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Two veteran GOP operatives on why it's smart for Republican campaigns to blow off the media

Gordon Hensley and Michael Caputo join me to debate why ghosting is en vogue.

Gordon Hensley (top left corner) is a former communications director of the NRSC, the campaign outfit for Senate Republicans. Michael Caputo (below) is a former political aide to Donald Trump who served in the Department of Health & Human Services during the Trump administration.

We came together for this podcast after Caputo sent a tweet responding to a story I had written about Pennsylvania candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, and his campaign’s strategic avoidance of most media since his primary win.

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David Catanese @davecatanese
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Megan Magensky @MeganMagensky
After a press conference this morning, Sen. Doug Mastriano refused media questions and ran away from about a dozen reporters. This chaotic video is all I got. I think he might have answered a question about Jan 6. but I obviously couldn't hear what he was saying.

Caputo suggested to lure Hensley into the fray for a conversation about Republican media strategy, when they think it’s smart to engage reporters, how they vet interviews and why the calculation has changed in the modern era of calcified media silos.

I’ve noticed that more Republican campaigns are choosing to blow off interacting with mainstream outlets altogether. My question, as raised in my above tweet, is whether that’s a sustainable, successful strategy in nationally tracked races across big battleground states.

Can a campaign simply employ the ghosting strategy for months on end?

“I would never tell a candidate to say this, but Number 1, we don’t need the media. We don’t need it anymore. It’s basically, depending on the marketplace, it’s a net negative,” Caputo says. “We have texting, emailing, podcasting, a whole plethora of different platforms, Twitter, Facebook, etcetera, where you can reach far, far more people than on the dying broadcast terrestrial TV station.”

Hensley adds, “Campaigns are won and lost by minimizing errors and keeping your candidate out of venues where there are variables that you lose control …You get an email inquiry, you don’t even have to return it. You can just blow reporters off.”

They both seem to say, yes, a lot of campaigns can. But overall, Hensley argues for more enagement with the media than Caputo. 

Mastriano, though, is a special case, where Hensley and Caputo end up acknowledging the campaign will likely need to earn more traditional media to win the governorship this fall.

“If I were the Mastriano guys, I would be blowing off most of the legacy media, although I’d probably end up doing a little bit more than Caputo would be doing,” Hensley.

“There’s going to have to be some earned media mix in this campaign at some point,” Caputo concludes.

Listen to the conversation above — and if you learned something, I’d love for you to share it.


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David Catanese