In a discussion this morning on “Fox & Friends,” senior Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said, “We have a no-whining rule in Boston about coverage in the media.”
Time for a quick and shallow poll.
Asked about the legitimacy of the alleged rule, a political reporter responds, “That sounds about right. They rarely whine to me.” Another political reporter: “It must be a brand new policy, ‘cause until now, they’ve had no problem calling and e-mailing when they don’t like something — an angle, a headline, a word choice.”
Now, that was definitive.
A couple of weeks back, BuzzFeed reported on the campaign’s disposition toward the media, noting that it shared conservative disenchantment with the tone of the coverage. The story quoted an unnamed campaign adviser about negative stories following the convention:
“I mean, I was expecting this narrative in October. You know, the polls are close, and so the media starts cheering on their guy, saying Romney’s doomed. But I didn’t expect it to happen this early. They just seem really eager.”
Good thing this adviser didn’t go on the record. Who knows what sanctions apply to violations of the no-media-whining mandate!
Time for a distinction or two: One thing is griping through e-mail back channels about a reporter’s story on a given topic. Lobbying reporters for more favorable coverage is just good campaign management. Another thing is making media attacks a central part of the campaign’s appeal to the public, the way Newt Gingrich did before he dropped out of the primary contest.
Mitt Romney and his people haven’t exactly carried onward the Gingrich Media Torch. As noted previously in this space, attacks on the media didn’t make the cut for key GOP convention speeches. Romney did say that “many in the media are inclined to do the president’s bidding”in an April interview with Breitbart.com. But in that discussion Romney didn’t introduce the topic of media corruption; it was presented to him.
The cynical view holds that Romney officialdom has no need to orchestrate public media whining. Right-of-center media outlets and conservatives of all descriptions, after all, do nothing but bash media coverage of the presidential race. If the Romney people joined in, then the whole country would morph into one big bundle of media criticism. That’d be good for this blog’s business and ruination for the republic.
Who knows the real reason that the campaign has declined to go all Gingrich on the media. Perhaps it found better issues to drill, like the economy and, now, foreign policy. Perhaps it figures that media crit doesn’t work well enough on independent voters. Whatever the political calculus, Romney, an accomplished, hard-working professional and advocate for accountability and stronger leadership, would simply look silly kvetching about media coverage. As Republican strategist Mark McKinnon told this blog last month, “General-election voters want winners, not whiners.”
The Romney campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the provenance of its no-media-whining rule, though it often turns around such requests quickly and hasn’t nitpicked me.