First, candidates are going to have to be available for substantive interviews or will appear to be avoiding the hard questions that will be routine in the aftermath of President Obama’s eight years of haphazard “leadership.” Jindal said Thursday in response to my question about Rubio’s schedule for running –detailed on my show Wednesday– “I think he’s right on his timeline.” That doesn’t mean that formal debates should begin in early 2015, but that sit-downs at length and in detail with interviewers asking pointed questions will be the norm and not the exception.
“I think that folks have a right to want to kick the tires and meet folks,” Jindal added, and that means “being on” 24/7 in this always recorded, always-a-Tweet-away world.
Next, the candidates will have to be prepared for anything and everything in the questions they ask, and dodging intelligent questions won’t be an option. I asked Rubio about aircraft carriers on Wednesday and Jindal about Pope Francis on Thursday. Both are obviously of interest to large parts of my audience and widely and often discussed in various forums, but perhaps not expected in any given radio or television interview.
Neither man stumbled or hesitated but just thought through and answered the question set –the opposite of President Obama, who neither takes many questions nor answers those that he does take with anything like straightforward openness. This quality of directness and this willingness to engage will be absolute requirements for any would-be nominee.
Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and John Kasich –all have been out and about on the broadcast airwaves. Paul Ryan not so much but he has been preparing the 2015 budget and will probably begin to emerge now, or perhaps he isn’t really going to run in 2016. We will soon figure it out by the schedule he keeps.
But not Governor Christie. He has been lying low, letting Bridgegate die down, the GDC report issue and sink in, the news hurricane dissipate, but soon –if he wants to run– he will have to join the others in the preliminaries of the presidential race: regular sit-downs with the hosts who ask questions that center-right voters want answered.
Bottom line: The Rubio and Jindal interviews this week should be routine for all of the would-be presidents, not news events. Voters need to get comfortable not only with the personality of the candidate –that won’t happen until a month before the real voting begins in New Hampshire– but with their basic competence and skills set, the minimum required to even ask for the vote. No more fourth stringers pretending to the world’s most powerful office for the sake of getting some name ID, a book deal, maybe a radio show. The stakes are too high and the problems at home and the enemies abroad too real.
Radio and television interviews are spring training for presidential candidates. The season is nine months away, and the smart ones are getting in shape now for the long season ahead.