Behind the local campaign curtain
The press conference was over, the candidate and his minions had exited stage left, and the crowd of cameras and reporters packed up to leave. But a wall of three large men with some sort of patriotic pins on their lapels blocked the door of the hotel conference room, told us we couldn’t leave until the candidate walked by in the hallway.
Wait. What? We’re held captive? Against our will? Do we pose a risk to national security? Or just a risk to the candidate who might face a question for which he has no talking point, soundbite or media coach?
This time, I am covering Newt Gingrich’s campaign. To be fair to him, the whole "managing the media" thing is Standard Operating Procedure in the Official Candidate Handbook used by every candidate who comes to our town and wants to sell you a certain message.
They want us to videotape the requisite stop in Little Havana while they drink Cuban coffee and butcher some Spanish. They invite us to the senior center where they carry the hot lunch trays to grandma and grandpa. They urge us, via press releases, to cover the NASCAR appearance where country music will be the soundtrack for the news reports.
Sometimes they’ll stand still after the speech and answer one or two questions. Sometimes their handlers dole out a few minutes of one-on-one time. Those are always good opportunities, just too short and too far between.
That’s why, covering the candidates' stops in South Florida, I've been down back hallways, out the side, around the building or through some walls of very large men to snag some face time. I've scored a few, got ignored a few, and aired them all, just to show you we tried.
Otherwise, if you hear a candidate speak at more than one campaign stop, you may begin to find yourself mouthing their words along with them as they repeat the same speeches. Again and again. Not just the same themes and issues. I mean, the same words – verbatim.
I want more. And so, I think, do you, no?
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