Two years ago, liberal bloggers launched vicious attacks on Governor Mitt Romney’s faith, questioning the sanity of someone who could believe such things and calling for him to repudiate his own heritage. If you still don’t know, he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…. a Mormon.
And then the Republican contest heated up last summer when almost all of Romney’s opponents got in a lick or two. The Giuliani campaign was caught encouraging rumors that Romney was claiming to be the rider of the White Horse of Mormon eschatology, a prophetic figure who would save the American constitution. John McCain’s mother made some disparaging remarks about his faith and “you know, what goes on in Salt Lake City.” In a 2008 interview, Mike Huckabee wondered aloud to a journalist about Mormon teaching on Jesus and the Devil.
But the biggest blow to the campaign of Mitt Romney may have had nothing to do with attacks on his personal faith or heritage. It was the media’s refusal to recognize his Wyoming delegate victory on January 5, 2008. Coming only hours after the Iowa Caucus victory of Mike Huckabee, and days before the New Hampshire Primary, Romney won 62% of the Wyoming national delegates, Fred Thompson 26% and Duncan Hunter 8%. If the State contest had been covered it would have surely given some bounce to Romney’s showing in New Hampshire days later.
No less than, Brian Williams, esteemed nightly news anchor of NBC, the man with the beautiful neck ties and the ability to tie them right, looked excitedly into the camera and breathlessly announced that Romney had to win one of these contests and win one soon or it would all be over. Millions of informed Americans were screaming back at their televisions, “But he did win one! He won Wyoming.” But alas, Mr. Williams cannot hear voices coming the other way.
Sad dog faced, Britt Hume, of Fox News, the blood hound who never gives up on a story he gets his teeth into, mournfully came to the same conclusion only to be corrected by a colleague (ah, fair and balanced, at least sometimes,) who pointed out Wyoming. Hume grunted an apology, but his point still applied, he insisted. And, of course, he was right. If the media says it, then it is so.
It is very possible that the news could have been that only Romney was in play in all three contests, fighting Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire and beating Thompson in Wyoming. Romney was the only candidate to compete in them all and the leader in the delegate count for the Republican nomination. But such a story, although true, never saw the light of day; it is only buried in the blogosphere in columns such as this.
Let’s face it. The networks have limited resources. Their correspondents have personal needs. The hotels and restaurants of Wyoming are not five star. (Although, I remember a steak house in Cheyenne that would rival a Ruth’s Chris.) And the final decision by the television news media to cover or pan the Wyoming contest probably had more to do with the weather than with counting GOP delegates. The weather in Wyoming can be treacherous that time of year. And it would have been disastrous to have Katie Couric stuck in the Little America Motel in a snow storm while her colleagues broadcast from New Hampshire and spent the evening dining on fresh Lobster.
But then, the Romney campaign should have figured all of this out. This is the stuff of which campaigns are made, things that aren’t even seen, that are taken for granted, that seem to happen naturally. The Romney campaign should have found a way to get the media to report what they are supposed to report. If they had been able to get only one of the networks to fly into Casper, the rest would have followed.
And so, looking back on a tumultuous year, with lots of hot rhetoric, the courageous Mitt Romney, who saved the 2002 Winter Olympics, who as a Republican conservative got elected Governor of the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts and ran the state well, who for three years, gracefully transcended the discussions of his faith, clinging to more noble, tolerant themes, was dealt the biggest blow of all. He was denied the victory the he won by an indulgent, sleepy, spoon fed, news media.