Lecture Outline: Chapter 7

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1 Lecture Outline: Chapter 7 Campaigns and Elections I. An examination of the campaign tactics used in the presidential race of 1896 suggests that the process of running for political office in the twenty-first century combines strategies and tools of the past with innovations of the present. A. Presidential campaigns continue to rely on personal appearances by candidates, rallies, campaign posters, and the distribution of millions of pieces of campaign literature. B. Today, however, campaigns take place under the umbrella of many regulations and restrictions at both the federal and state levels, with constitutional amendments and federal and state laws affecting the way candidates are nominated, how campaigns are run, and who is eligible to vote. C. Yet many Americans are suspicious of the election process. Two-thirds of Americans feel distant and disconnected from government. Almost one-third have an unfavorable attitude toward Congress, and 57 percent feel that they can trust government in Washington to do what is right only some of the time or never. D. The public is also critical of the way candidates conduct and finance their campaigns. Many believe that there should be restrictions on campaign spending, a finding not surprising in light of press reports that millions of dollars can be spent on a U.S. Senate or House race as well as in elections for the office of governor or mayor. E. A myth widely accepted by the public about elections the myth of broken promises or the idea that elections have no impact on government policies fosters these beliefs. F. In analyzing the election process, we find that this myth represents only partial truths. Many politicians are highly motivated to fulfill their campaign promises. II. III. The first step in the election process is the selection of candidates the nomination process. Every year, thousands of individuals decide to run for office. Both personal ambition and policy goals motivate people to run for political office. A. Personal satisfaction includes the acquisition of power and the prestige of holding office. B. These rewards often drive politicians to climb what Joseph Schlesinger calls the opportunity structure: the political ladder of local, state, and federal offices that brings greater prestige and power as one moves toward the presidency. C. More than a career, however, candidates are also committed to public service and to policy goals. In partisan elections, most prospective candidates must first secure a party nomination. A. One of the oldest nomination methods is the caucus, a meeting open to party loyalists where candidates are slated by the party. Caucuses are used in about 20 percent of the states to select delegates to the national party presidential conventions. B. Most federal, state, and local candidates for office are selected in primaries, elections in which party members (and sometimes all voters, depending on state law) select candidates to run under the party banner in a general election. There are several forms of the primary. 1. In states that use an open primary, any qualified voter may participate regardless of his or her party affiliation. 2. In closed primaries, voters can obtain a ballot only for the party in which they are already registered. 3. In a partisan primary, candidates run for their own party s nomination, but in nonpartisan primaries, candidates are listed with no party label.

2 IV. 4. Finally, a run-off primary used in 10 southern states takes place in a multicandidate race when no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first primary. A run-off primary takes place between the top two vote getters. 5. The first presidential primary is always held in New Hampshire. Historically, presidential primaries were spread out over the first six months of the calendar year in which the presidential election took place. In 2000, however, many states, eager to have an early influence on the Republican and Democratic nomination process, moved their primaries ahead. As a result of this front-loading phenomenon, by March 2000, approximately 70 percent of the delegates to both the Republican and Democratic conventions had been selected. C. Both the Democrats and Republicans select their presidential candidates at national nominating conventions. 1. Although state presidential primaries and caucuses have obscured and, for all intents and purposes, replaced the presidential nominating role played by the national party conventions, the convention still serves as a place for party delegates to transact business, write party platforms, and provide publicity for their presidential and vice-presidential nominees. 2. The Democrats have been particularly active in reforming the delegate selection process, thereby opening the system to more grassroots, nonleadership delegates. 3. Voter turnout in state presidential primaries where convention delegates are selected is generally very low. In most primaries, fewer than 30 percent of the eligible voters turn out to vote; often the percentage is under 20 percent. In the 2002 primaries held in 37 states, with the presidential nomination not at stake, only 17 percent of the voting-age population voted. D. Historically, white, male, wealthy Protestants (the exceptions being Catholics Al Smith in 1928 and John Kennedy in 1960) have been presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Although barriers still remain, there is some evidence, with the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nomination of Geraldine Ferraro and the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nomination of Joseph Lieberman of the Jewish faith, that ethnic, racial, gender, and religious barriers to public office at all levels are breaking down. Campaign watching is a favorite American pastime, although Americans are critical of many aspects of the campaign process. A. One area constantly critiqued by the public and many officeholders and the media is campaign financing. 1. Campaigns at many levels have become very expensive, generating the moneybuys-elections myth. In 1972, revelations of the illegal donations solicited by the Nixon campaign committee (CREEP) fueled this suspicion by the public. 2. In 2000, campaign costs in all federal elections exceeded $3 billion. 3. The Federal Election Act of 1971 (and subsequent amendments) established a commission to monitor the flow of funds in federal elections; it also set limits on contributions, provided for public financing of presidential elections, and restricted total spending by presidential candidates who accept federal funding. 4. In 2000, each presidential candidate spent approximately $68 million on the general election. 5. Any evaluation of these expenditures has to be understood in light of the way money is spent in other areas. For example, Procter & Gamble, General Motors, and Philip Morris each spend over $2 billion a year advertising their products. 6. Sources of money include the candidate s own resources, political action committees (PACs) (see also Chapter 8), and individual contributions. The latter

