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McCain and the Press Corps

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Marc Ambinder today posted on something reporters on the McCain plane have been talking about for the last few days. As we previously noted, McCain gave his first press conference before the entire national traveling press in almost a week yesterday — a sharp reduction from recent weeks. The talk on the plane before yesterday’s presser — when everyone was wondering when McCain would talk to the press again — was that this could be part of a new strategy to limit McCain’s availability. Here’s what Ambinder had to say:

So the better of the bad choices now seems to be to keep McCain in contact with reporters but change the circumstances of their interaction so that McCain is in control of the situation, not the press corps.

That means — no more press conferences in front of staged backgrounds. From now on, McCain will hold what his campaign publicly calls "gaggles" and privately calls "audibles" where McCain is surrounded by real people doing real things. This will constrain the press somewhat. McCain will still invite the press pool aboard the Straight Talk Express, but he’ll also hold sessions with local press only.

If true, the McCain camp could be taking a page from Sen. Barack Obama’s playbook. Obama is well-known among the press corps for limiting his availability — even once ditching reporters, who were sent to Chicago as he stayed behind in Washington to meet with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. As Ambinder notes in his post, the McCain camp perceives media bias in favor of Obama, but McCain needs the press a lot more than Obama does. If he shuts out the press, it could have definite impact on his coverage. It is conventional wisdom that many reporters personally like him, and that could change if they are angry about being cut off. It’s a a risky strategy, but maybe less news about McCain could be good news for his campaign.

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