Capitol Alert

Message at the California tea party: Find attractive college students to spread word

Members of the Tea Party California Caucus pray before a meeting at the California Republican Party’s fall convention in Anaheim on Sept. 19, 2015.
Members of the Tea Party California Caucus pray before a meeting at the California Republican Party’s fall convention in Anaheim on Sept. 19, 2015. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Public relations can be difficult for the tea party in this heavily Democratic state, so at the California Republican Party’s fall convention Saturday, activists gathered for a tutorial.

Problem: A man working a GOP booth at the state fair can’t get anyone to come over.

Solution: “You bring in some 25- and 30-year-old good looking college students, men and women, and watch how fast you get young people to stop by the booth,” producer Michael Emerson told the crowd.

Emerson’s audience, like the California Republican Party at large, was mostly older and white. To improve its reach, Emerson suggested accentuating positive messages over negative ones, and targeting those messages to specific audiences.

“If you are trying to reach college students, and we need them,” he said, “you don’t have me do it, you have other college students do it.”

He added, “Usually attractive female college students.”

Emerson recommended posting online videos, something “your sons or daughters or grandchildren can do for you,” and he urged activists to create their own stationery and official-sounding titles when dealing with the media.

The totality of the effort, he said, was to improve the party’s brand.

When many people think of the tea party, Emerson said, they assume it is composed of “racist, homophobe, xenophobe, gun-toting radicals - that’s who we are.”

A woman shouted, “Yeah,” and the room broke into applause.

Emerson paused.

“That was a response I didn’t expect,” he said. “I got to tell you, I like the ‘gun-toting,’ but not the ‘radicals.’”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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