Romney keeps pushing back over tax returns

(CBS News) TOLEDO, Ohio - A new CBS News-New York Times poll shows Republicans much more excited about the upcoming presidential election than Democrats, with 48 percent of those who say they plan to vote for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney describing themselves as enthusiastic, compared to only 23 percent of the people who say they support the president.

And, in more bad news for the White House, only 30 percent of the respondents say they think the country is headed in the right direction.

The numbers come as both campaigns fight hard for the political upper-hand.

Romney has tried to seize the initiative after days of Democratic attacks on his stewardship of the private equity firm Bain Capital and his refusal to release more of his tax returns.

And so far, it's proven an uphill battle for him.

In Pennsylvania Tuesday, Romney tried to turn the conversation back to the economy, saying it's hurting because of what he suggested was the president's hostility to business.

"Look: President Obama attacks success and therefore, under President Obama, we have less success. And I will change that," Romney vowed to one crowd.

But his point was overshadowed all day after Romney supporter and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu tried to push the argument with words that questioned Mr. Obama's patriotism.

"I wish this president would learn how to be an American," Sununu said.

It was the kind of statement usually emanating from the political fringe -- and Sununu apologized within hours.

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But it was another off-message distraction, as Romney struggled to turn the spotlight on the president and talk about something other than how much -- or little -- he paid in taxes.

An Obama attack ad charges that Romney "has used every trick in the book."

Romney has released his 2010 return and an estimate of last year's. But the questions keep coming.

To go further, Romney said in an interview on WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, would be like handing ammunition to the Democrats.

"Their opposition people look for anything they can find to distort, to twist and to try and make negative," Romney asserted. "And I want to make this campaign about the economy and creating jobs."

But even Romney supporters are urging fuller disclosure.

The conservative magazine National Review, former Republican Party chairmen Haley Barbour and Michael Steele, and former GOP opponents Ron Paul and Rick Perry are just a few of those who say Romney should be more forthcoming.

Perry said, "Anyone running for office, if they get asked within reason to give people backgrounds about what they have been doing, including tax returns, should do that."

Republicans are now arguing that it's unfair for the Obama campaign to press Romney to release more of his tax returns as long as the president refuses to release his college transcripts.

To see the Dean Reynolds report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.