Dems’ Anti-Limbaugh Contest is ‘Smart Street Theater,’ Top PR Execs Say

March 13, 2009 - 5:55 PM
Public affairs advertising experts say the Democratic Party's campaign to villify Rush Limbaugh by placing a billboard in his "hometown" is "PR on the cheap" -- a cost effective way to try to "culture jam" the opposition.  
(CNSNews.com) – The Democratic Party is engaged in “street theater” in its latest campaign against conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, top advertising and public relations executives told CNSNews.com.
 
Last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced the winning entry of an anti-Rush Limbaugh slogan contest -- “Americans didn’t vote for a Rush to failure.”
 
Ronn Torossian, CEO of a Top 20 public relations firm, 5W Public Relations, said that the Democratic campaign to put an anti-Rush billboard in Limbaugh’s "hometown" of West Palm Beach, Fla., is a very effective form of street theater.
 
“This is very smart DNC street theater," said Torossian, whose clients range from Pamela Anderson to Pastor John Hagee. "It’s a low-cost, high-profile, low-risk campaign.”
 
Torossian also called it "smart PR."
 
“If I’m the DNC,” he added, “what am I losing? I’m not losing constituents, I’m not spending much money, and I’m saying that this guy that the left loves to hate is the true (Republican) leader.”
 
The DNC has promised that the winner, William C. of Camden, N.J., will get a free t-shirt emblazoned with his entry slogan.
 
Diana Banister, vice president of one of Washington, D.C.’s top political media relations firms, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, told CNSNews.com that the Democrats are trying to make headlines “on the cheap.”
 
"The national media is talking about one billboard in one area,” Banister said. “That's the way this town (Washington) and this media environment works. They're getting all this free media from it by just doing the billboard alone, so that is their ultimate goal, to get the national media, the MSNBCs of the world, to write stories about their ad campaign."
 
What Democrats are really trying to do, the media adviser said, is to prepare now for the 2010 mid-term congressional elections.
 
"What's happening with the DNC, Democrats in general, is they've got a lot of money and time and they're just going to try and tear down everybody, between now and 2010 and 2012. They're going to use their money to do these snarky comments and ad campaigns."
 
From a media/PR standpoint, the campaign stands to be successful, Banister said.
 
“It'll probably do its job for right now, which is to stir the pot and continue to villify Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Party."
 
Ironically, the DNC campaign also comes just as new polling data shows that public confidence among Americans is slipping for the Democrats’ economic plans and the overall competence of the government.
 
In a new Rasmussen survey, 75 percent of voters say they are concerned that President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget will lead to too much government spending.
 
Only 23 percent of voters said they felt government action reflected the will of the American people and just 19 percent of voters felt the first stimulus bill would improve their lives.
 
In fact, survey data indicate that Obama’s stimulus plan isn’t the only unpopular initiative he has advanced in just 50 days in office. A Rasmussen survey published Feb. 19 showed that a plurality of Americans – 45 percent – opposed Obama’s mortgage bailout proposal.
 
55 percent of those surveyed said that they felt the administration was rewarding bad behavior with its mortgage plan, with only 38 percent of the country thinking the plan was a good idea.
 
Rasmussen also found, in a poll published Feb. 24, that a majority – 54 percent – opposed all bailouts -- a significant number because it exceeds the 53 percent support with which Obama won the election in November. More striking, 55 percent of independents, a group Obama won during the election, oppose his bailout plans.
 
Support for Obama’s ideological foundation is also very low, with only 34 percent of voters agreeing that “the moral mission of government is simple: no one can earn a living in America or live an American life without protection and empowerment by the government.”
 
Rasmussen found one possible reason why the DNC would choose to attack Limbaugh at this time: 43 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama, with 33 percent strongly disapproving – the highest percentage of his presidency after only 50 days in office.