Mitt Romney is interviewed on Nov. 29 by Fox News Channel's Bret Baier. (FoxNews.com )
In an acknowledgment of his tightening race with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney will appear on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace this month, the network announced, his first Sunday show appearance in two years.
For much of this year, Romney has employed the strategy of GOP presumed front-runner: agreeing to far fewer television interviews than his rivals and appearing in reliably friendly venues like "Hannity."
During the summer when the former Massachusetts governor was campaigning heavily in the early primary state of New Hampshire, he took questions from reporters regularly and engaged town-hall-style events where he would also field questions from voters.
But this fall as the primaries drew closer, the Romney campaign dramatically tightened its message control, scheduling more business round tables with handpicked participants and events where the candidate delivered remarks without taking questions.
When challenged by reporters about his lack of accessibility during a late November visit to Tampa, Fla., Romney said he held news conferences "almost every day" -- an assertion that was not borne out by the facts.
The campaign of Republican rival Jon Huntsman Jr., along with Romney's Democratic adversaries, has sought to draw attention to Romney’s reticence. Huntsman’s campaign maintains a website -- scaredmittless2012.com -- tracking any mentions of Romney's inaccessibility, complete with a ticker counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds since his last Sunday show appearance.
But the Romney campaign appears to have shifted tactics in the midst of Gingrich's surge and amid the fallout from the candidate's prickly interview with Fox's "Special Report" host Bret Baier, which aired Nov. 29.
After pressing Romney on his shifts on key issues over the years -- questions that made Romney visibly irritated -- the anchor told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that Romney complained that the interview was "overly aggressive."
Within days, Romney appeared on "Fox & Friends," shrugging off his comments to Baier and stating that he had merely hoped the interview would have delved more deeply into the issues facing the nation. The next day in New Hampshire, Romney was far more inviting to the news media than he has been in recent weeks, holding a news conference in Manchester and then gamely engaging in conversation with reporters while he campaigned door-to-door.
Romney will tape the appearance on "Fox News Sunday" with Wallace in South Carolina on Dec. 17, to air the next day. In late October, Wallace needled Romney for his absences from the Sunday circuit after interviewing Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
"With Gov. Perry's appearance, we have now interviewed all the major Republican candidates in our 2012 one-on-one series except Mitt Romney," Wallace said. "He has not appeared on any Sunday talk show since March of 2010."
At that point, Wallace added that the seasoned candidate’s campaign had told the show "he's still not ready to sit down for an interview."