Tea party darlings Rand Paul of Kentucky and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware both surged to primary victories thanks, in part, to national media exposure, but after their own comments got them into trouble, they abruptly canceled post-primary Sunday show appearances and have largely avoided doing non-Fox national TV.

But what’s more remarkable is that they’ve also taken a low profile in their own states. Paul once asked local reporters to submit questions in writing and often hurries to his car to avoid them…

The lengths to which some of the hopefuls have gone — such as refusing to release public schedules to local reporters — have astounded veteran political observers and sparked a debate over whether the year of the missing candidate marks a new era in which statewide contenders will be as guarded as presidential aspirants.

So rather than present the opportunity for an encounter that might later surface in an opponent’s TV ad, the candidates prefer to risk an image of them fleeing cameras and shouted questions as protective aides whisk them into the safety of a waiting car.