Thursday, June 21, 2012


For those of us who work in media and communications that also focus on politics, there's a hazard of the business we often find our colleagues in. The hazard is a myopic focus, and a nearly robotic reaction to get stuck, topically, inside the minutia of statehouses and "The Beltway" in Washington, DC.

For many reasons - not the least of which is that our staff is spread out across half the country - we usually don't fiind ourselves falling into that particular media morass. We're proud that we can take almost any subject and make it exciting.

[Of course, it helps massively to have one of the best editorial cartoonists in the nation - but we're a bit a biased that way.]

The one topic even we've struggled to make exciting, however, is Mitt Romney.

Journalist McKay Coppins is just the latest member of the media to publically note: news about Mitt Romney is bad for the media business. Most online media outlets dislike Romney stories because they drive down traffic significantly. Print media sources we know say top editors are aware that pictures of Romney on the front page drive down readership too. Our colleagues in televison say they've noticed the same problem - and we know intimately it's the same in radio.

It's not that there isn't plenty of controversy surrounding Romney. As we've noted previously, Romney seemes to have a habitual problem with being on all sides of every issue.

The problem is, Mitt Romney has always been on all sides of every issue. That's nothing new. Going back to his first campaign against Ted Kennedy, Romney was accused of just that problem. Mitt's flip-flopping nature hasn't changed, nearly twenty years later. There are even whole websites devoted to "Multiple Choice Mitt."

It's not just that Mitt Romney doesn't seem to have any firmly held beliefs, though. It's that he's a plain, white man, who is a very cautious politician, in some ways. That could be in part due to the gaffe his father, George Romney, made that ended the elder Romney's national political career.

As Garance Franke-Ruta, senior politics editor at TheAtlantic.com, noted: "Romney is a very cautious politician who benefits from operating under the radar and having the focus of the contest be on Obama," she said. "It's Mittness Protection, general election style. The more boring he is, the more attention — which in today's media means negative attention — focuses on Obama."

This is the same tactic - "Mittness Protection", as many in the media have called it - that Mr. Romney used throughout the GOP primaires for President too.

Added to that serial blandness is a very obvious tendency of Mr. Romney to pander to whatever group he happens to be in front of - especially if it's for money. While he refuses to give specifics to the media at large, when people pay thousands of dollars for a moment with Mitt, he tends to tell them whatever he thinks will open their wallets. The media had often assumed this over the last two decades - but earlier this year, thanks to hungry reporter Garrett Haake, that assumption was confirmed.

Finally, you can bank on the fact that most of America is aware of all of Mr. Romney's boring tendancies - and that they've already made up their minds on how they feel about Mr. Romney.

So what do you call someone who is one of the two major candiates for Preisdent, who actively attempts to appear as inoffending and mechanical as possible, while being willing to take the positions of whomever is funding his latest political campaign?

We call him RomneyBot.

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