Romney Campaign Can't Lay Off the Distractions He Hates

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Once upon a time (six months ago) Mitt Romney opted out of dumb cable news controversies, letting the other Republican presidential candidates fight over, say, whether the Fed chair is literally a traitor worthy of vigilante violence, but now that the primary is over -- at the exact moment he needs to look presidential! -- his campaign is opting in. Romney told's Larry O'Connor Tuesday, "There will be an effort by the quote vast left wing conspiracy to work together to put out their message and to attack me. They're going to do everything they can to divert from the message people care about, which is a growing economy that creates more jobs and rising incomes. That's what people care about." But his own top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, got sucked into one of those distractions just a couple hours later, tweeting about President Obama eating dogs. It wasn't the first fake news story that tempted Fehrnstrom over the past couple days. Take a few of his recent tweets, for example:

  • April 10: "Obama and all his little Scrooge McDucks sitting atp a pile of cash warning Romney he can't 'buy the presidency.'" 
  • April 12: "A clueless Hilary Rosen on #CNN refuses to back off her comments attacking Ann Romney. Will DNC/Obama sever ties?" 
  • April 14: "By not condemning Bill Maher, @davidaxelrod is signaling to supporters it's OK to keep up the attacks on Ann Romney. Shame." 
  • April 16: "Obama campaign tactic: launch fake issues to distract from high unemployment, looming tax hikes, massive debt #DemDistraction."  (Back on message!)
  • April 17: "In hindsight, a chilling photo RT @davidaxelrod: How loving owners transport their dogs." (Fehrnstrom linked to a photo of Obama with a dog, which Obama adviser Aexlrod had tweeted in reference to Romney roadtripping with a dog on his car roof, in reference to a Daily Caller story about Obama eating dog meat in Indonesia as a kid. Perhaps the economic message here is that dog meat retailers struggle to find work in the Obama economy?)

During the most intense part of the Republican primary, Romney was criticized for not fighting the little daily battles (Sample headline: "Romney playing hands-off on Perry."). Last fall, NBC News' First Read cautioned that Romney's decision to appear above it all was like Hillary Clinton's in 2008, and she lost. Only after states had begun voting -- and Newt Gingrich looked like a serious threat -- did Romney lower himself to making fun of his competitor's dreams of a moon colony. Romney himself said he was intentionally avoiding being annoying last summer: "Right now, your greatest enemy is overexposure. People get tired of seeing the same person day in and day out... And until Labor Day hits, I'm going to be pretty quiet." This is another moment you might expect him to be quiet: Now that his last real competitor, Rick Santorum, has dropped out of the primary, you'd think Romney would be preparing to go after Obama in the summer. Fehrnstrom himself admitted that's what the campaign intended to do when he infamously told CNN in March the campaign was like an Etch-A-Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again." But instead of taking a break, Romney's campaign is fighting wars on moms and dogs. At least they're stimulating the Twitter joke economy.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.