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The campaign rhetoric couldn’t be harsher, what with the talk about who’s a whore and who’s a nut job and who cheated on who’s ex-wife. (Remember when ‘who’ was just the guy on first?)

But nowadays the real bare-knuckle politics appears to be between the candidates and the news media.

Take the Senate campaign in Alaska. Tea Party Republican Joe Miller won’t talk to the press about his past as a public official. And when a journalist wouldn’t stop asking about it over the weekend, Miller’s private security team intervened.

Tony Hopfinger, editor of the online Alaska Dispatch, says he was pushed against the wall and handcuffed by a plain clothes Miller security guard who refused to identify himself.
    
Miller describes the event differently, blaming “an irrational blogger” for trying to “take advantage of a town hall meeting to create a publicity stunt just two weeks before the election.”
    
“Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate.”
    
So reads the statement on Miller’s campaign Web site.
    
No one was charged or arrested.
    
But the incident is only the latest scuffle between the candidates and the press this year.
    
An angry Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York, threatened to take out a reporter from the New York Post not long ago. And he didn’t mean that as a dinner invitation.
    
The phenomenon has not occurred only in the Republican or Tea Party camp, either.
    
A staffer for Massachusetts Democratic Senate nominee Martha Coakley got the year off to a rousing start in January by shoving a reporter as he tried to ask challenging questions of the state attorney general.
    
At least some of the friction may stem from a campaign strategy that seeks to shepherd untried candidates away from unscripted public appearances where an unexpected question might prompt a contest-ending gaffe. The tactic may make 2010 the year of the missing candidate.
     
Could it be that the best route to the cut-and-thrust world of Washington politics is a path that skirts the cut-and-thrust politics of the campaign? We may find out after Election Day.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton (Bare-knuckle Boxers)