Camp Pain in Philly

By Joel Mathis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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"I bet," said one reporter, getting off the bus at Germantown, "that we're going to hear about pie."

•••

One member of the press, though, looked like he was having fun: Chris Matthews. He wandered around the edge of the press section at several stops, a notebook tucked in his back pocket, hair blowing in the wind instead of fastened into place like it usually is on TV.

It's been a rough campaign season for the MSNBC anchor. He's been forced to apologize for sexist comments about Hillary Clinton. He's been overshadowed at the network by the emergence of liberal darling Keith Olbermann. And now there's talk he may challenge Arlen Specter for his Senate seat in 2010.

On Saturday, Matthews actually looked like a candidate. After Obama finished his speech at Germantown, some members of the crowd noticed Matthews.

"Hey!" shouted one. "Hardball!" He walked over and works the line, shaking hands and smiling.

In the press tent, a photographer snickered. "Hardball," she said. "Singular."

When I approached, Matthews at first declined to talk -- apparently believing I was going to ask him about the Senate race. Instead, I asked: What's a big shot like him doing, listening to Barack Obama give the same speech over and over again?

"I want to do it all," Matthews said. "This is what I do."

Turns out, Matthews doesn't want to be just a talking head. He wants to get out, take the temperature of the people, sniff the air a bit, see if he can figure out how the campaign is going to evolve. He hasn't had much chance to do this since the primaries. "I just feel like I'm stuck in the studio. I hate it," he said.

"My notebook is full" of observations he'll share on MSNBC this week, he said. Pennsylvania's faltering economy should help Obama here, he said, but he's surprised by recent Republican rhetoric that makes it sound as though Obama is "in league with a (terrorist) sleeper cell."

So, uh, is he going to run for Senate?

"I am here to cover this race," Matthews said. "This is the most exciting race of my lifetime."

•••

The excitement didn't carry over to the campaign bus. Permanent members of the traveling press corps wore a laminated credential with a caricature of Obama and Sen. Joe Biden. It was emblazoned with these words: "CAMP PAIN 2008."

I chatted with Jill Zuckman, a Chicago Tribune correspondent. Like CBS' Dean Reynolds, she has spent most of the campaign covering McCain. Like Reynolds, she hopped over to the Obama campaign for a few days "to see how the other half lives."

So, I asked, does the Obama campaign treat reporters as badly as Reynolds says it does?

"I was surprised by what he wrote," Zuckman says of Reynolds. "When I got on (Obama's) plane, the first thing I did was sniff and thought, 'It doesn't smell in here!'"

Good news. The lack of stink means the inevitable media backlash didn't start in Philly. In politics, after all, what goes around comes around.

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1. sophilthy4ever said... on Oct 13, 2008 at 10:25AM

“Who. Cares. Only the press is fascinated by the experience of the press. Save it for your diary.”

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2. BenjaminF said... on Oct 13, 2008 at 01:37PM

“McCain hoped to harness an ugly, slavering beast comprised of far-right paranoia, hatred, fear, prejudice, and ignorance, and ride it to victory, but now he is starting realize that many Americans dislike his substitution of slander for an actual discussion of the issues. His zig-zagging on slandering Obama is just one more example of his increasingly erratic behavior and poor judgment, and yet more proof that he has completely lost his moral center--the result of selling his soul to the Karl Rove faction of the Republican party. He is retracting some of his slanders, not because he has repented of them, but because he sees that they have backfired by alienating the undecided voters that he needs if he is to have any hope of winning. McCain's claim to be a 'maverick' are absurd-he has voted with Bush 90% of the time, has over 80 lobbyists on his staff, and has elected to veer to the far right in his campaign, to the point of taking advice from Karl Rove. A better description would indeed be erratic, as he claims Obama would raise taxes more than he would one moment, and then the next moment comes up his very own $300,000,000 pork-barrel give-away program to people who borrowed money they couldn't possibly pay back. If you are enjoying the meltdown of the banking system and the Dow at 9000, you'll love a McCain Presidency--McCain was right there with Bush deregulating the banks and freeing them from the constraints that previously prevented this kind of greed-driven disaster.”

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