Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.

“I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate,” the adviser said. “The bottom line is there’ll be counterattacks.” …

Returning fire with personal attacks on Obama offers both emotional satisfaction to Romney and many Republicans, and an answer of sorts to relentless Democratic attacks on Romney’s time as an executive. It has so far failed, however, to quiet the growing, bipartisan chorus of voices demanding Romney release more of his personal tax returns. Obama campaign officials privately admit that the Republican has, at times, been effective in beating down attacks on his business record — but they’ve yet to see a way out on the tax issue.