newsweek.
It all started with the boos.
Romney told a crowd at the NAACP convention he would dismantle Obamneycare. They booed. Repeatedly.
He left them with an ominous warning: If elected, he said, "I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be returned."
It went downhill from there.
As the incident played out in the media, Romney's defense was to say he "expected" them to boo him.
A lot of folks took that to mean he had done it on purpose, to bait the African-American audience, as a way of firing up conservatives.
In an instant, his defense turned into a self- inflicted wound.
While he was stumbling from the one, President Obama took another jab. He hit Romney where he's weakest -- in his Bain Capital record. The president's campaign released an ad accusing Romney of shipping jobs overseas.
Romney came back flailing wildly. He fired back with a multi-million dollar ad buy that called the president a liar. Then came his second self- inflicted wound in a week. Maybe it was friendly fire. His campaign said he wasn't shipping jobs overseas when Obama said he was because he had already left Bain, in 1999.
Obama stepped in with a punch that knocked Romney for a loop. The Boston Globe printed a story showing Romney signed repeatedly as the company's CEO and sole shareholder between 1999 and 2002.
In a media conference call, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter delivered the hit that staggered Romney. "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony," she said. "Or, he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments."
Romney was hurt, and it showed. A guy who avoids media interviews like the plague suddenly couldn't give enough. He gave five of them Friday, countering.
"I was the owner of an entity which was a management entity," Romney said on CBS. "That entity was one which I had ownership of until the time of the retirement program was put in place. But I had no responsibility whatsoever after February of '99 for the management or ownership -- management, rather, of Bain Capital."
The more he talked, though, the less it seemed to help.
"Why is Mitt Romney running away from his company, Bain Capital, like a scalded cat?" Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate majority whip, taunted on NBC's Meet the Press. "Because there's abundant evidence that under Bain Capital they were exporting American jobs to low-wage countries and he doesn't want to be associated with it."
And, with that, the Democrats were able to take the fight right where they wanted all along. They insisted that Romney could clear up the whole mess by releasing more years of his tax returns.
It's a trap.
For reasons only he can explain, Romney has repeatedly resisted showing folks how much he made, and how he made it. He got beat up for it during the primaries, and then, finally, released one whole year.
Now, even his own party members are saying he should cough up more.
"The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them," conservative columnist George Will said on ABC.
The Dems included that, and former George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd, in a new ad heaping the pressure on Romney.
"There's obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, 'Have at it,'" he says. "If he had had 20 years of great, clean, everything's-fine it would all be out there."
But Romney, so far, has said he will release only one more. Sometime before the election.
The longer he hesitates, the fishier it looks.
And, he's giving the Democrats a chance to keep him on the ropes, pounding away.
Only Romney can tell why that's better than actually showing his returns.
Be up to date with the hottest topics of the week