Campaigns and Elections
How Campaigns are Conducted:
Several developments have led to the rise of the personality campaign. The decline of parties
is the most important. The primary election has taken from party leaders the power to select
the party's nominee for office; they therefore have little reason to work hard to help that
person win the general election, Political funds and political jobs are increasingly under the
control of candidates and officeholders, not party leaders. Public financing funds go to the
individual candidate, not the party. And the decline in party identification among voters means
that candidates have less incentive to stress party ties. In addition, the increased use of mass
media for campaigning encourages the building of an image based on personal qualities.
Any campaign tends to be composed of four distinct types of workers. First, the paid
professionals may be either members of the incumbent's office staff or outside "hired-gun"
specialists. Second, unpaid senior advisers are usually old and trusted acquaintances of the
candidate. Third, citizen volunteers are a diverse lot who are given routine and boring tasks.
Finally, issue consultants define issues and write position papers. Other professional
consultants include media personnel, organizers of computerized direct-mail campaigns, and
pollsters. Modern political consultants, unlike their party counterparts of the past, usually take
no responsibility for governing.
After assembling a campaign staff, the candidate must make a series of important decisions
about campaign strategy. The primaries present the first problem. One may take strong,
ideological positions on the issues and attract the support of ideological activists who loom
large in the primary electorate This, as George McGovern found out in 1972, makes it difficult
to appeal to independents and members of the party in the general election. The candidate
must also decide whether to run a positive or a negative campaign, how to time the campaign
(peaking early or late), what groups to appeal to, and how money should be spent.
Sometimes choices are restricted: an incumbent will necessarily be judged on his record, and
a member of the president's party will be saddled with the record of the incumbent president.
Finally, a candidate must guard against making a blunder-such as Carter's
Reagan's claim that trees are a major source of pollution, or Clinton's claim not to have
inhaled marijuana-that could cost the election.
Television is an important factor in modern campaigns. Paid advertisements, called
can be useful, especially in primary elections in which voters do not have large amounts of
information from other sources.
on the other hand, are segments on television
newscasts. To get this exposure a candidate must contrive to do something visually
interesting, and at a time and place convenient for TV camera crews. Ironically, television
newscasts are rarely informative, focusing as they do on campaign hoopla. Paid spots, on the