On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning, Mitt Romney reiterated his intention to stay the course no matter what speculation swirls.
“At this stage, you just express what you believe, talk about the issues you care about and hopefully people will come to you in the final analysis,” he said. “But what happens on the part of the other people is kind of out of our control.”
In particular, he chalked up recent hype about a potential Chris Christie candidacy to the media’s need for attention-grabbing headlines.
“That’s your business,” Romney said to host Joe Scarborough. “Look, you’ve got to find some excitement. You have to find some intrigue.”
When Scarborough protested — “We’re not the ones flying him to New Jersey to speak at the Reagan library” — Romney didn’t back down.
“And that’s part of his business,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “Which is, to generate interest and support for him and his campaign for reelection, ultimately, in New Jersey and his agenda in New Jersey.”
Romney’s approach right now, he said, is to conscientiously reject the temptation to allow outside influences to rile him up.
“I can’t control what other folks are going to do,” he said. “All I can control is what I’m going to do. And I know I could get a quick bump in the polls by saying some outrageous and incendiary things which would draw a lot of attention. But in the final analysis, I think people will move toward the person they think can get the economy moving again and who knows the challenges the country faces and knows how to deal with those.”
So far, Romney’s relentless focus on his own strengths has impressed me. He never spends too much time mitigating his own weaknesses. Originally, that was a problem for me: I wanted to hear him cleanly and convincingly disavow his every past mistake. But I recognize it now as a kind of quintessentially conservative optimism that aims to focus on what can be done instead of obstacles. He knows every mention of Romneycare, every mention of Race to the Flop, every mention of his quiet on social issues does nothing to woo voters. So, he touches those topics lightly and moves on to what matters most in this particular election — jobs and the economy. It’s the right approach because, as Perry has repeatedly proved, disavowal doesn’t reassure and defensiveness doesn’t convince. Romney is not a more conservative candidate than Perry — but he’s certainly a more practiced campaigner. And while Obama has taught us that a brilliant campaigner doesn’t always translate into a brilliant president, Romney’s evident comfort level on the trail suggests he would bear up under the pressures of the presidency to pursue the priorities he, at least, deems important. Let’s hope, if he does become the nominee and goes on to win the presidency, he’ll also have a conservative Congress to ensure he picks those priorities with the maximum conservative input.