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March 10, 2011

Ann Coulter: Walker Fell Down In Crucial Public Relations Fight

She makes some good points.

Her belief is that this is a crucial fight with implications for the nation and its future, and while Walker did well on the substance of the policy, he failed as regards the public persuasion part of it.

She thinks Walker should have been on TV "every night" to explain this to Wisconsinites, citing government worker abuses like the one's she writes about in her latest column. Such as a bus driver making $159,000 per year (more than $100 K in overtime).

Or the rule, "negotiated" with politicians looking for union donations, that if a public employee takes a single call of even a second's duration, that employee may bill the state for a half hour of overtime pay.

So if an employee calls out sick for two days, and the boss calls to ask if she'll be at work the next day, that's a half hour of overtime.


She keeps contrasting Walker to her obvious favorite, Chris Christie, noting that Chris Christie never would have gone dark during such a crucial fight.

Here is the point she doesn't actually make but should: Republicans have gotten into a bad habit of flinching from public fights. Commenters tell me this every day, and I think they're right.

Republicans assume from the outset that they cannot win the media war as the media itself is too biased against them to even get their words out, and that the natural stupidity of the American people makes them suckers for the Democrats' promises of endless hand-outs and Buy Now, Pay Later funding schemes.

Because they assume this is a losing proposition, they give up this fight far too early, and begin looking for ways around public opinion. Rather than taking the more direct and ultimately much more effective route of moving public opinion.

Republicans are right that this is a hard game to win. Of course the media -- the "refs" -- call every possible penalty on them (making up new ones on the fly) while letting the Democrats get away with bloody murder. And of course there is something to the idea that a people who have grown fat and flabby with government blandishments will tend to crave more of that.

But it's not true that it's an unwinnable fight. Furthermore, a strong public communications shop can turn a loss into a narrow loss -- if Walker is losing by 20 points on this issue, of course it is better to only lose by 8 points. Even if in some cases you are doomed to lose, it does in fact make a big difference that you only lose by a bit.

There is one advantage of constantly making your case to the public: If you do so, you send the signal that you have nothing to hide. That you're being honest and believe utterly in what you're saying. Hiding from the public and not engaging in the media fight sends the opposite signal.

I don't know if Coulter is right in this specific case as I frankly do not know how much Walker has been on TV. I imagine she's right in that he could have been on a lot more. And he could have made tougher arguments.

But the point is important as a general matter even if you think it doesn't apply to Walker.

But... It occurs to me that I have really liked Walker's grown-up, calm, more-in-sorrow-than-anger demeanor in his public statements, and I think Coulter is wrong, specifically, if she's suggesting a more aggressive slash-and-burn sort of style for him.

I really think it's very important to pursue a strong, principled ideological agenda while not appearing very ideological at all, and definitely not partisan.

Now I think Walker could have gotten out the sort of facts Coulter is talking about without losing that good demeanor. And I don't know if she's suggesting he become more combative-appearing. As Whoopie Goldberg might say, there is a difference between combative and combative-combative.

But as we're on the topic of Walker's performance, perhaps he wasn't on TV enough, perhaps he was talking too much about procedure and not enough about the important substance of these changes, but his measured demeanor was a good thing.

Ann's Wrong? H. Badger (ahem) says--

Walker has been on State TV and radio CONSTANTLY. That the East Coast Media doesn't like the way he goes about the business its not our problem.

It is obviously true that someone not in Wisconsin will have a limited idea of the media war that went on in Wisconsin. Outside the state, we only heard what the media transmitted.

Still, this was a major story on radio and on the internet; if there was a great deal more of the public persuasion campaign, wouldn't I have seen more of it?

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posted by Ace at 11:31 AM

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