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Romney will "probably" release tax returns -- but no promises

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak at the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. Pool,AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney dodged questions about whether or not he'll release his income tax returns at the South Carolina debate Monday evening, though he eventually said he would "probably" release them at a later date.

Romney, who seemed reluctant to address the issue, initially said he "wasn't planning on" releasing his returns. Pressed, he noted that in the past Republican presidential candidates like John McCain and George W. Bush have released their records in April.

"If that is tradition, I'm not opposed to doing that," Romney said, stopping short of promising to release his returns. "I'll keep that open."

Romney also said that there is "nothing in them [income tax returns] to suggest any problem." He also suggested he wouldn't release them now because the campaign is "showing enough exposure at this point."

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Rick Perry was first to raise the issue, demanding early in the South Carolina debate that Romney make his income tax returns public before the next primary so "the people of South Carolina can take a look and decide if we've got a flawed candidate or not."

"We cannot fire our nominee in September," Perry said. "We need to know now."

Perry also noted his records has been "open to the public for quite a few years," and that Newt Gingrich said he would be releasing his income tax records this week.

Romney ignored Perry's comments, but he addressed the issue later when directly pressed by moderators later in the debate.

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