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--A slackening of the Yeltsin campaign's anticommunist message in the last 10 days. The Americans had advised "that you cannot hit hard enough, or long enough, the idea of the communists' bringing civil unrest if they win." In the first round, says Shumate, "the repetition lesson never took completely."
--Yeltsin's attendance at rock concerts and other frivolous events. "We needed to reach young voters," Dresner says, "but our photo-op lectures were taken to an extreme. A disturbing dissonance was created. You shouldn't have the President out there dancing and prancing if your main message is that the country is going to dissolve into chaos if the other guy wins. Either you run a serious-business campaign seriously, or you don't."
--Yeltsin's prediction of a first-round victory so huge that a runoff wouldn't be necessary. "Believe what you want," says Dresner, "but there is never any justification for hype like that unless you're out to depress the turnout, which is the exact opposite of what we were trying to do."
The first round's closeness guaranteed that the two-week runoff campaign would be conducted with care, regardless of the predictions that Yeltsin couldn't lose. The Americans' insistence on the anticommunist message was pursued with a vengeance. At the end, Yeltsin's television advertising was almost exclusively a nonstop diet of past Soviet horrors. Lebed's law-and-order theme dovetailed nicely with the pre-existing Yeltsin emphasis on preserving stability. Several bogus poll predictions were put forth to make the race seem close and thus increase turnout. Everything clicked except for Yeltsin's health, which naturally was barely covered by the pro-Yeltsin media. The press resumed its criticism of the President following his victory last Wednesday, but until then the media had been positively slavish about following the campaign's injunction: "Not a word about bad things."
The Americans claim no special knowledge about the President's illness or its severity and are unconcerned about the course of Yeltsin's second term and whoever will finally emerge as its key players. "We were brought in to help win," says Gorton, "and that's what we did. The Russians are prideful and say that people like us won't be necessary in the future because they've learned what to do. You hear that everywhere after the hired guns have done their work--and it may be true. All I know is that for every guy who thinks he can go it alone, there will always be another guy who knows he can't."
Last week Russia took a historic step away from its totalitarian past. Democracy triumphed--and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well. If those tools are not always admirable, the result they helped achieve in Russia surely is. But just as in America, the consultants can only take Yeltsin so far.