Weak performance from Romney on Sunday

One wonders whether the timing of President Obama’s immigration announcement on Friday — blasted by my colleague, Ed — wasn’t driven, in part, by Mitt Romney’s rare appearance yesterday on a Sunday show. Despite four attempts by CBS’s ”Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, Romney refused to answer the direct question of whether he will cancel the president’s action to allow children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States under certain conditions of education and military service. You could see Romney’s gears grind, squeaking against fear of further offending pro-immigration factions and rubbing too close to offending the conservative nativists that have such a large share of voice in his party. The performance must have been a rare source of amusement in Obama headquarters.

While I strongly support the policy, I don't blame Ed for calling its timing political. Political as in a direct hit on Mitt Romney, whose weak standing among many groups of Latinos just got weaker. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) needs to start to get his arm loose in the bullpen; Romney may need a reliever sooner than he thought.

Romney’s overall performance on the show was a reminder why he doesn’t do them. It wasn’t just the immigration hip-hop; it was his answers on the debt domestically — he has no details — and the imminent health-care decision where he assured us of what he knows is impossible: namely, that if it is overturned by the Supreme Court, he will find a way of covering people with pre-existing conditions. He knows this statement is false because you can’t do the hard insurance market reforms without a mandate. Precisely why he imposed one in Massachusetts, which is the model for the current law.

Evasion and prevarication are both occupational hazards for politicians, but traits that seem to plague Romney more than most. As Democrats, we missed these characteristics in the last few weeks as Romney has been cloistered raising millions. It was nice to see them, if only for a few minutes. We’ll have to make do with re-runs for a while; I seriously doubt we will see Romney in any more real interviews for quite some time.

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