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Texas Politics - The Executive Branch
Mark White discusses the use of message power. Mark White discusses the use of message power.
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Mark White on reaching out to Texas voters Mark White on reaching out to Texas voters
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message power
power to persuade
6.    Message Power: Formal and Informal

Governors possess the message power, so named because of the constitutional requirement that the Governor deliver a message to open the legislative session, a biennial budget message, and a retirement message at the end of the session. The Governor can also deliver special "emergency" messages while the Legislature is in session.

The so-called message power contains an important informal dimension. Despite the limitations on his or her formal powers, the governor occupies a unique position in the state and the political system. When the governor addresses groups and makes speeches or statements, his or her agendas and priorities are routinely transmitted through coverage by news media. Thus, although the governor's statements may have no binding authority, they can set a tone for the entire state government.

When used skillfully, this access to media exposure partially compensates for the governor's limited formal powers. But using media exposure requires skill, which usually comes not just from the Governor, but also from advisers and consultants who are paid to help the governor come up with strategy and tactics for using media effectively.

Using the "message power" can also backfire in countless ways. Governors who use their access to the public to attempt to force action by other political figures can be publicly outmaneuvered, and perhaps have a bluff called in an all-too-public way. Also, a mistake or a verbal gaffe can turn a public relations offensive into a high-visibility embarrassment. Though the message power has become one of the powers governors are least likely to lose and most likely to use to their advantage, exercising it effectively requires skill, strategy, and perhaps even a little luck. Governors are granted the power to persuade, as was mentioned earlier. But there is no guarantee that every governor will successfully exploit this power.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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