It was only after he won the 2000 election that Bush began to retreat from open access with reporters -- mostly because he realized he didn't need them as much as he did as a candidate.
"You don't need to do Q and A's with reporters to generate coverage when you're president," said Fleischer, the president's former press secretary.
Tobe Berkovitz, dean of Boston University's College of Communication, said the strategy is likely to work until or unless the press rebels -- not likely, given the persistent media interest in all things Clinton.
"It's the pre-Rose Garden Rose Garden strategy," Berkovitz said. "Why should they do anything differently? They're incumbents and they're stars, and you put those things together, and you have a recipe for controlling the media."
Limiting media access can detract from a candidacy. In 2000, the Republican National Committee printed T-shirts for reporters mocking the fact that Gore was going weeks without holding press conferences: "I tried to ask Al Gore a question, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
Lehane said that such messages made it hard to combat perceptions that Gore was "smart but unlikable." But he noted that none of the other Democratic candidates are making open, freewheeling access a campaign signature, like McCain did in the Republican primaries in 2000.
Treatment of the media could change if Clinton wins the nomination and is up against a Republican who will draw the sort of wide coverage any major party nominee does, Lehane said. But there are so many new ways of reaching voters that the Clinton campaign may not need to change course, he said.
"When they want to communicate things directly, they can transcend the traditional modes of communication," Lehane said.