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« Quotes Of The Day | Blog Home Page | Watching The Undercard »

On Access

With all the candidates, all the events and all the time in the world, it seems, it is slightly surprising that no presidential contender has fallen off a stage yet. Don't laugh -- it's happened as much as twice in one cycle, when Gary Bauer and Bob Dole both took plunges during the '96 campaign.

In truth, campaign 2008 is much more scripted than previous years. The front-runners are virtually inaccessible to the media -- on a recent bus tour, Barack Obama did a few pull-asides with top networks but did not schedule a single press availability. Hillary Clinton, too, rarely meets the press.

Other candidates are very available. John McCain holds frequent meetings with the media, and Fred Thompson is open to chatting as well. Even Rudy Giuliani, the consensus GOP front-runner, is seemingly in Washington every other week to announce a new endorsement and take questions.

But Republicans aren't exempt from being caught up in their success. Mike Huckabee, for example, was once so starved for attention that a call to his campaign would be answered, by the candidate himself, in mere minutes. After a big surge in recent polls, the governor is much less free to chat these days.

Many have asked whether this year's campaign is too scripted, usually in regards to a specific candidate named Clinton. The recent flap over her campaign planting a question on global warming, though, is indicative of more than just a misstep on her campaign's part. In fact, every campaign is over-managed this year, and candidates are left with as little room for error as possible.

One has to wonder: If someone hopes to be leader of the free world, shouldn't they be able to wing it time and again? On the other hand, the scripted campaign is much like the manager-warden dictating the candidate-inmate's life. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, who borrowed it from another president, maybe the candidates know that they're hoping to get into the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.