It’s been more than three weeks since Mitt Romney answered a question from a reporter.
The Republican candidate has rarely made himself available throughout the US presidential campaign but there is no chance that position will change in the last few days.
I’ve regularly emailed the campaign asking for just five minutes with the former Massachusetts governor. I have a few questions I’d like to ask him. However, on the extreme rare occasions when I receive a reply – and to be honest I can’t remember the last time that I did – I’m often told that his diary is full and if that should change they’ll be in touch. I don’t check my email every ten minutes in hope.
In the final days, the governor’s campaign has begun to step up its attacks on President Obama. Even as they took a lower profile while huge swathes of the country struggled to deal with megastorm Sandy, they still aired ads in the battle ground states. One, in Ohio, was based around claims made in a speech by the candidate that the car manufacturer Jeep was going to ship jobs from America to China. The car company denied it. They denied it several times. The chief executive of the parent company Chrysler even issued a statement saying: “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”
It was an unusually forceful statement at this stage in the election cycle.
At the time of writing the ad is still running. Add that to a TV spot which attacks the Obama plan to appoint a secretary of business. “His solution to everything is to add a bureaucrat”’ it says. Romney himself claims that creating another job in cabinet does nothing to create jobs in the street. However, the White House idea is that the position will consolidate a range of departments and bring them under the control of one person.
And in Florida there is a radio ad which clumsily links Barack Obama to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Greg Sargent, who writes ‘The Plum Line’ blog for the Washington Post has described the ads as part of Mitt Romney’s Kamikaze strategy. His theory is that the Republican candidate will spend the millions in his war chest to hammer home the ads in key states and do enough damage to Barack Obama to give him the win. The risk, argues Sargent, is that the widespread criticism of the ads, the rejection of his claims by significant and serious players, some going as far as to call them ‘outright lies’, could crash his campaign as it plays to the Obama closing character arguments against him, notably that he will say anything to win.
In the aftermath of the storm, the media wanted to ask candidate Romney if he stood by his position stated in a primary debate that he would want to transfer the Federal Emergency Management Agency responsibilities to the states. He ignored questions about it at an event his campaign organised in Ohio. Eventually his campaign issued a statement which didn’t really clarify his position. The candidate was not made available to the media.
Of course – the key to the strategy is to never apologise, never explain. And if Mitt Romney doesn’t face the media, then he never has to.