Pawlenty Won't Talk Timing, Sticks to Script on Tax Returns

(Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ABC News' Meghan Kiesel and Shushannah Walshe report:

While VP short-lister and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had nothing new to say about the timing of the VP selection on CBS this morning, he was vocal on one issue: Mitt Romney's taxes.

Pawlenty continued the Romney campaign's attempts to refocus discussion on the economy rather than "shiny objects" such as tax returns, saying that Romney's release of two years of tax records is "standard."

"Mitt Romney has released tax records for 2010 and 2011, and that's the standard for Republican nominees two years worth, and look, we shouldn't be debating tax returns from 10 or 15 years ago or college transcripts from 20 or more years ago," Pawlenty said, referring to calls by some Republicans for President Obama to release his college transcripts. "We should be debating the main issue in this race, which is jobs and the middle class."

Romney has yet to release his full 2011 tax records, although he has released preliminary numbers. The campaign has announced that it will release Romney's 2011 records in October.

For more on the veepstakes race, see Jon Karl's analysis of the contenders here.

Pawlenty went on to criticize Obama from distracting from the main issues in the race. "The president is hanging shiny objects before the public and the press, and the press is taking the bait," Pawlenty said. "There is no indication that Mitt Romney has done anything wrong with respect to his taxes and he's trying to distract from the main issue, which should be his performance, the president's poor performance on getting this economy moving again."

When CBS's Norah O'Donnell pointed out that Republicans' history of standard tax releases has varied from 30 years to two years, Pawlenty said that "the practice has varied," and that Mitt Romney is "within the range of past practice."

When asked why Romney is hesitant to tout his successes in the private sector by releasing full data on his wealth, Pawlenty again redirected the conversation back to Obama's mismanagement of the economy.

"I don't think there is any secret that Mitt Romney has been successful, that he's achieved success, that he's paid a lot of taxes, but there's also no indication that he's done anything wrong," Pawlenty said.

He then went on to slam the media for covering Romney's reluctance to release his tax records rather than Obama's line on the economy. "Why aren't they pursuing the issue of 6 million fewer jobs since he took office? Twenty-three million Americans being unemployed, underemployed or having dropped out of the workforce?" he said. "Forty months of over 8 percent unemployment, those are the big issues in this race, not issues of 20-year-old college transcripts or 15-year-old tax returns."

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