THE PUBLICIST: In the end, Arnold's act was a hit with voters and the media

The biggest surprise in the California governor recall wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger's stunning victory over Gary Coleman. Rather it was the awesome manner in which Arnold's camp circumvented the political press - and ran roughshod over the mainstream media like a Hummer plowing through Laura Bush's Rose Garden. "Ideas? Who needs ideas?" Forget conventional wisdom. Arnold treated the entire campaign like it was a film press junket - where the rules are very different.

The biggest surprise in the California governor recall wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger's stunning victory over Gary Coleman. Rather it was the awesome manner in which Arnold's camp circumvented the political press - and ran roughshod over the mainstream media like a Hummer plowing through Laura Bush's Rose Garden. "Ideas? Who needs ideas?" Forget conventional wisdom. Arnold treated the entire campaign like it was a film press junket - where the rules are very different.

For starters, "journalists" attending premieres and junkets realize that certain questions are strictly out of bounds. Anything, say, to do with the star's personal life, public life, or reading habits. Violate this ironclad rule, and a battle-ready publicist will come down on you harder than the critics did on Gigli. While uninitiated reporters were initially surprised to realize they were covering an election "premiere," they quickly caught on. Which is why they stopped asking Arnold impertinent questions such as, "How will you revitalize the economy?" "How can you claim to be pro-environment when you own 270 Hummers?" "Why isn't former Planet Hollywood partner Bruce Willis backing you?" In the final days before the vote - displaying how impressively far they'd progressed in the weeks since naively asking Arnold how he would reduce the deficit - mainstream journalists made their entertainment counterparts proud by posing the kind of ET questions that Californians really cared about: "What's it like working with Warren Buffett?" "How are you preparing for your role as governor?" "Is it enough just to be nominated, or do you really want to win?" Taking this junket publicity tactic to another level, the strongman added a slick tack that Ronald Reagan often deployed - admitting and denying something at the same time. (Think Arnie as Luke; Ronnie as Yoda.) "I apologize for groping all those women, which I never did." "I won't raise taxes, but maybe I might." This is good stuff. Try it at the next staff meeting when you're in a bind. Your colleagues will be left scratching their heads while you triumphantly grab the last donut and exit the room. Remember, though, Arnold has a distinct advantage in convincing skeptics he's not speaking with forked tongue. "You know I'm a bad actor," he implies, "so how could I be fooling you now?" How? Maybe Barnum said it best: "There's a sucker born every minute." And they all move to California.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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