To the untrained observer, Mitt Romney on Fox News today stuck it to rival Newt Gingrich. He was addressing campaign tactics and the airing of differences among the candidates. Then he launched into something of a sidebar:

By the way, it’s very easy to talk down a moderator. The moderator asks a question and then has to sit by and take whatever you send to them. And Speaker Gingrich has been wonderful at attacking the moderators and attacking the media. That’s always a very favorite response for the home crowd.

The former Massachusetts governor hasn’t spoken truer words since he was asked about contraception.

To recap, it is easy to thrash the moderator. Those folks come up with a few stupid questions per session, though, to be sure, not as stupid as a Jim Courier question. And, again, it is a pleaser for the home crowd.

Easy plus popular — that looks like a no-brainer. Yet Romney chooses to cede the moderator-bashing mantle to Gingrich. The guess here is that his decency and establishment sense of decorum won’t allow him to rip away at a defenseless debate questioner in a nationally televised event. Even when George Stephanopoulos posed that out-of-the-blue question about a state’s authority to ban contraception, Romney came off as flustered yet deferential: “George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising . . . .

Next time he gets that question, he should say something like: “George, I am frankly astounded that ABC would take trash like that and use it as the 26th question in a presidential debate.”

Words like those may help nice-guy Romney with the folks he most covets. According to an October Washington Post-ABC News poll, 76 percent of conservative Republicans hold an unfavorable view of national news media, compared to 22 percent who view them favorably. (2 percent had no opinion). The candidate might just consider those numbers when he faces down CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in tomorrow night’s debate in Jacksonville.