The Washington Post

Press corps is M.I.A. at Obama rally

MADISON, Wisc. – It’s the kind of rally the Obama campaign wanted to show off to the world: a crowd of 30,000 students showing up for President Obama on a quadrangle on the leafy University of Wisconsin campus.

But a day after Obama’s lackluster debate performance, the president’s bad fortune continued: Though the crowd and the president showed up, the national press corps did not. Because of a mix-up at the Denver airport, the press corps’ charter plane was delayed about half an hour en route to Madison, Wis., and failed to arrive on time.

The traveling press arrive at the University of Wisconsin just as students are leaving a just-concluded rally for President Obama. (Photo by David Nakamura)

The charter buses carrying about three dozen members of the national media arrived at the university just as Obama was finishing his speech, and the president’s motorcade sped past just as the group was trudging its gear to the event location. Two police officers chuckled as reporters cracked wry jokes.

A smaller group of 13 reporters and photographers who travel aboard Air Force One and in the president’s motorcade did witness the event live, as did a few dozen reporters based in Wisconsin. But the larger group of national newspaper, television, radio and Internet reporters that follow Obama was forced to file stories from the site based on clips from pooled video.

Obama aides explained that the charter plane’s support staff had failed to properly clear the press corps’ buses with security officials at the Denver Airport, which temporarily delayed the group from boarding the flight. But some reporters wondered why the Obama campaign had cut the timing so close – even if everything had gone smoothly, the reporters were scheduled to arrive at the university just as Obama was arriving. That’s always a risk because Secret Service secures and closes the site well before the president arrives.

As the reporters entered the press file center in a campus building next to the quad, some students offered a jeering welcome: “Oooh, the national press corps has arrived!” one said sarcastically.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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