Nightly News   |  January 17, 2012

Mitt Romney’s 15 percent tax rate

While on the trail in South Carolina, Mitt Romney said he will release further details about his taxes in April if he secures the Republican presidential nomination. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> back in this country on the campaign trail tonight, the incoming fire aimed at mitt romney 's time as a private equity executive in the business of corporate takeovers may have calmed down, but attention shifted today to his personal finances and taxes. nbc's peter alexander is in columbia, south carolina , where the primary is now four days away . peter, good evening.

>> brian, good evening to you. tonight, mitt romney 's republican rivals are scrambling across this state today trying to cast themselves as the best alternative to romney. this is really a mad dash with saturday's primary barely 72 hours away. to give you a sense, rick sanatorium in an effort to try to touch as many corners of this state today chartered a jet to make five different stops across south carolina . after deflecting attacks from all sides in last night's contentious debate --

>> bain swept in, they picked that company over.

>> reporter: he started with a rally in south carolina . but the front-runner was greeted by an unusually small crowd. and after pressure last night to release his tax returns --

>> if it'sthe attacks on me -- we cannot fire our nominee in september. we need to know now.

>> reporter: today, romney appeared to be knocked off message, prom promising to share his returns in april and also disclosing he pays 15% in income tax , a figure not uncommon for many wealthy americans.

>> my income comes overwhelmingly from investments in the past rather than ordinary income . and then i get speakers fees from time to time but not very much.

>> reporter: his disclosure forms showed he earned $375,000 in speaking fees in 2010 . in last night's debate, the candidates sparred over the negative tone.

>> if i had a super pac supporting me that was inaccurate, i would go out and say stop it.

>> but ron paul defended his tough ads.

>> there was one ad that we used against senator santorum and i was -- i only had one problem. i couldn't get all the things i wanted to say in one minute.

>> reporter: the spirited audience punctuated with almost every answer, including this exchange over gingrich's controversial comments that some of the nation's poor lack a work ethic.

>> it sounds as if you're seeking to belittle people.

>> well, that makes liberals unhappy. i'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn some day to own the job.

>> reporter: and for his part, rick perry wouldn't commit to his campaign's future. after south carolina , h ejoke head will head to disneyworld.

>> peter alexander in columbia, south carolina , with four days to