The PJ Tatler

Why Is Mitt Romney Still the Least Vetted GOP Candidate?

I was privileged to be a guest on colleague Rick Moran and Jazz Shaw’s RINO Hour of Power radio show last night, and Rick asked me a very good question: Which GOP candidate has done the best job of manipulating the media? The obvious answer is Mitt Romney.

Though Romney has been running for the presidency for the past five years, the oppo research book on him is just now hitting the streets. For conservatives, it’s not a pretty read. Rick Perry and Chris Christie, the latter a Romney ally, are both out today demanding that Romney release his tax returns. They’re right to demand this. The voters of South Carolina are on the verge of handing Romney a major and possibly decisive victory on Saturday, but they will be voting with incomplete information, information which will come out eventually. Why wasn’t this demand for his tax returns made by Tim Pawlenty or some other candidate a long time ago? Why has there been, up to now, so little pressure on Romney to prove why he should be the Republican nominee?

I think it comes down to the kind of campaign he has run, and the dynamics of the Not-Romney candidates running against him. Romney entered the race as the odds-on favorite, forcing the other candidates to organize around his candidacy. But rather than focus on his record, the Not-Romneys focused on stopping each other, giving Romney the space to attack them at times of his choosing. And he has. As various Not-Romneys have emerged, they have been slammed and smeared with negative MSM stories about everything from a rock in west Texas to sexual misconduct. Rick Santorum is the latest, with this bizarre story about his wife having lived with the abortion providing doctor who delivered her, before meeting and marrying Santorum. Challenger rises, gets whacked in the MSM.

This pattern is too obvious to ignore. Add in the fact that only Romney had five years and the money and the staff to build up books on every conceivable opponent, and you have enough evidence to make a Clue accusation: It was the former Massachusetts governor, in the mainstream media, with an oppo research dump.

Through it all, he has left few fingerprints and kept his own record largely unexamined. It’s now apparently up to ABC’s Jake Tapper to do the oppo research that all of the other GOP candidacies should have done a long time ago. Tapper comes up with three strong arguments to launch at Romney, which to date none of his opponents have launched: That as governor he offered free cars to welfare recipients, that early releases for inmates serving life terms peaked under his governorship, and that RomneyCare offered free abortions. Tapper also tosses in an argument that Romney made it more expensive to own a gun in his state. Add that up plus Romney’s tax hike and RomneyCare and you have a very vulnerable record. But it hasn’t been attacked or exploited in time to stop his momentum or make a difference.

This speaks well of Romney’s skill as a campaigner, and doesn’t speak well of his opponents’. All of his opponents, and Rick Perry in particular, have superior records to Romney’s in governance. They all do. Newt Gingrich led welfare reform and balanced the federal budget. Rick Santorum was reliably conservative in the Senate. Rick Perry’s record as governor is as arguably the best in the country over the past 20 to 30 years, racking up a gaudy record on both the fiscal and social sides of the conservative coin. But no one has gotten through Romney’s media game to scuff him up or make him answer for his own record.

That needs to change, and the hour is very late.