There's been quite a bit of consternation among reporters lately about Mitt Romney’s refusal to answer their questions. And rightly so. But let’s be clear on why Romney is refusing to engage reporters. If he did, he’d face questions about the mounting instances of dishonesty his campaign has resorted to in the final stretch — potentially tripping him up and placing all the dissembling into even sharper relief.
In the race’s final days, Romney has adopted what you might call a Kamikaze strategy. His campaign is cranking out a startling number of falsehoods and sleazy attacks, drawing widespread condemnation in the media that could ultimately crash his campaign, because that condemnation dovetails with Obama’s closing character argument against him.
Of course, the Kamikaze analogy only goes so far. If Romney’s calculation proves correct — and all the ad spending overwhelms whatever criticism his falsehoods and distortions draw in the media — his quest for the presidency would obviously come to fruition, rather than perish.
Today the Romney camp released a new ad hitting Obama for his proposal to appoint a “secretary of business.” The ad intones: “His solution to everything is to add another bureaucrat.” But the relevant Obama proposal wasn’t to “add” any bureaucrats. It was to consolidate a range of government agencies that minister to the needs of businesses.
The Romney camp is also running a new Spanish language TV ad in Florida that ties Obama to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The pettiness and irrelevance of attacks like these risk generating more media questions about whether Romney has run out of arguments and believes he’s losing the race.
Meanwhile, the Ohio press continues to pound Romney for the centerpiece of this Kamikaze strategy: His false claims about the auto-bailout and Jeep supposedly moving American jobs to China. Dems are circulating this scorching editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator that hits Romney’s Jeep lie as an “insult to Ohioans” and bluntly states that Romney is “no friend of the auto industry, on which Ohio relies for one of every eight jobs.” Another hard-hitting editorial in the Toledo Blade blasts Romney for an “exercise in deception about auto-industry issues that is remarkable even by the standards of his campaign.”
All of this feeds directly into the final argument Obama is making about Romney’s character, integrity, and authenticity: He’ll shamelessly say anything to win and as a result you can’t trust him on anything, let alone to look out for your interests. Romney is banking that he can surf past all the media and Obama camp criticism on a wave of last minute ad spending. Refusing to answer questions from the press is central to pulling that off. If Romney were to take questions from reporters, he’d be asked to answer for all of this stuff.
After all, when reporters do press him on his dishonesty and/or evasions, the results aren’t pretty. Romney faced harsh criticism for his refusal to answer questions about whether he still agreed with his previous suggestion that he favors transferring FEMA responsibilities to the states. And as Steve Benen notes, the statement he finally did release on FEMA didn’t put to bed lingering questions about his position.
None of this is to say Romney’s closing strategy can’t work. But it’s a pretty massive and audacious gamble on his part.
UPDATE: Jonathan Cohn has another must-read on the deeper significance of Romney’s rewriting of history on the auto bailout, and on the true nature of the bet Romney’s making here.
UPDATE II: The perils of Romney’s Kamikaze strategy are very clear in this new ad the Obama campaign will air in Ohio and Michigan. It hits Romney for his Jeep lie and suggests it’s all about covering up his opposition to the auto rescue: