The Glory of Earned Media

A few years ago, the political operatives whose job it is to handle press coverage decided that the traditional dichotomy between "paid media" (ads you buy) and "free media" (press coverage you get) was insulting to their efforts. So they stopped using the term "free media" and began referring instead to "earned media." Because after all, when their boss got a glowing write-up in a newspaper, it didn't come for free, that press secretary and her staff earned it! And somebody sure as heck earned this piece in The Washington Post about Louisiana governor and likely 2016 hopeful Bobby Jindal. "Bobby Jindal Speaking Truth to GOP Power," reads the headline, establishing Jindal as outsidery, honest, and brave. The subject is a speech he'll be delivering to the RNC tonight, helpfully previewed to the Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, who could be guaranteed to run their "scoop" without the barest shred of skepticism. Shield your eyes, lest the bright light of his truth-telling blind you:

"A debate about which party can better manage the federal government is a very small and short-sighted debate," Jindal will tell the RNC members gathered in Charlotte, N.C. for the organization's winter meeting, according to a copy of the speech provided to The Fix. "If our vision is not bigger than that, we do not deserve to win."

Jindal's speech — and his call to "recalibrate the compass of conservatism" — is the latest shred of a growing amount of evidence that the Louisiana governor is positioning himself to not only run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 but do so in direct (or close to it) opposition to his party in the nation's capital.

In the speech, Jindal will repeatedly caution that Republicans in Washington have fallen into the "sideshow trap" of debating with Democrats over the proper size of the federal government.

"By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington, instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport (La.), and Cheyenne (Wyo.)," Jindal is set to say at one point in the speech. At another, he will argue that "Washington has spent a generation trying to bribe our citizens and extort our states," adding: "As Republicans, it's time to quit arguing around the edges of that corrupt system."

Running against Washington — and the Republicans who inhabit it — is smart politics for Jindal. Congress, viewed broadly, is at or close to all-time lows when it comes to approval ratings. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted earlier this month, just 24 percent of those tested approved of the job that Republicans in Congress were doing.

So near as I can tell, what Jindal is saying is that Republicans shouldn't bother arguing about the details of how to accomplish their shared goal of slashing government—"obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet"—but should instead say the same thing, but in terms that are more vague and abstract, to keep the focus on, you know, America. Jindal also offers the innovative strategic suggestion that Republicans should run against Washington, kind of like every Republican has done in every election for the last three decades. Cillizza and Blake are so moved by this bold vision that they conclude, "With this speech, Jindal makes a strong case to be the leading voice — or at least one voice in a relatively small chorus — committed to leading the Republican party out of its electoral wilderness."

As a governor, Jindal is able to put his conservative vision into practice to affect the lives of his constituents far more directly than those Washington politicians with all their talk. And he's been working hard. Just in the last couple of weeks, he has proposed remaking Louisiana's tax code so that rich people and corporations pay less and poor people pay more, slashing funds for victims of domestic violence, and eliminating hospice care for the poor (after a wave of bad press, he backed off the latter proposal). So it sounds like he really might be the transformative visionary Republicans are looking for.

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