How often do Republicans running in New Hampshire seemingly go out of their way to offend the state’s big, famous Republican-editorial-position newspaper? And do it in way that is so transparently an attempt at image control that it hits the journalistic hot-buttons of the paper’s bigwigs?
The Huffington Post reports that Herman Cain seems to be doing just that:
UPDATE: The Cain campaign has now canceled its interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader because of a disagreement over timing, according to AP reporter Steve Peoples.
Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid offered a terse response to Cain’s cancellation: “It’s his loss.
Note that is the p-u-b-l-i-s-h-e-r of the paper who does not seem pleased. As someone who worked on two big chain newspapers, when someone impresses a publisher as a lightweight, political hack, or someone trying to hide something he/she does not usually have a clear career path. Publishers are influential people, and their influence is not limited to their reporters and editors but the circles in which they move.
Here’s part of the earlier Huffington Post piece:
If Herman Cain stumbles on a foreign policy question during Thursday’s scheduled meeting with the influential New Hampshire Union Leader — as he did earlier this week when asked about President Obama’s handling of Libya — don’t expect to see the clip on an endless cable news loop.
That’s because Cain’s campaign has requested that the sit-down not be videotaped.
Earlier on cable TV, some analysts (including Democratic ones) were saying this was a smart move by Cain to avoid the cameras. Maybe it was smart move in terms of avoiding another video error. But it was also transparent. And it could not help the overall portrait that is emerging of a candidate who is not ready for the Oval Office, not ready for national political prime time and who seems more destined to have his own show on Fox News (and probably get high ratings) than be holding press conferences in the White House — or as the GOP nominee.
And now, a scheduling matter puts the entire 10 a.m. interview in jeopardy.
Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid told The Huffington Post that “no reason was given” for the no-camera request and he “was a bit surprised” by it. So far, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum have all met with the Union Leader and allowed C-SPAN to tape the newspaper interviews for broadcast.
When asked about the request, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told The Huffington Post that “video cameras are optional at Ed Boards and we decided not to pursue that option.” Gordon added that “the interview is at a newspaper, not a TV station.”
McQuaid agreed to the campaign’s request, but there’s another issue complicating the scheduled sit-down. McQuaid said that the interview was originally scheduled to last one hour, but the Cain campaign recently changed it to just 20 minutes. He said that’s not an acceptable amount of time. (The Cain campaign hasn’t yet responded to an inquiry about the interview length.)
No matter what the Cain campaign says now the reality is this:
Herman Cain looks like a candidate who is afraid to be put in circumstances where his knowledge is being put to a test and where he will have to do more than recite talking points, deliver colorful quips and say 9 9 9.
My betting is that polls will increasingly show GOPers as saying no no no to Cain — and Gingrich will continue to be on the ascent ascent ascent (for now).
FOOTNOTE: The Sarah Palin media model was to only appear on Fox News to be interviewed mostly by Sean Hannity or others openly sympathetic to her. This model doesn’t work that well at this point in the primary season due to debates and due to the fact that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and others can and do sit down for long talks with editorial boards. Kissing off New Hampshire’s biggest newspaper is not a politically wise idea. Romney was destined to do well in New Hampshire, to be sure. But this story is one more bit of bad imagery for Cain. Why would a political party that has to make such huge investment in a nominee when it picks the nominee risk picking one who seems afraid to sit down and talk at length with a Republican oriented newspaper and let cameras record it?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.