Trump and his aides seem well aware of their favorable position. Check out this debate-night exchange between The Washington Post's Erik Wemple and Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson:
A question for Pierson: Why has Trump tended to retreat from his all-networks media-exposure strategy of the primary months to a more Fox News-centric approach? As CNN’s Brian Stelter reported last week, “Trump is saying ‘yes’ to Fox News almost every day but saying ‘no’ to most other major networks and news organizations — a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.”Pierson denies this retreat. “What you’ve seen is a very hectic rally schedule. When he’s doing rallies — two or three a day — in multiple states, there’s really no time to do TV.” But didn’t he do many rallies in the primaries? “No, it’s much more now, because he’s going into other locations as well. He’s having coalition meetings.” So why wouldn’t he mix up the outlets when he does have time for interviews? Why Fox News instead of others? “Oh, I’m sure he would, if the schedule allowed. Mr. Trump loves doing media. He’s a media guy; everybody knows that. I don’t think it’s really fair to criticize him for media at this point, considering how he’s been the most available candidate ever.”
Pierson's last sentence is the most important. As the campaign sees it, Trump has granted so many interviews and held so many news conferences that he is now immune to criticism for ducking the press. Everybody knows he's "a media guy," right? So no one will believe otherwise, despite the following:
- Trump has not held a news conference — a real one, where he took questions — since July 27.
- He has not appeared on a Sunday-morning political talk show since July 31.
- Since mid-June, he has appeared as many times on Russia Today (once) as he has on CNN.
- He has not been a guest on an MSNBC program since May 20 (h/t Huffington Post).
- Meanwhile, Trump has found time this month to tape interviews with Dr. Oz and Jimmy Fallon.
Trump is a busy candidate, to be sure, but it is total bunk to say that only Fox News fits into his schedule. Were CNN and MSNBC not on the air when he called into "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday? Or last Monday and Thursday? Pierson's denial that Trump is dodging those networks just isn't credible.
But the Trump campaign knows that he cemented his status as "the most available candidate ever" by gamely appearing on all channels all the time throughout the first year of the campaign — a period when Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters far less frequently. The paradigm was set: Trump is accessible, and Clinton is not.
Trump appears to be betting that there is not enough time between now and Election Day to change voters' perceptions.