My conversation with Mitt Romney yesterday (transcript here) sailed across many subjects –from the Supercommittee to the South China Sea– made some news and laid down some markers, all with his characteristic ease of delivery, command of the facts and good humor.
My conversation with Newt Gingrich from the week before (transcript here) did the same thing with the same result. Like Mitt, Newt is a very practiced, indeed extraordinarily practiced public figure.
Which is why the two of them have ended the preliminaries on top of the polls. Voters are looking for who can beat President Obama, and that will take, first of all, an ability to consistently communicate ideas over and through the various sorts of media.
Newt has begun to take on some heavy political fire, including really cheap-shot headlines, and he is responding to it with characteristic candor. He also gave one of the very best answers ever in response to a question about the coming barrage of scrutiny:
But here’s the key thing to remember. We all complained correctly when the news media failed to investigate Barack Obama. We complained when they refused to look at William Ayers. We complained when they didn’t actually explain Saul Alinsky and what it was all about and what community organizer meant. We were right to complain about that. Now they’re actually doing for us what they wouldn’t do for Obama. They’re doing it partly out of bias.
I understand that and i understand there are places like MSNBC that are essentially the Obama re-election team. But that’s fine. This is a free society. You can say that Fox tends to be nicer to (inaudible) than to Obama. In the next three weeks i predict to you we’ll have all sorts of questions about me. and it’s fine. You cannot ask the people of the united states to loan you the most powerful governmental job in the world, particularly on a campaign that is promising very drama change, and not have them vet you carefully and thoroughly.
This answer, by the way, had to be found in the comments section of the Washington Post article linked above, not in the article itself, which indicated to the commenter that the reporters had airbrushed Newt’s best stuff. (It was probably an editor adjusting for column length, but who knows?) The fact that the commenter put it up with a sneer is just one of a million illustrations of the depth of center-right disgust with the Manhattan-Beltway media elite, a disgust Newt is tapping into, and of which the MSM is blissfully unaware.
Newt’s website notes that opposition researchers can pore “over 7,000 votes, over 1,500 speeches, thousands of television and radio appearances, thousands of articles and op-eds and 24 books to scrutinize.” No doubt his GOP opponents are doing that right now. But his “come and get me coppers” approach to this is brilliant, and actually the only way he can proceed.
Mitt Romney by contrast has given thousands of speeches as well, answered thousands of questions and signed hundreds of laws, though he has written only two books. The oppo guys have been all over him for five years, and what they have got is already known. It will not be changing his campaign and he won’t be responding to anything in the next three months that he hasn’t already been asked and answered except for current developments from the headlines as I did with him yesterday.
Working the national media stage takes a lot of practice. It should not surprise that we have ended up with the two GOP frontrunners being the two candidates who have been longest at developing this particular set of skills.