The GOP's Ambassador Of Ill Will
Ana Marie Cox
December 21, 2007
In an election campaign that's seen the Republican party dealing with a listless base and flawed candidates, Republican National Committee communications director Danny Diaz is unaccountably cheerful.
His calls to reporters often begin with "Dude! It's Diaz!" And when he forwards along the latest bit of bad news for Democrats — usually about Hillary Clinton — his comments veer between issue-oriented potshots ("There is very little in Clinton's plan that would benefit the families and children she claims to fight for") and partisan sarcasm — like his reaction to Clinton's refusal recently to participate in a harmless AP story on candidates' "favorite things." "Score another one for Team Clinton," he deadpanned.
Diaz describes his job as an "ongoing and daily effort to ensure that both sides of the story are told." When it's pointed out that at least 99% of the e-mails he sends to reporters are highlighting stories unflattering to Democrats, he laughs and says, with mock solicitousness: "I can certainly package and send you information we put on the web about the President's speeches." It is the job of the RNC communications team, he admits, to "provide information to further a story line that is detrimental to our opposition." Of course, the Democratic National Committee has someone doing the exact same thing; what distinguishes Diaz is the obvious pleasure he takes in a job that is largely about spreading ill will.
"In this job, with the hours and the intensity level, you have to be able to have some fun or else you're not going to last very long," says Diaz, a native of Virginia who joined the National Republican Congressional Committee as deputy press secretary six years ago. He was a regional spokesman for Bush-Cheney in 2004 before joining the RNC for his first stint as communications director in 2006. In early 2007 he joined John McCain's press staff, but left that campaign amid the shake-ups of last summer and landed back at the RNC.
Prior to entering politics, Diaz did public relations in the private sector. Before that he put himself through school at George Mason University by working as a plumber — not of the Nixonian leak-fixing type, but of the uses-wrenches-and-fixes-pipes type. He stopped plumbing when he got into p.r., but he still fixes an occasional friend's pipes. In some ways they're more similar than you would believe," he says of his two occupations.
To be sure, the challenge for Republicans this year is almost as unpleasant to deal with as a clogged drain: an unprecedentedly unpopular President, a slog of a war, and an "excitement deficit" due to the presence of two historic candidates in the Democratic field. I definitely think about it," he says, "Everyone recognizes that the challenge is significant." What Diaz brings to the task is not just his wit and partisan fervor, but a taste for hard work. Early in the McCain campaign, when a blizzard shut down flights between New Hampshire and D.C., Diaz rented a car and drove all the way to Manchester just to be there when the Senator arrived. "Oftentimes, just by being honest and committed, and being focused, you can achieve unbelievable results," he says. Considering the GOP's approval ratings, Diaz has his work cut out for him.