DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) has gone one month without having a news conference in spite of his pledge to hold one every month as president and his criticism of President Bush (search) for rarely taking questions from the media.
Kerry's availability to the press has decreased steadily as more media have begun following the presidential race. His campaign advisers have been trying to keep him focused on the planned daily message instead of issues that interest reporters.
Likewise, Bush campaign officials have made plain they do not intend to allow the president to do anything that would knock him off message at a time when they believe he is riding a post-convention wave. They were stung when his interview with NBC's "Today" mushroomed into a three-day story after Bush said the war on terrorism cannot be won.
On Thursday, as Bush's press secretary fielded questions from reporters on Air Force One (search), the president stood about 10 steps away chatting with aides and watching the scene.
Both candidates have been more willing to talk to local media as the race becomes more concentrated on a few key battleground states.
The last time Bush took questions from any journalist was in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch lasting more than an hour on Sept. 1. Kerry frequently takes time to talk to the local media, such as the 45 minutes he had in his schedule for local interviews on Thursday.
Bush has conducted just 12 formal, solo news conferences in his presidency. Kerry has criticized Bush for not being more accessible.
"I have a plan that I'm going to have a press conference at least once a month to talk to the nation about what I'm doing because I don't have anything to hide," Kerry said Aug. 3 during a campaign stop in Beloit, Wis.
Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter stressed that Kerry's pledge is for when he is president. She said at this stage in the campaign, he is focused on talking to voters and local media.