For weeks the media have complained that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been shielded from probing interviews. The criticism is valid. With the exception of a recent Bret Baier interview on Fox News, Romney’s staffers have tried to preserve what they believe to be his inevitable nomination by allowing other GOP candidates to stand in the spotlight, garnering the most scrutiny.
The criticism and Romney’s failure to break away from the crowded Republican field have prompted him to do more interviews.
In a telephone conversation after a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., I asked Romney why his candidacy has not resonated with Republican voters, spawning what Jeremy Peters of the New York Times called “a recurrent ‘anybody but Mitt’ drumbeat from right-leaning pundits and media outlets.”
Romney, acknowledging he was “the conservative alternative in 2008,” said, “I think people want to have a chance to have a look at the other people who are running this time and get to know them better.” And while his poll numbers have not risen above 25 percent, he said he was pleased that he has “always remained among the leading contenders.”
Romney predicted he will get the delegates he needs to win the nomination.
To assuage doubts, he promised to select people (and judges) with the same philosophical qualities as conservative Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. “I want men and women who are extraordinarily bright, who have a track record that can be thoroughly examined and who share my values.”
Of those values, self-reliance is one. In his speech to the coalition, Romney criticized the entitlement mentality of the Democrats and of those who look to government, rather than themselves, for sustenance.
Last week, Rachel Rose Hartman, a journalist for Yahoo.com, reported on a conference call with members of the Republican National Committee in which they were warned “to refrain from personal attacks against President Barack Obama, because such a strategy is too hazardous for the GOP.” Though the president’s job-approval rating is low, “voters still give ‘high approval’ to Obama personally,” Hartman wrote.
Does Romney think he can attack Obama and not suffer for it?
“The president has been in office three years, and his record is entirely fair game. I think the American people know his record is the worst we’ve seen since (Herbert) Hoover. I will be relentless in reminding Americans that (Obama) promised to hold unemployment below 8 percent, if we let him borrow $1 trillion. He did the borrowing, but unemployment has not been below 8 percent.”
If elected, Romney promises to reduce the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent, largely through attrition. He would cut off foreign assistance to countries like China, which he says gets $27 million from the U.S. annually, and to nations that “oppose American interests.”
But back to the reason so many conservatives are reluctant to trust him. I asked Romney to finish this sentence: “Conservatives will not be disappointed with me as president because.…”
“Because I share your values,” he said, “because I am a leader who knows how to get things done; because I love America and American principles with an unwavering and committed heart.”
We’ll see if that is enough for conservatives still hoping for an anti-Romney. The voting starts in Iowa in three weeks.