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Mutiny on Straight Talk Air

Via Politico’s Jonathan Martin

Sen. John McCain has not taken questions from his traveling press corps since Aug. 13 in Michigan, and the reporters on his campaign plane are getting angry. From Politico:

So, when Straight Talk Air departed Tampa today, a dozen reporters chanted, “Bring Mac back! Bring Mac back!” (Some reporters expressed concern that chanting at takeoff could be against FAA regulations. Others joked that they could be taken away by the secret service agents on board.)

The chanting lasted under a minute as staffers in the business cabin smiled and then promptly closed the curtain between business and coach.

No word on whether McCain heard the chanting.

But, alas, he never made it back.

Most people probably don’t appreciate just how surreal an experience it is to try to cover McCain.

Your employer spends an incredible amount of money so you can travel with and document the campaign. However, when you actually get on the plane, you soon realize that you see far more of the candidate when you’re sitting in your home watching TV than you do on the trail, though he is often no more than 50 feet from you.

Since McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, this has changed a little — McCain has been doing a lot more rallies lately. However, in the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention, a McCain campaign reporter’s day-to-day existence consisted mostly of being shuttled between hotels, buses, holding areas and the campaign plane, in varying order. You rarely had an opportunity to really do your job, and you relied heavily on pool reports — event summaries provided by the small group of reporters that accompany McCain to most of his events — and forget about asking the candidate a question.

The upside is the hotels are generally nice, and the food is free — for the reporter, it’s part of the cost billed to the news outlet.

However, things may soon improve slightly. McCain had all but abandoned his preferred method of communicating with people — the town hall meeting, where at least there is the possibility of somebody saying something interesting. Until yesterday’s town hall in Orlando, he last held such a meeting in Aug. 20 in Las Cruces, N.M. — meaning that for almost an entire month, the traveling press corps witnessed not a single unscripted moment and heard basically nothing from the Republican candidates except the same rally speeches day in and day out.

If you’ve caught a McCain-Palin rally on television, you’ve heard the speech. It gets old quick. McCain and Palin are scheduled to appear at their first joint town hall meeting tomorrow in Grand Rapids, Mich. If things go well, the campaign may resume holding town halls on a regular basis. I still wouldn’t expect a press conference anytime soon.

So I, for one, stand in solidarity with my plucky comrades aboard the McCain plane. Make some noise. Ruffle some feathers. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

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