When we talk about prominent national figures who duck the Sunday morning public-affairs shows, we tend to think of politicians who struggle with basic questions. Sarah Palin, for example, avoided all of the Sunday shows after being named to the 2008 ticket.

But this year, it’s the allegedly-competent Republican who’s avoiding the questions. Fox News’ Chris Wallace had this message to viewers yesterday morning:

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For those who can’t watch clips online, the “Fox News Sunday” host explained after interviewing Rick Perry, “With Governor Perry’s appearance, we have now interviewed all the major Republican candidates in our 2012 one-on-one series — except Mitt Romney. He has not appeared on this program or any Sunday talk show since March of 2010. We invited Governor Romney again this week, but his campaign says he’s still not ready to sit down for an interview.”

At first blush, this is rather surprising. Romney is supposed to be the smart one in the GOP field, able to answer questions in complete sentences and with passable grammar. He should be the last Republican candidate to be afraid of the Sunday shows.

But therein lies the rub: Romney largely presents the appearance of intellectual chops, which are exaggerated by the limits of his GOP rivals. He thrives in debates because his answers must be brief and lacking in details and depth. Romney avoids lengthy press conferences, and prefers to interact with news organizations by publishing op-eds written by his staff.

Michael Calderone added that the Romney campaign hopes to restrict “unguarded moments” with reporters, in part because the candidate no longer finds it necessary — he’s already well known and is positioned as the likely Republican nominee.

But as Wallace demonstrated yesterday, media outlets can get testy when they feel like they’re being ignored.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.