Q: You were quoted in a New York Times piece that this
may be the year when being a politician is not such a bad thing after
all. What are your thoughts on that?
CASTELLANOS: The dominant political
group is baby boomers. And when you have the people deciding, when
the people deciding an election are a bunch of baby boomers who are
investing in mutual funds, these are kind of risk averse people. So,
I think this is going to be a good year for experience, a good year
not to rock the boat.
Q: Not a year when you necessarily
want to have big, new ideas.
CASTELLANOS: The country agreed
on a lot of big, new ideas in 1994. Clinton agreed on them, Republicans
agreed on them. Changing welfare, cutting taxes, balancing the budget.
So our big ideas are kind of in track and on place. This is a year
to get a lot of that done. And not to rock the boat.
Also this year I think the economy's going into uncharted territory.
We've never been where we are, where we're going. And people are a
little scared. When times are a little anxious like they are now,
I think people are a little more reticent to make a big change.
Q: What did you glean from California
in particular? Was Al Checchi's problem Al Checchi? What did you read
CASTELLANOS: Al Checchi proved
the dictum that the most dangerous place is the middle of the road.
He ran as a Democrat who was going to fight crime, who was going to
cut bureaucracy, and do all of those things that Republicans usually
He was doing great until Lungren got into the race and the voters
figured out there was a real Republican in the race. So he got sandwiched
on the left by Davis and lost votes to the Republican on the right
and, you know, the lesson there is that American politics starts at
the wings and moves towards the middle. You can't build a candidacy
in a primary from the mushy center. There's no support.
Q: Are there lessons to be learned
in terms of his advertising campaign, 40 million or whatever it was
that he spent? Or is it risky to generalize from that?
CASTELLANOS: That nothing kills
a bad product. I think the lesson to be learned from California and
40 million dollars is that nothing kills a bad product quicker than
good advertising. You know, sometimes the problem is not the label
on the can, it's the dog food. And sometimes there's just dog food
dogs don't like.
Q: Where do you take this as you
plot the rest of your course for '98?
CASTELLANOS: Where do I take what
Q: The risk averse nature of things.
That experience is a good thing. Presumably ads have to fit the times,
so how does that suggest the course that you'll follow with your campaign?
CASTELLANOS: You know, the people
I work for still have agendas. I work for them because they believe
in things and I can vote for them. So they still, you know, the agenda
they agreed on is an agenda of change. Of changing Washington, of
making it smaller. Of returning more economic power to families. Making
families stronger, making government less strong. So that's not to
say that it's a, you know, the agenda, the things we're going to be
talking about are, are just, it's all about experience. No, it's experience
that gets you somewhere. And it's experience that gets you the things
we agreed on in '94. And, you know, a lot of the challengers this
year that the Democrats have I think are going to fail on both those
counts. They're, many of them are not running like Clinton of '96
and '98. They're running like Clinton of '92 and 4. They're running
on the big health care, the thing that bombed for Clinton when he
tried it. And so, I think they are off on the agenda. And a lot of
them then are also untested and risky.
Q: You mentioned a moment ago
that you work for candidates that you can vote for. How important
is that to you, to be in sync with the principles of the people you
CASTELLANOS: There's no other
reason in the world to do this job. As, as hard as it is. As much
as it takes you away from your family, as, if it's not for something
you believe in, you could always be doing something else.
You know, on the good days this is a great job. You get to, you get
to, to try to be a little creative. You get to, you get to watch television
for a living. But the best thing about this job is you get to fight
for things you believe in. The things you think are important, things
you think that will make a difference down the road.
So, I mean, why would you try to undermine things that, why would
I try to undermine things that I believe in? There's no other reason
to do this other than, you know, you get to go to war with your friends
over big ideas and things you care about that you think are good about
Q: And how does that then inform
what you try to accomplish in an ad. Is it to get at the heart of
what that person is and then reveal that?
CASTELLANOS: The longer, the longer
I've done this stuff, the less powerful I think the technique is,
the less powerful I think style is. The more powerful I think truth
is. The best thing you can do, my mission in a campaign, is to find
the truest thing you can say about the candidate I represent and about
Sometimes it's that little moment that is bigger than the moment itself
that tells you everything you need to know about someone. You know,
the fact that, the fact that Lauch Faircloth drives home every weekend,
300 miles, by himself, leaves, goes home, spends his, he doesn't really
live here. He doesn't like this place. The fact that, for example,
you walk into most senators offices and they have their paintings
on the wall, Lauch Faircloth's walls are bare. He doesn't care about
That one thing tells you so much about him. And we look for those
little things about the guys we work for and the guys that we think
would be a danger to the country.
Q: So it's finding that moment
and then revealing it within that thirty seconds?
CASTELLANOS: Yeah. You want to
find that one little moment that's bigger than the moment itself.
Something that tells you something. Just a little moment that tells
you something big and true.
That's one of the things that bothers me the most about people who
would try to compel their version of what is true in an ad. By saying
it has to have the candidate on it or it has to be just facts or it
has to be this.
Bob Dole kept, until his last day in the senate, a cigar box in his
desk drawer in which the little town of Russell had raised money for
him so he could have an operation to learn to walk again. That is
an important thing about Bob Dole. He never forgot those people, never
would. He'd never betray those folks. And, you know, that's truer
than Bob Dole talking to a camera. That's truer than any fact or figure
you could give about Bob Dole. That's important.
So I don't think you want to constrict politics to weed all of that.
I can, you know, I can show you ads that a, that a little bit of music
and some pictures of a candidate might be the truest thing about that
guy that you couldn't tell any other way. You know, we're doing an
ad about Bob Taft. And one of the versions of the spot I like the
most now, has no comment, no words, it's just music and Bob Taft.
And at the end of it, I feel like I've met him, and I know him. I
know what a decent guy he is. That's important.
Q: Paul Taylor, if he were here,
would argue the advantage of the sort of Stand By Your Ad approach,
having the candidate on camera, saying here's what I believe in, is
that you're going to get a less negative message. That you're going
to get a more factual, accurate message. That you're going to get
the product, the dog food, if you will, as opposed to all the other
CASTELLANOS: I think if you get
a less negative message, in many cases, in this country you get a
less factual message. The truest spots, most factual spots, are the
negative and comparative. They inform the voters much more than a
bunch of fluffy positives often do.
Secondly, are you sure we don't need more negative messages? Our government's
broken. You know, we've spent a zillion dollars trying to fix these
problems in America all of which are worse. And, basically Washington
is very ineffective. Don't we need to compel change? Maybe we need
more negative commercials, not less? And I'm not sure Paul would be
as, as strict as he was a year ago about requiring a candidate to
be on camera.
You know, we talked a little bit about when Elvis Presley came on,
Ed Sullivan wouldn't show him from the waist down because, "Oh
my God," you know, that's not good for people. We've got to protect
people from that. And they want to do the same thing with Bob Dole.
Hey, we're only going to show Bob Dole in a head shot from the waist
up because somehow that's truer than talking about a cigar box or
by talking about what he really is, the populist form the prairie.
That's, you know, a bunch of guys in stiff suits deciding what, in
their benevolence, what's good for you as a voter to, what you ought
to see and not see. I don't buy that. There already is somebody out
there to decide what we ought to see in campaigns. There already is
somebody out there to decide what's good for us. They're called Americans.
And putting all these rules on campaigns that candidates can do this
but can't do that, should say this, shouldn't say that, I think removes
a lot of power from, from voters.