CNN talk show host Piers Morgan playfully baited Mitt Romney Monday night, trying to get the Republican frontrunner to show some just the slightest bit of irritation about Sarah Palin popping up in New Hampshire last week and stealing some of media attention at the very same time the former Massachusetts governor was officially announcing his presidential bid.
But Romney is a pretty disciplined man. As he told Morgan he's never done drugs and he only "tested" alcohol only once.
If Romney was upset with Palin, he sure wasn't going to let that show on television.
In fact, Romney inverted the whole situation. What Palin did was actually a good thing, he argued because it will keep him from getting too much attention which could lead to voters getting bored with him.
Here's the relevant exchange from the interview:
MORGAN: I want to talk to you straight off the top about your announcement, and in particular, Sarah Palin's decision to suddenly jump all over it, steal all the thunder, take all the headlines, knife you either in the back or the front, whichever way you choose to — to look at it.
MORGAN: I mean either way, it was politics at its most bestial.
ROMNEY: Oh, I don't think I'd go — I'd go that far. I can say to you that I think Sarah Palin is — is generating enthusiasm and interest in a campaign this year. That's a good thing. She has a lot of energy and passion and bringing it to — to our race is — is positive for us. And, frankly —
MORGAN: You're always nice about her and then she does things like that, where she basically says, well, he can be as nice to me as he'd like, but I'm going to — I'm going to ruin his day.
ROMNEY: She really didn't ruin my day.
MORGAN: She tried to.
ROMNEY: Well, in a lot of respects, it's the best thing that could happen to me. Right now, your greatest enemy is overexposure. People get tired of seeing the same person day in and day out.
Following this logic, it would seem that Romney might want to reach an agreement with Palin to have her show up near all his campaign appearances from now until Election Day to help him stay fresh in voters' eyes all the way to the end.
Don't count on that happening, however.
Romney and other announced candidates for the Republican nomination have largely tiptoed around the Palin issue, not wanting to say anything negative. It's not that they fear her as much as they don't want to do anything that would anger her loyal supporters. Thus the kid gloves in dealing with her.
As Palin proved last fall at a Republican Party dinner in Iowa where she threw down the gauntlet at Karl Rove and other establishment Republicans, she won't necessarily return the favor.