Elections and Campaigns – Week 9 Notes

Elections and Campaigns


After reading and reviewing the material in
this chapter the student should be able to do each of the

1. Demonstrate the differences between the
party-oriented campaigns of the nineteenth century and the
candidate-oriented ones of today, explaining the major elements of a
successful campaign for office today.

2. Discuss how important campaign funding is to
election outcomes, what the major sources of such funding are under
current law, and how successful reform legislation has been in
purifying United States elections of improper monetary

3. Define the term realigning election and
discuss the major examples of such elections in the past as well as
recent debates over whether realignment is again underway.

4. Describe what the Democrats and the
Republicans each must do to put together a successful national
coalition to achieve political power in any election.

5. Outline the major arguments on either side
of the question of whether elections do or do not result in major
changes in public policy in the United States.

Text Outline

I. Presidential versus congressional

A. Introduction

1. Two phases: getting nominated
and getting elected

2. Getting nominated

a. Getting your name on the

b. An individual effort (versus
organizational effort in Europe)

c. U.S. parties now stress label more
than organization

d. Parties used to play a major

B Major differences

1. Presidential races are more
competitive than House races

a. Presidential winner rarely
gets more than 55 percent of vote

b. Most House incumbents are reelected
(over 90 percent)

2. Fewer people vote in congressional

a. Unless it coincides with a
presidential election

b. Gives greater importance to
partisan voters

3. Congressional incumbents can serve
their constituents

a. Credit for government grants,
programs, etc., can be claimed by Congress member

b. President can’t (power is not
local) and must communicate by mass media

4. Congressional candidates can campaign
against Washington

a. President is held

b. But local candidates suffer when
their party’s economic policies fail

5. Power of presidential coattails has

a. Congressional elections have
become largely independent of presidential election

b. Reduces meaning (and importance) of

C. Running for president

1. Getting mentioned as being
presidential caliber

a. Using reporters, trips,

b. Sponsoring legislation, governor of
large state

2. Setting aside time to run

a. Reagan: six years; Mondale:
four years

b. May have to resign from office
first (Dole in 1996)

3. Money

a. Individuals can give $1,000,
PACs can give $5,000 in each election to each

b. Candidates must raise $5,000 in
twenty states in individual contributions of $250 or less to
qualify for matching grants to pay for primary

4. Organization

a. A large (paid) staff

b. Volunteers

c. Advisers on issues: position

5. Strategy and themes

a . Incumbents defend their
record; challengers attack incumbents

b. Setting the tone (positive or

c. Developing a theme: “trust,”
“confidence,” etc.

d. Judging the timing (early momentum
vs. reserving resources for later)

e . Choosing a target voter: who’s the

II. Primary versus general

A. Primary and general

1 . What works in a general
election may not work in a primary

a. Different voters, workers,
media attention

b. Must mobilize activists with money
and motivation to win nomination

2. Iowa caucuses

a . Held in February of
presidential election year

b. Candidates must do well or be
disadvantaged in media attention, contributor


c. Winners tend to be most liberal
Democrat, most conservative Republican

3. The balancing act

a. Being conservative or liberal
enough to get nominated

b. Move to center to get

c. Apparent contradiction means
neither candidate is appealing

4. Even primary voters can be more
extreme ideologically than average voters

a. McGovern in 1972

B. Television, debates, and direct

1. Paid advertising (spots)

a. Probably less effect on
general than primary elections

b. Most voters rely on many sources
for information

2. News broadcasts (“visuals”)

a. Cost little

b. May have greater credibility with

c. Rely on having television camera
crew around

d. May actually be less informative
than spots

3. Debates

a. Usually an advantage only to
the challenger

b. Reagan in 1980: reassured

c. 1988 primary debates with little

4. Risk of slips of the tongue on visuals
and debates

a. Forces candidates to rely on
stock speeches–campaign themes

b. Sell yourself as much or more than

5. Ross Perot

a. CNN appearances

b. Infomercials,

6. 1996, major networks with free time to
major candidates

7. The computer

a. Makes possible direct-mail

b. Allows candidates to address
specific voters via direct mail

c. Importance of mailing

d. Campaign Web Sites

(1) immediate source of

8. The gap between running a campaign and
running the government

a . Party leaders had to worry
about reelection so campaigning and government linked

b. Today’s consultants don’t
participate in governing

III. Money

A. How important is it?

1. 1988 presidential campaigns
totaled $177 million

2. 1992 presidential campaigns totaled
$286 million

B. The sources of campaign money

1. Presidential primaries: part
private, part public money

a. Federal matching funds

Candidates are not required to take
matching funds in presidential primaries. In 1980, John
Connally sought the Republican nomination solely on the
basis of private financing, which allowed him to avoid the
spending ceiling imposed on candidates receiving federal
funds. He lost. Also note the activity of Steve Forbes in
1996 and 200 as well as Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. In 2000
George W. Bush has refuse matching money as

