Romney's Charm Offensive with the Press Has Yet to Pay Off

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The Romney campaign's new effort to woo reporters -- sometimes with booze -- might be coming a bit too late. On Friday The New York Times explores the striking similarity between Mitt Romney and George H. W. Bush, while Politico notes how much Romney has in common with Bob Dole. What do Dole and Bush have in common? The press thought they were losers. (And then they lost.) 

Romney "has the worst relationship of all with the press," Politico's Reid J. Epstein reports. "But as Romney seeks to nail down the GOP nomination and cement the narrative that the delegate math makes it nearly impossible for his remaining rivals to surpass him, his campaign has launched what passes for a media charm offensive." As part of that effort, Epstein reports, there's been a whole week of friendliness: dinner for reporters with a senior strategist last Thursday in Washington, a bar get together with a dozen reporters and two aides in Cleveland the next day, dinner with a senior aide and TV reporters in Ohio Monday, a visit by Romney himself to the back of the plane where reporters sit on Tuesday, a happy hour with the traveling press Wednesday in Boston. Also, fewer mean emails the morning after Super Tuesday, even though there were so many stories about Romney failing to lock down the nomination. 

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But Romney's campaign has waited an awfully long time to try to ply reporters with alcohol in order to get them to start liking their candidate. He's been portrayed as hopelessly awkward for months. Reporters used, with disturbing frequency, the clichés of women's magazine relationship advice columns to describe Romney's connection (or lack thereof) with voters.

And perhaps it's too late. While there's little in the press this morning about "settling," there is a lot of comparison to politicians whose most glaring similarity is that they all lost presidential elections. The TimesMichael D. Shear points out that Tom Brokaw said Wednesday that Romney "has a lot of the DNA" of Bush. "Their background, their appearance, the malaprops that have come up during the course of the campaign," Shear writes, adding that Romney's "disconnect with working-class voters is eerily familiar."  Politico's John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, on the other hand, compare Romney to different losers. Several of them: 

Usually, once a politician takes on an aroma of hopelessness he keeps it. Bob Dole in 1996 limped to his nomination with few people expecting he would make a real race of it against Clinton, and he never did. Al Gore and John Kerry came up short in their 2000 and 2004 bids in part because they came to be defined in the public mind by traits—excessive calculation, awkward demeanors—that are perilously close to the way Romney is viewed.

How could the public mind have ever gotten that notion?

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