For Romney, Op-Eds: 20, Newspaper Interviews: 0

For Romney, Op-Eds: 20, Newspaper Interviews: 0

By Erin McPike - March 9, 2011

While political reporters and editors are bemoaning the late start of the 2012 GOP presidential primary fight - including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's delayed entry into the race - editorial page editors have something to smile about.

Aides to Romney insist he is not a candidate yet and promise that when the time comes, they will make him available to the press for interviews and questions. But in gearing up for a second run for the White House, the Republican has stealthily gotten his desired message out to the masses through a succession of opinion editorials - all while avoiding the press.

Romney's Free and Strong America PAC website includes a section for nearly all of the op-eds the former governor has authored since President Obama's election in November of 2008. There are 19 posted on the site, and 16 of them take direct aim at the president. (Not on his site is a Nov. 18, 2008, piece in the New York Times entitled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," in which he argued against the auto bailout.)

The Bay Stater is not the only Republican presidential hopeful who has taken to the editorial pages to make his opinions known; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has written about the debt ceiling, health care, public employee unions and government spending in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Hampshire Union Leader and the San Diego Union Tribune, to name a few - but he's also made himself available for scores of interviews and TV appearances.

Meanwhile, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has made an art out of making news via short statements on Twitter and longer musings on Facebook as she also ponders a presidential run. For Romney, newspaper and online opinion pieces appear to be the preferred news-making medium.

Since Obama's election, Romney placed four op-eds in USA Today; three in the conservative-leaning National Review; two each in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald; and one apiece in the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner,, Politico and the right-leaning Human Events. (Click here for a full list.)

Just three weeks after Obama's inauguration, Romney weighed in on the stimulus on, writing, "As someone who spent a career in the private sector, I'd like to see a stimulus package that respects the productivity and genius of the American people. And experience shows us what it should look like."

He didn't mention Obama in op-eds in Human Events and the Union Leader that focused on turmoil in the Middle East, nor did he mention the president in a March 2009 Washington Times commentary on card check in which he notes, "Conservatives like me are opposed to card check, but not to unions."

Perhaps surprising to those who accept that the economy is Romney's wheelhouse is that the op-eds are about evenly split between economic topics and foreign policy, the latter half of which include a couple of critiques of the New START treaty ratified late last year.

Most of them, though, share a common theme: What Obama has done wrong in Romney's estimation. One in particular surprised even some of his supporters in June of last year; Romney kicked Obama when he was already down for the president's management of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast and offered his thoughts on what leadership should look like. By contrast, most of the other potential Republican presidential hopefuls kept quiet and let the damage to Obama run its own course.

Witness the latest on Tuesday, when Romney offered a scathing review of President Obama's attempts at job creation in a piece advertised on the front page of the Boston Herald with a photo of Obama's face and the headline, "Why He's Failing (... and how to get it right)." The placement was timed to make news by juxtaposing Romney's message on job creation with the news of Obama's visit later in the day.

Obama flew into Boston Tuesday afternoon for a classroom event at TechBoston Academy, and he was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan for what was primarily considered an education-related event. Romney made no mention of education in his piece, however, and instead focused on jobs.

"Instead of unemployment coupled with inflation, we have a toxic blend of unemployment, debt, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies. Their sum total is what we can call the Obama Misery Index," Romney wrote. "Unemployment has fallen, but it's fallen to a level that is still, by any historical marker, a national disaster."

Much of the op-ed contains material Romney used last month in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and that he repeated again in his speech Saturday night in Bartlett, N.H., at the Carroll County Lincoln Day dinner.

When Romney finished glad-handing on Saturday in the banquet hall of the Attitash Grand Hotel, half a dozen national reporters trailed him with questions as he made his exit into a private backroom. An aide stood in the doorway to the room to box out the reporters to block them from following the former governor to ask questions. (One reporter did successfully ask Romney how far along he is in his decision-making process about a presidential run, and he answered as he was escaping, "Further than last week.")

Romney often took questions from voters multiple times each day when he campaigned publicly for president in 2007 and 2008 at open town hall forums he labeled, "Ask Mitt Anything." He usually made himself available to reporters for questions after at least one stop on those days, and sometimes twice.

Going forward, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, "Mitt's not a candidate right now. If he becomes a candidate, he will give more speeches and more interviews."

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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