Lisa Witter is the chief operating officer of Fenton Communications, the largest public interest communications firm in the country. She heads the firm's practice in women's issues and global affairs for clients including Women for Women International, MoveOn.org, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and many others. She is a co-founder of the award-winning website SheSource.org, an online brain trust of women experts to help close the gender gap among commentators in the news media. She was honored as an outstanding activist and expert on women's issues by Oxygen.com for her work on a national campaign against privatizing Social Security during the 2000 presidential election. Lisa is a blogger and political commentator with her work appearing on MSNBC, Fox News, The Huffington Post, AlterNet and Anderson Cooper 360. In 2004, she was a contestant on the Showtime reality show American Candidate. Witter is co-author of The She Spot: Why Women Are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them.
She is on the advisory board for Indianapolis University's Women and Philanthropy Institute, Pop!Tech, Momsrising.org, Women for Women International and Climate Counts.
Question: Is Image Really Everything?
Lisa Witter: Well it’s interesting as you’ve been following-- if you follow this primary that never seemed to end and now it’s finally over, you saw something very interesting happen when it comes to political stage crafting. Barack Obama has done these amazing things, he can get 70,000 people to show up in a lawn underneath the heat, you know, he packs stadiums full and that really connects to a certain group of people, it connects, often he makes these very lofty speeches and they’re a bit more intellectual, yet heartfelt, I mean totally heartfelt. Whereas Hilary Clinton did retail politics meaning, you know, door to door on the ground, just like Bill Clinton did. I mean these people really defined what that was and so Hillary Clinton would be down on the hay bales, she would have press conferences at gas stations, she would show up at union halls and she really understood that the space is political, just how they say is a personal political space is political in and of itself and so as you saw Hillary begin to gain momentum, especially with working class voters, I think a lot of it had to do with where she was connecting with people. Whereas Obama was connecting with people in these large masses and then you saw that Obama shifted his game a little bit which was super smart, literally he started playing basketball and having meetings in basketball halls and he now he’s understanding that you have to get down on the ground and sometimes roll up your sleeves and play a little hoops and other times, you know, give the big speech.
Question: Is John McCain bad at stagecraft?
Lisat Witter: Well I’m gonna tell you a little anecdote about how off I think John McCain is. If you go to John McCain’s website right now and the main real estate of the property, so right in the middle of the home page there’s four major tabs and I don’t remember exactly what they are but it’s like strategy, decision, election and then golf gear. Golf gear and you talk about, you know, we’re at a time right now where the women’s vote, a lot of it’s shifting because there are a lot of women who are upset about Hilary and they’ll say “I’m gonna vote for McCain” and this guy has on the front page of his website, golf gear, you know, personalized McCain golf gear, now that is not gonna attract women voters and it’s definitely not gonna attract the blue collar voters who the only thing they know about golf is that rich people do it. He’s completely out of touch, so whether it’s stage craft, you know, with horrible green colors or whether it’s, you know, not getting the branding and messaging right, he doesn’t have it, you know, one of the reasons I think Hillary Clinton lost is she ran a 1992 campaign in 2008. Barack Obama got momentum because he understood the internet and instead of going after $2000 donors or however/whatever the max is, one person at a time, he decided to grow a much larger donor base at $100 at a time and he really understands modern day elections. It’s as much about the media as it is the internet and those things are completely interconnected, I mean look at the Jeremiah Wright thing, that thing exploded on YouTube, the whole way that the campaigns are now it’s completely changed the rules of the game and I’m not sure that McCain gets that.