tv reporter

Campaign is natural habitat for uncaged political animal

It's the day before the New Hampshire primary, and Carl Cameron is in his element.

Walking around the campus of Saint Anselm College, where Fox News Channel has set up its temporary election headquarters, the network's chief political correspondent is busy.

He was out on the road earlier in the morning and would be out again by midday, covering the last hours of the primary campaign. He hasn't slept much, if at all, in days. He carries a can of Red Bull around with him as he shows off the "Fox Box" studio in the middle of campus, talks politics with a reporter and pauses for a quick-hit phone interview with a radio station.

Up ahead are more campaign stops, more TV hits and a trip to remote Dixville Notch late at night for the first-in-the-nation primary voting.

For Cameron, returning to New Hampshire is a lot like coming home. He has spent thousands of hours with candidates here since the 1988 election, and it was here where he started his broadcast career in 1983. He rose to the political director position at WMUR, the state's top TV station, before he joined Fox in 1996.

That means he knows much more about the Granite State than most reporters. "It's fun to have home-field advantage," Cameron says.

But he's more than a one-note reporter. He has crossed the country too many times to count with every major candidate since the 1980s, and earlier this decade he was chief White House correspondent at Fox News before moving back to politics.

In a journalism business of go-getters, Cameron sets the pace. Colleagues and competitors marvel at how he never seems to stop moving.

Cameron acknowledges that last year was pretty busy. He was on the road for 42 weeks in 2007, logging more than 80,000 miles on the campaign trail.

He credits the network, which devotes lots of airtime and resources to politics, with giving him the latitude to go after the stories his own way.

"Fox is tremendously patient with me," he says. "They know that because of who I am and what I do, I want to get out early, I want to get out more than anyone else. I want the candidates to know me better than anyone else."

That early-and-often approach helps as the media horde grows around the candidates.

"Now that the crowd is here and the cameras are 16 deep, I want to be able to be 16 cameras back and make eye contact with the candidate and have them take my question," Cameron says. "And they do."

In 1996, GOP candidate Bob Dole became so familiar with him that it became instinctual for the Kansas senator to just make eye contact and ask, "Carl, whaddya got?"

It was an instinct that Dole would live to regret. "It used to drive his staff crazy," Cameron recalls.

Fox News Washington bureau chief Brian Wilson marvels at Cameron's hustle.

"Carl is this absolutely indefatigable political animal. I've never seen a guy in my whole life who is so into the political process like he is," Wilson says. "He eats it, he drinks it — and a lot of Red Bull — and just breathes this stuff."

Soon after the primary is over, Cameron like the rest of the press corps is off to the next locale in this fast-moving campaign.

He goes to South Carolina in preparation for the GOP debate. Presumably, he takes more Red Bull with him. "There's no rest for the weary," Cameron says.