The Big Pitch: Which presidential candidate is doing the best job of public relations so far?

Gene Reineke

Gene Reineke

Gene Reineke

Hill & Knowlton


Don’t discount George W. Bush’s campaign simply because John McCain is

getting a lot of the recent ink. Bush is sticking to a 50-state

strategy, not playing to a single-state audience. Heading into South

Carolina and Michigan, Bush is sharpening his messages. He is

positioning himself as the true reform candidate, a refreshing change

from business-as-usual Washington politics. Consider this scenario: Bush

wins in South Carolina and Michigan. The momentum carrying McCain slows

down and the media moves beyond the mystique of the ’Straight Talk

Express’ bus. At this point, Bush’s big picture strategy pays off across

the country. Without the infrastructure to compete in states like

Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio and Florida, McCain no longer carries the

same appeal with the media. The primary victories and delegates won

throughout the rest of the country will decide who wins each party

nomination and ultimately the presidency. Bush is moving forward with

that in mind.

Ron Gibbs



Al Gore needed to change and Bradley proved to be the catalyst

Everybody joked about him being stiff, including the candidate himself.

Now we have the new image - a repackaged, engaging, gregarious Al Gore.

He’s acting looser and dressing more casually and trendy. These inroads

into changing the Gore image have brought about victories in three

primaries and could carry him to victory in the general election. As he

repositions himself and articulates his agenda, he needs to hold firm to

the Democratic base of labor, the working class, minorities and women.

He cannot alienate Bradley’s supporters, whom he will need after the

primaries. Gore’s new image and style will help people understand his

messages, which his campaign advisors believe will carry him to victory

in November.

Kevin Donnellon

Donnellon Marketing Public Relations


John McCain is excelling at PR in the presidential primaries because of

his dedication to two PR cornerstones: superb positioning and

outstanding media relations. McCain is clearly positioning himself as

the straight talking, no-holds-barred candidate of integrity, and he

amplifies this through his courageous, All-American hero message. He has

also developed strong media relationships through which he has

communicated this position and granted open, unlimited access to

reporters from traditional and non-traditional outlets. Frankly, the

simplicity of his strategy makes it the most attractive. I would

strongly recommend that McCain stay the course - focused and accessible

- and ignore attempts to drag him into a ’catfight.’ If McCain can do

this, his candidacy will only gain momentum and may well carry him to

the Oval Office.

Bob McEwen



Coming out of New Hampshire, I’d have to say Gore and McCain. For now,

Gore is managing to transcend his reputation as a boring and wooden


He’s appearing engaged, energetic and in charge, but he remains

vulnerable on the character/honesty issue. It will be interesting to see

what damage Bradley can do in the upcoming primaries if he keeps hitting

hard at Gore’s integrity. McCain is riding the crest of a rather

remarkable insurgency and has given Bush a loud wake-up call. With a

substantial military population in South Carolina, McCain stands a good

chance of sustaining his momentum through that primary, too. But the

Republican establishment is so heavily invested in Bush - and so many

power brokers have hitched their wagons to his star - that they are

going to attack McCain with everything they’ve got. Expect to see them

use some of the rough stuff the Dole campaign used to smear Buchanan

after he won New Hampshire in 1996, except that they will try to paint

McCain as a lefty.

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