Using the Free Media

The Democrats have hit on a savvy approach to dealing with the appearance of being severely under—funded in the race against President Bush.  I say appearance of being  under—funded, since the Kerry effort in the next few months will include his own fund —raising, and that of various support efforts on his behalf. Kerry can match or even exceed the President's fund—raising, if Democrats eager to defeat the President choose to contribute.  The DNC has raised more than $15 million for ads, and so—called 527 independent expenditure groups such as moveon.org will spend more than that on Kerry's behalf ($15 million to start, and much more with constant replenishment by George Soros, Peter Lewis and other such 'plutocrats for the people').  

 

 Note too, that the Democrats who competed for the nomination of their party, have already spent tens of millions of dollars on ads, over 90% of them directing  fire at Bush, rather than other Democratic candidates.  In fact the various Democrats who sought their party's nomination have matched the President's fund raising to this point in the campaign if you sum their fundraising levels. Howard Dean raised and spent $45 million on his own.  But you will never see this point made in the free media since it conflicts with the story line that is out there: poor under—funded John Kerry, having to withstand all these despicable attacks from this well—oiled corporate fund—raising machine of President Bush.  Since the Bush campaign has only just begun to spend on its own ads, it is no wonder that the current polls show a tight race, and Bush's approval ratings have dropped under the close (and loving) attention the media paid to the Democratic primary season. 

 

Arguably the Iraq war is going better (many fewer American casualties month to month, progress on an Iraqi constitution, increased oil production), and the economy has been picking up some steam the past few months. But due to the Democrats' campaign, the news has been all negative about the President, as dutifully reported by the free media, which, of course, is just doing its job. 

 

So now we have the long awaited response by the Bush team, with its first ads — all very positive, with no reference to Democrats or Kerry whatsoever. Since we can be assured that the media will make a big story of any negative Bush ads when they come, the positive ads had to be framed a certain way as well. First was for the media to constantly repeat the refrain that Bush is loaded with money and Kerry has none.  This is, as I have argued, false, but serves to create an appearance of Bush and his wealthy corporate supporters buying the election.

 

Then yesterday came the firestorm of criticism from firefighters, and some family members of 9/11 victims that Bush is using the tragedy politically in his ads (which for the record show maybe 3—5 second of 9/11 pictures).  It is hard not to think that these attacks on the ads were carefully coordinated and ready to go the first time Bush mentioned 9/11. We have already learned that the Democrats will call any criticism of John Kerry's Senate voting record on defense matters an attack on his patriotism.  Now, for Bush to claim that he demonstrated leadership during a national tragedy is also not allowed.

 

The attack on the ads has done the job, and the national news story Thursday night is about the Bush ads, suggesting how controversial they are. While the Bush ads are running in 18 states, the national news firestorm over the 3—5 second pictures of New York are running everywhere.  Each night, the trickle, trickle, trickle of free media coverage is designed (not unconsciously I think) to protect the under—funded Democrat Kerry, from being outspent on message. The free media also did its part when DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe accused Bush of being AWOL on his National Guard duty in 1972 in Alabama.  For the next few weeks, the media behaved as if this was the most important story to cover.  Combined with David Kay's testimony on WMDs, the two stories served to depress Bush's approval ratings and poll numbers. Of course on the David Kay story, the media completely ignored Kay's testimony that regardless of what has been found, the decision to invade Iraq was, in his opinion, the correct one.

 

The Democrats have learned that the best offense is an offense that is always on the field and the best defense is to always play offense. So they will play offense all campaign season, expecting the free media to broadcast their messages, and thereby drown out the President's paid messages. 

 

A group that monitors the national media coverage of the Presidential candidates found extraordinarily favorable coverage of Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards during the nomination process (96% and 100% respectively).  The President received 38% favorable coverage during that same period.  Presidents always get skeptical coverage from the national media to some extent. It is, after all, how Washington correspondents make their names, and become anchors. But generally, the potential nominees get some critical scrutiny as well. So far this has not happened with Senator Kerry.

 

One gets the sense, that there really is no ad or campaign effort that Bush can make that will not be seen as problematic by the Kerry campaign, and in each case the Kerry complaint will be publicized by the free media. Of course the $30 — 40 million of ads run by Democrats so far have drawn no such scrutiny or coverage. 

 

There has been the assumption for many pundits that the period between the end of the primaries and the convention would be a free fire zone for the Bush campaign, with all its money to spend on ads, and the Kerry campaign out of money, similar to Bill Clinton's campaign in 1996 against Bob Dole during this same period. That is not in fact what is happening, nor how these next few months will play out. Senator Kerry may, in the end, remind voters of Bob Dole in 1996, but it will not be because his message will not get out there.  Whether through ads or free media, you can count on the Kerry message getting through. 

