The Washington Times - September 18, 2008, 10:14AM

Wondering how long it’s been since John McCain held a press conference? The Democratic National Committee has set up a clock to keep track.

McCain built his reputation, and for that matter what used to be a loyal press, through allowing regular access. In addition to free-wheeling bull sessions on the presidential campaign trail, he was always one of the most accessible members of the Senate, catchable in hallways and regularly drawing a giant gaggle of reporters after Senate Republicans’ weekly Tuesday lunches. At times his gaggle would rival that of Republican leaders Trent Lott and Bill Frist.

The 35-plus days since his last press conference have seen McCain name a relative unknown as his vice presidential nominee, hold a convention and face mounting questions over the accuracy of his campaign ads. For now, the calculation appears to be that answers to those questions would be more costly than benefit.

Of course, McCain has given one-on-one interviews during that time, but there really is no substitute for the unstructured nature of a press conference.

For good measure, the DNC also has a clock tracking the time since Sarah Palin was named his running mate — all time in which she, too, hasn’t held a press conference.

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times