You've heard - well, if you're reading this, you probably heard - about the video operator in mid-2006, a Democratic operative, who followed Virginia Senator George Allen around at public events, captured whatever he said or did. Allen one day made the mistake of talking about him and using the word "Macaca" in describing him, touching off a cascading series of blowups that eventually helped cost him a seat in the Senate.
That video operator was a "tracker" - that's the job title now - and trackers these days are employed or put up with by most candidates for major office. Around here, we watched one watching 2006 Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who occasionally referred to him on his travels around the state (but never made anything resembling a "Macaca" mistake). Trackers are busy again this year, on both sides in Oregon's Senate race, and they're becoming the subject of some contention.
Probably some kind of an informal but standard code of behavior is needed for this sort of thing. And probably it needs to start with acknowledgment of who the tracker is, and what he or she is doing there. It probably should continue with a strong press on candidates to allow the other side in, as, for example, McGavick did. (The results of the tracking didn't seem, in his case, to do his candidacy any harm.)
The new round in Oregon started with a Eugene Register-Guard report about a Republican tracker who made his way into events held by Senate Democratic candidate Jeff Merkley. The tracker, Tim Lussier, apparently wrote the campaign to say that he was “a local activist and a big fan of Jeff. I’d love to find out when I can see him speak." So they let him in.