From NBC's Carrie Dann
An online chat, with pre-screened questions and carefully typed responses, is hardly a medium that lends itself to candid moments or unexpected breaking news. But despite their necessarily scripted content, the online forums periodically touted by the '08 campaigns may be worth a watchful eye, precisely because they offer the unhindered opportunity for the campaigns to push the fundamentals of their candidate's message.
Take today's webchat with John Avlon, deputy director of policy and speechwriter for Giuliani. The questions posed to Avlon (example: "Would Rudy use Reagan's model of foreign policy?") were hardly hardballs, allowing responses that were brief and unrelentingly on-message. Among the Giuliani catchphrases plugged in Avlon's responses: "solve problems from our strengths not our weaknesses," "executive experience;" empowering indviduals;" and the inescapable Reagan shoutout -- "peace through strength."
That's not to say that there aren't interesting kinks to be found between the sheets of boilerplate. One participant who inquired about Giuliani's plan to rebuild New Orleans received a fairly generic response focused on "strengthening our infrastructure," which begs the question of how the mayor HAS addressed Gulf Coast recovery. And one parallel drawn by Avlon between his boss and GOP untouchable Ronald Reagan -- "a rejection of moral relativism" -- could invite analysis by socially conservative voters who accuse Giuliani of embodying a relativist position on abortion.