Mitt Romney was an agitated and evasive candidate on Fox News Wednesday. He was a relaxed and able explainer of his policies on Fox News Thursday. What explains the difference? Maybe Romney calmed down in the hours between the interviews -- maybe he felt better after getting this off his chest: "Guess what, I made a lot of money." But a more likely explanation is what NBC News' Chuck Todd calls Fox's "uneasy relationship" with Romney. Let's compare Romney's two interviews.
Wednesday Megyn Kelly asked Romney some tough questions about why people don't like him and his past support of a national health insurance mandate. But even then, Kelly tried to asked the questions with a super-friendly tone. Noting that he'd made a lot of ric-guy gaffes, like saying he was friends with NFL and Nascar team owners, she said, in a brotherly-punch-in-the-arm kind of way, "Why do you keep doing that?!" Romney responded, "Megyn, guess what: I made a lot of money. I’ve been very successful. I’m not going to apologize for that."
Romney makes it clear he doesn't like hearing criticism, even when comes from inside the conservative family. He really overcompensates by trying to make it look like he thinks it's all in good fun. His smile weirdly gets both bigger and tighter, he raises his eyebrows super high, the way you do when when someone tells you a disturbing story at a party and you can tell from social cues they're you're not supposed to take it as disturbing.
When Kelly plays a clip of him saying in 2008 that he liked mandates, he literally grins and bears it. But after that painful procedure, the next day wasn't so bad. Bill Hemmer introduced Romney Thursday morning by saying, "You look relaxed." Romney replied, "I feel relaxed -- I'm here with you." Hemmer said, "I'm glad I can make you at home." How romantic!
Romney looked much more comfortable talking about Obama than about himself. The president is "absolutely" responsible for gasp prices, the Afghanistan strategy shouldn't be changed "based on a crazy person," Iran's president should be indicted for inciting genocide.
Thursday Several people noted that today went better for Romney -- "smoother," the Boston Globe's Matt Viser said, noting that at one point Romney responded to Hemmer's question by saying, "You've made my case for me."
This is how Romney looks when he's explaining things other than his own wealth, his own past, and his own personality:
Not exactly chill, but not so phony either. As Todd pointed out on MSNBC Thursday, Fox went all-out for Rudy Giuliani in 2008, and Giuliani failed spectacularly. This time the network hasn't "embraced" Romney, but it hasn't embraced anyone else, either. (Despite News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch's frequent Twitter endorsements of Rick Santorum.) That ambivalence is clear in these two interviews.