When Will We Learn?

If there’s one thing that the Republicans excel at (besides their reverse Robin Hood programs), it’s communications. They are the ones who named a program that eviscerates Constitutional rights the Patriot Act. They came up with the term “pro-life” as if those of us who support a woman’s right to choose are “pro-death.”

On the other hand, Democrats are not as adept in the communications arts. This was profoundly evident today in how they handled the response to Governor Christie’s budget address.

As is the custom, following the Governor’s address, Democratic leadership gathered in a conference room adjacent to the Assembly chamber to deliver their “rebuttal.” Right after today’s budget address, Speaker Sheila Oliver, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, and Assembly Budget Chair Vincent Prieto all took to the microphone to deliver nearly identical pro forma statements on what they heard. They were given air time on NJTV, and as soon as they were done, the station cut back to cartoon programming.

All of the Democratic leaders are up for re-election this year, and they undoubtedly covet the free air time. But what they fail to understand is that there is also a statewide election this year which is more important than any single legislative seat. The outcome of the gubernatorial race will have a profound impact, especially on lower and middle class New Jerseyans.

When I questioned a Democratic state party official as to why Senator Barbara Buono was not behind the podium, I was told that this was the Assembly response and that Buono would deliver the Senate response. If so, then I applaud Senate President Sweeney for relinquishing the podium, but the Democrats’ approach is still festering like an open sore.

I don’t know if Senator Buono had the opportunity to deliver that rebuttal because NJTV resumed its cartoon programming immediately after the Assembly members spoke. (NJTV didn’t even have the courtesy to carry the Q&A from that session).

What the Democratic establishment needs to realize is that as the nominee of the party, Senator Buono is now the de facto leader and spokesperson for the party. The Democratic leadership should be smart enough to realize that NJTV’s coverage of live political events is woefully inadequate, and if they wanted to have separate Senate and Assembly responses, they should have put Senator Buono behind the podium first, while NJTV was still on the air.

Better yet, the legislative leadership should have put their egos and re-election campaigns on the back burner and given Senator Buono prominence in the response to the Governor. I have many well-informed liberal friends who are not political junkies, and many have not yet heard of Senator Buono or don’t know what she stands for. Governor Christie will have millions of dollars of out-of-state special interest money to spread his half-truths. Senator Buono won’t have the same magnitude of resources. Any “free” air time that becomes available, like today’s rebuttal, must be ceded to our gubernatorial candidate to help her get her message out. And the Democratic leadership should understand that their political fortunes depend on this, too.

Update: I was just informed by an NJTV producer that Senator Buono’s response will be carried on tonight’s 6PM NJTV program, too late to be included in the commercial stations’ early evening newscasts. Hopefully it will be more than a 3 minute segment.

Comments (3)

  1. JackHarris

    There appears to be no systematic approach to messaging that is integrated with available channels and platforms by NJ Democrats.

    And it’s much more than having a snappy Twitter soundbite.

    It starts with an assessment of the overall political landscape, demographic characteristics of the electorate ranging from likely voters to people we need to mobilize, news and media consumption of said electorate and even prosaic issues like the range of drive times for NJ citizens.

    How much time are NJ residents actually spending in their car? That significantly impacts how much and what they hear.

    For instance, I listened to the budget speech on 101.5 on my drive from the shore region to New Brunswick yesterday because it was the best source.

    Then I got to listen to news from Town Hall Media 🙂

    And 101.5 is also the best source for NJ traffic when you are driving in NJ.

    We can dispute their framing, but they do provide great public services.

    The same goes for train commuters. What’s our strategy to reach them via social media? What’s our manageable ask?

    But it doesn’t seem NJ Dems consider these issues in our communications planning and strategy.

    I think it’s time the state party and/or the legislative offices bite the bullet and hire a senior regional communications person or HQ deputy off of the Obama campaign.

  2. Bill Orr

    spoil the moment. And since the budget is complex and had just been made available, our leaders had little they could say.  

    Fortunately, Barbara Buono did a good job on NJTV and had a chance to reach the evening audience.  


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