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Why did Mitt Romney cancel appearance on 'The View'?

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Charles Dharapak/AP

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns in front of The Golden Lamb Inn and Restaurant in Lebanon, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 13.

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Mitt Romney is bailing on the women of ABC’s “The View,” in case you haven’t heard. When the talk show aired Monday morning, co-host Barbara Walters – the show’s empress of celebrity interviews – announced that the GOP nominee had canceled his scheduled Thursday appearance.

“Over the weekend, his people have said that he had scheduling problems and would not be coming on with us, nor at this point did he feel that he could reschedule,” Ms. Walters said.

Spouse Ann Romney had been booked along with her husband, and she’s still coming. Walters said “The View” was happy to have her.

“We are sorry we won’t have Governor Romney, and that’s the situation,” said Walters. We won’t characterize her tone of voice when she said this, but if we did, “peeved” is a word we’d consider.

So is Romney stiffing a show he doesn’t like? After all, the famous “47 percent” video from a Romney fundraiser showed him saying in private that “The View” was dangerous territory for him, full of liberals. Perhaps he’s giving it a miss because he’s figured out that Whoopi Goldberg would grill him about that, then Walters would get into the 47 percent numbers, and the next thing you know he’d be so low on the couch cushions that show nonliberal Elisabeth Hasselbeck wouldn’t be able to pull him out with an easy question.

Well, that’s possible. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt is pushing that explanation: He tweeted this afternoon, “The View was apparently too ‘high risk’ for Mitt Romney.”

But we don’t really think that’s what’s going on. Romney has shown he can handle a tough televised situation, after all – remember the debate earlier this month? Instead, we’d posit two other reasons that Romney’s a no-show.

The first is that he doesn’t need “The View” anymore.

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For months, the Romney campaign has been desperately trying to humanize its candidate, and toward that end, appearances on talk shows can be useful. A kind of transference goes on, in which viewers associate some of the comfort and good feelings they get from familiar hosts with the guests, no matter how many car elevators they own. The campaign made "The View” booking for this reason.

But the debate seems to have transformed how at least part of the public sees the Massachusetts ex-governor. Suddenly, polls show he’s made gains in likability. For instance, a Politico/George Washington University battleground poll out Monday has 51 percent of respondents saying they now view Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent say they view him unfavorably. That’s the first time this survey has shown Romney’s favorable rating as above water – more positives then negatives.

In that context, "The View” does indeed look like a risk that Romney doesn’t have to run, because the level of voter approval has changed.

Second, this could be about Ann Romney as much as Mitt.

With only weeks to go before Election Day, Mrs. Romney's been stepping out more and more on her own. She semi-cohostedGood Morning America” the other day and did fine.

Her own likability ratings are higher than her husband’s. So why bother with Mitt? Just let Ann do it. She can exude warmth, distance herself when her husband’s policies are mentioned, and testify to his character. She’s the most effective Romney surrogate of all – as first lady Michelle Obama is for her husband.

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