Today we close out the Monitor breakfasts at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. We had two guests from the McCain campaign: John Boehner, convention chairman and the House minority leader, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the McCain campaign’s policy director. We were grateful for both visits.
Those who follow our newsmaker breakfasts may have noticed that we had several sessions at the Democratic National Convention in Denver with top Obama political strategists but none here with McCain’s political strategy team. It was not for want of trying.
The Monitor’s goal is to be as fair as humanly possible in covering campaigns. To that end, we sent both the Obama and McCain campaigns virtually identical e-mails inviting their top political operatives to be breakfast guests during the party conventions.
We never received a formal explanation for why the McCain political team did not drop by St. Paul's Hilton Garden Inn, where our sessions were held. But the Republican convention schedule was scrambled by hurricane Gustav and Sen. John McCain’s decision to suspend political activities on Monday. And relations between the McCain leadership team and the media soured over press treatment of the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters on a morning conference call that the media “tried to throw dirt at our candidate.” He added that the media “ought to start looking at the balance of their coverage.”
Mr. Davis and Steve Schmidt, who runs the McCain campaign on a daily basis, made no effort to hide their fury over stories about the vetting process for Governor Palin and over reporting about the pregnancy of her unwed teenage daughter.
In the meantime, the speaker at our final session in St. Paul will be Robert Gibbs, the Obama campaign’s senior strategist for communications and message. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke for the Republicans at one of our sessions in Denver.
Mr. Gibbs is especially close to his candidate, as a recent profile in the Wall Street Journal noted [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121987142276777459.html]. He spends virtually every day with Obama and sits in one of the four club chairs in the private front compartment of the campaign jet.