Monday, May 05, 2003

An inside look at the operations of a modern political campaign

There's an interesting discussion about campaign tactics going on right now on the unofficial Dean2004 blog. It started with the posting of one of the intra-debate press releases from the Dean campaign. This press release was headlined, "DICK GEPHARDT KNOWS THAT WHEN YOU FIND A WINNING MESSAGE, STEAL IT!". It pointed out that Dick Gephardt's use of the term "Bush-lite" was a tacit bow to the Dean campaign since Howard Dean was the first to start using that term. Some Dean supporters criticized the harsh tone of the press release and started asking why Dean was being so brash in his criticism of other candidates. The real treat of the discussion, though, was when Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, came into the conversation and tried to explain what was going on: Uh...I am not sure folks have a true understanding of how these things work -- so let me explain. During the debate each campaign has a team that literally anwsers any exchange in the debate within moments of the exchange occuring. The SC Democratic Party assigns runners between the campaign and the press to each campaign -- so the press is getting almost instant response and has the facts to shape the story of what is happening in the debate. There had to be dozens of releases last night from serveral of the campaigns each. No reporter is going to use any of those releases -- but if they had not thought of the "Bush lite" line being Howard Dean's for instance-- at least they are all aware of it. Experience teaches that if you even want them to look at it you have to say something in the "release" headline that makes them take a second look at what you are saying. We actually got a release out within seconds for instance of Joe Lieberman saying he wanted to strangle George S. saying "The Dean campaign conceded only one point in the debate tonight -- that the best line was delivered by Joe Lieberman...." Alot of the flurry included health care stats during John Kerry's question of the Governor's record -- which many in the press concluded was unfounded on Kerry's part. All of this is unseen by the public -- and as I have said -- not one of those releases from any campaign will make it into a news story. Lieberman actually put one out in the middle of the debate that said something like "Howard Dean tonight stood firm in his opposition to the war" Seriously it was a one line release -- and we are still scratching our heads over that one. Aside from building the strongest grassroots organization of any Presidential campaign in history -- one of the other things I hope occurs in this open discourse -- is from time to time -- help explain how things really work -- and why they happen -- so there is a better more open understanding of the process. If you read ABC's notepad tomorrow -- we have a tongue in cheek parody which includes the Joe Lieberman press release exchange noted above in this post. I hope this explains this. Joe Trippi Campaign Manager Dean for America This reminds me of the what Joe Stracynzki, the creator of Babylon 5, tried to do while his show was on the air: he spent an hour or two every day online discussing the behind-the-scenes details of making a regular television show because he wanted the fans to have a better appreciation of the difficulties and compromises that go into making a great show work. Joe Trippi appears to be adopting the same approach. Instead of remaining stand-offish with the campaign supporters he is giving us an inside look so that we can better understand the thinking behind their tactics and, hopefully, come to appreciate why they do things a certain way. That doesn't mean they always do things the right way, but it does give me to understand why they chose to do things they way they do. Here's hoping Joe can keep this up as the campaign moves into higher gears. Just wait till we get into the heart of campaign season. We'll see then if he has the perseverance to confront online critics with "behind the scenes" reports.


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