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'Brilliant politics'? Back and forth continues over Reid's unsubstantiated claim on Romney's taxes

The back and forth continues over Sen.

The back and forth continues over Sen. Harry Reid’s claim that a “credible source” tipped him off to the fact that Mitt Romney hasn’t “paid taxes for ten years.” Republicans aren't taking the claim lightly.

Reid hasn’t backed down. While refusing to name his sources, the Senate Majority Leader put out a statement Friday night saying "There is a controversy because the Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, refuses to release his tax returns." He added, "It is clear Romney is hiding something."

On ABC's This Week, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar” and said Democrats are manufacturing stories. Similarly, Republican Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham said yesterday on CNN's State of the Union that he believed Reid was lying about the tax comment.

“I’m with those people who think that’s it’s outrageous what Harry Reid has done,” said New York Magazine’s John Heilemann on Morning Joe Monday. “It’s an unsubstantiated charge that’s been pulled out of the air. I think Romney should release his taxes, and I think Harry Reid should not hurl baseless accusations.”

“[Reid] wasn’t doing this ringside,” added Joe Scarborough. “He did it from the Senate floor.”

Mark Halperin countered that Reid could be playing brilliant politics: “There’s two ways to look at this: If you want to be cynical and clinical, it’s brilliant politics. He’s now run 3 to 5 days of people talking about Mitt Romney’s tax returns and he did it pegged to the release of the unemployment numbers. Or another way to look at it is as a misuse of the office, something Reid has done before. I think the Republicans have kind of misplayed this because they’re keeping it alive just as Reid wanted them to. Reid doesn’t mind being called those names. He couldn’t care less, but it keeps the story alive.”  

David Krone, chief of staff for the Senate majority leader, called the backlash against Reid’s claims as dodging the tax issue. “Lindsey Graham, Reince Priebus, they’re a bunch of henchmen for Romney and they’re all reading off the same talking points.”

The burden might be on Romney to prove that Reid is lying. “In politics, a charge unanswered is a charge believed,” points out Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake on Monday’s Washington Post. Reid not only has less to lose politically (he isn’t up for re-election until 2016), Reid has also "created a problem that Romney and the Republican Party have to figure out how to handle — and quickly.”