McCain, Obama Struggle to Reign in Surrogates

Speaking Their Mind

This was the same Carly Fiorina who triggered a less controversial flap herself just a few days earlier when she said, "There are many health plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth control medication. Those women would like a choice."

Distractingly off-message for a surrogate for a candidate who opposes abortion.

Then, oops, she did it again a few days later, telling Bloomberg's Al Hunt that McCain might support higher Social Security taxes, if a bipartisan coalition is "creative enough" to come up with a plan that would only impact wealthier Americans.

The McCain campaign said Monday the candidate believes Social Security can be fixed without raising taxes on anyone. Fiorina has -- or now, had -- been mentioned as a possible McCain running mate.

Sooner or later, what happened with these two McCain surrogates happens to almost every candidate.

In March, Samantha Power, one of Sen. Barack Obama's, D-Ill., top foreign affairs advisers, called Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., "a monster" in an interview.

Power compounded the problem by saying Obama's plan to withdraw all troops from Iraq within 16 months was just a "best case" scenario. Power was gone within days.

Clinton had her own problems with surrogates.

Bill Shaheen, Clinton's New Hampshire campaign co-chair and husband of Senate candidate and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, got into hot water when he alluded to Obama's youthful drug use.

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro raised eyebrows when she said, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

And Clinton's own spouse, the former president, probably didn't do her any favors with his "fairy tale" quip regarding Obama's position on Iraq (albeit, the context in which it was said -- he was talking about Obama saying he'd always been against the Iraq war -- got lost in translation), and when he compared Obama winning the South Carolina primary to Jesse Jackson having done the same thing.

Madden says there is one cardinal rule that surrogates ignore at their own -- and their candidate's -- peril.

"Every time you talk to a surrogate before they go out and speak on behalf of the campaign ... (they) have to be sure that it's not about them. It's not about their ideas. It's not about what they believe. It's about what the campaign believes, what the campaign is doing."

Violate that rule and you'll very quickly become an ex-surrogate.

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