Chapter Study Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. The rules and broad reality that drive campaigns change infrequently, and when they do change, they tend to do so abruptly; this has formed a pattern of long periods of continuity which are distinctive because of the brief and important changes that took place between them.
    2. The four major eras in American political campaigns are the Pre-Democratic Campaigns (1788–1824), Mass Mobilization Campaigns (1828–92), Progressive Era Campaigns (1896–1948), and Candidate Campaigns (1952–?), each of which also share certain aspects of American elections in common.
  2. The First Campaign Era: Pre-Democratic Campaigns, 17881824
    1. Before the 1800 election, little, if any, competition and campaigning took place, in most part because of the assumptions that Washington—or his successor and vice president—would be president. During the 1800 election, the two-party system emerged, on one side the Federalists, and on the other the Republican-Democrats.
    2. Though the rules of elections differed greatly in 1800, they were still important to both parties’ campaigns. Electoral College representatives who elected the president were chosen by state legislatures rather than citizens, and parties focused on getting such legislatures to support their candidates as well as pass laws that would favor them. They also led to organized attempts at getting citizens to vote for their state legislatures.
    3. One of the differences in campaigning between 1800 and currently is that the candidates did not participating in campaigns, which were carried out by other party members. Through 1824, candidates remained relatively passive in elections, and the coalition created by Jefferson remained in continuous power until substantive changes to the rules of elections completely changed campaigning.
  3. The Second Campaign Era: Mass Mobilization Campaigns, 182892
    1. Before the election of 1828, state legislatures were replaced by statewide popular votes as the way that the Electoral College was chosen. Because of this, campaigns suddenly became much more hands-on for the candidates, who actively began to reach out to the populace. The structure, methods, and basic message of Jackson’s 1828 presidential campaign provided a template on which most subsequent campaigns have been based, which included having a small group of friends and political operatives leading his campaign with the promise of jobs in his next administration, an emphasis on organizing voters, and the inclusion of entertainment-based events, such as parades and songs.
    2. During the late nineteenth century, changes that were generally out of the hands of the candidates and their parties occurred that began to once again transform campaigning and the election process.
      1. The rise of the election commission during election disputes in states occurred during the 1876 elections, in which four state elections were disputed. The election commission, made up of senators, representatives and Supreme Court justices decided the election results exactly according to their party affiliation.
      2. During the earlier periods, there had been no true independent press in America; newspaper were usually owned and operated for specific, partisan ends. The rise of the independent media and the “penny press” led to a growing norm of impartiality on the part of journalists, and changed the way campaigns were able to disseminate information.
      3. The increasingly powerful political parties also began to influence the way campaigns were run, as candidates suddenly focused less on their own character and qualifications when running and more on their party membership. A level of corruption, especially in urban areas, made the issues of the campaign almost unimportant, and local political bosses gained increasingly more power when candidates won federal office and were able to reward supporters. 
  4. The Third Campaign Era: Progressive Era Campaigns, 18961948
    1. Candidates continued to be actively involved in the campaign on the ground, and campaigning became more personal and more expansive at the same time. Securing both monetary, community, and party support became essential, as illustrated by the ultimately unsuccessful cross-country railroad campaign of William Jennings Bryan and the seven million dollar–strong campaign of his victorious opponent, William McKinley, in the election of 1896.
    2. Reforms weakened the too strong political parties and their mobilization strategies, leading to a decline in voter participation.
      1. The Civil Service, created in 1872, ended the practice of rewarding party loyalty with government jobs, as it created guidelines based on professional qualifications necessary to be hired by the government. This detracted from candidates’ abilities to reward campaign workers and supporters.
      2. A new ballot was introduced during the reforms which kept the choices of each voter secret. The Australian ballot was especially important in New England, where corrupt political bosses had used a level of coercion to force votes along party lines. In the south, ballot reforms led to the disenfranchisement of black voters that would not be corrected until much later in the twentieth century. Both types of reforms led to a decrease in the number of voters who came out to the polls on Election Day.
      3. Finally, states began instituting primary elections in order to determine party candidates, rather than allowing party leadership to decide for them. Because of these reasons, candidates began to return to a more personal, character-based campaign style rather than acting only as stand-ins for their political parties.
    3. With the close of the era, new technological innovation began to change campaigns once again. The new national highway system, the inventions of the microphone and telephone, and the emergence of the radio as a popular source of information and entertainment further closed the gap between candidates and mass audiences, and led into the major technological change that brought about the next campaign era.
  5. The Fourth Campaign Era: Candidate Campaigns, 1952?
    1. The increase in technology at the end of the third campaign era culminated with the invention and widespread use of the television. Television had a huge effect on how elections were decided and campaigns were run.
      1. Because of the importance of having a “face” on television for people to relate to, and the expense of television ads, fund-raising became a much more crucial and much larger part of campaigns. This focus on drawing in more financial support has also lengthened the campaign process, and increased the size of the staff that a successful candidate would need.
      2. The importance of personality rather than party affiliation when on-screen has also led to the rise of the candidate over the political partya trend that had already began to occur gradually. Television began to turn candidates into “stars” for public scrutiny.
      3. Because of the importance and short length of television commercials, the necessity of “sound bites” or sloganeering began to dominate American campaigns, who attempted to make their messages clear, entertaining, and memorable.
      4. The importance of studying geographical units of people has generally waned as media market demographics have replaced them as the main unit that strategists study when advising candidates.  
    2. Another significant change that had begun to occur during the third campaign era was the increasing importance of primary elections. By the mid-1970s, primary elections were held in 40 of the 50 states to select candidates, which reinforced the need for a long and healthily funded campaign long before the date of the general election. Candidates focused more on their character and personal attributes to differentiate themselves in primary elections from other party-members. 
    3. The implementation of polling during the 1960s and 70s also became significant in campaigning, and candidates and their strategists were able to further understand the reactions of the public to specific policies, personal attributes, events, and even speeches. Candidates became increasingly able to test their messages before dispelling them in ads or speeches.
    4. The final change during the fourth era is the balance of power shared by the Democratic and Republican parties. Before the implementation of television and polling as well as the Republican success in Congress in 1994, the Democratic Party had always had a significant edge over the Republicans, especially in Congress. The 1990s saw a more equalized power struggle that has continued since.
  6. What about Today?
    1. The rise of other technology, such as the Internet and new polling strategies, has continued to transform campaigning over the past decade.
      1. The implementation of focus groups and dial groups have allowed strategists more direct information about the specifics of what members of the public prefer in campaigns. Furthermore, with the large availability of public data, many campaigns are able to amass information on voters without holding polls, and can target specific interest groups that would feasibly support their candidate.
      2. The rise of cable news and talk radio have both increased opportunities to advertise to target audiences as well as create specific messages and circulate specific stories in order to gain support for one candidate, or dissuade voters from another.
      3. The invention of the Internet and the growing popularity of social networking and media sharing sites such as Twitter and YouTube have led to a new form of advertising and opened up candidates to a much younger potential group of supporters. At the same time, the Internet has further closed the gap between the candidates and the public, making the campaign even more involved and hands-on for the candidates themselves.
    2. The narrowing gap between those who identify as Democrat and Republican, another long-term trend, has led to the ideological polarization of the parties, and has led to a greater emphasis on mobilizing the party’s “base” support as well as gaining the moderate, unaffiliated voters during general elections.
    3. Finally, the increasing demographic growth of minorities in America has greatly affected the aims and messages of candidates, especially in states such as California or Arizona, with large minority populations. This, as well as the enfranchisement of black voters and young voters (18–21 year olds), has led to new messages and new forms of communication used by campaigns to mobilize these groups.
    4. There are, of course, continuities between the campaigns of the earliest days of American politics and currently, including the use of door-to-door campaigners, the importance of voter mobilization, and the presence of negative campaigning. Since the 1980s, campaign length has stabilized, and the tradition of focusing more on a candidate’s character rather than specific policy stances has remained a campaign reality as well. The one trend that 2012 will help cement is whether campaigns will continue to increase in expense, or if the recent recession has stabilized the cost of running for office.