PHILADELPHIA ― The Republican and Democratic presidential nominees will hit the campaign trail following the summer’s political conventions without the customary “protective pool” of journalists covering their daily movements.
The White House Correspondents Association oversees the pools and their rotating cast of reporters who follow the president every time he leaves the White House, whether to attend a fundraiser, appear at a meeting, or play golf. Importantly, a reporter would be present to bear witness in the event of a threat against the president’s life or a history-making moment.
Reporters, who share their dispatches with other members of the correspondents association, track even seemingly mundane details, from what the president wears or buys, to exactly when Air Force One lifts offs and lands. (Here’s what the reports look like.)
Past presidential candidates have received this daily, even hourly, scrutiny when it becomes apparent they will be their party’s nominee, and perhaps, the next president. Then-Sen. Barack Obama’s protective pool coverage began in June 2008, and his rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), followed in July. Obama accepted his party’s nomination in late August and McCain in early September.
The 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, received protective pool coverage in early August of that year. Though still weeks before the Republican nomination, the Los Angeles Times noted the arrangement was considered to be coming late, as reporters had been requesting the pool since Romney became the presumptive nominee months earlier.
Reporters rely on the campaigns to provide logistics for pool duty, such as when the nominee is coming or going on days when there aren’t planned public events.
Representatives of the White House Correspondents Association met with Donald Trump campaign officials in May, and with members of Hillary Clinton’s team earlier this month over logistics. Jeff Mason, a Reuters correspondent who is president of the correspondents association, told HuffPost his organization’s role is “to kickstart the discussion and then hand over to the campaign reporters.”
There have been talks among reporters and both campaigns, but no agreements.
Neither the Trump campaign nor the Clinton campaign immediately responded to requests for comment.
The Trump campaign began using a press charter last week, which now allows news organizations ― at least those who are not banned by the campaign ― to follow the candidate to rallies around the country. (News outlets traditionally decide on members of the pool, which could be a stumbling block if an outlet seeking to join is currently on the Trump campaign’s blacklist.)
The addition of a press plane has been helpful for reporters on the Trump beat. But a protective pool is different. A rotating protective pool reporter would fly on the same plane as Trump, just as a White House pool reporter boards Air Force One with the president.
The Clinton campaign has had a pool system established for several months in which reporters rotate to cover the candidate during events that can’t accommodate the full press corps. But Clinton has no protective pool, which would include having a reporter on duty even when there aren’t planned events, as well as aboard her plane when she travels.
McClatchy reporter Anita Kumar, who chairs the Clinton print pool of 17 news organizations, told HuffPost in an email that the group “expected to establish a protective print pool immediately after she had secured the nomination” on Tuesday.
“We continue to work with the Clinton campaign in the hopes that we can establish a protective pool as soon as possible,” Kumar wrote. “We have stressed to the campaign that in past election cycles a protective pool was formed immediately after the candidates had secured their party’s nomination, and in some cases, before the convention.
“We believe we should have at least as much access to the two candidates ― one of whom will be the next president of the United States ― as in previous election cycles, not less,” Kumar said.