Screening can ensure adoring audiences
Monday, August 16, 2004
Darrel Rowland , Alan Johnson and Mark Niquette
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
When John Kerry comes to Steubenville for a town hall meeting Friday,
anybody can get tickets until the place is full.
When George W. Bush traveled to Columbus earlier this month for an
"Ask President Bush" session, admission was limited primarily to
staunch Republican supporters.
Ohio has been inundated with visits from the presidential candidates
this year, and these two examples illustrate the contrasting styles of
the Bush and Kerry campaigns as they try to pry loose the Buckeye
State's 20 elect***votes.
Of course, the contestants are making their pitch not only to those
attending the events, but also to a much broader audience of
television viewers watching carefully prearranged camera angles of
candidates in front of strategically placed backdrops.
Although both presidential candidates travel with heavy security, Bush
visits are more tightly controlled with limited access to the general
The Kerry camp is much less picky about who can attend and has on
occasion paid the price when protesters attempted to disrupt the
Massachusetts senator's appearances.
Should voters care about the difference?
"I think it does matter because John Kerry wants to have the
opportunity to listen to all kinds of voters in Ohio," said Jennifer
Palmieri, his Ohio campaign spokeswoman.
"We're not going to win this state if we just turn out Democrats.
We're trying to move undecided voters. . . . It's our belief that
undecided voters have already made up their minds about George Bush,
and now they want to know more about John Kerry."
Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said the president's events are
small by design, such as his Aug. 5 appearance before 2,500 supporters
at the Aladdin Shrine Temple.
"If you look at Franklin County alone, we have 5,000 volunteers. We
distributed tickets to everybody who wanted to see the president,
volunteers on the campaign who've worked hard knocking on doors and
stuffing envelopes. The tickets went very quickly," Madden said.
"It seems the Kerry campaign has a really tough time building crowds.
They do their ticket distribution publicly. You can download a ticket
on the Internet. We actually have to turn people away."
(hahahahahahahahahah- now that's a goodie...jesus!)
Palmieri, noting Kerry has attracted 20,000 people to some of his
rallies, said, "If all you're concerned about is making sure your guy
looks good on TV, their strategy works.
"I think they're afraid of a real engagement on the issues. I think
when President Bush comes to Ohio, it's like he's a president from a
Paul Beck, chairman of the Political Science Department at Ohio State
University, said each side is trying to play to its candidate's
***"Bush is very scripted and always has been been. His advisers, going
back to his gubernatorial campaign, don't want him to speak
extemporaneously," Beck said.****
"That's not a strength for Kerry either, but he's more comfortable
In addition, the Bush campaign, having gone through the 2000 election,
is a team of veterans, Beck said.
He also noted built-in differences.
"A president is different than a presidential candidate. The president
commands more security and more careful scheduling and screening.
That's clearly the case here."
Even so, when a campaign limits access too much, the public can get a
skewed opinion of the candidate, Beck said.
"If the general public sees that, they're put off by it," he said. " .
. . People don't like to feel they're manipulated."
Several reports have surfaced recently about tight controls at Bush
In New Mexico, supporters at an appearance by Vice President***
Cheney were forced to sign a loyalty oath.
In Phoenix, an official from the Kerry campaign was denied admittance
to a Bush speech even though she had a ticket.
During Bush's Columbus visit this month, a select group of people was
chosen to ask him questions, many of which were prearranged. The
participants included Phil Derrow, the president of Ohio Transmission
Corp. who also hosted a May 21 event with U.S. Treasury Secretary
John W. Snow.
At a Dayton appearance by Cheney last week, the invited audience of
1,000 people included veterans, firefighters and "favorable friends of
the campaign," said Carl Wick, Dayton area coordinator for the
Screening by the Bush campaign and Montgomery County Republican Party
ensured Cheney would have a respectful, enthusiastic audience free
from distractions and hecklers.
During Cheney's July 3 bus trip through northeastern Ohio, all aspects
were tightly controlled. The main event, a rally in Parma, was an
ticket-only affair. At a stop later in downtown Lisbon, only
supporters were told about the event beforehand.
In contrast, when Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of
North Carolina, appeared at their first campaign rally together July 7
in Cleveland, it was held in a downtown park open to the public.
As usual, local Democrats and Kerry campaign supporters got special
tickets to get in the gated area closest to the stage that day, but a
crowd estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000 braved threatening skies
and stood in line to go through security screening to fill out the
rest of the space in the park.
Perhaps because of the Kerry campaign's greater openness, hecklers
frequently show up at his events. During an April 6 stop in
Cincinnati, for example, a couple dozen people started clapping
flip-flop sandals together during his speech as a reminder of his
alleged changes in position on several issues.
At a June 15 rally in Westgate Park on the Hilltop, demonstrators in a
nearby house played the theme song from the old television show
Flipper so loudly that many in the audience couldn't hear Kerry.
Lately, however, the Democratic campaign has been trying to turn the
tables on the protesters. At a July 31 visit by Kerry and Edwards to
Wheeling, W.Va., Edwards used a relatively minor disruption in the
crowd to deplore the negativity in the presidential campaign.
"Aren't you sick of it?" he said to loud cheers.
Save America - Defeat Bush!