His office, meanwhile, cautiously vets requests for even just a brief phone call. A request for some time to talk about Brat's legislative priorities was met with trepidation and hours of negotiation—but no time on his schedule.
When told that the story would include interviews with political critics of Brat's, press secretary Julia Hahn wrote: "I work in the official office, not the campaign office, so this piece would need to focused on his official duties, not about the primary election." Another email read: "Do you not think it's rather premature to do a story now on the race for 2017 congressional seats?"
Six days later, and after the conversation with Brat, his office agreed to answer written questions but did not respond by the print deadline at the end of the next day. (In a statement provided later, Brat communications director Brian Gottstein said, "Congressman Brat is deeply immersed in policy issues and believes it's essential to study and discuss those issues openly with his fellow members and his constituents to get feedback and have a real dialogue. Our constituents have thanked us literally hundreds of times for him explaining his reasoning for voting the way he does.")
It's understandable that Brat's staff would be wary of media requests. For one thing, Brat was stumped during one of his first major interviews on MSNBC, when host Chuck Todd pressed him on the minimum wage. "I don't have a well-crafted response on that one," Brat responded, an honest but politically unusual line that received national attention.
Brat has generally not been afraid to share his views on those kinds of topics. Since winning his primary in June 2014, he has spoken regularly on talk-radio shows, including Laura Ingraham's. Her support was particularly helpful in driving Brat to victory over Cantor. But he has focused significantly more on right-leaning radio shows or communicating directly with constituents than on talking to the traditional media.
"I just view it transparently and rationally," Brat said. "If the national press wants to know something about my ideas, they're out there."
In his first few months in office, Brat has blasted the president's budget, criticized McCaul's border-security bill, and promoted term limits, even cosponsoring a resolution requiring them.
It's not that Brat has been staying below the radar on his issues; he's just sending his message directly to his supporters.
"My goal obviously is to share ideas on economics at the national level," Brat said. "But I'm not going out of my way trying to grab the TVs every day and that kind of thing."
"I would observe that he did not rely on getting good press to get elected, and I doubt he will rely on it to stay elected," said Chris Jankowski, a Republican consultant based in Richmond. "How you connect with the tea party and grassroots Republicans is not through the mainstream media."