politics

Public Relations in the Time of Politics

At this point in the political cycle a decade ago, I would have asked what role, if any, public relations would play in the upcoming Presidential election. Today, I simply ask myself how big a role public relations can be expected to play. I can answer that question very simply too – huge.  Public Relations (PR) is already playing a huge role and not all the candidates have declared yet. We currently have 15 declared candidates, only four of whom are Democrats.

The candidates’ scramble to assemble that PR dream team began close to six months ago. By now, some of the best and the brightest of our colleagues have been locked-in for the duration, or at least locked-in until the primaries are over.

Here are the main candidates who have declared they are running. I’m including Jeb Bush in this round-up, because, come on! We all know he’s going to run for President of the United States. Jeb was in the news this past week because there’s already been a big shake-up on his team. David Kochel was replaced by Danny Diaz as campaign manager. Not to mention that the big donors are not lining up behind Bush as he had expected them to.

Democrats – Declared Republicans – Declared
Lincoln Chafee Jeb Bush
Hillary Clinton Ben Carson
Martin O’Malley Ted Cruz
Bernie Sanders Carly Fiorina
Lindsey Graham
Mike Huckabee
George Pataki
Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Marco Rubio
Rick Santorum

Here are the Democratic candidates’ main campaign selections

To serve on their respective teams:

Candidate Staff
Lincoln Chafee Jonathan Stevens, Debbie Rich, Kenny Alston
Hillary Clinton Cheryl Mills, Minyon Moore, Jake Sullivan, Maura Pally, Dan Schwerin
Martin O’Malley Bill Hyers, Steve Kearny
Bernie Sanders Tad Devine

Here are the Republican candidates’ main campaign selections

To serve on their respective teams:

Candidate Staff
Jeb Bush Sally Bradshaw, Mike Murphy, Danny Diaz, Jack Oliver, Josh Venable, Kristy Campbell
Ben Carson Barry Bennett, Doug Watts, Ed Brookover, G. Michael Brown, Ruth Sherlock, Ryan Rhodes
Ted Cruz Jeff Roe, Chad Sweet, Nick Muzin, Jason Johnson, Victoria Coates, Catherine Frazier, Jason Miller, Josh Perry, Austen Furse, Mark P. Campbell, Rick W. Tyler
Carly Fiorina Sarah Isgur
Mike Huckabee Alice Stewart, Bob Wickers, Bryan Sanders, Chad Gallagher, Chip Saltsman, Hogan Gidley, Sarah Huckabee Sanders
George Pataki Vincent Balascio
Rand Paul A. J. Spiker, Chip Englander, Chris LaCivita, Doug Stafford, Jesse Benton, John Tate, John Yob, Michael Biundo, Steve Grubbs, Steve Munisteri, Vincent Harris
Rick Perry Jeff Miller, Henry Barbour, Rob Johnson, Terry Nelson, Rob Jesmer
Marco Rubio Alex Conant, J. Warren Tompkins, Jack Whityer, Jessica Ennis, Jim Merrill, Mark Hutchison, Norman Braan, Rich Beeson, Terry Sullivan, Todd Harris
Rick Santorum Terry Allen, Jessica Colon, Matt Benyon, John Brabender, Jon Parker, Nadine Maenza

That is a lot of high octane public relations professionals in politics. What could possibly be the perceived need from a candidate’s point of view for this level of PR representation? The only answer to that is that it’s very much an individual perception of need. Let’s look at a few of the big-name candidates. Let’s try to look past the spit and polish of the Presidential 2016 faces we are seeing today.

Hillary Clinton definitely needs all the PR power she can assemble, and she has a good team. Why does she need that team?  She is aware that she is perceived as being the ultimate Washington insider, and although her past, present and future have been endlessly picked over, the worry is always present that something new will pop up. Her main hurdle remains her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Jeb Bush has a seemingly insurmountable mountain ahead of him. Both his father and brother are past Presidents, neither especially popular during or after their tenure. Jebya must be aware that the electorate may not be ready for a Dynasty re-run. His best PR person could be his wonderful mother, Barbara. His main hurdle remains his brother, former President George W. Bush.

Rick Perry is a conundrum. It’s difficult to understand why he’s running, given his performance in the 2012 Presidential stakes. His most memorable word from that campaign is “OOPS!”  He gave a speech earlier this month during which he perspired so heavily that the sweat poured down his face, drawing immediate and unwelcome comparisons to former President Richard Nixon. His main hurdle remains former Governor Rick Perry!

Marco Rubio is in similar state of distress. He is aware that few voters will ever forget that glass of water, and adding to his discomfort, he must know that no amount of PR is going to make those traffic violations go away. In February 2013, Rubio gave the official Republican Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Eleven minutes in, he suffered a Nixonian collapse into panic, sweat, and an urgent need for water. Add to that his traffic violations, and his lack of personal finance savvy, he remains his own main hurdle.

What a very interesting collection of politicians we have, each running for the highest public office in the nation. In turn, each of them has a very interesting collection of PR, communications and campaign staff on their respective teams.  I, for one, look forward to my colleagues’ presentations of their candidates, as I await the coming of the 2016 Presidential Messiah! At the end of the day, we will be able to discuss which player had the most powerful and politically effective public relations representation.

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