Tom Fiedler, a veteran political reporter and editor who is dean of the College of Communication at Boston University, said retail politics on large campaigns changed forever during the 1980 presidential election. Jimmy Carter went from stop to stop, running himself ragged and leaving plenty of opportunities for off-the-cuff statements, he said. Ronald Reagan would do one or two carefully staged events, winning the media war without sacrificing the perception that he was on the trail, said Fieldler, who covered the Carter campaign.
“We’re well past the retail campaign stage now; it’s all about the wholesale campaign,” Fiedler said. “In many cases, they’re just trying to reinforce personally what they’re already putting up in their TV ads.”
With only a handful of undecided voters in a typical small town, he said, “What good does it do you to go into North Adams, Massachusetts, now to do a campaign event?”