The Structure of a Campaign
All political campaigns can actually be looked at as a series of several campaigns that run simultaneously:
The Nomination Campaign
—aimed at the party leaders and activists within the party who choose nominees in primaries
or conventions. Quite often, the need to appeal to activists pushes a candidate to an ideological extreme, while party leaders
are interested in electability.
The General Election Campaign
—The ultimate goal for all candidates is to win the general election so he or she must
avoid becoming too extreme during the nomination phase because that may alienate the more moderate voters in the
The Personal Campaign
—The candidate makes personal appearances, often with family and supporters, to meet voters,
hold press conferences, and give speeches.
The Organizational Campaign
—Behind the scenes, every candidate needs an organization that can write press releases,
distribute literature, organize events, raise money, and contact voters. Among the many people working on this aspect of the
campaign are consultants, campaign managers, finance chairs, and more. Many are paid, but more of these workers are
The Media Campaign
—All campaigns use media whether paid or free, print or electronic. Paid media are television and
radio commercials extolling the candidate's virtues or the opponent's vices. Free media is coverage on the news or press.
The campaign tries to attract lots of free media, but only positive free media, so they often try to 'spin' or influence the
The Candidate or the Campaign: Which Do We Vote For?
Conventional wisdom seems to tell us that all of the campaigns we just spoke of are the most important factor in winning or
losing. Campaign organizations spend tons of money on consultants, pollsters, and professionals. Campaigns are precisely
manipulated, candidates are 'handled,' and appearances are scripted. However, the single most important factor in any
campaign is the candidate! Campaign techniques can downplay weaknesses and emphasize strengths, but they cannot
make a poor candidate win election most of the time. Most people vote for a candidate not a slick campaign. Campaigns can
enhance the positives and reduce the negatives of a candidate and poorly run campaigns can lose elections. But a well run
campaign with a lousy candidate has few chances of winning.
The Campaign and The News Media
Politicians and their staff would like to control the media, but generally do not succeed. They still try to manipulate it though.
Sometimes staffs insulate a candidate from the media to prevent gaffs or embarrassments. Campaigns often stage media
events designed to offer images, slogans, and soundbites that will be irresistable to the media and therefore garner the
campaign some free media coverage. And handlers and consultants try to spin their story. In other words, they work to put a
favorable interpretation on a day's events, a candidate's activities, a rumor, or whatever. We saw an excellent example of