For Clinton Camp No Press Is Good Press

Other campaigns also shield the candidates from the press when possible. Obama and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., seldom grant interviews to national media members who travel with them, though both hold campaign news conferences more regularly than Clinton.

Friendly Press

Former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee launched his candidacy by eschewing most mainstream media outlets. He chose to appear on "The Tonight Show" instead of participating in a Republican debate earlier this month, and he has granted interviews primarily to friendly outlets such as Fox News Channel and conservative talk-radio hosts.

But Clinton stands alone in following a tight script that limits her exposure to tough questions or embarrassing scrutiny. From the moment she announced her candidacy -- with a Web video filmed in her home, rolled out on a Saturday to take maximum advantage of the news cycles -- her advisers have sought to make sure that her "conversation" with the American people goes according to plan.

Reporters say requests for interviews with Clinton are often ignored. The press office often berates reporters and editors for stories it considers unfair or incomplete. In the Senate and on the campaign trail, her Secret Service contingent sometimes serves as an informal shield to protect her from off-the-cuff exchanges with reporters.

In addition to Web videos, the campaign often releases news via a new Web site -- HillaryHub.com -- that serves as a Drudge Report-style clearinghouse for positive dispatches about her candidacy.

After refusing to appear on the Sunday-morning political talk shows throughout her campaign, the Clinton campaign appeared on all five of them on the same day this past weekend -- when they had good news (her long-awaited health care plan) to promote.

Bearing the Scars of Scandals Past

Clinton's communications team bears the scars of scandals past. The core group of Clinton aides experienced the ups and downs of media coverage as White House officials, and know how to be vicious when necessary.

"These people went through Whitewater and impeachment," said one Democrat with close ties to the Clintons. "They know how to be tough bastards when they need to be."

Clinton's team knows that it has two huge commodities -- Bill and Hillary -- who command so much media attention that they can dictate the terms of their engagement with the press.

"They play to win," Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House aide, who was Al Gore's spokesman during his 2000 presidential run, said of Clinton's campaign team. "She can dominate the rest of the field by her ability to occupy more media real estate than everyone else combined. And you have another person who can do the same thing for them. That gives them an enormous tactical advantage."

Lehane cited the health care rollout -- where Clinton dominated news coverage for more than a week -- as an example of the campaign's strategy working. All the TV networks put Clinton on the air Sunday, even though they tend to prefer exclusive guests.

Though some compare Clinton's campaign to the tight media control exerted by President Bush, Bush's first campaign -- in 2000 -- allowed wide media access. The then-governor of Texas often chatted up reporters on the back of his campaign plane.

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