b. Only match contributions of small
donors: less than $250

c. Gives incentive to raise money from
small donors

d. Government also gives lump-sum
grants to parties to cover convention costs

2. Presidential general elections: all
public money ($55 million per candidate)

3. Congressional elections: all private

a. From individuals, political
action committees, and parties

b. Most from individual small donors
($100-$200 a person)

c. $1,000 maximum for individual

d. Benefit performances by rock stars,

e. $5,000 limit for PACs

f. …but most give only a few hundred

g. Tremendous PAC advantage to
incumbents: backing the winner

h. Challengers have to pay their own

C. Campaign finance rules

1 . Watergate and illegal

a. From corporations and

b. Brought about the 1974 federal
campaign reform law and Federal Election Commission

2. Reform law

a . Set limit on individual
donations ($1,000 per election)

b. Reaffirmed ban on corporate and
union donations …

c. . . . but allowed them to raise
money through PACs

d. PACs in turn raised money from
members or employees

e . Set limit on PAC donations ($5,000
per election per candidate)

f . Primary and general election
counted separately

3. Supreme Court ruled that limits could
not beset on campaign spending

The majority opinion of the Supreme
Court held that campaign spending limits where no federal funds
are received violated the free speech provision of the First

a. But set limit of $50,000 on
out-of-pocket spending by a presidential candidate who
accepted federal financing

4. Law did not limit independent
political advertising-no consultation with candidate or
campaign organization

a. Typically done by
ideologically oriented PACs

b. Sometimes negative or attack

5. Loopholes of law

a . Allows soft money-money for
local party activities, e.g., getting out the vote

b. Allows money for general voter
registration campaigns; Alan Cranston and Charles Keating

c. Allows bundling

D. Effects of reform

1 . Goal was to expose and
publicize fundraising

a. Has succeeded, but …

2. has greatly increased power of PACs
and thus of special interests

3. has shifted control of money away from
parties to candidates

a. Limits influence of

4. has given advantage to wealthy

a. Can just write out a check
for campaign expenses

5. has given advantage to ideological

a. Direct mail appeals to
special interest groups on issues like abortion, gun
control, school prayer, etc.

6. has penalized candidates who start
campaigning late, who don’t have war chests

7. has helped incumbents and hurt

a. PACs more likely to support
an incumbent

E. Money and winning

1. Money makes a difference in
congressional races

a. Challenger must spend to be

b. Jacobson: big spending challengers
do better

c. Big spending incumbents also do

2. But it doesn’t make the only

a. Party, incumbency, and issues
also have a role

3. Advantages of incumbency, in

  • One estimate calculates incumbency as
    providing an automatic 9 percent vote advantage.

    a. Can provide services to

    b. Can use Franking Priviledge for

    c. Can get free publicity through
    legislation and investigations

4. Ideas for reform

a. Unlikely: Congress won’t
agree since incumbent has advantage

b. The “constitutional right to
campaign” involved

c. Public financing of congressional
races would give incumbents even more of a

d. Abolishing PAC money might allow
fat cats to reemerge as a major force

e. Shorter campaigns might help

5. See box in text-1994

6. See box in text-1996


IV. What decides elections?

A. Party identification but then why
don’t Democrats always win?

1. Democrats less wedded to their

2. GOP does better among

3. Republicans have higher

B . Issues

1 . V. 0. Key: most voters who
switch parties do so in their own interests

a. They know what issues affect
them personally

b. They have strong principles about
certain issues (abortion, etc.)

2. Prospective voting is used by
relatively few voters

a. Those voters know the issues
and vote accordingly

b. Most common among activists and
special interest groups

3. Retrospective voting practiced by most
voters, so decides most elections

a. Judge the incumbent’s
performance and vote accordingly

b. Have things gotten better or worse,
especially economically?

c. Examples: presidential campaigns of
1980, 1984, 1988, 1992

d. Usually helps incumbent … unless
economy has gotten worse

e. Midterm elections: voters turn
against president’s party

C. The campaign

1 . Campaigns do make a

a. They reawaken voters’
partisan loyalties

b. They let voters see how candidates
handle pressure

c. They let voters judge candidates’

2. Campaigns tend to emphasize themes
over details

a. True throughout American

b. What has changed is importance of
primary elections

c. Gives more influence to
single-issue groups

D. Finding a wining coalition

1 . Ways of looking at various

a. How loyal, or percentage
voting for party

b. How important, or number voting for

2. Democratic coalition

a. Blacks most loyal

b. Jews slipping somewhat

c. Hispanics somewhat mixed

(1) Political power does not
yet match numbers

(2) Turnout will increase as more
become citizens

(3) See box in text regarding the
Hispanic vote

d. Catholics, southerners, unionists
departing the coalition lately

3. Republican coalition

a. Party of business and
professional people

b. Very loyal, defecting only in

c. Usually wins vote of poor due to
retired, elderly voters

V. Elections outcomes

A. Party realignments

1. Definition: sharp, lasting shift
in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties

2. Occurrences: change in issues that
distinguish the parties, so supporting voters change

a. 1800: Jeffersonians defeated

b. 1828: Jacksonian Democrats came to

c. 1860: Whigs collapsed; Republicans

d. 1896: Republicans defeated

e. 1932: FDR Democrats came to


3. Kinds of realignments

a. Major party disappears and
new party emerges (1800,1860)

b. Voters shift from one party to
another (1896, 1932)

