By Craig Robinson
Mitt Romney may have energized Republicans when he selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate last week, but if he wants to win in November, he may need to make some strategic changes to his campaign.
Throughout the primary and the general election campaign, Romney has avoided the press by limiting sit-down interviews and rarely holding press availabilities on the campaign trail. The media is welcome to tag along and report on what is transpiring on the campaign trail, but the reporters are not given an opportunity to engage the candidate.
Access to Ryan has also been limited as he travels the country meeting with voters. That is to be expected since Ryan has only been on the campaign trail for less than a week. Meanwhile, President Obama is sitting down for an interview with Nancy O’Dell of Entertainment Tonight and even called into the Keith and Andy sports talk show in Des Moines.
Romney doesn’t need to be doing interviews with Entertainment Tonight, but his relationship with the working press needs to improve. A Republican candidate being cautious with the media is nothing new. In fact it’s hard to blame them for being skeptical of the media’s ability to be fair and balanced in covering the race.
Locally, the Des Moines Register thought Stephen Colbert’s skit on Congressman Steve King was worthy of top billing on it’s website last week. One can easily recognize that the Register’s standards have sunken to a new low lately, but are they going to provide front page coverage when every late night Smart Alec targets a candidate on the ballot in Iowa? Let’s hope not.
Republicans always play the liberal media card, and quite honestly, there is plenty of evidence out there to justify being skeptical. That said, a confident candidate and a well-run campaign should be able to manage the press to the campaign’s advantage. Romney has frustrated members of the media because he has limited the ability of reporters to get a fresh angle on a story. Without the ability to question the candidate and his top advisors, the press is left to either write about mundane and repetitive campaign events, or nit-pick every move the campaign makes and over-hype any errors the candidate or staff make.
Since the Ryan selection, the Romney campaign seems more focused and aggressive. This is good, but if the campaign really wants to dig deep on issues and highlight the differences between themselves and the Obama Administration, they must use the countless media outlets that are on the campaign trail.
Since Medicare and the budget are going to be the focus of the fall campaign, Romney and Ryan should set out to make the case against Obama not only at campaign events, but also in one-on-one interviews with TV, radio, and newspaper outlets. Refusing to engage the media means that the only tools left to the campaign’s disposal will be paid advertising and speeches.
Direct campaigning and advertising are the best ways to deliver a message to voters, but the trick is to also get the media to cover what you said. The problem is that the media has Attention Deficit Disorder. What do you remember more from Paul Ryan’s speech at the Iowa State Fair, the Romney-Ryan five point economic plan, or the fact that two crazy women jumped the stage and disrupted his speech? Most of you are probably scratching your head saying, “What five point plan?”
Romney will win this election if it’s a referendum on President Obama’s first term in office. With gas prices creeping higher, unemployment being over eight percent for 42 weeks, and the ongoing debt crisis that Obama has gotten us into, the political environment in on Romney’s side. However, to win, Romney is going to have to control the debate, and the only way to accomplish that is to engage the media.
Make no mistake, engaging with the media can be like playing with fire, and you can get burned, but the only way to make this election about issues and substance, is to make the media cover it. They only way one can accomplish that is to give them access to the candidates and high-ranking staff.
Romney and Ryan are intelligent, articulate, and capable of sitting down with any respected journalists in America. Now is not the time to shrink from debating the big issues the county, especially if you want to win in November.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
blog comments powered by Disqus