Q&A: Ed Gillespie, Republican strategist

Ed Gillespie, chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former counselor to President George W. Bush, talks to PRWeek reporter Jaimy Lee about why Republicans need to focus on positive messages, such as jobs creation, to communicate on policy issues.

Ed Gillespie, chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former counselor to President George W. Bush, talks to PRWeek reporter Jaimy Lee about why Republicans need to focus on positive messages, such as jobs creation, to communicate on policy issues. Gillespie is also an author, and a founder of Washington, DC-based Quinn Gillespie and Associates and his new firm Ed Gillespie Strategies.

You were recently named the chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee. What are some of your goals for the next year?

Gillespie: We have a lot of important state races across the country, including 30 attorney general races. We're going to focus on a lot of House and Senate chambers in the states that we either have a narrow majority or we can win a majority that will have a major impact on the drawing of Congressional district lines in 2011.

That will possibly translate into long-term gains in the US House of Representatives. Because there is so much wind at our backs right now, we have an opportunity to make real gains at the state level.

Do you feel that it's important that Republicans have a unified message?

Gillespie: It's helpful to have an overarching message, which does tap into this concern about too much government spending and debt. If you look at races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, both Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell had very positive policy agendas and I think that helped them win as big as they did in those two states.

What role do you think the jobs message plays into what various conservative organizations are communicating?

Gillespie: I think jobs is the most important message. I volunteered as general chairman for Bob McDonnell's campaign for governor of Virginia. His first bumper sticker was “McDonnell for Governor.” His second bumper sticker was “Bobs 4 Jobs” and that really became the filter through which everything flowed for his campaign. He talked about his energy policy in terms of jobs, his education policy in terms of jobs, his tax policy in terms of jobs. Republicans would be wise to take a look at that model and filter their policy through a jobs prism.

Given industry and business' relationship with the Republican Party, do you think that there will be increased partnerships and work than we've seen in the past year?

Gillespie: I would hope that with the Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court that businesses and corporations will become as engaged in the political process as labor unions are at the federal level. I hope that they will take advantage of their restored freedom of speech to communicate to voters the importance of a pro-growth economic agenda and the problems with stifling regulation and excessive taxation and too much debt crowding out the public sector.

Is this ruling going to be positive in terms of business for the public affairs and the PR industry?

Gillespie: I think it will have a positive effect on public affairs firms, particularly those with a Republican bent.

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