Any presidential candidate who doesn’t accept an invitation to appear on a late-night show ought to have his head examined.
That’s especially true if it’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” since Jay is, generally speaking, the late-night champion at keeping the conversation just light-weight enough for any candidate-guest to make a positive impression on potential voters watching at home. (Though it should also be noted that none of the late-night host/comedians are particularly tough on presidential candidates when they have them on as guests.)
Such was the case when yet another presidential hopeful — Mitt Romney — made his way to “The Tonight Show” Tuesday night. Like others who have gone before him (most recently, Ron Paul, just last week), an on-air sitdown with Leno seems like a much more comfy environment in which to get one’s points across than the usual venues these guys work such as school auditoriums, barns, factories, diners and taverns.
The candidates can seem so harried when they’re glimpsed for a few seconds on the news channels making speeches from any of those places. But on the late-night shows, they get a chance to look and sound their best.
On the “Leno” show on Tuesday, Romney appeared relaxed and confident. We have the candidate’s entire appearance for you to watch right here, in three parts:
In Part One, Romney took the high road when Jay asked him about his toughest challenger for the Republican nomination, Rick Santorum. “Rick Santorum is a good guy,” Romney said affably. “He’s running a good campaign. We have some differences in background, and differences on some issues, but basically [he's] a good guy.”
Romney and Leno also talked about potential running mates for Romney, if he’s nominated. Among the names Romney came up with: David Letterman!
In Part Two, Romney seemed to score points with the “Tonight Show” studio audience when he outlined his plans for reducing taxes on individuals, small business and corporations. Jay’s audience applauded enthusiastically when the candidate made these points (though, truth be told, some stage manager might have switched on the “applause” signs for all we know).
Romney and Leno also talked about President Obama’s healthcare law and the current challenge to the law being argued in Supreme Court this week.
In Part Three, the conversation turned to international affairs, starting with the “open mike” incident from the other day when President Obama seemed to promise further reductions in the U.S. missile defense system — after he’s reelected — in a conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that was supposed to be private.
The President’s opponents have seized on the incident as an illustration that the President is telling U.S. voters one thing and telling the president of Russia something else entirely. On “The Tonight Show,” Romney joined the critical chorus on this issue. When Jay said of the overheard comments, “That seems like politics as usual,” Romney fired back: “I don’t think so. Russians are not politics as usual.”
We also have the entire Tuesday night “Tonight Show” for you to watch. Among the highlights: Jay’s monologue, the comedy bit called “Good Neighbor Jay” (this one was great) and guest Megan Hilty from NBC’s “Smash.”