by Max Brantley
In the thick of it, naturally, is Alice Stewart, who moved from buffing up the image of Secretary of State Mark Martin to the Bachmann candidacy, sinking fast no matter how many makeup touchups she's provided.
Unlike other candidates who let reporters fire questions after a public appearance for 5 or 10 minutes in a scrum, known as a “press avail,” Mrs. Bachmann takes questions in a well-mannered way at a microphone stand in front of her bus — but only from reporters whose names she calls from a list, like a substitute teacher.
The list is compiled by Alice Stewart, Mrs. Bachmann’s press secretary, and whether she prescreens reporters and their questions to control the candidate’s message is an open issue.
Ms. Stewart insisted that she did not. The list, she said, is to exclude “Obama trackers” looking to provoke a gaffe, and to ensure that local reporters are not crowded out by the national news media. Local reporters’ questions often are less pointed.
Brandon Herring, a reporter for WMBF television in Myrtle Beach, said Ms. Stewart had approached him while Mrs. Bachmann spoke and asked if he wanted to ask a question. He said he did. “She said, ‘You want to ask about Myrtle Beach, I imagine,’ ” Mr. Herring said. “I was like, yeah, I guess I do.”
Stewart defended the campaign from criticism that reporters had been physically moved aside from the candidate at various events — "unusually hostile" was how Politico put it.
Ms. Stewart said the incidents were distorted and resulted from campaign staff members’ efforts to protect a candidate who is often mobbed by ardent fans.
“In light of the Gabby Giffords incident, security is the No. 1 priority every time we step out in a public event,” she said, referring to the January shooting rampage near Tucson that seriously wounded the United States representative.