When Mitt Romney sits down with a Fox News anchor, things can get hairy.
That fact was on full display Wednesday when the candidate went on Megyn Kelly's show for what ended up being several uncomfortable minutes of testy, sputtering responses to unusually combative questions. The worst moment for Romney came at the end, as he struggled to complete a stammering indictment of Obamacare before being cut off for a commercial break.
Senior Romney campaign aide Kevin Madden gave predictably good reviews to the candidate's performance and called it "a pretty straightforward, fair interview."
But this wasn't the first rocky appearance Romney has made on the right-leaning network. In a snippy sit-down with Brett Baier last November, the candidate came off as defensive and irritable as he answered questions about his conservative credentials, awkwardly crossing his legs at one point as he complained, "This is an unusual interview." And in 2010, he stumbled repeatedly in an interview with Chris Wallace.
Romney has never been a cable news natural, but he seems to save his worst performances for the network most watched by the Republican voters he's trying to court. Why?
One possibility is that Fox's interviewers — whose conservative audiences have long found Romney's politics suspicious — tend to ask more penetrating questions that get under his skin. Most broadcasters would press Romney on his apparent health care flip flops, but when Kelly did it, she included a clip from a 2008 presidential debate that showed the candidate saying, "No, no, I like mandates" — a comment he's been trying to make conservatives forget for four years now.
And when Kelly accused Romney of weakness among middle-class, Southern voters — many of whom were likely watching her show — Romney was clearly perturbed, pushing back aggressively.
The conservative rap on Romney has always been that the Harvard-educated Mormon Yankee is uncomfortable with cultural conservatism. His struggles on Fox only serve to support that narrative.