GOLDEN, Colo. (Reuters) - Questions about his personal taxes again dogged Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday, his first day back on the U.S. campaign trail after a rocky trip abroad.
Romney promised to create 12 million jobs and ease the economic plight of middle-class Americans on a visit to swing-state Colorado, but he had to fend off an accusation by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he may not have paid taxes for a decade-long period.
“The word’s out that he hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years,” Reid said on the floor of the Senate. “Let him prove he has paid taxes because he hasn’t,” the Democrat said.
Coming after perhaps the worst week of Romney’s candidacy on a foreign trip highlighted by gaffes, the allegations were firmly denied by the former private equity executive.
“It’s time for Harry to put up or shut up. Harry’s going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because of course that is totally and completely wrong. It’s untrue, dishonest, and inaccurate. It’s wrong,” Romney said on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
Romney released tax records in January that showed he paid millions of dollars in taxes in 2010 and expected to pay $6.2 million in taxes for that year and 2011 combined.
But he has refused to release any more tax documents, prompting Democrats to accuse the former Massachusetts governor of having something to hide and possibly gaming the system.
He could not escape the tax issue at his first event back on U.S. soil after an ill-fated foreign trip to Britain, Israel and Poland.
A plane hired by the liberal group MoveOn flew overhead with a banner that read: “Welcome back, Mitt. Now release those returns” before he spoke in Golden, Colorado.
Eager to talk again about President Barack Obama’s record on jobs, Romney unveiled a “Presidential Accountability Scorecard,” which highlighted the White House’s failure to solve high unemployment and cut the budget deficit.
He noted unfulfilled promises that Obama made in 2008 when he accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency in Denver.
“All the measures he laid out are all measures that have gone the wrong direction,” Romney said. On Friday, government figures will likely show the U.S. unemployment rate remains above 8 percent.
Romney said he would create 12 million jobs in his first four years as president. “It’s going be good to be middle class in America again,” he said in Aspen.
The two men are running close in most opinion polls for the November 6 election, but a Pew Research Center survey on Thursday showed a wide gap between them, with Obama leading by 51 percent to 41 percent.
The poll was taken mostly before Romney’s foreign tour last week when he upset Britain and Arabs with separate remarks about the Olympic Games and the Palestinian economy.
Romney’s campaign criticized a report this week from the centrist Tax Policy Center that calculated his proposal to slash income taxes by 20 percent across the board would boost income for the wealthiest taxpayers while reducing it for the middle class.
“That report you referenced is a joke,” senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters on a conference call. He questioned the authorship and methodology of the report, even though the Romney campaign has cited numbers from the Tax Policy Center in the past.
In Orlando, Florida, Obama told a campaign rally that Republicans’ efforts to keep former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for all Americans, including the richest, would only lead to a wider deficit.
“They have tried to sell us this trickle-down, tax-cut, fairy dust before. And guess what, it didn’t work then. It will not work now,” Obama said. “We do not need more tax cuts for folks who have done very, very well. We need more tax cuts for working Americans,” he said.
Obama headlined a second rally later in Leesburg, Virginia, another election battleground state, and took note it could be critical in deciding whether he gets a second term.
“If we win Virginia, we will win this election,” Obama told more than 3,000 supporters outside a high school.
Not everyone was there to cheer the president. His motorcade passed several dozen protesters and Romney supporters on the way in. They held signs that read: “No-Obama” and “Sorry Obama, this is Romney country.”
Additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney