Monday, October 25, 2004

A Few More GOP Insider Interview Items

I seem to be developing a pattern. After launching into a big blog project, like the GOP insider interview this past weekend, I have tons of ideas but have a very hard time focusing on just one or two and getting them out. I wish I was able to write in short pithy little comments like Instapundit more often. But my mind doesn’t work like that. Anyway…

There were a few things in the interview I cut, not because they were sensitive or secret, but because I didn’t quite know what to do with them. They were offered as sort of background information to help us make sense of where some of his answers were coming from. But since they seemed to get off-track from my questions, I removed them.

I’ll use this post to share a couple of them, as well as some of my thoughts about them.

One of the things raised in the context of explaining his answer to another question was the notion of “smoke filled rooms.”

Source: The smoke-filled room still exists on many levels. … In that sense the political movies are correct. These rooms do exist. There’s not a lot of cigar puffing going on anymore. Most people don’t smoke anymore. But the philosophy is the same. This is the way candidates are chosen. Years in advance. [He gave an example of one current candidate who destroyed his political future in the party by “pulling some stunt” in his current election race. And then a couple of examples of currently undeclared, yet already “chosen” candidates.]. This is how a healthy party operates.

I’m not sure how people would feel about this “smoke filled room” stuff if it was more publically known. Our source made it clear that this is true for Democrats as well as Republicans. He also made it clear that it is still ultimately up to the grassroots to decide to get behind the candidate or not in the caucuses and primary. This called to mind a couple of incidents where the grassroots did indeed revolt against the party’s preference (the caucus endorsement of Alan Quist over sitting Governor Carlson, and the caucus and primary endorsement and election of Michele Bachman, over the Republican incumbent for State Senate from her district).

I guess on a gut level, I know most people would hate this arrangement if it was publically acknowledged. All the good reasons in the world would not make these things popular. They seem anti-Democratic. That’s why they’re unofficial, and off the record.

Not that I think they should or even could be abolished. All they really amount to are the private communications among influential party members. Call it a smoke-filled room, or a Christmas Party with an exclusive guest list. People are free to associate, free to form opinions, and free to agree about whom they want to support. Anyone else is free to disagree. But one of the things that makes these “smoke-filled rooms” work, is that the price of membership seems to be that you are someone of great influence, meaning you’re able to swing a lot of votes to the candidate of your preference.

This reminds me a bit of the way the blogosphere works. Kind of a natural aristocracy, where the big guys at the top influence the attention and opinions of those who read them, and that filters down all the way to very small local cells – official or unofficial groups of local bloggers who work together. No wonder a political wonk like Hugh took to the blogosphere like a duck to water. It really is more like the way a political party operates than the way the Big Media does.

Another little item from the interview was about the “October Surprise.”

Source: In the last 6 to 10 days the Democrats will come out with something. A big surprise or revelation on Bush. They already know what it is, they’re just holding off until either the weekend, or first part of the week. Every year it happens. You can predict within a four day period when it will come out.”

Scott: Any idea what it is?

Source: I don’t care what it is. We just know it will happen.

Two aspects of this mildly surprised me. The first was the absolute certainty in his tone about this. This wasn’t a matter of guessing a move in political chess for him. It was an established pattern, observed often enough that it has simply become an expectation.

One thought that occurs in regard to that is that if the campaign knows this with certainty, because it happens every time, so does the media. And yet every time they play along. That’s not responsible journalism. That’s consciously acting as a campaign tool. Factor that in when listening to the snooty shots the scions of "integrity" in the Big Media (*cough* Nick Coleman *cough*) take at bloggers.

The other thing that was interesting about this is how blasé he was about it. He truly didn’t care what the story was. And as I thought about it, I realized why. It’s a pattern. That means they have already accounted for the impact in their polling models. They expect the surprise. They expect it to work. They believe they know how many points its good for in the polls. And they expect Bush to win anyway.

An interesting twist on this comes to mind. The media model is different this election than in 2000. The blogosphere has already distorted the way the media normally impacts elections. Will the blogosphere play a similar wild-card effect on the coming surprise? And if so, will that be to give the surprise more impact, or less?


Blogger pinkmonkeybird said...

Re: The Oct. Surprize.
The al Qaqaa story would fit the bill to some degree. But it may already be fizzling out as more facts come in. This story doesn't seem to be personal enough or powerful enough (even had the original NYTimes account been more accurate than NBCs follow-up.)
A good October Surprize should be personal and closely associated with the target on that level. For instance, a damning religious story, suggesting that President Bush thinks that God "spoke" to him. That would carry some resonance and might cause damage, imho.

But the problem for the attackers is that not only is this President known to the electorate, but the Democrats are known for their lies and slanders. For those reasons, I think the OS would not be effective enough....unless it were more damning that I can imagine.

11:27 AM  

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