RNC coverage: Edelman holds debate for foreign press

NEW YORK: Edelman on Tuesday used the occasion of this week's Republican National Convention to hold a presidential campaign media strategies session, entertaining journalists with a debate between Democratic stalwart Leslie Dach and Republican booster Michael Deaver.

NEW YORK: Edelman on Tuesday used the occasion of this week's Republican National Convention to hold a presidential campaign media strategies session, entertaining journalists with a debate between Democratic stalwart Leslie Dach and Republican booster Michael Deaver.

The firm hosted at its New York office 20 attendees from multiple publications, including Romania Libera, The People's Daily, Financial Times, India Today, and La Nacion. Deaver, President Ronald Reagan's former chief of staff, and Dach, former, communications director of the Dukakis for President Committee, are both Edelman vice chairmen. Dach is in New York, on vacation, serving as the lead of the DNC's immediate response team.

The purpose of the discussion, according to Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, was to give a perspective on the importance of free media strategy versus costly advertising campaigns. Edelman cited, as example, the firm's trust barometer survey findings of a nine-to-one advantage in credibility of articles in media over paid advertising.

"It makes a PR person proud to see the role of earned media in the campaign," Dach said.

Both Dach and Deaver agreed that Bush was not making reaching out to undecided voters his primary strategy. They disagreed, however, on why.

Dach argued that Bush was not campaigning and, thus, attempting to garner earned media among undecided voters, because he did not have the ability to convert the nonbelievers or appeal to the unsure. Dach characterized the undecideds as sporadic watchers of hard news who did not spend time arguing about the merits of the policies. He said the important poll for Democrats to track undecided voter's opinions was the one that focused on whether the country was going down the right track or not.

Deaver disagreed with Dach on the role of undecided voters. He said that the presidency would be determined by galvanizing the constituents.

"This election is going to be won or lost on who gets their ducks [to the polls]."

Deaver said that the new media of blogs and the Internet would be more influential for the coverage of the election, rather than the election itself.

"By and large, [bloggers] are all talking to themselves; they're not changing votes," Deaver said. "I think they're more important from the standpoint of this ability to go around the news, or to influence the news, than they are anything else."

One of the reporters in attendance asked Deaver about the wide spectrum of the speakers at the RNC, and whether they were part of a "masquerade."

Deaver said the message was inclusion, not duplicity.

"I think that if I were running this convention, I would do exactly the same thing that they're doing, [which is] trying to appeal to the broadest base," Deaver said. "That's what the presidential election is all about, is to get 50 plus 1."

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