AP’s Tale of Two Ropelines

Two Associated Press headlines today:

“Obama ropelines: bouncing babies, controlled chaos”

“McCain ropelines: more discipline, less chatting”

(… and also, apparently, “bouncing babies,” if the accompanying photo is to be believed).

So: Which sounds like more fun to you?

This Tale of Two Ropelines can be summarized by the way the AP “defines,” for campaign newcomers, the term “ropeline” in each story.

From “Obama’s ropelines:”

Working the “ropeline” is an old tradition for big-time politicians. In Obama’s case, the barrier that separates him from surging fans is always a low, metal fence, erected around the stage before he arrives.

And, “McCain’s ropelines:”

Working the “ropeline” - the fence or security barricade that separates a candidate from the crowd - is part of the rhythm of any presidential campaign. Some candidates are energized by the experience; others view it as a chore.

How do you think McCain “views” it?

When McCain works a ropeline, his face seems to telegraph his thoughts: After a recent teleprompter speech in New Mexico, his expression seemed to suggest, ‘These rope lines are a chore.’”

While other times, reporters don’t have to read minds or faces because McCain’s words tell us what he’s thinking (presumably, though we are talking about a politician here) :

But when he walked offstage recently in Davenport, Iowa, where an anti-war protester had stopped him on Saturday, McCain flashed a wide grin and told [a campaign aide], “That was fun.”

But, fun for whom?

From “McCain’s ropelines:”

As the campaign enters its home stretch, McCain’s time on the ropeline is becoming more tightly controlled. Advisers try to limit unscripted interactions that can unexpectedly turn sour….

Gone are the days when McCain would endlessly linger after a rally and hold almost a second event to shake hands and talk with voters. It’s a sign of just how reined-in the freewheeling candidate has become.

And, from “Obama’s ropelines:”

What is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for his supporters is a daily job for Obama, and he performs it in steady, workmanlike fashion.

People five, six, even 10 rows back stretch out their arms in vain, unable to reach him. Most call out “good luck,” or “we’re with you.” Some appear too awe-struck to speak.

Others clearly want a longer conversation. But Obama usually keeps moving at his steady pace, inches from the bedlam. He pauses for only a few.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.