Image issues loom large for GOP hopefuls

WASHINGTON, DC: In the wake of the message sent by voters in Michigan and Arizona - not so fast, Dubya - Republican presidential favorite George W. Bush and insurgent John McCain began fine-tuning their PR strategies last week in anticipation of pivotal face-offs in New York and California on March 7.

WASHINGTON, DC: In the wake of the message sent by voters in Michigan and Arizona - not so fast, Dubya - Republican presidential favorite George W. Bush and insurgent John McCain began fine-tuning their PR strategies last week in anticipation of pivotal face-offs in New York and California on March 7.

WASHINGTON, DC: In the wake of the message sent by voters in

Michigan and Arizona - not so fast, Dubya - Republican presidential

favorite George W. Bush and insurgent John McCain began fine-tuning

their PR strategies last week in anticipation of pivotal face-offs in

New York and California on March 7.



’Both have gone exactly contrary to their original messages,’ said GOP

political consultant Tony Marsh, VP of Russo Marsh Copsey. ’They need to

get back to where they were.’



McCain may have damaged his ’above the fray’ appeal with an attack ad

linking Bush to Clinton. As Marsh noted, McCain benefited more from his

reputation for honesty and integrity than his chosen issue of campaign

finance reform. The strident ad, then, scuffed his reputation

somewhat.



McCain, Russo believes, should continue to stress campaign finance

reform, but also discuss issues - such as reducing the national debt -

that play well with conservative audiences. ’He needs to highlight his

maturity and wisdom,’ Russo said.



Ketchum SVP Chuck Dolan, a former Democratic political operative, said

Bush has just as many, if not more, image and strategy problems.



’George Bush came out of South Carolina with an honorary degree in

ecumenical studies and race relations from Bob Jones University and with

the Confederate flag tattooed to his chest,’ Dolan said. ’That won’t

easily be forgotten.’



Dolan argued that Bush needs to establish three or four issues in which

he can really make a difference. Bush has made feints in that direction,

most recently with his post-New Hampshire slogan proclaiming him as a

’reformer with results.’



’Now he’s got to take that message, and show what reforms and what

results,’ said Dolan.



The California republican primary is likely to be the more interesting

of the two major Super Tuesday staredowns. It is generally regarded as a

’beauty contest,’ as independents and Democrats are allowed to vote.



In New York, only registered Republicans have that privilege.



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