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Political PR Players Debate State of the Union

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Powerhouse D.C.-based public relations firm Qorvis Communications hosted a conference call this morning to review and analyze President Obama’s State of The Union address, which he delivered last night.

Qorvis partner and former Policy and Communications Director for U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) Rich Masters said the speech was “closer to what Ronald Reagan wanted to do” when he had to turn around low poll approval numbers after his first year in office. Reagan’s State of The Union after his first year “was more combative,” he said.

In comparison, “Clinton, in his first year came out and said, ‘We screwed up, we have to recalibrate,’ and then took smaller bites at the larger ideas they had.”

When evaluating the administration’s communications team, Masters said, “I think Gibbs and his team did a good job.”

“The Obama White House understands that communications has really changed. A vast majority of people didn’t view this speech, but a lot of them will watch coverage and even more will find it online. By 10 p.m. last night, individual sound clips were taken out and pushed out in social media. If the only policy you care about in middle America is energy, you can find what President said on energy.”

However, Masters also had praise for the GOP, saying that they “did a much better job this year compared to last year in their communications strategy.” The Republican rebuttal was presented by newly-elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Last year of course was the disastrous rebuttal by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Karen Hanretty, managing director at Qorvis and former Communications Director at the National Republican Congressional Committee said the President’s speech “didn’t give you a lot to hold onto” if you are a moderate Democrat. This group “needs to distance themselves from the President and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” she said.

Hanretty also wasn’t impressed by the PR roll-out. “The President gives speeches all the time,” she said. Adding, “this wasn’t a difficult speech.”

In regards to McDonnell’s rebuttal, Hanretty said he was a “rock star” and “the right guy to have out there.”

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