Ballot Box

Romney strategist hints at sharper tone in coming days

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A senior Mitt Romney strategist hinted at an increasingly sharp-elbowed campaign in the coming days.

"I think sharper contrasts will come into focus with the fact that you've only got one governor now and it's really versus Washington experience," Stuart Stevens said. "Republicans don't want to run against Barack Obama with someone who's going to run from the same zip code," describing Gingrich as a K Street lobbyist.

He denied that the attacks on Romney for not releasing his tax returns had hurt their campaign. "I don't think it's a big deal, I don't think it mattered here at all," he said.

When asked why Romney had not yet released his returns he called the request "unprecedented." When a reporter pointed out that Romney's father had released his during his presidential campaign, he said "Not in January." That reporter then said George Romney had done so in December, a month earlier.

Stevens deflected the comment with a joke. "I'll tell you what: We'll go with that if you promise to write the rest of your stories on your typewriter. File it on the wire. We'll make that trade if you'll commit to that," he said.

He also said that Romney has the fire in the belly to win the race, and denied that he thought the former Massachusetts governor should take a more heated approach to campaigning.

"Someone who understands your anger is much better than someone who might appear to be angrier than they are," he said in what was seen as a jab at Gingrich.