Republicans augment PR as election lawsuits generate coverage

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan deployment of lawyers and legal challenges in the run-up to Election Day is taxing the GOP's capacity to respond in the media, prompting a last-minute bolstering of its PR forces.

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan deployment of lawyers and legal challenges in the run-up to Election Day is taxing the GOP's capacity to respond in the media, prompting a last-minute bolstering of its PR forces.

Lawsuits already filed by both sides in a handful of swing states are reminiscent of those filed in Florida during the 36-day legal frenzy that followed the 2000 election. This year, however, neither side seems willing to wait for voters to cast their ballots before challenging the results.

As in 2000, accompanying the army of lawyers is an equally battle-ready team of spokeswomen and strategists eager to try their cases in the media.

Mindy Tucker Fletcher, the Bush campaign's lead spokeswoman for the 2000 Florida recount, has been brought back to Florida by Victory 2004, a joint operation between the Republican National Committee and Bush-Cheney 2004. She is taking a leave of absence from Ogilvy PR, where she has served as an SVP in public affairs since early this year.

"We knew Florida [would] be an issue, then [the suits] started becoming an issue in 10 states or so," said Fletcher. "The Democrats just don't like the laws, and they want to overturn them."

Fletcher says she and a team of GOP strategists are training spokespeople in swing states to answer questions regarding voter fraud, military ballots, and racial bias.

The DNC, however, claims that the lawsuits are "not a PR issue for us."

"It's not surprising to us that the Republican focus appears to be on the PR of this," said spokesman Tony Welch. "Our focus is on whether all Americans have the right to vote."

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