'Morning Joe' Brushes Aside Democratic Senate Hopeful's Campaign Plan Leak

While Chris Matthews avoided the National Review coverage of Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn’s leaked campaign strategy, the panel of Morning Joe gave the story a brief three minutes during the three-hour morning news show. MSNBC contributor Willie Geist appealed to Daily Rundown’s Chuck Todd to brush the controversy aside, stating “these plans exist on every campaign” and “it’s just that we have got one in the spotlight this morning.”

The plan in question confronted Nunn’s need to appeal to minorities in the Atlanta area, especially African Americans and Hispanics. Strategists also recommended that the Maryland native tap into the financially viable minorities, such as the “very tight” Asian community, the Jewish population that holds “tremendous financial opportunity”, and the gay community. While Todd did have enough time to compare Nunn’s strategy to “that scene in the Simpsons where Montgomery Burns starts running for governor,” the panel only chose to mention her appeal to the Jewish population.

Geist explained how the plan also pointed out Nunn’s vulnerability at having worked as CEO of Points of Light, “an organization that’s been accused of having loose ties to Hamas.” According to Todd however, “this is why you hire political consultants,” to figure out “what are her vulnerabilities and what does she have to work on, what should she be focused on, how are the Republicans going to attack her.” The panel did not delve into the content of the plan beyond agreeing, in the words of The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, that “this is the way it works these days.”

The Morning Joe panel also failed to mention the strategy’s acknowledgment of media compliance. Eliana Johnson of the National Review wrote that “they anticipate they will often have ‘fair warning’ about negative news stories and can work to ‘kill or muddy’ them.” Instead, the liberal pundits brushed aside the story just as the plan predicted.

The guests and co-hosts continued to push the report as inconsequential. According to Robinson,  it looks kind of crazy and artificial when it's all written down like this” but “ this is what candidates do and this is what political consultants do and this is what it's like to run for office these days.” The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein finished the job by declaring that “the major embarrassment might not be out for Michelle Nunn. It's just in illuminating how cynical and money driven the political process is.”

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Morning Joe
July 29, 2014
7:17 a.m. Eastern    
3 minutes and 28 seconds


WILLIE GEIST: Chuck, we want to get you in on some domestic politics here. US Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn's campaign brushing off the leak of her team’s detailed victory plan in the state of Georgia that calls for the candidate to spend 80% of her time raising money. Conservative National Review released a trove of Nunn’s internal strategy memos giving a rare glimpse inside a campaign. Her campaign highlighted what they saw as her biggest vulnerabilities including her work running the nonprofit Points of Life when IRS filing show may have provided money to an organization that’s been accused of having loose ties to Hamas. Also a memo highlighting what the campaign saw as an opportunity in the Jewish community saying, quote, “Michelle's position on Israeli were largely determined the level support there” adding that her message was “TBD.” Nunn is currently locked in a tight race with Georgia business man David Perdue. Her campaign doesn't dispute the authenticity of the document writing in a statement, quote, “This was a draft of a document that was written eight months ago. Like all good plans, they change. But what hasn’t changed and is all the more clear today is that Michelle’s opponents are going to mischaracterize her work and her positions, and part of what we’ve always done is to prepare for the false things that are going to be said.” Chuck, these plans exist on every campaign--

CHUCK TODD: Of course they do.

GEIST: It’s just that we have got one in the spotlight this morning.

TODD: Absolutely. Look. This is why you hire political consultants, you ask them, in some ways, to do due diligence on yourself– what are the vulnerabilities? And that’s what this was. This was sort of, you know, what are her vulnerabilities and what does she have to work on, what should she be focused on, how are the Republicans going to attack her. In many ways exactly what you pay a political consultant to come up with, is to, you know, look through her background and all of this stuff. And here it is. And it’s like–it’s the equivalent in football terms of the New England patriots getting a copy of New York Jets playbook. Although, I guess that you could argue what would the Patriots–they could have the Jet’s playbook and it wouldn't matter because it's the Jets. But the point is it's seeing the other team's playbook, you see it there. And look, Republicans are pouncing saying she is all image conscience and she is trying to portray she is new to politics, she portrays herself as just another image conscious politician wanna-be and all this stuff. So, it's a pretty, it’s a pretty bad hit on her. It’s already an uphill battle to run as a Democrat in Georgia and she is trying to be authentic. In this day and age where you want, authenticity matters. This makes it look like, you know, oh, my god, it's everybody's worst stereotype about what politicians look like, “Oh my god, they got people.” Think of that scene in the Simpsons where Montgomery Burns starts running for governor and he’s like “where’s my Opo guy, where’s my polls,” and that’s in the most ham handed sense of the way, what this looks like.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But Gene, 80 percent of one’s time being used to raise money-- I guess it sounds crazy, but --

TODD: Welcome to reality.

BRZEZINKSKI: Might not she be the only one that does that?

EUGENE ROBINSON: No, no this is the way it works these day. Dialing for dollars 24/7 basically. So, it looks kind of crazy and artificial when it's all written down like this but I think Chuck is absolutely right. This is what candidates do and this is what political consultants do and this is what it's like to run for office these days. Especially for a Senate seat.

SAM STEIN: Yeah the major embarrassment might not be out for Michelle Nunn. It's just in illuminating how cynical and money driven the political process is.

 

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.