Why Ann Romney is right — a Republican rebuttal

March 5, 2013

After we penned a piece on Monday titled "Ann Romney is wrong" that disputed her idea that the media bore a major share of the blame for her husband's defeat last November, Kirsten Borman, a Republican consultant with Florida ties, took issue with the piece via Twitter. We invited Kirsten to write a fuller response and she took us up on it. It's below in its unedited form.

During the last 24 hours, a small uproar has arisen in reaction to Ann Romney’s comments on "Fox News Sunday", where she was asked about the media’s role in her husband’s loss. This outrage is best summed up by the usually sensible Chris Cilizza’s own headline: “Why Ann Romney is wrong OR why if you are bad at tennis, it's not the racket's fault.”


Ann Romney.

With all due respect to The Fix and some of my overzealous friends in the DC media, you’ve got this one all wrong.

I’ve watched the video of the Romneys’ appearance several times now, and I’m unable to reconcile the intense criticisms of Mrs. Romney -- which range from the slightly defensive to the downright mean -- with what she actually said.  Put into the near-impossible position of sitting beside her husband and assessing his defeat under the lights of our relentless media cycle, Ann Romney’s offenses appear to be that she had the gall to: 1. Be a genuine human being 2. Be a protective spouse and 3. Attempt to answer the questions asked of her. (For those who are experienced in the DC spin game, the latter may be her gravest mistake yet.)

Watching the interview in its entirety and not in small bites as many critics have done, I see a gracious, self-deprecating and haltingly cautious political spouse doing her best to balance the delicate subject of her husband’s loss. Within the context of the full interview, she names many reasons for Obama’s victory, including the President’s superior ground game and outreach to minority groups.  Her brief comment regarding the media was exactly that: A brief comment.

Upon reviewing the full context, you’ll see that Mrs. Romney was gracious, (“They had a better ground game than we did, that’s for sure,”) self-aware (“I come on like a she-lion, when it comes to defending Mitt”) and even referenced the popular 1980s cult classic film The Princess Bride, joking that she was “mostly over it,” with a genuine smile and a nimble laugh.

Regarding the much-talked about segment on whether coverage of the election was “fair,” Mrs. Romney’s response was not particularly striking: “Anytime you are running for office, you always believe you are being portrayed unfairly…. I think that’s a pretty universally felt opinion.”

Only when pressed and directly asked by Wallace, “Do you blame the media?” Mrs. Romney replies with a gleam in her eye and a full-throated laugh, “Oh, I won’t hesitate to blame the media.”

What more can we ask for? What more do you want from a woman who was a front-row spectator to her husband’s electoral shellacking, and also to the brutal post-election analysis and subsequent blame game that would send the most hardened political actor into the corner, rocking in the fetal position.

I won’t pretend that the interview was comfortable, by any definition. As a conservative Republican and Romney voter, I question why the Romney’s agreed to participate in the interview. I would posit that it’s impossible for almost any normal political couple (read: Anyone without the last name Clinton or Bush) to handle this interview and these questions without appearing bitter to some.

However, what was most striking to me in the subsequent journalistic onslaught is that it belies the media’s lack of knowledge of the intensely personal, real emotions that are felt during a campaign.

Campaigns are tough. Really tough. When you are doing it correctly, campaigns are supposed to be painful, exhausting, adrenaline-filled and intensely personal.

I challenge you to find any spouse of a losing Presidential candidate who hasn’t, overtly or otherwise, blamed the media’s portrayal for part of the loss.  The faux-outrage over this relatively tame comment by Mrs. Romney shows that many members of the media don’t get the passion and loyalty needed to make it on the campaign trail.

Somewhat ironically, many of the very same critics who constantly dogged the Romney campaign for a perceived lack of genuine feeling, spontaneity and emotion now balk at her honest, personal candor.

To succeed in politics, and on the campaign trail, you have to learn how to take a punch. And the Romneys took quite a few, many gracefully without comment. Instead of glass jaw boxing, perhaps those who are offended by Mrs. Romney’s comment can learn from tough political actors they cover -- and even from Mrs. Romney herself.

Kirsten Borman, a  DC-based GOP fundraiser and political consultant, is a veteran of several Congressional, Statewide and Presidential elections. A Florida native, Borman most recently led the campaign team of Rep. Daniel Webster, who emerged victorious despite attacks from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012 and Rep. Alan Grayson in 2010. Follow her on twitter at @kborman.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Scott Clement · March 5, 2013