Romney sits down for Q&A

On the side

Political coordinator: Kristen Olmi of Struthers is the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s new political coordinator. In the unpaid position, Olmi’s primary responsibilities include serving as the local party’s chief liaison with the Obama for America campaign, the Ohio Democratic Party, and the numerous local groups and organizations actively participating in various political campaigns on behalf of Democratic candidates.

TV buys: The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $312,000 in additional TV airtime in the Youngstown market for the 6th Congressional District race between incumbent Bill Johnson, a Republican, and Charlie Wilson, his Democratic challenger. It was just a week ago that the NRCC reserved $296,000 for the race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in April it was reserving $1.06 million in TV time for this race, likely one of the most competitive in the nation.

So how did I end up in a place I had previously never heard of, stand in the pouring rain and then conduct an exclusive one-on-one face-to-face interview with Mitt Romney on Father’s Day?

It was a combination of the fallout from my public complaints about being denied a few minutes with Vice President Joe Biden when he campaigned in Youngstown on May 16, a June 15 conference call with Biden and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman that had the vice president get off the call before reporters could ask questions, social media, and a smart move by the Romney campaign.

I’m not going to rehash the Biden visit/interview issue. You can read my May 18 column if you missed it.

But the column and comments on my Twitter account attracted the attention of both presidential campaigns.

Then on June 15, the President Barack Obama campaign organized a conference call for Ohio reporters with Biden and Columbus Mayor Coleman.

The call started 35 minutes late, Biden spoke for 10 minutes — essentially reinforcing/repeating statements made a day early by the president during a Cleveland event — and jumped off the call when it came time for questions from reporters.

The press advisory about the call stated Biden would “kick [it] off,” which could mean a variety of things, including what happened.

I also Tweeted to Biden asking why he was ducking and avoiding the Ohio print media.

Again, both campaigns paid attention.

That led to the Romney campaign emailing me Saturday to ask if I would be in Brunswick on Sunday. I told them I didn’t know where that is.

It turns out it’s in Medina County, near Strongsville, and Romney was speaking at a rally there.

That was followed by an invitation to speak for about 8 to 10 minutes with Romney after a rally.

Of course, I agreed.

Yes, my big mouth is largely responsible for the interest from the Romney campaign.

It helps Romney’s image — he’s accessible to local print media while Biden isn’t. (Though it cuts both ways. There were members of the Ohio print media at the rally who weren’t given any time with Romney.)

Before the rally, the sky opened and heavy rain fell for a long time. Thankfully, the national press corps was prepared with heavy garbage bags that many used for makeshift rain coats.


Romney’s remarks were brief, about 14 minutes long, and then he served pancakes to some of those at the event. Most who came to the rally already ate and rushed for the exit after Romney stopped talking.

After waiting a while inside, I had about nine minutes with Romney to ask questions.

I had about 10 questions just in case, but knew there would be time for only a few. I ended up asking three questions on my list and one follow-up.

Politicians are great at giving reporters a time limit and taking far too long for responses.

Even so, the article gave insight into Romney’s thoughts on issues that impact our area. Look for an article this Sunday on Romney’s opinions of fracking and coal.

The article in Monday’s newspaper was fair, according to local Democratic and Obama campaign officials.

I gave the Obama campaign the opportunity to respond, which it did, and wrote that a number of independent analysts say Romney’s plan to help the auto industry wouldn’t have worked.

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