Not so fast, said Romney, arguing that candidates seeking the nomination ought to be prepared for the much stricter rules imposed during general-election debates.
You might have thought Romney himself was the moderator in a debate last October when he cut off Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lay down the letter of the law.
"You get 30 seconds," Romney told his opponent. "The way the rules work here is that I get 60 seconds, and then you get 30 seconds to respond, right?"
It's not just during debates. The tendency to abide by rules permeates the way the former Massachusetts governor has carried himself as a candidate, a businessman and a patriarch.
On the campaign trail, Romney typically refuses to answer questions from the traveling band of reporters that constantly shadows him — except for specially designated times.
"We have press avails and press conferences almost every day, and that's when I answer the questions," Romney said to reporters shouting out questions as he greeted voters in last November in Tampa, Fla.
As a businessman, Romney was known for his systematic, data-driven approach to evaluating risk. Former colleagues have described a man reluctant to entertain ethical gray areas, motivated by his sense that the best ideas thrive when the playing field is level.
"He has an intrinsic sense of fairness and playing by the rules," Gross said. "When he sees someone trying to sidestep or bend the rules, he thinks it's potentially disruptive to the entire process and the entire institution."
Such scrupulousness extends deeply into Romney's personal life, where he firmly adheres to the directives of his faith, abstaining from caffeine and alcohol and donating a substantial portion of his income to the Mormon Church.
Personal responsibility and discipline also seem to be values he expects those around him to uphold. A Vanity Fair profile of Romney in February detailed the strict rules that govern Romney road trips: No unscheduled bathroom breaks for the kids, except when the family stops for gas.