White House expanding PR roles for Alito nomination

WASHINGTON: The White House once again has tapped political strategist Ed Gillespie, co-chairman of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, to help President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, win confirmation in the Senate.

WASHINGTON: The White House once again has tapped political strategist Ed Gillespie, co-chairman of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, to help President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, win confirmation in the Senate.

But unlike his duties during John Roberts' confirmation, in which he primarily played a behind-the-scenes PR role, Gillespie will spend more time on Capitol Hill wooing undecided senators. Steve Schmidt, who also handled communications for Roberts' nomination, will assume an even greater role with Alito. "I'm in charge of the confirmation process," he said.

In between the Roberts and Alito nominations, Schmidt, a top media adviser to Vice President Cheney, traveled to Iraq in October to provide communications support to the US embassy in Baghdad.

"Steve is stunning in his abilities and has a keen sense for the various mediums and messages that will support and clarify the judge's experiences, qualifications, and judicial philosophy," said Jim Dyke, a former Republican National Committee communications director hired by the White House to handle media relations for Harriet Miers' confirmation. "From that standpoint, I would say the judge is in very good hands."

Craig Shirley, president and CEO of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, said the political fight over Alito's nomination could emerge as the most intense in recent history.

"There will be a considerable amount of money spent on this one," Shirley predicted.

His firm has handled PR campaigns surrounding Supreme Court nominations since Robert Bork's in 1987. "As vile as the left behaved toward Bork, I would expect that they're going to be just as vile, if not even worse, toward Alito," he said.

Shirley said his firm will likely work with its political and corporate clients to mobilize citizen and Senate support for Alito, using ads, grassroots, talk radio, Op-Eds, and cable television.

After Miers' nomination, Shirley & Banister handled outreach for Americans for Better Justice, a conservative group created to force Miers' withdrawal.

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