Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the "Contract with America"

By John B. Bader | Go to book overview

7
Familiar Strategies, New Faces:
The "Contract with America"

The unveiling of the "Contract with America" was an impressive exercise in logistics. Briefing papers and memos from the Republican leadership and the Republican National Committee reveal an operation that was carefully organized and precisely implemented. Staff members to the Republican National Congressional Campaign, many on loan from leadership offices, had set up a "Command Center" at the RNCC offices two blocks from the Capitol to coordinate candidate training, event rehearsals, press briefings, electronic media links, and celebratory receptions. Every participant had two bound volumes to help in understanding the purpose of the event and to answer any hostile questions concerning their involvement and the Contract itself. Even the weather had cooperated. It rained all night as workers struggled to complete construction, but the clouds parted in time to create a "picture-perfect" fall day.

Indeed, Republicans catered the September 27, 1994, event to suit the needs of the picture-taking media. Organizers had decided how many television cameras were needed (nine, it turns out) and where they should be placed. Candidates were instructed to remove their name badges after leaving the buses that shuttled them from the Grand Hyatt hotel. "The camera shots on the evening news," they were told in a memo, "will look much better without the distraction" of such badges. Press secretaries wearing red "Contract with America" hats stood by to answer questions from candidates or the media. Participants signed the Contract in four lines, each with its own still camera to catch the moment for the election campaign. Press "packets" had been prepared to give members of the media an overview of the event, a copy of the Contract, candidate biographies, lists of signing members, and locations for getting copies of the bills. Staff members let TV stations know how to get the event off of a satellite by providing the specific transponder, downlink frequency, and "horizontal polarity." And the RNC was ready to use videotape from the event to produce "donut spots," political commercials with stock footage surrounding a candidate's individual message.

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