Round Midnight, US Candidates Hit TV Talk-Show Circuit

Round Midnight, US Candidates Hit TV Talk-Show Circuit
# 20 October 2012 02:58 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. When US presidential candidates meet with wealthy campaign donors, one might not expect late-night talk shows to be a burning topic of discussion, APA reports quoting Ria Novosti.
But during his now-infamous "47 percent" speech at a fundraiser in May, Republican challenger Mitt Romney also discussed popular talk show hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman-purveyors of the kind of late-night variety entertainment that has become serious business in US politics.
"I’ve been on Letterman a couple of times. I’ve been on Leno more than a couple of times," Romney told the donors. "And now Letterman hates me because I’ve been on Leno more than him."
Over the past two decades, appearances on late-night talk shows have become a staple of US presidential campaigns, offering candidates the chance to exchange banter with the hosts and display the humor and spontaneity often lacking from highly choreographed campaign events.
It’s a trend that only seems to be gathering steam. US President Barack Obama last month made his seventh appearance on Letterman’s show, and he has sat down for interviews with numerous others over the past several years.
The conversation is typically light but can often touch on serious issues.
During an interview Thursday with The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart pressed the president about his administration’s contradictory versions about the deadly attack on a US embassy compound in Libya last month.
But Obama also joked with Daily Show host about how his vice president, Joe Biden, looks in a wet swimsuit.
Late-night talk shows provide an "opportunity to speak as directly as possible to the public and show who you are as a personality," said Chris Lehane, a former senior aide to President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.
These shows serve the same role that town squares or cross-country campaign train trips in bygone eras of presidential campaigns, Lehane added.
"It’s like giving a speech from the back of the train or in the public square," he said.
Variety shows are not an exclusively modern phenomenon in American presidential politics.
Candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon appeared on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in the summer of 1960, just months before Kennedy narrowly won the election.