We ran across an interesting story in Politico today detailing a somewhat-unconventional communications strategy being employed by the campaign of Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. In short, Warren’s campaign is making a conscious decision to disengage from the standard practice of returning fire on all fronts:
Her surrogates and campaign aides aren’t going on cable TV to defend her — even as her rivals and their aides are constantly on shows bashing her. Warren advisers haven’t taken to Twitter to shape “the conversation.” There’ve been no statements from Warren HQ calling out rivals by name. Even when former Vice President Joe Biden portrayed Warren as an out-of-touch elitist — while he was attending a fundraiser with real estate moguls, offering the corruption-focused Warren a freebie rebuttal — the campaign kept quiet.
The only response of note to the elitist charge was a subtweet the Warren campaign posted Wednesday with a video about her humble upbringing and challenges as a young mother.
The campaign’s refusal to engage this week has baffled rival campaigns and some Democratic strategists. But it’s not an outlier. Internally, communications director Kristen Orthman refers to the approach as “blinders and bulletin board” — as in, put your blinders on to the horserace drama and stick your retorts on a bulletin board rather than tweeting them out. (Orthman has an actual bulletin board on which she also posts critical stories about Warren as a motivation tool.)
“Fighting on Twitter most of the time does not advance our goals,” said one campaign official in explaining Warren’s refusal to follow “The War Room” ethos that political campaigns have hewed to for decades. In short: All attacks must be publicly returned, and then some.
Warren’s communications strategy is baffling to the likes of James Carville, the longtime Democratic political consultant who popularized the idea of a campaign “war room” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for President.
“There is much more to be lost in attacking fellow Democrats than there is to be gained for a news cycle or two.”
— Unnamed Democratic strategist quoted in Politico (11/8/19)
Warren is polling well and raising good money for her campaign, so this strategy of not engaging in a tit-for-tat with her opponents is a decision she has the luxury to make at the moment; candidates who are struggling on both fronts may not feel as though they have the same sort of choice. If Warren loses ground in the next month or two, of course, then this strategy could go out the window.
We certainly agree that it makes sense to not get stuck responding to the story of the day on a regular basis, and it’s hard to argue that Warren’s decisions haven’t been paying off to this point. Critics will argue that a candidate must always be on the offensive against a potential opponent like President Trump, but perhaps not engaging in Trumpian distractions is exactly the correct way to deal with his vitriol.
Overall, we’re a bit undecided on this approach. What say you, Polsters?