Stumping the Airwaves With Candidate McGovern

TIME and again in his campaign speeches, George McGovern tells crowds that "Richard Nixon is hiding the White House, sitting on his Gallup polls, while I am taking my campaign directly to the American people.

Yet McGovern is not making a concerted effort to reach people through face to face contact. His advisors are unconcerned with whether five or ten thousand people turn out at a given appearance. The major concern of the campaign is to present events for television that give viewers the impression that McGovern, is out with the people. In an average day of campaigning McGovern, spends less than one hour speaking directly to voters. An analysis of a day's schedule demonstrates this point conclusively.

McGovern began his campaigning two weeks ago today with a breakfast speech to a group of carefully-selected labor leaders. His speech was brief and was essentially a recitation of his proposed economic policies. The point of the speech was two fold: First, he wanted the thousands of union members in the New York area to see that he has some labor support. Second, he needed an excuse to outline his positions on economic issues for television coverage.

After his television speech, McGovern drove to Lyndhurst New Jersey to a Holiday Inn, where a half hour was set aside for the press to file stories on the morning's event. The McGovern campaign had taken a large suite in the motel and had put in over 25 telephone lines so that reporters and radio commentators could phone in their stories. The McGovern staff provided typewriters and prepared texts of the address to make it easier for the press to write their pieces.

The next event on McGovern's schedule was a luncheon with Italian-American labor and political leaders in Belleville, New Jersey. About 150 leaders showed up and again McGovern delivered a short campaign speech stressing the importance of loyalty to the Democratic Party. McGovern could have easily met more Italian Americans had he gone to a subway stop in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and givenout literature in the morning. Yet his point was not really to try and convince the Italian leaders to support him; rather he wanted the great mass of Italians and white ethnics who watch the 6 o' clock news to see that McGovern considers himself a loyal Democrat and to recognize that there were influential people supporting his candidacy.


Rather than make any campaign appearances during the afternoon, McGovern spent the time taping radio and television interviews. His last scheduled event of the day was a rally in Hackensack, New Jersey with Senator Edward M. Kennedy at 6:30 pm. The event was scheduled at 6:30 so that there would be time for it to be filmed and shown on the 11 o'clock news. The rally itself went well and McGovern thus achieved his desired effect--showing the voters that he went out to meet them.

Thus McGovern had only made one real appearance in front of an open meeting Friday. By skillful use of the media, he was able to woo ethnic and labor votes as well as to show people that he was "taking his campaign to the American people."

The events were all planned to give the media ample time to meet deadlines. Press facilities were available after each appearance and McGovern was able to achieve his desired goals.

Because McGovern won the primary with a massive grassroots organization, little attention has been given to the McGovern media operation which is one of the most extensive in history. McGovern travels with at least eight full-time press people, ranging from his press secretary, Dick Doughrety, to "media mothers" Polly Hackett and Carol Freedenberg.

Doughrety oversees the entire process which includes sending out radio and T.V. excerpts of speeches to different stations around the country, writing press releases, transcribing speeches and making sure that the press is kept apprised of what is going on in the campaign.

Polly Hackett and Carol Freedenberg, the McGovern media mothers, have the sole responsibility of making sure that the press is kept aware. They travel on the buses with reporters, flirt with them, serve drinks and give out the releases that Doughrety and his staff write. When Doug Kneeland of The New York Times wants to know when he can get the name of a city where McGovern will be giving a speech later in the evening on national T.V., Hackett and Freedenberg will have to find out.

Joe Walker oversees McGovern's radio operation. His job is to get segments of McGovern's speeches to as many radio stations as he can. To do this, he tapes every speech McGovern makes and prepares a news report for radio stations. Walker pretends that he is a radio station's correspondent with the McGovern campaign. He then plays the tape over the phone to 16 McGovern radio people in campaign headquarters around the country. These people then have 12 volunteers phone the report that Walker has given them to all the radio stations in their area that do not have a correspondent with the campaign.

RADIO stations love to have taped excerpts of speeches and thus they are very pleased to get the tapes sent to them by Walker. Walker estimates that he has the capacity to reach each of the 7000 radio stations in the country at least once a day. If there is a particular urgency, Walker says, he has the capacity to get another tape to half the stations he has already reached during that particular day.

Even in the 1968 campaign, where the media played such an important part, neither the Nixon nor the Humphrey campaigns were able to reach more than 1000 radio stations a day. During that campaign all the radio reports were shipped back to Washington before they were sent out, thus delaying the process and minimizing the number of cities each of the candidates could reach. Walker said that 25 per cent of the American people use the radio as their primary news source, and he thus feels that his job is of extraordinary significance.

In spite of the rise of campaign consultants, Walker is probably the first person to use his system of distribution of radio spots. Walker just graduated from Georgetown last year and began working with McGovern after a short stint in the Hughes for President campaign. Hughes had a veteran radio reporter who was in the process of developing the distribution system for a national campaign. Since Hughes never really got of the ground as a national candidate his radio man never got a chance to use his system. However, Walker worked him developing the plan, and perfected the system in the McGovern campaign last spring.