As Congress adjourns for a month long recess, the most important battles over healthcare reform will be played out in townhall meetings in congressional districts all across the country. Why is this important? Simple answer: It’s all about earned media. Townhall attendance isn’t enough to actually change national opinion regarding healthcare, but reports of protests and chaotic townhall sessions make headlines that can effect perception.As General George S. Patton said, “America loves a winner.” That’s true of politicians and even positions on issues. The vast (and growing) population of independents has a tendency to back what they perceive to be the “winning” side. That’s why you hear consultants harp on “momentum” in the closing days of a campaign. Because late-breaking voters cast a ballot for whom they think is winning. The same principle applies to the battle over healthcare.Over the past several weeks, reports have surfaced of a growing number of incidents at townhalls hosted by congressmen supporting the president’s healthcare plan. The townhalls in the spotlight have seen everything from yelling, asking the congressman loaded questions, and general disruption in opposition to the proposed legislation. Alone, these townhalls would normally have little impact—other than perhaps embarrassing the congressman in front of a few dozen people. But, traditional and non-traditional media has helped proliferate reports of protest.Noting the success of the protests in the townhalls, Republicans are now encouraging more of those who are miffed about the healthcare reform to attend their Democratic congressman’s townhall and ask tough questions. Democrats are trying to gain control of the situation by attempting to paint townhall rioters as extremists who are obstructing constructive conversation about the future of our nation’s healthcare system. Unfortunately for the Democrats, local newspapers and television stations are more likely to cover a townhall that has the potential to be explosive than not. The reason is because it makes for good entertainment. So, until the “new” wears off on intra-townhall riots, the Democrats will have to brace for the worst.But, watch for Democrats to change from in-person townhalls to telephone townhalls, where they can control the questions much like a call-in radio show. They still get to send out a press release saying they hosted a townhall where they heard from constituents regarding healthcare.Tyler Harber is Vice President and Director of the Political Division for Wilson Research Strategies, a leading public opinion research and political consulting firm for Republicans. You can follow Harber at www.w-r-s.com or on Twitter @tharber.