Last week we conducted an interview with Brian Jones, Managing Director at Mercury Public Affairs. Thanks to Mr. Jones for taking time out of his busy work day to speak with us.
We'd originally planned on distilling the interview into a single post but with the large amount of good material, we decided to post the transcript in its entirety (divided in 3 because we know at least half of our readers are ADD/ADHD). This is part 1.
Thanks also to Liz Mair, Online Communications Director at the RNC for making all the arrangements.
OL&L: First off, would you mind giving a quick bio?
Brian Jones: Sure. I’m currently a managing director at Mercury Public Affairs where I deal with a number of corporate clients, some political clients. I was previously communications director for the John McCain for President Campaign earlier last year till some challenges arose. I was communications director at the Republican National Committee during the 2006 cycle. I was a senior communication advisor to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. Before that I worked for Mercury Public Affairs as their Vice President of Polling and Advertising. I ran the research operation at the NRCC during the 2002 cycle and worked on host of local, state, and national political campaigns and some public relations work along the way.
OL&L: Where did you receive your academic training?
Brian Jones: I was an undergrad at the University of Massachusetts which isn’t necessarily known for producing for Republicans. I did graduate work and got a Master’s degree at the University of Washington.
OL&L: The first thing we wanted to ask you about is something we’ve discussed amongst my politically minded friends. We’ve been trying to understand the appeal of the Democratic candidates. We contrast this, of course, with those of us who are Republican voters. We get into the nitty gritty of their politics, policies, their background and experience. But when we ask our liberal friends to describe to us why they’re voting for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, they have a real tough time. Could you provide some insight into the appeal of either of them or maybe into how voters are able to distinguish the one from the other?
Brian Jones: Good question. They’ve been attacking each other non-stop for the last month plus. But they’re not that different. Their proposals would result in higher taxes, larger government and weakened national security. One of the things that’s interesting about Hillary is that she is saying there will be no new bureaucracy with her health care plan. That’s a little like saying, I’ve got news for you: the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus really do exist. It’s just not true.
I think the appeal is a couple of things: one is, Democrats are obviously motivated by seven years of a Republican in the White House. They’ve got this baseline of motivation right now that the party out of power often ends up feeling. I do think people underestimate the Republican turnout effort—what you’re going to end up seeing in 2008. Democrats were motivated in 2004. Ultimately Republicans turned out in better numbers than did the Democrats.
There does seem to be this kind of split among Democrats. There are two different camps right now. Obviously Obama is the more transformational/change type candidate. People are flocking to him because of the aura around him. He is still someone who has voted Democrat 95% of the time. He’s got the most liberal ranking in the National Journal which is quite a feat, because the Senate also has Bernie Sanders who is a self-described Socialist from Vermont. I think what you’re seeing now is people project onto Obama this desire for change. He is a strong order, he comes across as very likeable. So I think it’s kind of an image thing with Obama as much as anything else, because the substance and the background isn’t really there.
Then you have the status quo branch of the Democratic Party going with Hillary Clinton. They’re going more with the known quantity, maybe someone who’s not as interesting or inspiring, but someone who you think you know what you’re going to get with her. Being potentially the first woman President has some appeal too.
What I think is interesting is that Clinton has done a good job of courting more blue collar voters. I’m not sure how that will all flesh out or exactly what it means, but it does seem that she may offer a bit more substance than Barack. But with both of them, it does seem that they are more image candidates than substantive candidates.
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