After a rally in Philadelphia Tuesday night, the traveling reporters covering Hillary Rodham Clinton tried in vain to get an answer to what seemed like a simple request: What was the candidate's schedule for the next day?
Only one evening event was on the books. But word had trickled through the press corps that she might also speak at a breakfast meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Or might not. Or, again, might.
It wasn't until shortly before midnight when official confirmation finally arrived via e-mail to the traveling press that she would speak at the breakfast.
It was just another day on the Clinton campaign, where lockstep messaging and a near-obsessive chokehold on scheduling details rule. Barack Obama does slightly better, sometimes releasing his traveling schedule three or four days in advance, with the cities noted even if specific event details remain TBA -- to be announced. But Clinton rarely, if ever, confirms plans earlier than a day or two ahead.
The practice sometimes catches campaign field staffers off guard and, political analysts say, risks alienating the very reporters who tell the story of the campaign. But as a strategic tactic in a fast-moving national campaign, they note, it makes good sense.
"The reason the campaigns are not putting [schedules] out anymore until the last possible minute? It's because they don't want their opponents to take advantage of the information," said Steve Rabinowitz, a veteran campaign advance man who worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and in his White House in 1993.