- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s some concern brewing in Democratic circles that GOP presumed presidential nominee Donald Trump has a shot at the White House by simply denying Hillary Clinton the airtime she needs to get her message across in the mainstream media.

According to The New York Times:

In the corridors of Congress, on airplane shuttles between New York and Washington, at donor gatherings and on conference calls, anxiety is spreading through the Democratic Party that Mrs. Clinton is struggling to find her footing.

While she enjoys many demographic advantages heading into the fall, key Democrats say they are growing worried that her campaign has not determined how to combat her unpredictable, often wily Republican rival, to whom criticism seldom sticks and rules of decorum seem not to apply.

Part of this is the news coverage. Mr. Trump has been dominating the airwaves with his unscripted rhetoric, he grants press conferences where he answers all questions and he’s not afraid to take to Twitter to air whatever grievances he may have.

Mrs. Clinton, in contrast, has run a traditional, choreographed campaign. She’s failed to hold any press conferences so far this year, and took questions from her traveling press only once in March. She’s essentially being shut out of the cable news coverage, and her campaign says that’s OK.

“[Mr. Trump] commands the news coverage because of his willingness to traffic in offensive statements, demeaning and insulting comments, and outrageous conspiracy theories,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told The Washington Post Tuesday, addressing whether the campaign views Mr. Trump’s media coverage as a threat.

“That is a recipe for commanding attention. But it is not a strategy for making inroads with the key voter groups he needs in order to improve his standing for the general election,” Mr. Fallon said.

Perhaps. But pursuing a conventional press strategy against an unconventional candidate is also risky.

Sixteen other candidates in the GOP primary thought the press infatuation of Mr. Trump would fade, that at some point their policy ideas would be discussed, and that Mr. Trump’s bombastic rhetoric would catch up to him. It didn’t, and they lost.

Some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, got desperate for airtime and attacked Mr. Trump with their own inflammatory words, only to come off as childish and inauthentic. The voters rejected them.

Despite the Clinton campaign’s assurance that their candidate will stick to her surrogates, local media and bilingual outreach to get her message across, they still seem to be frustrated at the media attention they have received.

Last month, Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s director of communications, lashed out at the press on Twitter for their coverage of Mrs. Clinton in comparison to Mr. Trump.

Commenting on a study that showed the biggest news outlets have published more negative news stories about Mrs. Clinton than any other presidential candidate, Ms. Palmieri wrote: “A real concern. Not asking for better coverage of @HillaryClinton, but press should hold @realDonald Trump accountable.

“Press can’t just report on horse race,” Ms. Palmieri said. “Press have to arbiters of facts and hold candidates accountable.”

Not only did the study show Mrs. Clinton was receiving the most negative press coverage, it also concluded Mrs. Clinton was getting the least positive coverage — so she lost on both fronts.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, received the second-most positive coverage, following Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who placed first in the poll.

So perhaps the takeaway from the study is a candidate who is closed to the media is worse off than one who is open and engaged with it — no matter the negative consequences.

But that’s certainly not the message the Clinton campaign took away.

“I don’t think that his accessibility explains the degree to which he outpaces in terms of the coverage he generates,” Mr. Fallon told The Post.

So what is the Clinton campaign banking on for the win?

“We believe that, given an electorate that is unsettled about its economic situation and skeptical of candidates’ ability to achieve meaningful change, her [Clinton’s] ability to point to tangible results based on her past work, and to identify specific approaches she’d take as president to get results, is a difference-maker,” Mr. Fallon told The Post.

Good luck with that.

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