Charleston, S.C. -- After persistent calls for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, the candidate said Thursday he would do so "when my taxes are complete for this year and I know if I'm the nominee."
Romney, speaking in a CNN-sponsored debate, said he was anticipating such requests from Democrats anyway.
"I know that's whats gonna come," Romney said. "I know that's what's going to come. Every time the Democrats are out there trying their very best to -- to try and attack people because they've been successful. And I have been successful."
When pressed on why he would not release his 2011 returns immediately, as rival Newt Gingrich has urged, Romney said he wanted to minimize the news coverage of the story.
"I want to make sure that I beat President Obama, and every time we release things drip by drip the Democrats go out with another array of attacks as have been done in the past," he said. "If I'm the nominee, I'll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all this."
Gingrich released his tax returns just as the debate was starting.
Romney said he "obviously" pays his full taxes and is "honest in my dealings with people."
"I understand that my taxes are carefully managed and I pay a lot of taxes," he said. "I've been very successful and when I have our taxes ready for this year I'll release them."
When asked if he was satisfied with that response, Gingrich said he thought it was important for voters to see "if theres anything in there that is going to help us lose the election" before a candidate had been nominated, but conceded that ultimately, "it's his decision."
"Look, he's got to decide and the people of South Carolina have to decide," Gingrich said. "But if there's anything in there that is going to help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination. And if there's nothing in there, why not release it?"
"I mean, it's a very simple model, but he's got to decide," he continued. "It's his decision and everybody's got to run their own campaign based on what they think is a reasonable risk."