The rift between Rupert Murdoch and Mitt Romney is coming more and more into the open.
Murdoch set off a flurry of attention on Sunday when he wrote a series of highly critical tweets about the presumptive GOP nominee. He said that Romney's campaign team was not prepared to go head-to-head with President Obama's, and that it was doubtful that Romney could win in November unless he shook things up. It made for quite a contrast with his lavish praise for Rick Santorum earlier in the year.
Murdoch does not bestride the political stage in America as he does (or once did) in Britain, but the tweets drew so much notice that Romney's campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was actually asked about them on MSNBC. (He said the campaign staff was fine, thank you very much.) Murdoch also sent out another missive, saying he absolutely wanted Romney to beat Obama in November.
All's well that ends well? Not so much. Cut to Thursday, when the Wall Street Journal editorial page, one of the most influential conservative organs in the country, ran a scorching editorial about what editors see as Mitt Romney's floundering candidacy. People noticed that the Journal's views tallied quite a bit with Murdoch, the paper's owner. Both, for instance, targeted Romney's staff, with the Journal saying that it was "insular" and was "slowly squandering an historic opportunity."
On Thursday, the New York Times' Jeremy Peters reported that the back-and-forth between the two camps is just another phase of a long, sour relationship that spans both of Romney's presidential campaigns. Romney, Peters wrote, has consistently failed to impress both Murdoch and Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot in his meetings with them:
The two times Mr. Romney visited the editorial board of The Journal, Mr. Murdoch did not work very hard to conceal his lack of excitement. "There was zero enthusiasm, no engagement," said one Journal staff member who was at the most recent meeting in December.
That seemed to tally with what sources close to Murdoch told BuzzFeed's Ben Smith on Sunday.
"He thinks Romney is as lame as everyone else," one said.
The Romney camp told Peters that it didn't mind the criticism, saying that it was better than having people think the campaign "is a tool of the conservative establishment."