It’s been a rough week for Mitt Romney.
On Monday morning it seemed like the primaries were merely a formality that would inevitably lead to Romney’s coronation as the 2012 Republican nominee. Since then, however, the former Massachusetts Governor’s poll numbers have been rapidly dropping as his rivals mount 11th-hour offensives to unseat the now-vulnerable frontrunner.
In particular, Romney’s rivals have launched a full-on assault over his wealth, which is estimated to be upwards of $200 million. So far, Romney has been unable to beat back the onslaught of questions over how he made his money, where he keeps it, and whether it has made him out of touch with the American people.
Romney will likely have to answer at least some of these questions tonight, when the remaining Republican presidential candidates take the stage for the final debate before South Carolina’s important primary this weekend. With only four candidates left — and no distractions from Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry — Romney might have a harder time rising above the fray.
Here’s what Romney might have to answer for:
Taxes: Romney finally promised this week that he will release his tax returns, but said he would not do it until April, rebuffing calls from his opponents and even some of his allies to do it right away. But Romney admitted Tuesday that he pays around 15% in taxes annually — far less than the top rate of 35%, and less than a lot of middle-class families pay in income taxes.
The Caymans: To make matters worse, Romney has reportedly been stashing some of his millions in investment funds in the Cayman Islands, the notorious Caribbean tax haven frequently associated with drug cartels and money launderers.
Speaking Fees: Romney didn’t help his rich kid image when he told an interviewer Tuesday that his speaking fees were “not very much.” Turns out, Romney made $374,327 in speaking fees from Feb. 2010 to Feb. 11 — a figure that alone would put him in the 1%.
Bain: In the past two debate matchups, Romney has faced forceful attacks over his record at Bain Capital. Romney — who, by most accounts, was a private equity star — has been stunningly unable to answer these attacks. He’s going to have to do a lot better tonight, if only to prove to the party that he’ll be able to handle the Democrats when they come after him for the exact same thing in the general.