ST. PAUL, Minn. -- One of the key benefits of the incumbency is the ability to grab media coverage before the campaign season enters full swing.
But Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is missing out on most of those opportunities so far this year, as he recuperates from hip surgery.
"It does make it harder for him to use those tools that all governors, including Tim Pawlenty, Arne Carlson, Rudy Perpich and even Jesse Ventura -- when he was still rumored to be running again -- have all used," political analyst David Schultz of Hamline University told KARE.
Dayton has continued to hold telephone conference calls with the media throughout his recovery, but the last time he appeared on camera at the State Capitol was seven weeks ago when he joined civic leaders to promote Minnesota's bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.
A week later he appeared at the AFL-CIO union hall in St. Paul to introduce Tina Smith as his 2014 running mate. But since undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic the governor has been confined, in a way, to the second floor of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul.
"When you think about it the best time to get media coverage in Minnesota is the legislative session, where you have the bonding bill," Schultz remarked.
"You'd think he'd want to be on television talking about the tax cuts he's proposing."
Several of Dayton's commissioners stood in for him two weeks ago to formally roll out his "un-session" agenda, an effort to repeal 1,000 examples of unclear, redundant or outdated laws and rules on the books.
Dayton's proposal to cut taxes was delivered via press release and over the phone lines, rather than in person.
"But where most people get their news now is still from television, especially local television news. Its' where most people get their news about local politics," Schultz said.
Dayton continues to meet privately with Democratic legislative leaders and cabinet members, but he's held no public events. The scheduled date for Dayton's 2014 State of the State address remains listed as "to be announced."
When he met privately March 13 with proponents of medical marijuana, he did not allow photographs documenting the meeting.
Dayton injured his hip while running downstairs at the Governor's Residence last July, on his way to sign an executive order to deliver aid to 26 Minnesota counties that sustained storm damage and flash flooding in late June.
The first surgery to repair that damage didn't prove to be a permanent fix, so he underwent more extensive surgery in February 10. He remains in what he described as a "half body cast" throughout this phase of his recovery.
Campaign on back burner
Katherine Tinucci, Dayton's campaign manager, said the governor never anticipated doing much in the way of public campaigning until after the legislative session ends in May. And Tina Smith, who will be sharing the ticket with Dayton, has been doing events around the state.
Dayton's job approval rating heading into the 2014 legislative session remained high, so Schultz said the governor's time out of the spotlight may not inflict much harm to his reelection chances.
"It cuts both ways if this turns out to be a session that's not controversial, he could minimize the number of issues that can be used against him in the election," Schultz said.
And, thus far, Twin Cities television stations haven't paid much attention to the 2014 governor's race. So Dayton's top challengers haven't been getting the face time that Dayton's unable to grab himself.
There's no hard and fast "equal time" rule that applies to daily news coverage. But, in general, incumbents get fewer of their official events covered as Election Day nears.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty was keenly aware of the concept. When Pawlenty ran for reelection in 2006 he kept doing his weekly "Good Morning Minnesota" radio show as long as he could, finally giving up the microphone in July of that year when he formally filed for office.
That hour-long show originated on WCCO-AM radio on Friday mornings at 9 a.m., and aired statewide through a network of subscribing stations. Dayton turned down an opportunity to do a weekly show when WCCO offered him a much less desirable time slot, Saturday at 7 a.m.