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Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's Media Deployment Strategy 

Published October 2, 2009 at 11:47 a.m.

After a full day of collecting reaction from politicos and candidates, today I'm taking stock of Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's announcement, and more importantly how it was delivered.

First, it was a bit of surprise to see how Dubie made the announcement — via email. I'm as big a fan of the paperless office as the next guy, along with using email, Twitter and Facebook to communicate. But, I'm not a politician. I'm in the business of getting information out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Dubie could have issued a statement from the podium, taken a few questions and answered them with the same repetitive soundbites he offered during the individual one-on-one sitdowns or phone chats we reporters were given yesterday. And, then he could have given some one-on-one interviews.

That's what Gov. Jim Douglas did when he announced his decision not to run for reelection. He made a speech, took no questions, and then talked to reporters individually. I missed out on chatting with Douglas  one-on-one that day. I guess he and his press folks lost my phone number — or something.

Even Auditor Tom Salmon, the Democrat-turned-Republican who is not known to give stem-winder political speeches, took questions after reading from a prepared text.

Does this tell us anything about Dubie? Sure it does. Dubie has a penchant for, shall we say, ducking debates and avoiding free-for-all press conferences. Not that press conferences in Vermont are ever true "free-for-alls" as you might see on TV.

For example, last year when running for reelection, Dubie debated Democrat Tom Costello just three times. He skipped out on three other debates, and during two of them had someone stand in for him. Costello "debated" Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden) at a St. Michael's College debate and Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) at a Castleton event. A third debate in Bennington was cancelled. Dubie was also deployed for several days in the wake of Hurricane Ike, and made a trade mission to Quebec to help keep a Vermont-based cheese plant open.

In 2006, Dubie was deployed to Iraq on a short-term field assessment mission for three weeks in September.

He left the state on a Friday, but his office didn't make the trip public until the following Tuesday — on primary day. That day former State Senator Matt Dunne bested former State Rep. John Tracy for the right to challenge Dubie.

The pair debated only four times, and Dubie's staffers wouldn't schedule debates with Dunne until their candidate returned from Iraq. That left little time to set up debates. In the end, the pair debated four times in the remaining six weeks before the election, including the Super Sunday at Vermont Public Television the weekend prior to Election Day.

Fast forward to 2009: Dubie made his announcement to Vermont's media and then, one-by-one, met face-to-face or via phone with the state's political reporters. Or, any reporter assigned to cover the story — a deployment strategy that keeps him out of the crossfire of a general news conference and avoiding any untoward political shrapnel that comes with fumbled responses.

Unfortunately, few, if any, reporters even questioned why he released it this way — though it did get mentioned. And, yes, I did ask him why. He responded in my second post from yesterday.

Basically, he explained it away as it being a more personal, accommodating approach. And, that's fine. The media loves access to politicians — even in a state like Vermont where you're as likely to run into a politician in the supermarket. 

For what it's worth, I'm OK with a public presser and follow-up questions later. But, that's just me.

For Dubie meeting in small groups or one-on-one is his "green zone", to use a military term. It's the protected area where insurgents are kept out and those you can speak to directly without interruptions are kept in. 

That is except when the public itself is the focus. He's a great retail politician who is a big hit at parades, fairs and other high-volume events where you can meet thousands of voters in a few hours.

In his bids for lieutenant governor he's been largely granted a pass by the media at his no-show debate appearances. I mean, how can you speak ill of a guy's intentions when he's serving his country in a time of an emergency or war, right? Will the media's ambivalence change now that he's running for governor? Time will tell.

As Dubie rightly says, the stakes are higher for governor than they are for lite guv. With that in mind Dubie is going to have to step outside his green zone and onto the battlefield.

Here is a roundup of the media coverage Dubie did garner with his one-on-one deployment with the media.

In advance, two words: Mission accomplished.

Associated Press report.

Burlington Free Press report.

Rutland Herald/Times Argus report.

Vermont Public Radio report.

WCAX report.

WPTZ report.

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.


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