Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

Currently: 45° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Harry Reid, Sharron Angle campaigns aggressively using time in media spotlight

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

Angle opposes insurance mandates

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle was roundly criticized when a recording surfaced last week of her talking candidly about her strategy of using appearances on conservative media outlets to raise money.

However, it’s not just in interviews with like-minded media that Angle slips in the line that has helped net her more than $3 million since the primary: “Harry Reid needs $25 million. I need a million people to send $25 to SharronAngle.com.”

In the recording, first reported by Sun columnist Jon Ralston, Angle brags about her haul from interviews with conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. “When I said it (the line) on Sean Hannity’s television show, we made $40,000 before we even got out of the studio in New York. It was just (great).”

The admission prompted a flurry of news releases from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign, accusing Angle of viewing “the media as her personal ATM.”

Although it was Angle’s media strategy that was being dissected in this instance, the episode also revealed Reid’s strategy of aggressively using the press in a different way to further his campaign.

It’s not a new tactic for campaigns to try to harness for their purposes the unwieldy beast that is the American media, but Nevada’s U.S. Senate candidates have taken it to new heights in different ways.

Angle uses the interviews she grants — and those granted to mainstream media outlets have been few and far between this campaign — to raise money. Reid, on the other hand, has used his formidable campaign war chest to build an unprecedented communications staff who work relentlessly to steer the narrative of the campaign.

Reid’s campaign staff pitch, leak, cajole and finagle stories into mainstream newspapers and television broadcasts that match what they’ve designated as the message of the week. Then they respond in rapid-fire fashion when Angle launches an attack.

“Sen. Reid has arguably the best communications program that I’ve ever seen on a campaign,” Republican consultant Ryan Erwin said. “Without hesitation he has the most aggressive team. They are ruthless and tough and on the ball and fast and smart. And most of those are compliments.”

Take the recent controversy over Angle’s criticism of mandates for the treatment of autism in a months-old video released by Democrats.

Within hours of that story breaking, the Reid campaign had issued two news releases. That number grew to six in the following days. Those releases and other efforts by the campaign stoked a growing chorus of criticism from autism advocates in Nevada and across the nation.

The Reid campaign also borrows the credibility of longtime Nevada journalists to back up many of its attacks against Angle, using footage from newscasts in paid television ads.

But Reid’s need for an aggressive earned media strategy goes deeper than the traditional campaign.

“When you’re in trouble, which he is, you need to use every resource you’ve got,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a political communications expert at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not so much, what’s the advantage of (a strong communications team), it’s you have to play every card you’ve got. And on the margin, the media matters.”

With a negative rating from voters in the mid-50s, Reid also has a credibility problem that he needs to neutralize.

“The problem is if you are unpopular as he is, it’s hard to put Reid out there as the messenger,” Jamieson said.

Almost a year ago, Reid went on air with positive biographical ads in an effort to flip his unfavorable rating. It didn’t work.

“He couldn’t move his numbers because he wasn’t a credible messenger about himself,” Erwin said. “Whether it’s using the media, or the Jim Murrens of the world, he’s using third parties to validate him because voters don’t believe he’s a credible messenger for himself.”

(MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren is a longtime supporter of Reid’s and has been used in his television ads.)

Jim Murren

Jim Murren

The Reid campaign wouldn’t disclose how many paid staff members it has dedicated to communications. Nor does he detail job descriptions or titles on campaign finance reports.

But at least four staff members are responsible for sending out news releases and arranging interviews.

The staff also aggressively use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media to get their message out.

The campaign denies its strategy is to find a more credible messenger than Reid.

“The main thing for us on the earned media strategy is getting as much information about (Angle) out as quickly as we can for voters using every platform they use to get their news,” spokesman Jon Summers said.

Analysts said Angle’s strategy of using the media for fundraising is a smart one. As the opponent of the Democratic Senate majority leader, Angle is able to tap into a well of discontent across the country to help pay for her campaign.

“There’s not enough money in Nevada for her to win,” Erwin said.

Angle has made the use of media interviews to raise money an art form.

Jamieson, who has spent decades analyzing political communication, said it’s unusual for a candidate to be as explicit as Angle is in asking for money, but not unheard of. George McGovern, a presidential candidate in 1972, relied on lengthy commercials to raise money.

“It isn’t a common strategy, nor does the news usually let you get away with it,” she said.

Countering the perception that Angle only talks to conservative media outlets, Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen said that in recent weeks she has spoken to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, ABC News, NBC News and local reporters.

“We do interviews to reach voters,” he said in an e-mail. “The more voters hear Sharron’s message, the more they want to support her. People all over the country have waited for this chance to defeat Harry Reid and they want to know how they can help Sharron.”

Angle isn’t the only one using the strategy. Tea Party candidates seeking to capitalize on anti-incumbent furor across the country are also nationalizing their races. Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware are working national fundraising strategies.

Jamieson noted that Angle runs the danger of also raising money for Reid when she issues a pitch during a mainstream media interview that could reach Reid supporters.

