A media strategy comes into focus

A MEDIA STRATEGY COMES INTO FOCUS…. One of the year’s more noteworthy campaign trends is the habit of right-wing candidates to avoid the media. While candidates, especially those seeking statewide office, traditionally fight tooth and nail for as much attention as they can get, this year, we’re seeing more and more Republican politicians avoiding — and in some cases, literally running away from — reporters.

The reasoning isn’t exactly a mystery. Journalists tend to ask candidates about their views, public remarks, policy positions, etc. For extremist candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, it makes for uncomfortable interviews, which usually make the Republicans look pretty foolish.

But it’s worth noting that sometimes the strategy makes sense. Ron Johnson (R), taking on Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in Wisconsin this year, is one of 2010’s nuttiest candidates, and his staff has wisely shielded him from potential embarrassments (i.e., questions about his beliefs). But as we’ve seen, it’s tough to keep a journalist boycott going indefinitely, and yesterday, Johnson sat down with editors and reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A global warming skeptic, Johnson said extreme weather phenomena were better explained by sunspots than an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as many scientists believe.

“I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change,” Johnson said. “It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination.”

Johnson, in an interview last month, described believers in manmade causes of climate change as “crazy” and the theory as “lunacy.”

“It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time,” he said.

It was probably about this time that a Johnson aide, standing just out of earshot, turned to the campaign manager and said, “I told you this was a bad idea.”

Lest anyone think there may be something to this, Zaid Jilani explained, “[S]unspots have been at a historic lows. As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes, ‘Severe weather fueled by global warming pollution is having an even more devastating impact around the world…. All of these disasters were predicted by climate scientists as a consequence of greenhouse gas pollution from burning fossil fuels.'”

Ideally, candidates who are too bizarre to speak to the media probably shouldn’t be running. But once the damage is done, a campaign has to realize it’s political suicide to let its candidate speak freely and make a fool of himself.

In other words, I don’t imagine Wisconsin newspapers will be having too many more sit-downs with Ron Johnson anytime soon.