Mitt Romney apparently isn't making himself available to real journalists in Colorado, in advance of Tuesday's GOP caucus, but he called into conservative talk-radio shows across the state Friday, where he found a copacetic environment, free of annoying follow-up questions.
That's unfortunate, because Romney said a few things that deserve a closer look by reporters, if they ever get access to Romney.
On KOA's Mike Rosen this morning, Romney suggested that he didn't like the insurance mandate that was included in the Massachusetts health care bill, and he would have vetoed it in favor of offering tax breaks to people with insurance.
Romney told Rosen:
In one important respect, the incentive to get people to have insurance in our state was associated with a penalty, which is if you don't have insurance, you have to help pay the cost of your health care in our state. I would've rather given a, if you will, a benefit -- a tax break -- to people who had insurance. So you'd give people a, if you will, a positive, as opposed to a negative. When you do that you accomplish the same objective, which is to get people insured and have people take responsibility for their own health care...
There were a number of features in the [MA] health care bill I vetoed, and those vetoes were all overridden by a legislature which is 85 percent Democrat.
Romney has tried to separate himself from the mandate before, though you may not believe it given that it's central to the Massachusetts policy.
But as this New Yorker article shows, and others have documented, Romney agreed with the policy and sold it.
Romney's appearance on the Cari and Rob Show, with hosts Rob Douglas and Cari Hermacinski, was similarly pleasant for Romney, with a few questions that were leading toward difficult territory but went nowhere.
Ironically, that wasn't the case when Rep. Scott Tipton came on their show. Even though Douglas and Hermacinski share the same Tea-Party political orientation as Tipton, they asked him such tough questions, he now refuses to appear on the Cari and Rob Show. But with Romney on the phone, the hosts acted starstruck and let Romney slide away saying whatever he wanted.
For example, Romney trashed Obama's entire economic record, literally "everything" Obama has done for the economy, despite this morning's news that unemployment is heading toward a three-year low.
"I'm delighted that we're seeing some job growth finally," Romney told Douglas and Hermacinski. "It's taken a long, long time. This has been the slowest recovery since Hoover, and one of the reasons it's been so slow is because this president has frankly done everything wrong when it relates to building an economy."
Douglas and Hermacinski might have asked Romney if he supported extending unemployment insurance or cutting the payroll tax, or some itty bitty thing Obama did, but alas, nothing like this flowed from the two hosts.
I hoped Craig Silverman on KHOW would have the courage to ask uncomfortable questions of Romney, like he did of Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck in 2010. But his questions, like should Colorado host the Olympics and does the GOP want pro-choice voters, were easy for Romney. Dan Caplis, Silverman's co-host, was his usual GOP-mouthpiece self.
So, Romney's apparent plan of talking to friendly radio hosts in Colorado, and avoiding journalists, paid off this time, though I hold out hope for Silverman and Cari and Rob, if he tries it again.
If ever there were a time for talk-radio hosts to think about the public interest, not their own narrow political agenda, it's when Mitt Romney is avoiding journalists and comes on your radio show because he obviously wants the votes of your conservative listeners. And if you don't ask him the tough questions, no one else will because no one else can.