CHARLESTON, S.C. – Mitt Romney dodged a question in Thursday night's debate on whether he'd follow his father's example and release 12 years' worth of tax returns.

“Maybe,” he said, then laughed awkwardly. Some in the crowd booed and heckled him.

Romney then hedged. “I’ll release them. Multiple years, I don’t know how many years,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize for being successful.”


Both Democrats and his Republican opponents have been hitting Romney for refusing to release his tax returns, and he has hemmed and hawed for months before promising to release them in April, the traditional time they are released.

He gave a convoluted answer to that question in Monday night's debate but was better prepared Thursday, saying he would release his returns when this year's were ready -- in April -- and would likely release several years worth.

Romney’s father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns during his presidential run in the late 1960s. Romney’s dismissive response to whether he will follow his father’s standard seemed to play poorly in the debate hall.

His promise to release them could have put the issue to rest. But his awkward moment in Thursday night’s debate will likely reignite the issue for him — and could be seen in future attack ads.

Newt Gingrich released his returns Thursday evening. He has repeatedly attacked Romney for not releasing his.