Campaigning in border cities is good political strategyby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Republican presidential candidate John McCain will be in Hudson, Wis., this morning for a forum about women in business. Holding presidential campaign events in border towns like Hudson helps candidates leverage the kind of local news coverage they like the most.
St. Paul, Minn. — The McCain campaign says the Hudson women and business forum will wrap up the candidate's week-long focus on economic issues.
McCain's Hudson event is not open to the public. McCain campaign regional spokesman Tom Steward says local Republican parties distributed tickets to several hundred women who will see McCain and have an opportunity to ask him questions.
The event takes place at a company called J&L Steel Erectors. Steward says J&L was chosen as the venue because of the inspiring life story of its founder and CEO, LouAnne Reger.
"It's going to be pretty much hundreds of women who've been invited, and who are going to hear what John McCain has to say about the economy, about the challenges that they're facing in particular in the economy, and his plan to focus on small businesses," Steward said. "They're generators for new jobs and opportunity, and that really has been the focus all week."
You need an invitation to see McCain in person, but if you don't have one, you'll have a hard time missing the news coverage of the campaign stop.
Those local stories will likely portray McCain in precisely the light his strategists want him shown.
"Presidential campaigns love local media coverage," says Jeff Blodgett, who is running Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's campaign in Minnesota.
Blodgett is known for helping the late Sen. Paul Wellstone win elections.
Blodgett says campaigns can count on the local media, not the national press corps, to relay their candidate's talking points of the day.
"The local media coverage allows them to speak directly to voters, deliver their message," Blodgett said. "They get their sound bite. They get their picture. The local media is generally really good at delivering that."
Blodgett says national media tend to be more interested in larger stories or controversies that are brewing.
That local news message will be delivered in several media markets. That's why the McCain campaign choose a border town for his event, according to Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier.
"Hudson Wis., is a very efficient location for a candidate visit, for the reason that it covers the western Wisconsin media market very thoroughly as well as hitting the Twin Cities media market," Schier said. "So you really hit a lot of potential voters in two of the swing states in 2008 by visiting a place like Hudson."
Schier says he expects the presidential campaigns will use several border locations around Minnesota to leverage favorable local coverage.
"Duluth gives you northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, and the Fargo-Moorhead area hits the Dakotas and western Minnesota," Schier said. "Lacrosse or Rochester hits southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. So I would expect all of those locations, as well as locations like Hudson, to see a lot of presidential candidate visits between now and Election Day."
The Obama campaign's Jeff Blodgett agrees -- staging events in border areas allows campaigns to maximize valuable local coverage. Blodgett says that's one of a number of factors behind the strategy of choosing campaign stops.
"Rochester, Minn., for instance, is a very important area where there's a lot of swing voters, so going there makes sense from a retail politics perspective. But you're also going to get media coverage from the Twin Cities and Wisconsin and even from Iowa, so it makes sense for that reason too," Blodgett said.
The Upper Midwest is considered an important battleground in the 2008 presidential election, and the candidates will likely visit the region many more times before the November election.
McCain was last in the Twin Cities about three weeks ago when he held a fundraiser in Minneapolis and forum in St. Paul.
Democrat Barack Obama was in St. Paul at the beginning of June, and spoke in Fargo, N.D. on July 3.
- Morning Edition, 07/11/2008, 7:24 a.m.