Besides the fact Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign has developed a plausible message centered upon strength and leadership, it has shown itself to be increasingly nimble and agile on the political front — seeking advantage and opportunity by living off the land using campaign savvy and the wire and glue of spin needed in this game of perceptions. And one of the summer’s success stories, without a doubt, is Giuliani’s press and day-to-day message operation.
Over the past two to three months, the campaign press and message shop has settled into a methodical news making process of taking repeated shots at easy, inviting targets like Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Fidel Castro — and other reliable bogeymen – then blasting on a policy basis such evils as “socialist” health care solutions, and even lambasting the Democrats as a party of “losers”.
The Rudy press shop understands that attacks drive news coverage while having the corollary benefit of firing up GOP primary voters looking for a fighter. The attacks on Democrats also have the effect of a good left jab – keeping the press busy covering your attacks while keeping them off of you with other, more pesky queries.
Meanwhile, as Giuliani has been effectively serving as the GOP’s de facto anti-Democrat cheerleader on the national level, he’s been travelling market to market raising a respectable war chest while concurrently generating good, basic broadcast news coverage. A case in point was Rudy’s last fundraising swing into northern Virginia several weeks back. The local network affiliates dutifully showed up, took their position on the riser, did minimal, easy reporting and produced stories for the late news any press office would be happy to see: A few sound bites of Rudy talking about the importance of leadership in fighting terror, a few attacks on “soft on terror” Democrats, some b-roll of Giuliani touring the havoc in NYC following the collapse of the World Trade Center, then the reporter announcing Giuliani raked in big bucks from that night’s local fundraiser and a quick wrap-up sound bite with a local political big shot saying Rudy’s focus on terror is smart.
If you replicate this format dozens of times in dozens of local markets, as Giuliani has, you rack up plenty of good local coverage. This has the effect of buoying the overall campaign apparatus, and inspiring confidence in the campaign team among fundraisers, the growing number of political backers on Capitol Hill, and other key audiences. And despite the formulaic nature of this local broadcast coverage, it’s harder than it looks to keep this going consistently for the length of time Giuliani has. Moreover, it takes message discipline, and the candidate and his press people are executing, at least for now.
When the paid media arrows start flying in the run-up to the early contests, the news making is far more challenging. Regardless, most campaigns never even establish the basics, and Giuliani’s campaign has done so.
Rudy’s campaign was also recently hassled by well-read Politico blogger Jonathan Martin for what he said was the Giuliani press shop’s “recycling” of Iowa endorsements that attempt “to create the impression of an Iowa operation that is gathering strength” when in fact they were basically just “breaking down old endorsements into regional subsets.”
Well, good for them – that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do. This is another example, albeit a small one, of Giuliani’s campaign living off the land, working with and maximizing the hand they’ve been dealt, and, as Martin observed, “doing it with a little smoke and mirrors.”
Finally, while Judith Giuliani got off to a very rough start with the media, she and her advisors have grown increasingly sophisticated in their press dealings. A recent New York Times story showcased her admitting, in regard to the presidential campaign spotlight, she is “new at this” and learning the ropes. A little humility goes a long way, in addition to the fact it’s Jeri Thompson’s turn for cyclical press scrutiny. But what about that catty and punishing Vanity Fair article? Rudy’s press shop did a good job trashing the piece before and after it hit the streets — and Judi Giuliani is doing all one can and should do: just keep moving and keep smiling. She’s much better at this game after six months in the dunk tank.
While the Romney campaign maintains the best, most agile and skilled press operation on the GOP side, the Giuliani campaign has made up substantial ground in this key area over the summer, to the point where Romney and Giuliani’s superiority on the communications and press operation front — vis a vis the GOP competition — is painfully obvious.