In the wake of his latest public relations debacle in April, Sean Eldridge’s Congressional campaign put out a call for applicants to serve as an “experienced, energetic Communications Director to manage the campaign's day-to-day operations of press strategy.”
That story was first reported by the national news site Politico, whose interview requests the Eldridge’s campaign had spurned—leading to another spate of bad press in a wide range of outlets, from the Huffington Post to the Kingston Daily Freeman.
The development led to yet another satirical blast from Republicans. The GOP seized this as a fresh opportunity to highlight Eldridge’s lack of experience in running for public office, his lack of roots in the district, his overabundance of money to spend on his campaign. and other now-familiar talking points.
Leading the charge was the NRCC’s Ian Prior (himself a former Congressional campaign manager) , who drafted a fake application for the job. Prior used the tongue-in-cheek letter to highlight the GOP’s preferred bullet items: that Eldridge is his own largest campaign donor, that he’s allegedly Hudson River Ventures to curry favor in the district, that he’s bought expensive houses in different districts to “shop” for a winnable race, etc.
Gibson’s people seem to understand that in non-Presidential election cycles, these one-liners are useful (whether fair or not) for motivating the Republican base to turn out—and for helping to dampen Democratic enthusiasm.
Even some Democrats who would like to see the party regain control of the house have grumbled that Eldridge’s missteps are playing into Republican hands, as image and media issues allow Gibson to avoid discussion of votes which might put him out of step with the NY-19 electorate.
One p.r. problem leads to another, as even more balanced articles such as this recent Freeman report consistently highlight Republican accusations about carpetbagging and campaign finance before glancingly addressing the issues at stake.
Eldridge’s challenge now is to undo the Al Gore-ing of his campaign, even as the opposition tries to make his infinity pool into the regional equivalent of 2000’s unfair “I invented the Internet” tag on the then-Vice President.
Meanwhile, though the ad for a new Communications Director is now nearly a month old, recent press releases on Eldridge’s site continue to list the same outside p.r. rep, Morgan Hook of SDK Knickerbocker, as his primary press contact. (The Knickebocker Albany office lists only one other key staffer other than Hook, whereas its New York City office lists 20 Managing Directors, Vice Presidents and Associates.)
So while Eldridge may be belatedly realizing—less than six months from Election Day—that his campaign needs to speak more for itself, and more freely, the intended course-correction appears, like the rest of his campaign, to be a work in progress.