With the fiscal-cliff fight in its umpteenth week, Republicans want House Speaker John Boehner to sell his fiscal cliff solutions outside the safe confines of Fox News. Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins talks to Brooke about the GOP strategists who want their party to diversify their media appearances.
BOB GARFIELD: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. Will the fiscal cliff fight in its one, two, three, umpteenth week, President Obama is making his case in appearances throughout the country, as his principal adversary, House Speaker John Boehner, is laying out his argument in press conferences and on TV - well, on one channel anyway.
JOHN BOEHNER: We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved, but the White House has responded with virtually nothing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Some Republicans strategists criticize Boehner, who's stayed off the Sunday talk shows and The Today Show, for preaching only to the choir. BuzzFeeds Politics Editor McKay Coppins has been following that internal strategy debate. In fact, you quote conservative media strategist Keith Apple, saying that Boehner should have blitzed all five Sunday shows –
- and then done The Today Show the next morning. And then he said, “Are you telling me he can't handle Matt Lauer?”
McKAY COPPINS: [LAUGHS] Right. I mean, I think that this is a real frustration that a lot of people have. And I write in the story about some conservative leaders who've talked to reporters at the Huffington Post, BET News, Univision, places where you have not naturally Republican constituencies but, you know, some think that if they had Republicans regularly making their case and defending their positions on those outlets, you might be able to convert a few of them to conservatism.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is this a relatively new post-election point of view, because you wrote about the case where Republican John Huntsman was criticized for doing an interview with the left-leaning Huffington Post.
McKAY COPPINS: Mm-hmm.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It wasn't what he said but where he said it that made him a marked man.
McKAY COPPINS: Right, right. This is part of the Republican soul searching that we've seen since Election Day. You know, the party's looking to rebrand itself, to reinvent itself. The Mitt Romney we heard during the campaign in that video talk about the 47% of Americans who would never vote for a Republican, right, Romney got a lot of flack for that but that mindset is pretty prevalent in the Republican Party, and it translates to which media outlets they talk to.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But do they have a point? Slate's Dave Weigel wrote that Boehner actually had very little to gain by stepping out, that people tune in to the messages they want to hear, regardless of where they originate. Does he have a point?
McKAY COPPINS: I mean, sure, there's a lot of selective media consumption out there, But John Boehner's a tough guy, he gives pretty good interviews, why not take the case to, like the strategist said, all five Sunday shows? You might not convert a ton of people on the fiscal cliff - Republicans' positions are generally unpopular in this specific debate right now - but it could set the foundation for a long-term outreach strategy, which would include, you know, constantly making your case to people who might not otherwise hear what they have to say.
I mean, if you're somebody who watches BET or MSNBC, you're likely to hear a lot more Democratic talking points than Republican talking points. Is that a, you know, a reflection of the bias of the network or is it a reflection of the fact that Republicans just never go on there to make their case?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Oh, come on!
It's partly a reflection of the bias of the network.
McKAY COPPINS: Oh, of course. I think that when it comes down to it, a lot of political strategists that I quote in this story basically say, regardless of whether we're right about their bias, the point is a lot of people consume media through these outlets, and we need to go where the people are if we're gonna start winning elections again.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: There are some Republicans who embrace the idea that they should get out there. Republican stalwart John McCain is one, and up and comer Marco Rubio is another, right?
McKAY COPPINS: Florida Senator Marco Rubio is somebody who's been identified as a politician who understands this. During the Republican National Convention, for example, he did an - two interviews with Univision, a sit-down interview with Black Entertainment Television. He's also done a couple of interviews with The DailyShow, and BuzzFeed has hosted him in our headquarters.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That just proves he's a media floozy.
McKAY COPPINS: [LAUGHING] I, I won't go that far. But I think that, you know, they were good interviews. I mean, you saw the host and reporters kind of challenge him on a lot of things, and he stood his ground and made his case.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's get back to the fiscal cliff, for a second. Do you think that a good case is being made by the Republicans, where Democrats can see it anywhere?
McKAY COPPINS: You look at the polling here and the objective data shows that Republicans are kind of losing the argument on the fiscal cliff. They're against raising tax rates for people who make over $250,000, and the majority of Americans are in favor of that. The majority of Americans have even said that they disapprove of the way Republicans have handled the fiscal cliff negotiations.
But they certainly have a case to make, and I think that when you poll a lot of these questions separately from the fiscal cliff and from the current cast of characters involved, you find that some Republican positions are actually more popular than they're showing right now. So clearly, there is a problem with the way they're making the case and the places they're going to make their case.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You quote in your piece a number of Republican strategists who are quote "urging their leaders to start carrying their message to media outlets that aren't named after a certain bushy-tailed woodland carnivore."
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you they're having any impact?
McKAY COPPINS: A lot of the strategists that I quote weren't involved directly in 2012. They didn't have a lot of candidates. Washington, in this way, kind of goes in cycles, so a lot of the people who kind of stood on the sidelines in 2012 will get their turn during the midterms coming up and in 2016. So yeah, I think they have a voice that people are listening to.
Since this story has been published, I've already heard from a number of staffers on the Hill who are saying, we need to make a bigger effort to, to get our message out. Certainly nobody's thinking of abandoning Fox News, but a lot of people think that it's time to move on beyond Fox News, as well.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: McKay, thank you very much.
McKAY COPPINS: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: McKay Coppins is BuzzFeed's political editor.