If Republicans thought they could bully Harry Reid into backing down about his comments over Mitt Romney’s taxes, they simply miscalculated, and all their outrage has done is keep a story front and center that they would rather push to the margins.

The latest salvo in the intensifying spat comes from Reid’s chief of staff David Krone, who upped the taunts by calling Republicans “a bunch of cowards” and “henchmen for Romney” in an interview with Politico late Sunday night.

“To turn it around, all their childish rants this weekend about calling Reid a ‘liar’ and all that, it just shows you how scared they are that Harry Reid was telling the truth,” Krone told the paper [...]

(Reid’s) spokesman Adam Jentleson responded in the afternoon by vouching for the credibility of the source and inviting Romney to disprove the claim by releasing a series of tax returns. Calling him the “most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon,” Jentleson told TPM: “It’s clear Mitt Romney is hiding something, and the only way for him to clear this up is to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns.”

It’s useless to try and shame Harry Reid off of this. Reid blasted out a FUNDRAISING SOLICITATION to supporters based on the comments last Friday. He’s willing to take maximum heat as long as the Romney campaign still has to answer for the absence of the tax returns further back than 2010.

On the substance, Marcy Wheeler has credible speculation that the “taxes” in question are probably tithes to the Mormon church, which a Mormon Bain investor would say to Mormon Harry Reid, and which would be evident in the lack of charitable donations on the tax returns. But again, it’s all speculation until Romney comes up with the goods.

Considering that Romney’s entire advertising strategy is based on willfully quoting the President out of context, I’m bored by a debate over whether or not Reid is “playing fair.” As for whether this whole tax returns flap matters at all, that’s a more open question. When you attach it to Romney’s actual tax policy, that he wants to lower taxes on the rich and either put the balance toward the deficit or increased taxes on the middle class, it makes a bit more sense as an issue. It all has a sort of bread and circus quality to it, but when the fights happen over words and slights and comments rather than policies that affect millions, this is the politics we get in America.