ON MESSAGE: Buying Time, Assertively

“I am running for governor in 2010.”

—David Paterson

In some very important ways, the governor’s nationally televised sit-down with David Gregory on Meet the Press was a wasted opportunity, as he spent half of the appearance unconvincingly feigning obliviousness to the White House’s attempts to flush him out of the governor’s race.

But with the above words, Mr. Paterson did succeed in giving news outlets around the state and around the country their headline for the next day. “Paterson tells ‘Meet the Press’ he’ll seek election” is how Newsday put it. A Google news search conducted a couple of days after the appearance found that some variation of that headline ended up running in thousands of newspapers, news sites and blogs.

This is certainly the effect that Mr. Paterson and his team were going for, buying them time before the press declares them to be officially done.

The problem, though, is that the statement doesn’t mean anything. Politicians in Mr. Paterson’s shoes always insist that it’s full speed ahead with the next campaign, that there’s still lots of time left, that the only poll that matters is on Election Day and so on.

They do this for as long as they can, but inevitably, reality catches up. For Mr. Paterson, that will probably happen sometime this winter, when key Democrats will finally be forced to make public commitments for the governor’s race.
Until then, he can keep saying he’s running—and the media will have to keep paying attention to him.

ON MESSAGE: Buying Time, Assertively