Don't expect that to ever happen again. Life has changed dramatically for the Obama family, as Kroft learned Friday in Chicago when he conducted the first postelection television interview with Obama, for Sunday's "60 Minutes" on CBS.
The interview was a major coup for Kroft, who's marking his 20th year with the CBS News program in the middle of the year's biggest stories — the presidential campaign and the economic crisis.
Kroft was backstage with Obama when the Democrat accepted his party's nomination for president, and met him at other points in the campaign. This week's interview was his sixth, starting with that midwinter 2007 story where Obama took Kroft on a tour of the Chicago projects where he'd worked as a community organizer.
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"That was particularly successful for them in getting their campaign going and having a lot of people see him talking," Kroft said. "The fact that we've been there at every critical point is important. We have been tough but fair. After having interviewed someone six times, you build a rapport with him."
Kroft sought an interview for last week's show but was told it was too soon.
Instead, he spoke with the campaign's bleary-eyed top four advisers after 1 a.m. CST on Election Night, an hour chosen by them because they wanted to rest the following few days. Adviser Robert Gibbs barely had a voice. The story helped "60 Minutes" revisit an old haunt: first place in the week's Nielsen Media Research ratings for the first time in nearly five years.
Linda Douglass, a former television journalist who was a spokeswoman for Obama's campaign, said she wasn't a part of the decision to give Kroft the first television interview. But she said Obama feels like Kroft asks intelligent questions that allow him to get a message across.
"It's an old-fashioned professional relationship with a lot of mutual respect — not one of those interviews where you regard the interviewer warily but not one of those interviews where you know you are going to be thrown softballs," Douglass said.
Before he left, Kroft was taking suggestions for questions from around "60 Minutes." He said he wanted to strike a balance between making news and probing the human side about how Obama's life had changed.
"I'm interested to see if he's going to be different," he said. "I thought he was different when he made his (election night) speech in Grant Park. I thought it was an attempt to be presidential. He didn't jaunt out onto the stage. It was much less like a campaign event, and much more like an address."