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The President is not a normal hotel. It is owned by the office of the President, and residence is by invitation only. A fence surrounds the property, which is patrolled by police armed with machine guns and wearing bulletproof vests. When Dyachenko moved her own office to the hotel to be near the Americans, the rest of the campaign took three floors of offices there as well. Yeltsin's badly split Russian advisers quickly set up separate fiefdoms on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors. Dyachenko worked almost exclusively on the 11th in Room 1119, directly across the hall from the Americans in 1120. She and they shared two secretaries, a translator, and fax, copying and computer-printing machines.
By the end, the team's office resembled a typical American campaign headquarters. Soda bottles and old food shared space with computer printouts. Graphs charting Yeltsin's progress in the polls hung on the walls, and the entire scene was dominated by a color-coded map of Russia with Post-it notes describing the vote expected in the nation's various regions. A safe stood unused, and documents intended for a shredder remained intact, in plain view.
Gorton followed Dresner to Moscow and encountered in Dyachenko a shy, intelligent and idealistic young woman who for some time recoiled at even the most mild American-style dirty trick. "But it wouldn't be fair," Gorton recalls her saying when he advised that Zyuganov be trailed by heckling "truth squads" designed to goad him into losing his temper. At their first meeting across a long table covered in green felt, Dyachenko confided, "I don't know this business. I don't know what to ask." For a few weeks, says Gorton, "the task was simple education, Campaigning 101, stuff like the proper uses of polling and the need to test via focus groups just about everything the campaign was doing, or thinking of doing."
Yeltsin's staff brought a set of potentially disastrous biases to the campaign. They thought the polls they read in the papers were good enough to determine strategy, and because so many of their allies had failed miserably in the Duma elections despite spending huge sums on television commercials, they believed political advertising was useless in Russia.
But the polling was inaccurate and unsophisticated and thus virtually useless in determining how thematically to guide the effort. "The pollsters asked mostly horse-race questions," explains Dresner. "The focus-group operators were in love with indirection and literally asked people to answer questions like, 'If Yeltsin were a tree, what kind of tree would he be?' We needed to know whether voters would move to Yeltsin if he adopted a particular policy, but for that crucial purpose the research in hand was totally uninformative. As for the TV spots used in the Duma elections, they were creative and pretty, but they were far from hard-hitting. "All of that," says Shumate, "had to be explained to a group of people who, no matter their professed commitment to democracy, were trapped in a classic Soviet mind-set. They thought they could win simply by telling big shots like the directors of factories to instruct their employees how to vote."