Someone pushed the panic button in Boston, judging from the way Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has acted over the last 24 hours.
News reports circulated Thursday detailing conflicting statements made by Romney that he left effective control of Bain Capital in 1999. The Boston Globe published sworn federal filings naming him sole stockholder, president and CEO until at least 2001, which prompted a straight up denial from the Romney camp.
"The article is not accurate," said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman said in an E-mailed response to the Globe report.
But, similar to a Washington Post report outlining Bain's business practices and linking them with outsourcing, the Romney campaign had an issue with, the campaign's requests for retractions were denied.
"In business, if you feel wronged or slandered, you demand a retraction or threaten a huge lawsuit. In politics, that counts for zilch," says Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University. "No one will retract an article and it makes you look like a whiner when you demand that."
Next, Romney's communications team accused the Obama campaign for repeating old attacks.
"The Obama campaign appears to be stuck in their own 'groundhog day,' repeating the same, debunked charges they've waged for weeks," said Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman, via E-mail.
The day even culminated with an assist from The Drudge Report, pushing a shiny object before election observers – that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had become a surprise vice presidential front-runner, in an attempt to change the burgeoning narrative.
That tactic at least partially worked, though most analysis of the Rice-as-VP story was that her pro-choice stance and adamant denial of interest in the position make her an unlikely choice.
The Romney campaign then spent Friday going after the Obama campaign for essentially being mean when they said they wouldn't be.
"Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke out against using 'stale tactics to scare voters,'" said the Romney campaign in a release announcing a new television ad labeling Obama a hypocrite. "Today, his plan to 'destroy Romney' includes dishonest attacks that he hopes will distract voters from his broken promises."
Failing to curb pressure, the Republican is now reportedly scheduled for a slew of sit-down interviews with major television networks in an attempt to stem the negative tide.
The problem for Romney, however, is two-fold. First, the narrative building against him that he's a secretive businessman with something to hide about his past, either in his personal finances or his dealings at Bain, is an unflattering distraction from what should be his most attractive quality: being a successful, non-nonsense businessman ready to fix the economy.
Second, his campaign's inability to effectively handle criticism emboldens the Democrats and ensures the candidate will continue to take flak for not releasing more than one year's worth of tax returns or finding a remedy to the scrutiny over his role at Bain.
"There's a slowly developing trope about Mitt Romney that he has things to hide," says Leonard Steinhorn, communications professor at American University. "This is a danger – if the Romney campaign doesn't figure this one out, this ultimately could become a major media narrative, that in addition to the hammering he's taking on his activities at Bain, could potentially create doubt among voters about who he is and what he stands for."
Steinhorn says the questions about Romney's finances and details about whether or not he's honestly represented his role at Bain from 1999 to 2001 are not going to go away and could have real significance in the outcome of the tightly fought election.
"A lot of times the narratives that develop in July and August really do spill over into September and the one chance he has to break that is during the debates," he says.
David Woodard, a political science professor at Clemson University and a former GOP consultant, says the missteps could merely be part of the learning curve for the Romney campaign.
"A presidential campaign is unprecedented in the amount of ammunition you have to use and the pace of competition," he says, adding that the traditional start date of earnest campaigning, Labor Day, is now obsolete.
"Before the convention used to be a dead time for campaigns, but no more. Romney is having to mount a day-to-day campaign in a period when candidates used to rest," Woodard says. "If Obama keeps rising in approval and manages to put Romney on defense, he'll be in trouble - but not now."
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.
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