BETH FOUHY, AP News
John McCain's election night watch party might be missing John McCain. Instead of appearing before a throng of supporters at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix on the evening of Nov. 4, the Republican presidential nominee plans to deliver postelection remarks to a small group of reporters and guests on the hotel's lawn.
Aides said Thursday that the arrangement was due to space limitations and that McCain might drop by the election watch party at some other point.
McCain's remarks will be piped electronically into the party and media filing center, aides said. Only a small press "pool" — mostly those who have traveled regularly with the candidate on his campaign plane, plus a few local Arizona reporters and others — will be physically present when he speaks.
Thomas Patterson, a government professor at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, called the arrangement "unusual" but said the campaign may simply be bowing to the reality that the candidate's remarks are geared toward the televised audience rather than those in the hall.
"Addressing your supporters election night is one of those traditions in politics, like where you choose to launch your campaign," Patterson said. "Why wouldn't you want the energy of the crowd? And if you're going to lose, you almost need it even more."
With just 12 days left in the presidential contest, most polls show the Arizona senator trailing Democrat Barack Obama nationally and in most battleground states, although a new AP-GfK poll showed the race tightening a bit in the last few days.
Obama, by contrast, plans to address a giant outdoor celebration election night in Chicago's Grant Park. The event is free and open to the public, but the campaign was charging media organizations a hefty fee for close-in spots on the camera risers and platforms and for cable and wireless Internet at those spots.
The Obama campaign was also charging news organizations $935 per person for a spot in its press filing center, as opposed to $695 per person at the McCain gathering. But as Obama spokesman Bill Burton pointed out, "Anyone credentialed for our filing center will also be able to watch the event live and in person, unlike the McCain event."