McMahon tightens media access in final weeks of Senate campaign
Press access to Republican Linda McMahon tightened Friday as her Senate campaign ended formal media interviews and continued its policy of limiting information about her campaign schedule.
“She’s spending all her time now on the trail,” said her communication director, Ed Patru. “That’s where she’s going to be for the remainder of this race, meeting voters.”
McMahon spoke to reporters after her first two debates with Democrat Richard Blumenthal, but she skipped the post-debate press conference after the third and final debate Tuesday night in New London.
Patru said the McMahon campaign hardly is imposing a media blackout. She will continue to answer questions informally before or after campaign events for “a few minutes here and there.”
But finding her on the trail is not always easy. Aside from special events, such as Friday’s rally in Stamford with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the campaign is reluctant to reveal her whereabouts a day ahead.
The campaign last issued a daily schedule on Sept. 16. Instead, the campaign asks reporters to request information about her events by email on a daily basis. The requests are not always answered.
On Thursday, the campaign limited access to McMahon to brief interviews with TV reporters at separate campaign stops about a Quinnipiac University poll that showed her trailing Blumenthal by 11-percentage points.
A request by The Mirror for McMahon’s schedule Thursday was not answered.
Blumenthal’s campaign does not routinely post his schedule, either. A part of modern campaigning involves trying to duck video trackers that each campaign dispatches to follow the other.
And his availability was limited for several weeks in May after the New York Times disclosed that he had falsely referred to service in Vietnam.
But Blumenthal’s press staff, when asked, will let reporters know days ahead of events where he can be covered and questioned. He also still is granting interview requests, including a radio interview and a 90-minute newspaper interview Friday.
Patru said the decision to end formal interviews was a matter or priorities.
“We’ve got probably two dozen requests for a 10-to-15-to-20-minute, sit-down interview. She needs to spend her time on the trail,” said Patru, who is the only aide authorized to speak for the campaign.
Blumenthal needs so-called “earned media,” political-speak for coverage on TV and print, as opposed to the “paid media” of commercials. But McMahon, who is self-funding the most expensive campaign in state history, does not.
McMahon has had some rocky press conferences, which by nature are unpredictable events. Her failure to clearly answer questions about whether she would freeze, cut or eliminate the minimum wage generated a frenzy of bad press.
Another general press availability about an earlier poll turned into a extended back-and-forth on her approach to extending the Bush-era tax cuts. She said she was for an all-or-nothing approach, extending the cuts for everyone or no one.
She since has refused to say how she would vote on a bill that only extended the cuts for all but the richest two percent of taxpayers.
Patru complained that too much press attention has focused on her time as chief executive of World Wrestling and not enough on serious issues.
But he twice refused to make McMahon available for a telephone interview for an ongoing Mirror series of issues stories, one on health reform and another on social issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Earlier in the campaign, she did sit twice for extended interviews with the Mirror, once in March and again in August. She also did two telephone interviews with the Mirror for previous issue stories focusing on the economy and the environment.
Patru was unsure if McMahon would hold another press conference before election day.
“I am not ruling that out,” he said. “I don’t have anything scheduled.”