Clearing the decks?

Can any man put a value on the quality of forgiveness?  Mitt Romney can — and it’s $45 million.  The Boston Globe reports that Romney has filed papers to forgive that much in personal loans he made to his campaign, eliminating his debt.  Why shrug off a fortune instead of raising money to recover it?  Three guesses:

Mitt Romney, whose prospects of becoming John McCain’s running mate appear on the rise, is preparing to formally declare he will not seek donations to repay $45 million in personal loans he made to his failed presidential bid – the biggest ever made by a candidate in a primary campaign.

The move could clear away the last remnants of a divisive primary race, ensuring that he and his financial supporters are focused on helping McCain, but it could also put him at odds with McCain’s campaign reform message.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said yesterday that the former Massachusetts governor is preparing to have the loans “reclassified as contributions” and will write a letter to the Federal Election Commission explaining that he is “forgiving the outstanding loans.”

Some analysts said McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, might undermine his reform message if he picks someone who bankrolled so much of his own campaign.

The elimination of the debt gives Romney a fresh star, if he plans on joining McCain on the ticket.  It allows him to focus on the general election rather than fundraisers for himself, which would be true even if Romney didn’t join the ticket.  However, it’s hard to imagine that Romney would essentially pay $45 million for the privilege of being a bundler for McCain.   That’s a lot of money to take out of his family’s hands, even for a man whose worth easily gets into the low- to mid-nine figures.

Would Romney damage McCain’s campaign-reform credentials?  The BCRA had the so-called Millionaires Amendment which compensated for self-financed campaigns, but it didn’t disallow them.  (The Supreme Court threw it out last month.)  Besides, the Democrats can’t possibly use this as a campaign issue, not when their own Hope And Change Reformer threw public financing under the bus.  And a McCain-Romney ticket would still be within the public financing system, subject to the same spending limitations, regardless of how rich Romney still is.

Romney clearly wanted a clean start for some reason.    McCain has recently warmed to Romney, and the running-mate rumors continue to gain strength.  This will only boost them.