Key White House strategists and top members of the Republican National Committee will move into new offices this week that will serve as headquarters for President Bush’s re-election campaign.
The establishment of a physical space to plot a second term for the president is the most visible move to date by a campaign that is determined to keep a low profile for as long as possible.
“It’s our strong preference that we not generate any news,” said Nicolle Devenish, the campaign’s communications director.
That’s partly because the campaign is busy with the logistical challenges of setting up new offices in suburban Washington. But there is also a strategic reason for the secrecy.
Campaign officials are loath to portray Mr. Bush as engaging in politics when they can portray him as busy fighting the war on terrorism and working to improve the economy. This keeps Mr. Bush looking presidential at a time when his nine Democratic opponents are overtly campaigning against each other.
By this point in the last presidential election, Mr. Bush had been openly campaigning for months. Now, Mr. Bush is engaged in a sort of stealth campaign.
“He has no need to run an overt campaign right now,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen. “He’s busy being the only guy that anybody cares about at the G-8 conference, the only guy that can actually mold the Middle East peace process. He is in a different category than every other national leader right now.”
He added, “The campaign will still do all the technical and tactical things that are necessary for voter turnout and the other things they want to do.”
For example, Marc Racicot, who is expected to be named campaign chairman soon, is using his position as chairman of the Republican National Committee to register 3 million new voters before next year’s election.
“We firmly believe that [this efforts] end result will have a direct impact on the outcome of the 2004 election,” Mr. Racicot wrote to the party faithful recently.
“It’s a continuation of the emphasis on grass-roots politics that began after the cliffhanger 2000 election, when Democrats still enjoyed their long-standing advantage in get-out-the-vote operations.”
The near-death experience in the Florida recount wars persuaded the Republican Party to emulate Democrats by turning out large numbers of voters in last year’s mid-term elections. It was one of the reasons Republicans swept to historic victories.
According to Mr. Racicot, those gains will be lost if the party doesn’t redouble its efforts at registering at least a fraction of the estimated 23 million unregistered voters considered likely to vote Republican by next November.
“If we fail to engage more of our fellow citizens in the political life of our country, we will undoubtedly lose ground in our ability to retain the White House,” Mr. Racicot wrote in the RNC magazine, Rising Tide.