How Marco Rubio lost his voice…and the election

With Marco Rubio’s unsurprising exit from the 2016 election cycle, DMG president Beverly Hallberg adds her take on what ultimately led to his downfall:

“Much will be written about the rise and fall of the former Tea Party darling’s presidential run. Pundits will focus on the typical reasons for an election cycle meltdown… [but] Rubio’s failure is largely the result of something else — something he was so good at no one considered it would ever lead to his downfall.”

To read more, head over to The Federalist.

B²: Rubio’s Talking Points

On Saturday night, Marco Rubio quickly became a study in what not to do.

In four minutes, Rubio repeated the same answer (almost word-for-word) THREE times. Not only did he make it obvious that the line was prepared and rehearsed, but he played into the narrative that Chris Christie had developed for him of “the memorized 25-second speech.”

True. DMG recommends you prepare talking points for every interview so you can block and bridge to each regardless of the question. But the pivot should always be natural. If you expose the technique, you fail to deliver. It’s a fine line between preparation and canned response. But it’s also possible to walk it. So, what could Rubio have done?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Christie’s attack: “I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States and make these decisions…”

Rubio’s : “Well, I think the experience is not just what you did, but how it worked out. Under Chris Christie’s governorship of New Jersey, they’ve been downgraded nine times in their credit rating… But I would add this. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing…”

Christie’s continued attack: “There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech.”

Rubio: “<address the attack and call out its inaccuracy instead of repeating the Obama talking point>.”

You can B² (block and bridge) an attack ONCE. And only once. If the attack comes back at you a second time, you must respond to it. In politics, the name of the game is authenticity, which can translate to thinking on your feet mid-attack. Continually dodging an attack implies the opposite. If Rubio had followed DMG’s rules, headlines the next day may have told a different story.

B²: “I’m not a socialist!”

If this had been Hillary Clinton’s answer when repeatedly asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews if she considers herself a “socialist” like Bernie Sanders, newspaper headlines, panels of pundits, and Twitter would’ve easily defined the fall out.

Instead she said, “I’m a progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together.”

Well done, Hillary.

It’s likely she learned from so many who’ve taught us what NOT to do (including her husband) – if you try to distance yourself from an accusation (whether it’s true or not), the audience often thinks you’re guilty.

A few noteworthy examples:

  • “I’m not a crook.” (President Richard Nixon in response to the Watergate Scandal)
  • “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” (President Clinton in response to sex scandals)
  • “I’m not a bully.” (Governor Chris Christie in the Bridgegate Scandal press conference)
  • “I’m not a witch.” (Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell in response to dabbling in witchcraft years earlier)

If you don’t want to dominate the news cycle with talk of what you aren’t, the obvious solution is to talk about what you are! But DMG realizes that’s much easier said than done. Especially when your character is attacked and you desperately want to set the record straight.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that allows you to avoid those pesky “I am not (fill in the blank)” headlines:

Q: “Aren’t you just a (fill in the blank)?” or “Aren’t you just trying to (fill in the blank)?”

B²: “Not at all. I’m (fill in the blank of what you ARE)” or “That’s not the case. What I am doing is (fill in the blank of what you ARE doing) <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, fight the urge to say what isn’t true since the media can (and will) easily recycle it over and over and over. Instead, negate the faulty premise with “not at all” or “that’s not the case” and then focus on who you are or what you are doing. You’ll cut the accusation off at the head, remain on offense rather than defense, and shift the narrative to what you want to talk about. And that’s a message that wins.