CBS 60 Minutes has been proven to be a potential game-changer. It has a monster audience (far bigger than a Fox News or MSNBC or CNN audience). It gets viewers of all — or no — political parties. An interview on the program can most assuredly influence perceptions, solidify or change existing ones. And, after viewing this snippet from the 60 Minutes interview with Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney I’m concluding it may be (another) lost opportunity for Romney.
The reason: he’s asked about the state of his campaign and he insists its all going fine, it doesn’t need a turnaround. This means (a)he is naive, (b)he is someone who will never ever admit if he is wrong or facing a challenge (not a good trait for President. (c) he has a serious almost grave problem with speaking the truth. Even a can of baked beans at Safeway knows his campaign is in trouble. So he doesn’t? Watch this excerpt for yourself:
Scott Pelley: You are slipping in the polls at this moment. A lot of Republicans are concerned about this campaign. You bill yourself as a turnaround artist. How are you going to turn this campaign around?
Mitt Romney: Well, actually, we’re tied in the polls. We’re all within the margin of error. We bounce aroun — week to week– day to day. There are some days we’re up. There are some days we’re down. We go forward with my message, that this is a time to reinvigorate the American economy, not by expanding government and raising taxes on people, but instead by making sure government encourages entrepreneurship and innovation and gets the private sector hiring again.
Scott Pelley: Governor, I appreciate your message very much. But that wasn’t precisely the question. You’re the CEO of this campaign. A lot of Republicans would like to know, a lot of your donors would like to know, how do you turn this thing around? You’ve got a little more than six weeks. What do you do?
Mitt Romney: Well, it doesn’t need a turnaround. We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president to the United States.
Scott Pelley: Well– as you know, a lot of people were concerned about the video of the fundraiser in which you talked about the 47 percent of the American people who don’t pay taxes. Peggy Noonan, a very well-known conservative columnist, said that it was an example of this campaign being incompetent. And I wonder if any of that criticism gets through to you and whether you’re concerned about it at all, whether–
Mitt Romney: Well, that’s not–
Scott Pelley: –the concerns of Republicans–
Mitt Romney: That’s not…that’s not the campaign. That was me, right? I– that’s not a campaign.
Scott Pelley: You are the campaign–
Mitt Romney: I’ve got a very effective campaign. It’s doing a very good job. But not everything I say is elegant. And I want to make it very clear, I want to help 100 percent of the American people.
Another reason why this could be a lost opportunity: 60 Minutes will be running on the same program an interview with Barack Obama. This ensures that since the smash program will air interviews with both candidates it will have a huge audience. In an interview he has an opportunity more controlled than in a debate. Viewers will contrast Romney with Obama. It won’t be just who says their campaign talking the points, or who connects the most, but who comes across as the less truth challenged.
Romney insisting his campaign — quickly gaining the reputation as being one of the most inept in years, possibly in a century (or more — is doing just peachy means the media narrative of a campaign in trouble will continue full force. He had a chance to try and defuse it by saying they’re making some adjustments, he knows some things could be done a mite better.
But he’s sticking to spin.
I’m betting it won’t help his imagery — or poll numbers. Except for the debates, he’ll never have this kind of chance again with a large viewership from both parties. Just being on Fox News won’t do and an interview leaves different imagery than campaign ads.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.