Saturday, August 27, 2005

Candidate Pirro Can Recover from an Embarrassing Start

New Yorker Jeanine Pirro recently announced her candidacy for the United States Senate seat currently held by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The announcement didn’t go smoothly. In front of dozens of cameras at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, she choked.

As she was about to launch into a stinging attack against Clinton, she noticed that a page of her speech had disappeared. For 30 long seconds, the reporters and cameras recorded silence and confusion. It sounded something like this:

"Hillary Clinton…..(sounds of shuffling papers)….more silence, more shuffling….finally, she asks an aide, "Do you have page 10?"

The missing page finally found, she continued, but the damage to her campaign, and her credibility, were probably huge. First impressions do count, after all.

Pirro, a NY District Attorney, may have enough problems with the New York Republican Party as it is. During that same speech, she touted her liberal views on social issues by saying she has “a broad blue stripes,” referring to the Democratic “blue state” of New York.

But this unfortunate event will likely highlight the unpolished nature of an otherwise well-spoken D.A.’s campaign, and some will question whether she’s ready to go up against Clinton, who’s clearly more polished and is quite charming in front of reporters.

It doesn’t help that her husband, Albert Pirro, served 11 months in prison on tax evasion charges, convicted along with his brother, Anthony. Her Website has photos of both Sean Hannity and Robert Kennedy, Jr., probably a first for a Republican.

NY Democrats have already pounced on her gaff, publishing the video of the announcement online, titling the 30 seconds of silence, “Jeanine Pirro’s positive vision for New York,” and ending the clip saying, “Without a script, she’s speechless.”

In fact, the criticism is unfair. While most candidate don’t really like using canned speeches, an announcement speech is one you really do want to read word-for-word. It’s that important. Her staff should be blamed, not her. For God's sake, people, have an extra copy of the speech handy!

But to avoid the impression that she’s headed towards being another Rick Lazio (the GOP nominee who was trounced by Clinton in 2000) or that she can’t think on her feet, she should quickly make light of the situation and herself, showing she has a sense of humor.

She should then do as many unscripted press conferences as possible in the early stages of the campaign, to show that she has the ability to think on her feet - skills she surely has as a New York D.A.

Campaigns that start badly can definitely be saved. Maybe she can pull this off yet. Time will tell.

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