What The Kerry/Edwards Campaign Told The Media Today
I was given the chance just now to listen in on the weekly “Week Ahead” conference call between the Kerry/Edwards campaign and the national media. Here are some highlights:
After some opening remarks, Tad Devine and Joe Lockhart fielded questions from the media. Joe Lockhart said that the overall theme for this final week would be that we need a president who can defend the country and fight for the middle class. The final round of paid media, of which there are three final TV spots now in rotation in the swing states, will make the case that Kerry will not only fight the war on terror, he will simultaneously grow good jobs, get health care under control and deal with rising costs, and develop alternate energy sources.
Lockhart and Devine told the national media that Kerry/Edwards are in a very strong position nationally, with demonstrated strength in the battleground states, which recent polls show are leaning towards Kerry. Both made the point that unlike four years ago, the campaign has the resources and the ground operation to compete in the full range of battleground states. Both indicated that there will still be adjustments in the final week, based on what the other side does and what the last minute polls indicate. For example, according to late polls, Arkansas is now a legitimate Kerry pick-up target as the state is tied. That for example may dictate not only more resources for Arkansas, but a last minute re-entry into Missouri, as we predicted here last week. Nora O’Donnell of NBC News mentioned that a Detroit News poll out tomorrow will show that Bush has surged to a five point lead in previously safe-for-Kerry Michigan, yet Devine indicated that this poll given past Detroit News’ polls may be an outlier.
Lockhart and Devine pointed out to the media that each campaign’s media buys in the final week reveal the true state of the race in key states. It was stressed to the media that Kerry/Edwards “are in an absolutely dominant position” with their paid media buys, especially in several key states. The media was told that Kerry/Edwards are “dominating” Bush/Cheney by a 3:2 margin in paid media in Ohio and Florida for next week. Also, it appears that Bush/Cheney have scaled back their media buys in Maine and Oregon. The point was made that this is a result of choices made months ago to save resources until late in the campaign so that these adjustments can be made, unlike in 2000 where Gore had to withdraw from Ohio to make a run at Florida. This time, Kerry/Edwards will be spending more than Bush/Cheney in Ohio and Florida the final week.
Kerry will make a major speech Tuesday on homeland security, and point out what isn’t being done by Bush to make the country safer.
As for Clinton's plans this week, the campaign was rightly tight-lipped to the media about where the Big Dog would be going this week, after mentioning the already-known news that Clinton would be with Kerry Monday with Philadelphia, but it was revealed that Clinton would travel to Florida for appearances Monday night and Tuesday. Clinton will be available to travel out west towards the end of next week. It appears that Kerry/Edwards will use Clinton to nail down the critical three states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, and then use him to help pick up states out west such as Nevada and New Mexico, on the assumption that the west coast is locked up for Kerry/Edwards. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Clinton is saved for Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and perhaps Iowa over the final weekend. Lockhart and Devine had to endure the lone question from CNN, which was an inane question about whether the campaign was concerned that using Clinton would turn off swing voters. This speaks volumes about how far CNN has fallen in terms of the quality of its staff covering the race.
As for surprises and mistakes this late in the race, it was revealed that Bush made one over the weekend when in a softball interview with Sean Hannity, he allegedly undercut his whole argument lately that he unlike Kerry can keep us safe from terrorists. According to the information that Lockhart and Devine had which they shared with the media, Bush actually told Hannity that it was "up in the air" whether the government could keep people safe from terrorism. The media was told that Kerry would be jumping on that fiasco today.
As for endorsements, Lockhart and Devine noted to the media that the Orlando Sentinel endorsed their first Democrat in forty years today when they came out for Kerry. And the Bangor Daily News went for Kerry after going for Bush in 2000. In fact, Kerry has picked up the endorsements of 31 papers that went for Bush in 2000, while Bush has picked up only 2 Gore papers from the last election. And the Washington Post came out for Kerry.
Kerry/Edwards have announced the early week travel plans. On Monday, John Kerry will campaign in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Kerry will begin his day with a roundtable discussion with working women in Dover, NH before traveling to Philadelphia for a rally with special guest President Bill Clinton. Following the Philadelphia stop, Kerry will attend rallies in Warren, MI, and Green Bay, WI. As for Edwards, on Monday he will travel to Toledo, Ohio for a community gathering, and then move on to rallies in Racine, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa.
I’ll have another post later on the state of the race and the battleground states.