3 makes up the largest proportion of campaign contributions in presidential primaries and congressional races. B. Does money buy elections? Many scholars argue that this is not the case. 1. Money is a very important ingredient in most campaigns, particularly for the most visible and sought-after offices. Most of the time, however, it is not enough for victory. Many big spenders lose elections (Michael Huffington spent over $28 million in his losing California race for the U.S. Senate in 1994; Michael J. Coles spent more than $3.3 million in his unsuccessful race for the House of Representatives in 1996), and those who spend little can win (William Proxmire spent $150 in his 1982 victorious bid for reelection to the Senate from Wisconsin). 2. A major concern of those who want to reform the campaign finance process is the use of soft money in campaigns. Soft money is unrestricted contributions to political parties from individuals, corporations, and unions that can be spent on party-building activities like voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts. The problem is that loopholes in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended in 1974 and later, allow soft money to also be spent in support of party candidates as long as key words like elect, vote for, or vote against do not appear in campaign ads. The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 bans soft money contributions to the national political parties. The future of the Reform Act remains uncertain, however, since the U.S. Supreme Court will make the final decision on the constitutionality of the law. 3. According to one student of campaign funding, Gary Jacobson, other factors that affect the outcome of many races include incumbency, partisanship, national tides, presidential coattails, issues, candidates personalities and skills, and scandals. C. The organization of many campaigns has become professionalized. 1. Many candidates still rely on personal staffs and volunteers to run their races. 2. For the most visible and sought-after offices, however, candidates who are well financed use professional consultants. D. Campaign strategy has become a preoccupation of many candidates. 1. The importance of issues in campaigns has grown. 2. Incumbents take advantage of their visibility and their records in developing strategies, although a poor or controversial record can spell doom for a candidate. Over the past 50 years, on average, over 90 percent of Senate and House incumbents have been reelected to office. 3. Since the 1960s, the new campaign style has included, in high-visibility campaigns, a reliance on many important technological tools and innovations. 4. The media, particularly television with free time on news broadcasts and paid advertisements play an important role in the development of campaign strategies (see also Chapter 9). 5. Polls are used widely to dramatize the viability of a candidate, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, assess the relevancy of issues, and determine the campaign s impact on voters (see also Chapter 5). Positive poll results can energize a campaign and draw new support and funding. Polls are very expensive, however, so they are used only in well-financed campaigns. 6. Computers have revolutionized many campaigns, facilitating mass mailings, record keeping, and campaign analysis. The low cost of some computers allows them to be used in local elections. 7. Over the past three decades, technical changes in the running of campaigns have been accompanied by growth in the number of professional campaign consultants trained to use the new tools. These consultants have undermined the role of parties,

