RNC coverage: Dennis Cariello, New York Young Republican Club president

New York Young Republican Club, which permits members 18-40 that either work or live in the five boroughs, has focused a large amount of energy in making the Republican convention a success.

New York Young Republican Club, which permits members 18-40 that either work or live in the five boroughs, has focused a large amount of energy in making the Republican convention a success.

In August 2001, the group's membership stood at 12. In 2004, its membership now stands at 448 and club president Dennis Cariello says about 35 members joined up during this convention week. He talked to PRWeek.com about the organization's role during the week, why the media has it wrong about the diverse group of convention speakers, and what the party needs to do to win the election.

Q. What has the club been doing for the convention?

A. We've been volunteering in various capacities and have tried to help put on a good program. The convention has been great for the city and we're so proud to have it here. And we're doing our best to make it a smashing success. Also, there are some members who are alternate delegates. We've put on some events in conjunction with the New York State Young Republicans and the New Jersey Republican Federation, and we've received substantial support from the Young Republican National Federation. We had a cocktail for the various chairs and leadership for the state young Republican groups at the Union League, where we featured representative Bob Barr as a speaker on Monday. We had an alumni dinner and after party where young Republicans could meet young-at-heart Republicans. On Tuesday, we had a lunch featuring Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Last night, we had a big event at [East Village bar] VUE, which featured a lot of bands and had about 550 people. Publicizing these events has spurred a lot of people to become members. That was one of the reasons why we did it, outside of being good hosts.

Q. New York is unquestionably liberal - though some New Yorkers took umbrage at the assertion that New York City, as a whole, was unwelcoming of the convention. Your thoughts?

A. I wasn't worried whether the nation would see the Republican side of New York City, because Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani were both featured speakers. They represent New York City as well as anybody. And we're looking forward to Governor Pataki's speech tonight [Thursday]. All three of those folks belie the contention that New York is so heavily Democratic. People of all political affiliations continually voted for these gentlemen in what consultants would tell you is a tough place to run any Republican. New Yorkers are a little more savvy than all that. I wasn't worried about what face the protesters would put on the city because everybody knows that these are organized, nationalized organizations and not representative of New York City or even a substantial minority. These are the left of the left.

Q. The media has put forth that the major RNC message has been security. Do you agree?

A. I think it was the major message that was put forth and with good reason. For the Americans with their priorities straight, the war on terror is something that has transformed the nation irrevocably in terms of foreign and domestic policy. 9/11 has really put its stamp on the history of the world and has ushered in, sadly, a new era. The priority rightfully made that a key point in its presentation to the nation. I could not have planned a better presentation myself. It was very effective. It made the case in clear and concise terms, having Rudy Giuliani and John McCain talking about the war on terror, and what we need to do to win[it], make us safe, and hopefully change the hearts and minds of those who would do us harm. The Vice President's speech was also effective in that regard. I think everyone can say that the President has been very clear and consistent in his message. The party and the convention has done a great job in conveying that message.

Q. What do you make of the media pointing out how many of the speakers don't believe in President Bush's agenda?

A. [There are] folks that may differ with the President [on some issues] speaking at the convention. I get frustrated when I read in the media and the DNC about how these folks are apparently non-representative of the party. There are no better words to call it than "ignorant nonsense." It's a big tent party. We're accepting of all sorts of ideological views on a broad range of topics. You have folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and the stances he brings to the table. Then you have Rick Santorum and the stances he brings to the table. We can come together and hash out these differences and come together with a positive party platform that is inclusive on a number of ideological views. All Republicans agree on the war on terror, we agree on the economy, we agree on tax policy, and we agree - for the most part - on free trade. If you get 500 people in the room and you find two people that agree on every point, you would have to do it by cloning. It's a credit to the party, and it contrasts the Democratic party, which is largely calcified. We're the party that is looking at different positions. We're the party that is discussing what to do with stem-cell research; we're looking at different positions on abortion and gay marriage and civil unions, reforming the tax code, social security, and healthcare.

Q. President Reagan's former chief of staff and current Edelman vice chairman Michael Deaver said it was most critical to galvanize Republican, rather than chasing undecided voters. Do you agree?

A. You have to make sure your base gets out there. My club and the local county organizations are going to make sure we get out there to the polls. That's axiomatic; that's really not for debate. I understand the point raised that [the main issue] is [party] voter turnout because polls seem to show that the independent vote is very small. There are not many people you're really competing for that piece of mind. But that 5% is going to have such a big swing that we can't afford to not make the case to them and helping them get their vote cast. This will be a very close election.

Q. With networks only devoting three hours of coverage to both conventions, does it make your job harder in publicizing the party's message?

A. The networks really did both themselves and the nation a disservice by only having three hours of coverage. It doesn't live up to their obligation to serve the public, which is why they get the airtime. To not show Senator McCain and Rudy Giuliani, that was very unfortunately. Thankfully with the rise of cable news channels, there is a fair amount of choice for people who want to gavel-to-gavel coverage, albeit interspersed with talking heads and commentary. [But this] plays up to the sound-bite culture. Three hours is not a lot of time to make your case for who should become or stay the next president. The media plays up to that. One good thing coming out of this is that the ratings for the cable news channels have been very good. Maybe the networks will learn something from this - maybe we can have coverage every night for two hours.

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