4. Clearest cases of

a. 1860: slavery

b. 1896: economics

c. 1932: depression

5. 1980 not a realignment

a. Dissatisfaction
with Carter led to Reagan’s victory

b. Also left Congress

6. Major change in 1972-1988: shift in
presidential voting patterns in the South

a. Fewer Democrats, more
Republicans, more independents

b. Independents vote

c. Now close to fifty-fifty
Democratic, Republican

d. Party de-alignment, not
realignment, because party labels lost meaning for so many

B. Party decline

1. Fewer people identify with
either party

2. Increase in ticket


VI. The effects of elections on

A. Argument: public policy remains
more or less the same no matter which official or party is in

B . Comparison: Great Britain, with
parliamentary system and strong parties, often sees marked
changes, as in 1945 and 1951

C. Evidence indicates that many American
elections do make great differences in policy, though
constitutional system generally moderates the pace of

D. Why, then, the perception that elections
do not matter? Because change alternates with consolidation; most
elections are only retrospective judgments


blanket primary A variant of
the open primary in which the voter receives a ballot that lists the
candidates for nomination of all the parties, enabling the voter to
vote for candidates of different parties.

closed primary A type of
primary in which the voter must be a registered member of a political
party to vote in that party’s primary.

coattails (political) The
tendency of lesser-known or weaker candidates to profit in an
election by the presence of a more popular candidate on the

critical or realigning periods
Periods during which a sharp, lasting shift occurs in the popular
coalition supporting one or both parties. The issues that separate
the two parties change, so the kinds of voters supporting each party

electoral coalition A base of
committed partisans supporting an electoral candidate who also
attracts swing votes.

electoral realignment The
situation when a new issue of utmost importance to voters cuts across
existing party divisions and replaces old issues that formed the
basis of party identification.

general election The second
election in a campaign (primary is first). It determines which
party’s nominee will win office.

incumbent The person currently
in office.

negative ad Media advertising
meant to cast an unfavorable light on an opponent.

office-bloc ballot A ballot,
sometimes called the Massachusetts ballot, that lists all candidates
by office to minimize a straight party ticket vote. It was an
innovation championed by the Progressives.

open primary A type of primary
in which the voter can decide upon entering voting booth in which
party’s primary to participate.

party-column ballot A ballot,
sometimes called the Indiana ballot, that was government-printed and
contained a list in columns of all candidates of each party. A voter
could simply mark the top on one column to vote for every candidate
in that column. It was replaced by the office-bloc ballot.

political action committee A
committee, set up by a special-interest group representing a
corporation, labor union, or other special interest, to contribute
financially to candidates and campaigns.

position issue A campaign
issue on which the rival parties or candidates take different
positions in order to reach out for electoral support. It tends to
divide the electorate.

presidential primary A special
kind of primary used to pick delegates to the presidential nominating
conventions of the major parties.

primary election The first
election in a campaign; it determines a party’s nominee for an

prospective voting Voting on
the basis of a person’s views of candidates’ positions on the

public finance law A federal
law providing funds to candidates seeking the presidency. In
primaries, matching funds are available only after eligibility
requirements are fulfilled. In the general election, the federal
government gives candidates of major parties the option of complete

retrospective voting Voting on
the basis of how things have gone in the recent past and, if the
voter approves of the current administration’s performance, voting
for the party in the White House or voting against that party if the
voter disapproves.

runoff primary A type
of primary used in some southern states. If no candidate
gets a majority of the votes in the first primary vote, the two
candidates with the most votes vie in a second primary

split-ticket voting An
election result in which a congressional district (or voter) votes
for the presidential candidate of one party and the congressional
candidate of the other party.

spots Short ads on behalf of a
candidate on television. Such ads may convey a substantial amount of

straight-ticket voting Voting
for candidates who are all of the same party; for example, voting for
the Republican candidates for senator, representative, and

theme An element of campaign
strategy that is a simple, appealing idea that can be repeated over
and over again.

tone An element of campaign
strategy that involves either a positive (build-me-up) or negative
(attack-the-opponent) approach.

valence issue A campaign issue
that is linked in the voters’ minds with conditions, goals, or
symbols that are almost universally approved or disapproved by the
electorate, e.g., corruption. visual A campaign appearance covered in
a news broadcast.