Media Winner of the Week: Stepping forward in White House job controversy

Knowing when to jump into a story is a key step in the dance of politics and media, and this past week Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff made the moves that kept him in front of a story proving to have legs: what the White House dangled to Democratic hopefuls to steer clear of primary challenges.

Romanoff's name began buzzing in conjunction with the Sestak affair, though in mostly vague references to President Barack Obama having done something similar in Colorado. The story was first reported last September in the Denver Post, but Romanoff clearly sensed that the time was at hand to come out on the national scale and give his side of the story.

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Romanoff issued a statement Wednesday saying that Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina called him shortly after his plans to run against White House favorite Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) were announced. The former Colorado House speaker then attached the follow-up e-mail from Messina that detailed "three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race."

The White House followed up with its own statement confirming the contact by Messina, adding that Romanoff had applied for a position at USAID in Obama's transitional period, had "followed up by phone with White House personnel" after Obama was sworn in, and the Messina call tied to Romanoff's intentions to run for Senate then followed.

Romanoff hit Fox News, MSNBC's "The Ed Show," and CBS's "Washington Unplugged" on Friday. No bombshells, but the blitz put a face to the statements for those outside the Rockies.

"A number of folks have done their best to keep me from running for the Senate and similar efforts to prevent primaries that took place in Pennsylvania," Romanoff told CBS's Bob Schieffer. "Those efforts did not have any effect on me."

Romanoff said he had not spoken up earlier because he didn't want to "politicize this matter," but that's not a reason that flies in Washington.

In contrast to Romanoff, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who first lit the fuse on the jobs-for-dropouts story and didn't want to "politicize" it either, heightened confusion about the administration's offer to him. On "Meet the Press" on May 23, he danced around the question of who offered what, saying, "I was offered a job; I answered that," and on the same morning told "Face the Nation's" Schieffer that he couldn't say which job. The next day, Sestak then went to CNN's John King and said it was up to others to explain their roles as "I did explain, with integrity, my role. And — but thank you very much."

With each media hit, Sestak returned to his campaign talking points about personal accountability, integrity and Pennsylvania's working families. But what about the job offer? What were the details?

It was on May 28, after the White House released its account of events, that Sestak stood on the Capitol steps with his jacket slung over his shoulder and started to sing like a canary. Still his memory was fuzzy — "I heard 'presidential' and 'board,' and that was kind of what I heard, and you know, oh, it was about like either intelligence or defense, you know" — except when he came again to his campaign sound bites: "I'm hoping to go right over there [to the Senate]...and work very well with people!"

Romanoff, by contrast, was on TV shows Friday not to sidestep questions but to get to the point: "The White House has made little secret of its preference for the incumbents in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Colorado," Romanoff said on MSNBC. "But with due respect, this decision gets made by the people of our state."

A Rasmussen Report poll conducted Wednesday showed Republican Pat Toomey garnering 69 percent of those voters who say the White House job offer to Sestak is "very important." It remains to be seen whether Romanoff's moves help the administration free itself from speculation or help the Republicans seeking to investigate the White House's actions. Yet with this week's well-timed and collected media moves, he may have given his candidacy a boost.

By the numbers

The week before the Memorial Day recess was notable for the march of the Louisiana lawmakers — Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), Sen. David Vitter (R), Rep. Steve Scalise (R), Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R), Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R), Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) — across the airwaves as frustration over the oil gusher in the Gulf reached fever pitch. Over the weeklong break, though, mainly two of those Bayou State lawmakers kept the repercussions of the spill on their state in the forefront. Hits included:

— Vitter: Fox's "Your World With Neil Cavuto" on Thursday, "America's Newsroom" and "The O'Reilly Factor" on Friday
— Melancon: Fox's "Happening Now" on Tuesday, MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Thursday, "The Ed Show" and "The Dylan Ratigan Show" on Friday

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who scored five Fox hits in as many days just before recess, continued his media run by discussing the Sestak affair on Fox's "Hannity" Tuesday and CNN's "Newsroom" on Thursday.

The split of the Gores topped Google searches on Tuesday, with Tipper coming in at No. 1 and the former vice president at No. 2. Yahoo reported a spike in searches for "al gore split reason" and "al tipper gore kiss" — the famous liplock at the 2000 DNC that contributed to the separation catching so many people by surprise.

In a nod to the rapidly heating primary season, "Alabama election results" peaked at No. 14 in Google searches on Tuesday. Yahoo, meanwhile, noted a number of recent spelling-impaired popular searches that included "profit muhammad," "goldman saks" and "bp oil spell." Spell, indeed.

Oil vey!

Who thought that in the opening days of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's trial there could be any other media loser of the week? Or that there could be any palm-to-forehead sound bites to top Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) telling the Chicago Sun-Times that, in misstatements about his military career, "I simply misremembered it wrong"?

Enter Tony Hayward. You'd think after the BP CEO said "I would like my life back" while moaning about the disruption caused by the deadly rig explosion and environmental disaster — and then apologized — he would have gotten a clue: Nobody on this side of the Atlantic feels sorry for him.

Then, speaking to analysts on Friday, as news reports were peppered with muck-covered birds and beaches littered with tar balls, woe-is-me Hayward returned.

"I'm so far unscathed," he told analysts in a conference call. "No one has actually physically harmed me. They've thrown some words at me. But I'm a Brit, so sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words never break them, or whatever the expression is."

After being pegged the "most hated and clueless man in America" earlier in the week in a New York Daily News headline, Hayward whipped out more for an interview in the Telegraph this weekend.

"'Do I look like it's getting to me?' he challenges, with a smile. 'No it's not. I'm focusing on the task ahead, which is to lead my team, get the bloody leak stopped and clean it up. Though there are probably a few people who would like to pour a tin of green paint over me.'"

Though the tone of the blogosphere indicates many would rather see a barrel of light, sweet crude over Hayward, he also jokes about how he "wouldn't find much oil" going for a run along the beach. Great timing as sludge-covered birds and dolphins are washing up dead on Louisiana shores.

"The U.S. wants to see who's in charge. ... We decided very early on it would be me," he said in reference to BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. "I think that was the right decision."

The gaffe meter says otherwise.