The Democrats failed in one of their first major "rapid-reaction" tests of the 2004 presidential campaign. John Kerry stealthily picked his running mate, John Edwards, Tuesday morning, but the entire first news cycle was dominated by republican oppo-research, published within minutes of the announcement [it was posted on US Newswire at 8:31 am]. The Kerry campaign release wasn't even posted until over an hour later [9:43], and his speech not for another 15 minutes [9:58]. The factsheet on Edwards wasn't posted for another hour [11:04] Edwards' statement was posted at 11:51. A Kerry-Edwards response to the Bush-Cheney "First Choice" ad (claiming Kerry prefeerred McCain) was posted at 12:22, and their solid fact-check of the "First Choice" ad was posted at 1:10.
Clearly, we are dealing with a feckless press, an institution that either couldn't bother to invest the resources to prep its own stories or didn't want to be "scooped" by some other entity running bullshit RNC slander, so went with the virtually unrebutted RNC talking points on day one. The New York Times reported on the talking points. The Boston Globe reported on the talking points. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Mike Allen do the best job of reporting on the talking points. The Dallas Morning News reported on the Talking Points. The Los Angeles Times reported, but only marginally, on the talking points. Of course, had any press group refused to run the talking points until day two, they would have gotten the "liberal media" brand.
Most of the media coverage of the talking points was not favorable, not endorsing the allegations - much of it was reporting on the phenomenon of the RNC quick response. The problem with that, though, is that it lets the media treat the RNC talking points as more of a story than the VP selection itself. It changes the focus of the conversation and lets the GOP gain the upper hand on one of the few days we deserve to be on top. When a rapid response team's silly little shenanigans can rival the second biggest event in an election cycle, you know they are doing something right.
The NYT is still reporting on the talking points, particularly on the claim that Edwards is inexperienced.
The most obnoxious aspect of this little misadventure is that the oppo talking points were so bad. There was nothing in there that would a. stick, b. not blowback, or c. sway voters. The "arguments" were:
- John McCain was the first choice [blowback];
- Edwards isn't experienced [blowback];
- John Edwards is a trial lawyer [no cost at polls];
- John Edwards is liberal [won't stick].
So today, the media is saying nice things about Edwards. Wilgoren of the NYT may have a crush, and other NYT reporting is decent. Atrios definitely does. The LA Times has a nice piece, as does the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, and so on. These stories should have come out on Wednesday.
MSNBC reports on a poll showing that Edwards helps the ticket [Princeton Survey]; Reuters reports on a different poll showing the same thing [CNN].
Here's what we should have done: when Kerry sent out his e-mailed announcement, he should have included a link to talking points, rebuttal points, and polls, all showing how Edwards would help the ticket. The talking points should be aggressive but positive, and should pre-empt conservative arguments. Things like: Edwards brings intelligence (intelligent?) experience to the ticket; Edwards increases voice for powerless; Campaign realizes it will upset business, but Edwards is best man for job; etc.