On the one hand, he only wanted to do live television or television time that he bought. He fought all the time with Russert, but live TV couldn't be edited, so if he screwed something up it was his fault.
The Sunday shows keep asking Romney to go on, but his handlers won't let him go on. Perot would have been jumping at that chance because it was free TV for him and free publicity -- you're out there and you're controlling the time yourself.
He didn't seem to want an echo chamber, though. He was putting his message out to people who were not necessarily followers or a traveling rally. Can a candidate even take that risk today?
I think it could be done today, but I think Perot was such a unique personality that he could get away with it. It would be harder to do so today.
He did not like the press, he did not like the media and he wasn't looking for the echo chamber. He wasn't looking for the media to filter whatever he was saying and spread his message. He was careful to spread it himself. The way he used the media was to go on shows like
Larry King Live
, where he had open-ended questions where he could say the same thing and not really get pinned down on his approach or get as hard a question as you would get from, say, the White House press corps. He pretty much had free rein to say what he wanted to say.
The 30-minute TV spots that he bought where it was just him talking and appearing on hosted shows was his way of getting the message out. The question is who today would have the credibility to do that? He had the credibility because he'd made a lot of money as a successful businessman, he'd given a lot back and he had this unique personality where he'd convince people that he was leveling with them and telling the truth.
Can another candidate do that? I don't know many other Ross Perots, and maybe that's a good thing. In the tradition of some of the more flavorful Texas politicians, he is an unusual person. It's hard to replace him with just a typical politician.
Who else could do it? Maybe somebody like Donald Trump. He has the money to do it and has the exposure, but he's already gone to the trough so often by saying "maybe I'll run and maybe I won't" and endorsing Mitt Romney. Now Mitt Romney has the personal wealth to do the same things that Perot did, but he doesn't have that personality that Perot had that made people believe he was doing it for the good of the people and not for political ambition.
Concerning Perot, it cannot be done if a candidate is concerned about building a base ... Perot was not concerned about building a base and was more concerned about not following the rules.