 

 

The Democrats have hit on a savvy approach to dealing with the appearance of being severely under—funded in the race against President Bush.  I say appearance of being  under—funded, since the Kerry effort in the next few months will include his own fund —raising, and that of various support efforts on his behalf. Kerry can match or even exceed the President's fund—raising, if Democrats eager to defeat the President choose to contribute.  The DNC has raised more than $15 million for ads, and so—called 527 independent expenditure groups such as moveon.org will spend more than that on Kerry's behalf ($15 million to start, and much more with constant replenishment by George Soros, Peter Lewis and other such 'plutocrats for the people').  

 

 Note too, that the Democrats who competed for the nomination of their party, have already spent tens of millions of dollars on ads, over 90% of them directing  fire at Bush, rather than other Democratic candidates.  In fact the various Democrats who sought their party's nomination have matched the President's fund raising to this point in the campaign if you sum their fundraising levels. Howard Dean raised and spent $45 million on his own.  But you will never see this point made in the free media since it conflicts with the story line that is out there: poor under—funded John Kerry, having to withstand all these despicable attacks from this well—oiled corporate fund—raising machine of President Bush.  Since the Bush campaign has only just begun to spend on its own ads, it is no wonder that the current polls show a tight race, and Bush's approval ratings have dropped under the close (and loving) attention the media paid to the Democratic primary season. 

 

Arguably the Iraq war is going better (many fewer American casualties month to month, progress on an Iraqi constitution, increased oil production), and the economy has been picking up some steam the past few months. But due to the Democrats' campaign, the news has been all negative about the President, as dutifully reported by the free media, which, of course, is just doing its job. 

 

So now we have the long awaited response by the Bush team, with its first ads — all very positive, with no reference to Democrats or Kerry whatsoever. Since we can be assured that the media will make a big story of any negative Bush ads when they come, the positive ads had to be framed a certain way as well. First was for the media to constantly repeat the refrain that Bush is loaded with money and Kerry has none.  This is, as I have argued, false, but serves to create an appearance of Bush and his wealthy corporate supporters buying the election.

 

Then yesterday came the firestorm of criticism from firefighters, and some family members of 9/11 victims that Bush is using the tragedy politically in his ads (which for the record show maybe 3—5 second of 9/11 pictures).  It is hard not to think that these attacks on the ads were carefully coordinated and ready to go the first time Bush mentioned 9/11. We have already learned that the Democrats will call any criticism of John Kerry's Senate voting record on defense matters an attack on his patriotism.  Now, for Bush to claim that he demonstrated leadership during a national tragedy is also not allowed.

 

The attack on the ads has done the job, and the national news story Thursday night is about the Bush ads, suggesting how controversial they are. While the Bush ads are running in 18 states, the national news firestorm over the 3—5 second pictures of New York are running everywhere.  Each night, the trickle, trickle, trickle of free media coverage is designed (not unconsciously I think) to protect the under—funded Democrat Kerry, from being outspent on message. The free media also did its part when DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe accused Bush of being AWOL on his National Guard duty in 1972 in Alabama.  For the next few weeks, the media behaved as if this was the most important story to cover.  Combined with David Kay's testimony on WMDs, the two stories served to depress Bush's approval ratings and poll numbers. Of course on the David Kay story, the media completely ignored Kay's testimony that regardless of what has been found, the decision to invade Iraq was, in his opinion, the correct one.

 

The Democrats have learned that the best offense is an offense that is always on the field and the best defense is to always play offense. So they will play offense all campaign season, expecting the free media to broadcast their messages, and thereby drown out the President's paid messages. 

 

A group that monitors the national media coverage of the Presidential candidates found extraordinarily favorable coverage of Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards during the nomination process (96% and 100% respectively).  The President received 38% favorable coverage during that same period.  Presidents always get skeptical coverage from the national media to some extent. It is, after all, how Washington correspondents make their names, and become anchors. But generally, the potential nominees get some critical scrutiny as well. So far this has not happened with Senator Kerry.

 

One gets the sense, that there really is no ad or campaign effort that Bush can make that will not be seen as problematic by the Kerry campaign, and in each case the Kerry complaint will be publicized by the free media. Of course the $30 — 40 million of ads run by Democrats so far have drawn no such scrutiny or coverage. 

 

There has been the assumption for many pundits that the period between the end of the primaries and the convention would be a free fire zone for the Bush campaign, with all its money to spend on ads, and the Kerry campaign out of money, similar to Bill Clinton's campaign in 1996 against Bob Dole during this same period. That is not in fact what is happening, nor how these next few months will play out. Senator Kerry may, in the end, remind voters of Bob Dole in 1996, but it will not be because his message will not get out there.  Whether through ads or free media, you can count on the Kerry message getting through.