Monday, December 5, 2011

Romney's Media Strategy Is A Lot Like...

Back in November, William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection had a post in which he asked the question, Will we ever get around to vetting Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney has stayed away from situations where he can be questioned. As reported by The Boston Globe:

Mitt Romney has not appeared on a Sunday news program in 20 months. He has held only a handful of events in recent weeks at which the public was allowed to ask questions….

While Romney has participated in nine presidential debates and nearly 20 town hall meetings, he has stayed away from traditional campaign settings such as Sunday talk shows and avoided extended interviews with much of the national media. Instead, the campaign has sought to control its message and reach targeted audiences by using social media tools such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The strategy is designed in part to lower the odds that Romney will make the kind of gaffes that have subsumed the campaigns of other candidates.

Had any other presidential candidate pulled Romney’s hiding act, that candidate would be skewered.

Although not explicitly stated, I think it safe to assume Professor Jacobson meant any other Republican presidential candidate. Because . . . well, we'll get to that in a moment.

Today, Greg Pollowitz at NRO's Media Blog has a post entitled, Romney’s Self-Imposed Media Bubble:

Mitt Romney really needs to lighten-up with the press. If he can’t deal with Bret Baier or a behind-the-scenes reporter for the New York Times, he’s not ready for prime time. Via the New York Times:

Backstage can be something of an inner sanctum at a presidential debate: even though they are appearing on live television before millions of Americans, the candidates are used to having their clubhouse hermetically sealed from the public before and after they take the stage.

Mitt Romney’s campaign stood out by going into defensive mode immediately, insisting that the reporter stay far away.

Mr. Romney’s campaign has sought to carefully control his interactions with the news media this year as it has tried to keep a grip on front-runner status.

Sounds eerily familiar. Who in recent presidential campaign memory implemented a hide from the media strategy?

Here are a few snippets of a piece I wrote about the 2008 Obama. The thrust of the piece was how Obama would talk a big game about wanting a national dialogue -- but his real aim was to shut down debate and silence his critics. But a sizable portion of the piece dealt with how the Obama campaign was designed to limit unscripted interaction with the media -- much like Romney's is now.

The Obama Way of Ending Divisiveness

Obama's strategy has been to orient the campaign around his greatest strength and advantage -- who could deliver the best speech -- and away from his greatest weakness -- his poor ability to answer questions about how he would deliver on any of its promises.
Obama understands that the primary means of limiting the questions for which he would otherwise be forced to answer is to create a media environment in which those questions are not asked.

Liberals, including the media have repeatedly attacked President Bush for making himself unavailable to the media in press conferences and other Q&A formats. Yet as Howard Kurtz described back in January, the Obama campaign has been "unusually insulated":

One moment of absurdity came Tuesday, when reporters on the press bus were asked to dial into a conference call in which Obama announced a congressman's endorsement -- even though the candidate was nearby and just as easily could have delivered the news in person to the bus captives. Obama answered a few questions, but reporters are generally placed on mute after they speak so there can be no follow-up.

Obama learned the wisdom of this strategy, or rather the folly of its absence, when he made himself available to reporters to answer questions about his relationship with Antonin Rezko, who is currently on trial for corruption. Irritated with the questions and unable to satisfy persistent reporters, Obama cut the news conference short, walking out and proclaiming, "'Guys, I mean come on. I just answered like eight questions." Obama more recently went on a 10 day stretch in which he held no press conferences. Frustrated with the lack of availability, a reporter tried to break Obama's silence by asking a question while he was eating breakfast. Obama again deployed the "chagrin defense", this time somewhat fomously, "Why can't I just eat my waffle?"

Romney copying Obama’s 2008 avoid the media strategy?


It was a successful strategy for Obama. Perhaps we can credit Romney for learning from the 2008 Obama.

Mitt Romney 2012
Just As Smart As Barack Obama

Because there's no way the media might treat a Republican presidential candidate one way in the Republican primary and then differently once he has all but wrapped up the nomination and his opponent becomes the Democratic nominee. Right John McCain?

Mitt Romney 2012
Just As Smart As John McCain

It's all so reassuring

UPDATE: Yes, of course. Team Romney decided the day after I ran this post would be a good day to announce the candidate would make his first appearance on a Sunday news program since the dawn of this decade. Professor Jacobson has the details.

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