Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 18, 2014

Women of Washington: Anita Dunn, Sara Fagen on the 2012 Election

Uber-pols Anita Dunn and Sara Fagen spoke in front of a few dozen of the most powerful women in Washington — plus the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart — this morning.

The two talked political strategy, gaffe cleanup and the reality of being a woman in an industry dominated by men.

Dunn, the former Obama White House communications director and a principal with the firm SKDKnickerbocker, politely went toe-to-toe with Fagen, the former George W. Bush White House political director and a partner with DDC Advocacy, for a (relatively) frank discussion about politics and strategy 49 days out from the 2012 presidential election.

Steve Clemons, the Atlantic editor-at-large, started the ball rolling by asking Fagen what GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign should do after an embarrassing video that was leaked to Mother Jones magazine earlier this week.

Fagen conceded that the video “didn’t sound good,” but she quickly reminded the room that, in this tight race, the next two months will be characterized with an embarrassment of twists and turns.

Nonetheless, she says that this is a teachable moment for political strategists and campaign staffers.

“[It] is a good lesson for people in politics,” Fagen said. “Which is that candidates should never play political strategist.

“You’ve got to correct the record, do cleanup and move on,” Fagen said.

Dunn, for her part, skirted an opportunity to comment on her personal experience managing Obama’s own leaked video gaffe in the 2008 race.

“People misspeak all the time … but when those comments actually provide what voters see as a window into [the candidate's] soul — what they really believe — that’s when [the gaffes] become really illuminating one way or the other,” she remarked.

Both women agree, however, that the Romney campaign must move on. And quickly.

“We are 49 days out from the election,” Dunn said. “So there are a couple things that happen. One is every day that goes by is a day that you can’t get back because the most irreplaceable resource in any campaign is time.

“Money? Yeah, well you can always raise more money if you’re the Romney campaign, but you can’t get more time,” she continued. “You can’t do a wrinkle in time, go back and redo things. So, time is a problem for them.”

Watch the whole discussion here. It is worth it.

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