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: Do Muslims hate America?

Say what you will about Marco Rubio’s campaign for the White House or recent debate strategy, but his response to Donald Trump’s fumble on the Muslim question in last week’s GOP debate is a study in EXACTLY what to do.

The exchange looked a lot like this:

Jake Tapper asked Trump if he wanted to clarify a statement he made to Anderson Cooper only the night before: “Islam hates us.”  In true Trump fashion, he recycled a few of his favorite words (like “tremendous”) and stuck by his generalization.

Rubio realized the gaffe and used it to his advantage by first establishing common ground with Trump and then pivoting to his argument that Muslims are people too.

Well done.

This simple formula results in communications gold every time but first involves preparation and practice. Do you know how to tackle these tricky questions and then block and bridge to your talking points? Hint: common ground is your best friend.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that Rubio used to set the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think Donald Trump is right? Do Muslims hate America?”

Rubio’s B²: “Let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says. The problem is presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences here and around the world… There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world. <Insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, remember that Trump can say what he wants and suffer zero consequences. Everyone else has to play by the rules, including you. Rubio’s response to Trump’s generalization is a case study in what to do, no matter the topic – start with common ground and then pivot to your talking points. Common ground softens the blow and makes you seem reasonable. And reasonable is exactly what you want to be to cut through the noise that is this election season.

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: 2016 – Persona vs. Policy

The saga that is the 2016 Presidential Race continues this week in the form of two debates – one Republican, one Democrat.

Both sides anticipate narrowing down the field in order to name someone “nominee,” but the media chatter is ripe for distraction. We’ve heard a lot about Rubio’s finances, Jeb Bush’s reset button in the form of “Jeb can fix it,” Ben Carson’s alleged fabrication of a West Point scholarship, Trump’s success on SNL, and Fiorina’s “war” with the women on The View.

Headlines like these have been the drumbeat of every election cycle, but that doesn’t mean they should define the electorate’s scorecard. So, how can you shift the media spotlight away from persona and focus on policy?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here’s this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What do you think of the <insert candidate’s name> controversy?”

: “We’re a year away from the election and voters will ultimately decide whether this narrative rings true. But regardless of who wins the presidency, he/she will have to focus on <insert policy issue> because <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, talk about policy and its importance to the next POTUS regardless of party affiliation. Controversies either ruin a candidacy or fade away, but the need for good policy remains true. If your talking points prop up policy rather than persona, you’ll retrain the spotlight on a winning narrative.

B²: CNBC vs. the GOP

If there was any doubt the mainstream media leans left, last week’s GOP debate proved it. Barbs thrown by the moderators, including a question to Rubio about whether he hates his day job and the comparison of Trump to a comic book character, left both GOP supporters and some left-leaning news outlets criticizing CNBC.

In response, candidates called out the moderators on the spot (enter Ted Cruz), or called out the mainstream media as a whole (hello Marco Rubio), as it was clear the questions strayed from substantive policy discussion to personal attack.

But what the GOP candidates succeeded in doing on Wednesday night may just be a one-hit wonder. Why? It was them vs. the moderators, and everyone watching knew it – the questions were unfair, a few called it like it was, and the audience rejoiced. But, what if you’re attacked personally and it isn’t so obvious? What if you don’t have a two-hour window to still explain your talking points?

In that case (which is where most of us find ourselves), it’s best to quickly acknowledge the question as incorrect and then B² (block and bridge) away from the bias to articulate your message so that you control the narrative. But how do you do that?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is an example of an unfair question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “People have said that your organization is just a political front. Isn’t that true?”

B²: “Not at all. The only time I hear that narrative is when a lack of information exists about who we are and who we fight for. The <insert organization or campaign name> is about… <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, know that it’s a better use of your answer time to stay on message. The audience knows if/when a host is attacking a guest and you don’t want to sound like you’re whining…that’s never attractive. Instead, quickly acknowledge that you disagree with the question but then B² (block and bridge) to your answer.

If handled correctly, not only will the audience see through the bias but you’ll gain extra points by keeping your cool and championing your message anyway.

B²: Patriotism and War Powers

Do you love America? That’s one media question you wouldn’t expect to leave you flat-footed. Radio hosts around the nation are asking our leaders their opinion on the president’s patriotism following Rudy Giuliani’s salvo on the subject. The B² team noticed that some have found themselves on their heels (no names!).

Red State reported how Sen. Marco Rubio came out clean on this non-winner of a question:

“Democrats aren’t asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don’t know why I should answer every time a Republican does. I’ll suffice it to say that I believe the president loves America; I think his ideas are bad.”

The B² team anticipates journalists will ask questions coupling the president’s love for America with the current debate in Congress over when and how America should go to war against a growing global terrorist threat.

Our political leaders are making decisions about whether to commit tens of thousand of troops, air strikes, and/or proxy warfare. These decisions are not light ones: they have the potential to shape U.S. foreign policy for the next decade, and will require American blood and money. What is patriotic is to effectively combat terrorism.

If you stumble in a media interview question about our political leaders’ patriotic commitment to dealing with ISIS, you could be called an Islamaphobe, a bigot, a weak leader, or worst of all… unpatriotic. That’s not your message.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q1: When and how should America beat ISIS? Wouldn’t it be unpatriotic to commit troops when it will only inflame ISIS and feed more violent extremism?

Q2: When and how should America beat ISIS? Wouldn’t it be unpatriotic to fail to commit troops because Americans can’t sustain a long war and it won’t work?

: America has always stood for defending the natural rights of women and men to enjoy life and liberty. ISIS oppresses people, denies their human rights, and silences dissent. This – terrorism – is what we are fighting. That’s real patriotism. What’s most important is to stop it, and this is how <insert talking point>.

Wherever you take the conversation next, realize that “patriotism” and “policy” are different. Your implementation of policy may seem patriotic to you, but take the extra three seconds in your sound bite to explain why. Use your next answer to explain the policy nuance. Don’t get caught in an ad hominem attack that makes you look weak. Keep your eye on the ball – preventing another terrorist attack.