Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Conference Calls Are the New Press Conferences

The Politico reports on the Clinton campaign's increasing use of conference calls:

The culture of campaign conference calls began in 2007 with former Sen. John Edwards' presidential campaign, where top aides Joe Trippi and Jonathan Prince used them to make the candidate's attacks and his messages—often in danger of being drowned out by his superstar rivals—easily accessible to the scattered pack of national political reporters.

"It clearly gives a campaign the ability at the drop of a hat to drive a message across the press corps," Prince said. . . .

The [Howard] Wolfson [Hillary Clinton's communications director] symposia began after Clinton came reeling out of her Iowa defeat with a new message: She, unlike Obama, would be willing to take hard questions and hold regular news conferences. Her aides amplified that demonstration of transparency with the increasingly frequent, and increasingly lengthy, conference calls.

The calls are freewheeling, and news pops unpredictably. They've also been, for the past month, the chief vehicle for getting inside the media's head. Instead of having to address one reporter at a time, Wolfson can efficiently—and regularly—berate a virtual classroom of 200.

"Every time the Obama campaign in this campaign has attacked Sen. Clinton in the worst kind of personal ways, attacked her veracity, attacked her credibility, said that she would say or do anything to get elected, the press has largely applauded him," he complained on Feb. 8, priming the media for the backlash that ensued weeks later when Obama had to fend off questions about NAFTA, Samantha Power and Saturday Night Live.

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