Mitt Romney's anti-media hostility: Will it backfire?

The longtime GOP frontrunner got away with sidestepping reporters at first. These days, not so much

Mitt Romney has made a habit of ducking one-on-one interviews with journalists, and critics argue that it's finally catching up with the longtime frontrunner.
(Image credit: Rick Friedman/Corbis)

Mitt Romney has gotten a lot of grief lately for "ducking reporters," says Marc Caputo at The Miami Herald. One of Romney's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Jon Huntsman, even released a "Scared Mittless" ad online, poking fun at Romney's decision to avoid one-on-one interviews with mainstream reporters. It's not hard to see why Mitt ducks the press: His prickly interview last week with Fox News anchor Bret Baier led to days of damaging headlines, and caused his aides to go "into defensive mode" over the weekend, when they shielded Romney from a New York Times reporter who showed up backstage at a forum hosted by Mike Huckabee. Is Romney's aversion to the media starting to do him more harm than good?

Yes. Romney's strategy is backfiring: "If you have a gaffe-prone candidate or one who can't readily express his views," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, you might want to shield him from reporters. But when you have a knowledgeable, articulate guy like Romney, you should let him speak for himself. If Romney had more interviews under his belt, "he might have been more relaxed" during his disastrous encounter with Bret Baier.

"Romney needs to revise his approach to the media"

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Actually, the recent clashes have helped Romney: That so-called "bad interview" on Fox might have been just what Romney needed, says Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review. Romney is "routinely caricatured as a robot," but when he got peeved at Baier's line of questioning, he "showed an emotional side" and "tapped into the frustration a lot of people have with politics." The exchange actually allowed Romney to refute the charge that he's a flip-flopper and explain his "winning" conservative message.

"Mitt's good bad interview"

To win, Romney has to talk with reporters: In 2008, Mitt was "completely accessible," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. That's because he "was eager to raise his national profile." Now that he's a known quantity, Romney has gone to "the other extreme," preferring to let rivals sink themselves while Mitt avoids saying anything that might upset his frontrunner status. But the political press will only put up with being ignored for so long, and now that he's locked in a dual with Newt Gingrich, Romney's media aversion is morphing from "an oddity to a problem." Unless he starts opening up, Romney is inviting "a backlash."

"The press doesn't like being ignored"

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