Perry and the press

Jennifer Rubin:

Rick Santorum will talk your ear off with no press handler. Mitt Romney has done a limited amount of print press sitdowns, although he’s being doing a limited amount of cable TV. Gov. Rick Perry has kept the press at bay (no cable TV, no print interview, few questions from the press gaggle since the Bernanke gaffe). After an interview with radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham didn’t go well, he retreated to Sean Hannity’s comfort zone. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) did all the Sunday talk shows after her win in the Ames straw poll but has since been criticized as being overhandled and sheltered at press events.

Part of the reason for this is the relative standing of the candidates. So long as Perry is riding high in the polls (and investing great stock in national polling) there is no need to expose himself to the media. Santorum needs oxygen, so free media is a necessity for him. Romney, until recently, has been playing the four-corner offense and avoiding errors, so a limited amount of TV in settings in which he feels comfortable (e.g. CNBC) has worked for him.

But plainly this is also a function of the candidates’ attitudes toward the press and their confidence levels. Santorum is comfortable that he can respond to virtually any query, whether on substance or process. Bachmann has perfected the art of the TV interview and can run circles around frustrated interviewers. Perry has yet to roll out policies and has issues in his record that he has not fully dealt with (e.g. mandatory HPV vaccination, accusations of crony capitalism), so the risk of a Katie Couric-like meltdown is too great. Moreover, he’s always kept the press at bay, whether by destroying e-mails, refusing to debate his opponent or generally ignoring the press corps.

In Perry’s case it is not exactly a lack of confidence. In this telling portrayal a Perry watcher explains that Perry simply doesn’t care about the things national media likes to ask about:

He never lived in the world of policy agendas as it was described in “Policy Development.” In that world, politicians identify problems and seek solutions. ...

He doesn’t think about politics in terms of problems and solutions. He thinks about politics in terms of ideology and power.
Why, from his perspective, answer a bunch of nagging questions about what he’s done in Texas or what sort of tax reform he favors? It’s a smart strategy so long as he can sustain it and the debates go off without a hitch.
She misses the real Perry strategy. His team did a study on what moves voters and discovered that interviews with the media were not what voters paid attention to. What was move effective was the coverage the media gave to events with people on a grass roots basis. It was being available to answer voters questions rather than reporters questions that is most effective for the Perry campaign.

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