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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Cut Campaign Coverage

NEW YORK -- Even before President Bill Clinton and his Republican challenger Bob Dole hunkered down to prepare for their Sunday debate, they already had begun to fall from the spotlight -- a development that is hurting Dole, his campaign staffers said.

As Dole's poll numbers have lagged far behind Clinton's -- giving the presidential race the look of a potential rout -- news organizations have scaled back their time and space for presidential politics. As a result, the challenger has less chance to challenge while Clinton makes news more as president than as the Democratic nominee. Dole often seems like a campaigner trying to give a speech while standing in a hole.

"Poor Dole,'' says Susan Estrich, who was Michael Dukakis' campaign manager in 1988. "Even though he's the Republican nominee, he's not making news on a regular basis."

The dropoff in news coverage is sharp. The Tyndall Report, which charts coverage by the three major broadcast television networks counted 1,607 minutes of presidential politics aired so far since Labor Day in 1995 compared to 2,365 minutes for the same period in 1991-1992. In the last week, there were 40 minutes on the three nightly broadcast network news shows compared to 89 minutes for the same week in 1992 and 94 minutes in 1988.

All this has caused sleepless and frustrated nights for Dole aides. Without front-page headlines and television news time, the candidate loses his chance to close the gap. In turn, if he doesn't close the gap, he gets less news coverage.

"Needless to say it's somewhat obscene to decide the race is over on the third Friday in September,'' John Buckley, Dole's communication director, said.

As the campaign figures its media strategy in the last weeks of the campaign, "we don't look at liberal vs. conservative,'' he said. "We look most clearly at [how] some news organizations feel the campaign is already over and just a function of coronating Clinton vs. those who feel it is not only correct but obligatory to cover this election on a daily basis.''