From NBC's Mark Murray
In the early race for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney has been the anti-Trump, at least when it comes to dealing with the media.
Unlike The Donald -- who has granted interviews to almost any news organization that will ask him a question -- the former Massachusetts governor has been much more selective.
In an interview today on the conservative "Mark Larson Show," Romney criticized President Obama on economic policy. “Standard & Poor's, one of the rating agencies, just downgraded their view of the future for America," Romney said. "If you will, they downgraded the Obama presidency. In my own view, this is not something to be laughed off as the president’s people seem to be doing. The president really ought to personally sit down and meet with S&P. I did that when I was governor." Romney's press office then distributed those comments to political reporters.
Two days earlier, in another radio interview, Romney said something similar to conservative host Sean Hannity: "The Obama presidency was downgraded today... And the reason that I’m looking at this race ... is I have a 25-year career in the private sector; I know how jobs come and how they go." Once again, his press shop circulated those remarks to reporters.
This is the advantage that someone who has run for president before enjoys over those who haven't like Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and even Michele Bachmann. And it allows him to control his message (focus on the economy) and avoid as much as possible other questions (like Massachusetts' health-care law).
"Gov. Romney doesn’t feel the need to be in the news commenting on the headlines of the day," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul tells First Read. "Usually, when he steps out to give an interview, he’s talking about jobs and the economy. Job creation is the central message of his campaign, and it is what’s compelling him to become a candidate in the race."
But such a strategy also has forced Romney to run away from certain questions, suggesting a weakness for the perceived GOP front-runner. After delivering a foreign-policy speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition earlier this month, Romney refused to answer reporters' questions about Libya. “I’ve got a lot of positions on a lot of topics, but walking down the hall probably isn’t the best place to describe all those,” he said, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
During an interview on "The View" back in February, Romney admitted that he answered too many questions during the 2008 campaign. "The challenge I had last time was I answered every question. And sometimes, you need to say: 'You know, let me quickly answer that question and then get on to what's really important.'"
Of course, Romney can't pick and choose forever. When he eventually embarks on campaign trail -- full-time -- he'll be forced to answer questions from the traveling press corps.
"Some of these questions aren't going to away by avoiding the press," said a strategist for another 2012 GOP presidential campaign. "You can either answer them now or six months from now."