“The danger is you activate the other side,” she said. “Viewers might see Harry Reid is in trouble, she’s not qualified and respond by sending Reid a check.”

Jamieson noted Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin had that effect on Obama supporters during the 2008 presidential race.

But Erwin said this race is different. Voters outside Nevada can’t vote for president or against those in charge of Congress this year. But they can send Angle money, he said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 11 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. One positive vote from a Junior Senator is better than a bad vote by a powerful Senator.

  2. Why don't Harry Reid go to China with the rest of his MGM friends and casino boys?

  3. Personally, I hope that Angle squanders every penny of the Republicants money. It will do her no good or any of the other of them will benefit from it either. Their propagandist ways have change to be viable.

  4. You want a Socialist Government? Vote Harry! Admittedly Angle has some rough edges that need improvement but it's better than what we have now.

  5. You'd better get used to it girls because Sharron Angle will be the next United States Senator from Nevada

  6. Hannity has been stopped by FOX from raising more at tea party events, such as the one in Cincinnati.

    He and Angle don't think much of Veterans. Hannity participating in a "needs improvement" Vets charity and Angle wanting to privatize the VA.

    Angle should give up her Government medical care and buy a private sector policy.

  7. On both sides of this Senate race, there seems to be truckloads of money coming from outside of Nevada. And there is a lot of rhetoric being flown to Nevada...in order to influence this vote. And a lot of the talk seems to be from people...who aren't from here...and won't vote here...but they sure want to effect the outcome of this Senate race.

    But like any Senate race, the outcome of it will be based upon local issues. Issues that are of importance to Nevada voters and our way of life.

    Judged upon that, this Senate race clearly favors Senator Reid getting voted back in. Because the other candidate brings nothing to the table, spouts crazy stuff, clearly aligns herself with a party that will only continue to do nothing but obstruct, repeal and vote no and she is basically....looney tunes.

    So, this policy by the Republican Party to just scream "no more Senator Reid, hate him, hate him, HATE HIM!" but not offering (nor seeming to endorse) a candidate that is worth a hill of beans...is not going to work with Nevada voters. Because all this empty "triumvirate of impending doom cabal comprised of Obama/Reid/Pelosi" talk don't cut it. Because to paint these three people who have actually accomplished alot as nefarious villains in some superhero comic book is completely psychotic propaganda. It is simply hard to believe this idiocy.

    The alternative of voting in Sharron Angle is completely unacceptable. And it is guaranteed she will take Nevada to a very, very scary place. A place we won't want to go to. Her and Ensign represent Nevada in the Senate? I shudder even at the thought of those two knuckleheads in office together representing Nevada. And I know most sane voters here want to puke at just the thought of that happening.

    It seems Sharron Angle and her nutty positions on a wide variety of subjects is driving all those outside influences completely bonkers crazy. Because they can't influence the voters here. Especially when Sharron Angle opens her mouth with another way out there in left field outlook on something or other.

    But, oh well, Karl Rove, Dick Morris, the Koch Brothers and whoever else wants to spend millions trying to prop up an unelectable candidate...I say...go for it. It will be wasted money for them, but it sure will help the economy of Las Vegas in their losing cause. Blow that money! Throw it at Nevada left and right! It's a lost cause for the neo-conservatives, but it's great for us.

    Senator Reid gets my vote. Because I want sanity. Not just empty rhetoric tea. And I know most Nevada voters feel that way too. We slam the door on the Republicans' faces again in November.

  8. pjoke says: "Reid is running on smears, and lies."

    Far from the truth. A real stretch there.

    Senator Reid has a record of outstanding achievements for Nevada. He serves us well. And has done so for a long time. And it is a very likely bet that will continue when he is voted back in.

    He don't have to rely on lies.

    And he doesn't smear neither. All he is doing is pointing out the latest idiocy that psychotic Sharron Angle blathers. It's not smear tactics when you just point out the hypocrisy of the other candidate, as well as the false promises she spouts. The fact of the matter is that Sharron Angle will tell you anything you want to hear. Especially if it gets her vote. She loves to proclaim, "Do as I say...not as I do," all the time.

    The truth of the matter is that when you pile up the fallacies and mistakes of each candidate, Sharron Angle pales in every comparison against Senator Reid.

    Like I say... I go for sanity. Not tea.

    My vote goes for Senator Reid. Because the other alternative is creepy. REALLY creepy. And Sharron Angle is counterproductive to anything anyone with half a brain who resides in Nevada wants.

  9. Of modern politics, Abe Lincoln would have said;
    "You can fool some of the people, ALL of the time"... ;^)
    -- a cool site; Balkingpoints ; incredible satellite view of earth

  10. Harry Reid isn't credible enough by himself so he's got to use big guns like MGM's CEO Jim Murren. But Murren, a Wall Street big wig isn't so popular himself with middle-class Americans. The two would make a better team in China where full-blown communism is a reality.

  11. I'd rather have a junior Senator with good, conservative ideals than a seasoned old coot who has drifted so far left he's neck deep in socialism. Reid's record shows who and what he is, which is why he runs attack and smear ads instead of running on his own record.