New London’s own Joshua Green speculates that Romney may have paid no taxes in 2009, thus the argument that he need only disclose back to 2010:
The “zero tax in 2009” theory—again, this is sheer speculation—gains further sustenance when you consider it’s the only year for which nobody knows anything about Romney’s taxes. He’s revealed what’s in his 2010 and 2011 returns, and he reportedly submitted 20-some years’ worth of returns to the McCain campaign when he was being vetted for vice president in 2008. Steve Schmidt, McCain’s chief strategist in that campaign, said on MSNBC last night that while he didn’t examine Romney’s returns himself, nothing that McCain’s vetters found in them disqualified Romney from consideration.
That would indicate that 2009 is singularly important and, if there’s anything to this theory, incredibly vexing for Romney because there’s no way he could release additional returns without including that year. And the chaos that would ensue would be bad enough that it’s probably worth enduring significant damage to avoid.
The theory may be true, but I wouldn’t take Schmidt’s statement to the bank. My guess would be that they never seriously thought about Romney and were just vetting him for appearances sake. After all, everyone who has ever run against him thinks he’s an asshole, and McCain is likely no exception. So, faced with the prospect of reviewing hundreds to thousands of pages of returns they couldn’t understand anyway, for a guy they had no intention of choosing, they probably just punted and went with the obvious choice: Sarah Palin. Which, by the way, proves just how penetrating their vetting process was.