- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2019

The local headline says it all: “Aggressive public affairs campaign saves 1,600 acres of historic land.”

Indeed, the folks living in Virginia’s bucolic Culpeper County managed to fend off Cricket Solar, which was intent on building a utility-scale solar energy facility across those many gorgeous acres of farmland and significant Civil War battlefields. The region at risk happens to include Craig Shirley, a presidential historian and veteran public-relations adviser living in Essex County, who immediately launched an opinion poll on behalf of Citizens for Responsible Solar, a local grassroots group.

The survey revealed fierce local opposition to the giant solar complex. Op-eds and radio interviews followed, as did a public petition, press releases, letters to newspapers and much social media. The local folks emerged as the victors, the farmland and battlefields were saved, as was the Rapidan River.

Mr. Shirley and his team also recruited acclaimed film director Ron Maxwell — think “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals” — to advocate for preserving the beloved and sacred ground.

“The history we share in Virginia is at risk. We are in danger of erasing the history that attracted many of us to call Virginia home,” Mr. Maxwell noted in a letter to local officials.



The take-away: Canny public-affairs outreach and D.C.-style tactics work just as well across the rolling green countryside as it does in the hair-raising environment of the nation’s capital.

“When fertile and historically significant land is threatened, the amplified and unified voice of the people must be heard,” declares Kevin McVicker, vice president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, which ultimately coordinated the efforts.

WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?

Who’s really running things in the nation’s capital? Is it President Trump, political insiders, Democrats, Republicans? The reality: One-third of Americans do not know who sets the “agenda” in Washington, this according to a new Economist/YouGov poll.

That includes 26% of Republicans, 44% of independents and 27% of Democrats.

The percentage rises to 40% among millennials and 39% among both black people and women.

Some relief for Mr. Trump’s fans, though. Among eight choices of powerful D.C. entities in the survey, Mr. Trump is considered to be in charge of the agenda by the largest percentage of respondents. See the numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end. Then ask yourself: Who’s in charge here?

FAKE FOX FIGHT?

There has been a skirmish between President Trump and Fox News in recent weeks, to the delight of the hostile news media. Some say, however, that it is a “fake feud” similar to what is found brewing between pro wrestling rivals who stay in character and appear to be in a real fight.

“It’s possible that Trump is once again laying the groundwork to start his own, Foxier than Fox TV channel or conservative news website. But it’s far likelier that this is all make-believe,” writes Jack Shafer, senior media analyst for Politico.

There is a motive behind it all, he says.

Trump’s faux-fight with Fox is designed 1) to add drama and excitement to where there is none; 2) make him the primary focus of events; and 3) temporarily complicate the storyline so viewers keep watching. Fox benefits from Trump’s periodic attacks (remember when he boycotted one of Fox’s 2016 presidential debates because it wouldn’t dump Megyn Kelly from the broadcast). They make the channel look like it’s standing up to the president, and Fox ends up looking more independent and credible,” Mr. Shafer reasons.

MEANWHILE IN FLORIDA

Republican and Democratic strategists eye one another constantly, searching for political minutiae which could benefit their respective causes. Case in point: NRCC vs. DCCC — the rivalry between the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Today’s topic: pushback in Florida over the reelection campaign of state Rep. Margaret Good, a Democrat.

“The DCCC is officially meddling in the Florida-16 primary, throwing their support behind Margaret Good. Talk about a kiss of death. Good will now be forced to own the Washington Democrats’ entire socialist agenda which includes eliminating employer-based health insurance for government run health care — all in a district President Trump won by over 10 points,” the GOP organization notes in an analysis.

Yes, well. This scenario could be repeated elsewhere.

“Now that Margaret Good has the backing of the Washington political machine, there will be no way for her to run away from their extreme socialist agenda in a district President Trump won by double digits,” advises Camille Gallo, spokeswoman for the NRCC.

HERE COMES THE ALMANAC

The annual arrival of the bodacious Almanac of American Politics is such a big deal in certain circles that it warrants a fancy launch party with the publication’s high-profile authors, who include Charlie Cook, Michael Barone and Rich Cohen.

The almanac remains “the gold standard of accessible political information” and includes profiles of every governor and lawmaker, campaign finance data, analysis of voter turnout and registration data. Among many, many things. Find information at TheAlmanacOfAmericanPolitics.com.

POLL DU JOUR

33% of Americans are not sure who is setting the agenda in Washington this year.

22% say President Trump is setting the agenda, 13% say lobbyists.

9% say the media is setting the agenda; 8% say Senate Republicans.

7% say House Democrats, 3% House Republicans.

2% say the Supreme Court, 2% Senate Democrats.

Source: AN ECONOMIST/YOUGOV poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 24-27.

• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

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