Political communicators work day and night to control everything about political events. The stagecraft. The music. The tempo. The supporting cast. The wardrobe. The make-up. The messaging. The media coverage.
But there is one thing that seems to be increasingly difficult for political handlers to control. The audience.
At this phase of the campaign cycle, the Republican frontrunners’ campaigns are doing their best to win partisan primary and caucus voters without spooking less partisan and zealous General Election voters watching TV coverage of events. It’s a tricky balancing act under any circumstances, and the audiences at Republicans events are making it much more difficult.
The boisterous zealots bellowing forth at nationally televised Republican events are diverting attention from the front-runners’ carefully focus group tested messaging, and instead making the candidates look bloodthirsty…
These candidates look extreme by association. These are not the warm and fuzzy images that the political handlers strive to create. Long after background flags are returned to the rental company, these Gladiator-esque reactions of the Republican crowd are what many of us remember about the moment.
A winning Republican formula in the past has been to run candidates with warm-feeling personalities to mask the harsh impact of the conservative policies they support. Reagan, Pawlenty, McCain and Romney are among those who played that game especially well. But the discordant chorus at Republican events is taking the sheen off the frontrunners’ carefully managed nice guy images.
This is not an insignificant issue for political communicators in the age of extreme political polarization. If I were a Republican spin savant, I’d be spending less time obsessing about the size of the candidates’ flag pin decal, and more time on crowd control.