PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Dems turn 'Shove it' remark into a boost

So much of politics is learning how to spin a difficult personality. Just ask anyone who's ever worked for Dick Cheney, John McCain, or Al Sharpton.

So much of politics is learning how to spin a difficult personality. Just ask anyone who's ever worked for Dick Cheney, John McCain, or Al Sharpton.

Last week, the Democratic party may have found just the right torque required for Teresa Heinz Kerry, this election cycle's requisite "loose cannon." Democrats around the country held their breath Monday morning when the first news to come out of the Democratic National Pep Rally was her outburst at a reporter from a conservative newspaper. "Shove it," she exclaimed, after the scribe presented her with a skewed version of comments she'd made earlier. Rather than apologize, the Dems - taking a recent page from the Book of Cheney - embraced the outburst, calling it "a human moment" aimed at "a right wing rag." And then, as if the outburst were planned all along (hey - it's not for us to say), Heinz Kerry tied the incident seamlessly into her convention speech, harvesting Obama-size ovations for lines such as, "By now, I hope it will come as no surprise that I have something to say." Never mind that the rest of her speech consisted largely of pro-American platitudes about her husband. The point is that the super-safe Democratic Party - which inexplicably swore off public displays of anger at a time when the public's anger seems the one thing likely to sweep them back into power - resisted the urge to silence their loose cannon with a muzzle that wouldn't have held anyway. What could have been a PR disaster had they disavowed it became a defining moment for this campaign's most exciting personality - and a memorable tagline you're likely to see crop up in some interesting places.
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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