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Mitt Romney didn't comment on the negotiations to raise the federal debt limit until 12 hours after the White House and Congress came to an agreement on something that could actually pass. Many commented that the decision to rise above the debate made the Republican candidate look calculating, but Politico's Ben Smith argues it was part of a larger campaign strategy to avoid the press--he's done just 24 public events since he officially joined the race June 2. And the strategy isn't without cost, it seems, as Smith dubs it the "Mittness Protection Program."
Romney is "a Republican frontrunner of unprecedented weakness, and one whom the American people barely know," Smith writes. And that means going MIA keeps voters from getting to know him, plus "his rare appearances raise the stakes for gaffe free--or at least vaguely normal--performances." Romney struggles with seeming normal were highlighted during a streak of unfunny jokes
on the campaign trail, including telling unemployed Floridians that he was unemployed, too
. It can become a vicious circle, Smith writes: "the pressure on Romney to be more normal seems to increase at each of his rare outings--not exactly the formula for relaxed encounters."
But Romney will have to get used to the pressure, NBC News's First Read
writes. With the debt debate over, all eyes turn to 2012. Romney came out against the deal, First Read says, because conservatives are already skeptical of him for his health-care record:
Bottom line: He has no margin for error for some conservatives. But the way he spoke out on it (or didn't) risks undercutting the basic premise of his campaign--that he's willing to lead because the president's not. It's THAT aspect his opponents have picked up on.
Politico's Maggie Haberman
agrees that "Romney's strategy... has a high risk-reward calculus, and whether it was the right approach will become clear by the end of the year." But The Atlantic
's Josh Green
thinks the strategy might work out for Romney. Why? He still looks pretty great next to the rest of the field
Romney's opponents were not exactly covering themselves in glory, and he's prone to making gaffes. Sometimes, less is more. In light of the toll that the debt-ceiling fight has taken on the politicians who were most involved, I'd say that's more true now than ever. President Obama's approval ratings hit their lowest level last week. ...
Mitt Romney certainly won't win any "Profile in Courage" awards. But in terms of raw politics, steering clear of this fight seems like a shrewd move and the Mittness Protection Program not such a bad place to be.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire