Mitt Romney is trying harder than ever these days to stay on script -- and keep his traveling national press corps at arm's length.
The latest clash came Wednesday when aides to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee blocked the reporters who cover Romney daily from asking him questions at the "rope line" separating him and his supporters.
The incident was a prime example of the pattern of tense interactions with the press that have marked the Romney campaign for months. The candidate often seems eager to chat about mundane things -- the food on the charter airplane, whether he has a lucky tie -- with a press corps he's come to know well and readily recognizes.
But his staff frequently limits access to a candidate known for making awkward, if not politically troublesome, statements during unscripted moments -- and Romney very rarely answers challenging questions on the issues of the day as he campaigns.
"You have some work to do here," Romney told reporters on his campaign plane, waving at a basket of snacks as he selected a package of Grandma's Vanilla Cream sandwich cookies.
But asked a question about Vice President Biden's attacks on his record at Bain Capital during a speech in Ohio, the former Massachusetts governor simply said: "No interviews."
Instead, Romney did a lengthy interview with Ed Morrissey, a conservative blogger.
It's a window into how he might conduct himself as president. After he was elected governor of Massachusetts, for example, Romney closed off a set of public elevators in the Boston statehouse and prohibited press access to the lobby outside the governor's office. The area was previously open to the press, and his successor, Gov. Deval Patrick, re-opened the elevator and the lobby after he took office.
Wednesday's incident came after Romney delivered brief remarks to Florida supporters and walked over to where supporters were cordoned off and waiting to meet him. A group of reporters left an area designated for the media and tried to get within earshot of Romney when a campaign staffer put out her arms to keep reporters from walking past her.
A few hours later, Romney's campaign acknowledged a mistake.
"This was an error on the part of the campaign staff and volunteers. We have reminded them that press is allowed on the rope line to record the governor's interactions with voters," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.
Romney rarely does interviews with print media, preferring conservative broadcast outlets. He also regularly tapes interviews with local TV and radio reporters when he visits different states. But he doesn't often allow himself to be grilled by the reporters who know his record best and who tend to ask the toughest questions.