4 although the national and state party organizations have begun to adapt the tools of the new campaign style to their services for candidates (see also Chapter 6). Nevertheless, over the past three decades, we have moved from party-centered campaigns to candidate-centered campaigns. V. Ultimately, however, it is the voter who determines the winning candidate. A. The Constitution originally left most of the decisions on voting qualifications up to the individual states. 1. Originally, all 13 states placed heavy restrictions on voting rights, limiting them mostly to white, property-owning or tax-paying males. 2. African-American males received the right to vote with the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment; the Twentieth Amendment gave women the vote in 1920; the Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to The federal government has had to intervene on numerous occasions to ensure voting privileges to African-Americans and other minorities. The 1965 Voting Rights Act and subsequent extensions and amendments in 1970 and 1982 contributed to the banning of literacy tests and other similar qualifying devices and extended the act to other minority groups, including Hispanics and Eskimos. 4. The act has resulted in increased electoral participation by minorities. It has been supplemented by Supreme Court action banning property ownership requirements, poll taxes, and shortened residency requirements. B. Although Americans are proud of our free electoral system, we don t turn out in large numbers for elections. 1. On average, only 50 percent of eligible voters turn out for presidential elections, well below the average in many Western European democracies, where turnout typically averages 70 to 80 percent in elections. 2. Higher turnout in many European nations may be explained by laws that allow voting on weekends, automatic universal registration, and fines for individuals who do not vote and do not have legitimate reasons. C. Who votes, and why don t more citizens vote? 1. Individuals who vote regularly are more likely to have attained higher educational levels and to have larger incomes and better jobs than nonvoters. 2. Non-English-speaking citizens tend to vote in lower numbers, although voting is increasing among these groups with increased education and subsequent English fluency. 3. Younger citizens are less likely to vote than older people, partly because of preoccupation with the demands of school, military service, or new careers. 4. Women turn out in slightly higher percentages than men (see also Chapter 5). 5. Citizens tend not to vote because of legal and structural reasons (for example, preregistration requirements) and because many believe in the myth of broken promises, fueled by a lack of confidence in government. D. Many variables influence how an individual will vote. 1. Many American voters pay at least some attention to issues when making their choices. 2. The personal qualities of a candidate particularly leadership qualities are also very important. This was particularly true after the impeachment and trial of President Clinton. Even though he was not convicted, many Americans, supportive of his policy positions, were distressed by the events surrounding his impeachment. Voters looked for strong leadership and personal qualities in the 2000 presidential elections and in the 2002 congressional races.

5 VI. 3. Party identification is an important cue for many voters in elections at all levels (see extensive discussion of this topic in Chapter 6). 4. Many voters engage in retrospective voting, in which individuals base their vote on the candidate s or party s past record of performance. This was true in 1980 when many voters rejected Carter s past performance (63 percent saw the election as a rejection of Carter); in 1984, when many voters supported Reagan because of their perception of his record; and in 1988, when 52 percent of the voters indicated that they wanted to keep to the Reagan course, an opinion that clearly favored Vice President Bush. By 1992, many voters felt that Bush had not fulfilled his agenda and had spent too much time on foreign policy issues, thus ushering in the Clinton administration. In 1996, peace and prosperity assured the public that Clinton should be reelected to a second term. There is little doubt that retrospective voting had some impact on voters in the 2000 elections. 5. Support from different ethnic, racial, economic, and religious groups is also evident in elections. (See chapter 7 for a breakdown of voting patterns in the 2000 elections.) E. To understand the presidential campaign process, students must know about the constitutional environment in which presidential campaigns take place specifically, the electoral college. 1. The Founding Fathers were hesitant to place the selection of the president directly in the hands of the people. An electoral college evolved in which the people elect electors in each state, equal to the number of members of the House and the Senate from that state. The electors then vote for the president. 2. With very few exceptions, the vote of electors within a state reflects the popular vote within that state. The presidential candidate receiving the plurality vote in a state receives all of its electoral college votes. The two exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which award their electoral college votes according to both the statewide vote and who wins a plurality in each congressional district. 3. A total of 538 electoral college votes are cast in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. 4. Although it is possible for a president to be elected with a majority of the electoral college vote but not a majority of the popular vote (this happened in 1888 and 2000), none of the reforms put forward to change the selection process have gained general acceptance. We continue to elect presidents and vice presidents indirectly through the electoral college even though the highly visible and contested 2000 election raised questions regarding its viability. Campaigns are linked to public policy. A. Although there is public skepticism about the responsiveness of government, the perception of broken promises is a simplification of the facts. B. Candidates do not fulfill all of their promises, but that task would be impossible given the competing interests and concerns of citizens in this country. The collective wish list of Americans is too extensive to be realistically fulfilled. C. The failures of officeholders do not necessarily reflect a lack of resolve. They often try hard to implement their promises. Presidents have been reasonably successful in fulfilling their campaign promises. D. Presidents programs fail because they are sometimes poorly conceived or ineffective, Congress will not cooperate because of the competing interests of their district constituents, or the president is unable to convince his own party members to support his programs. E. The politics of implementation are often complex, but many officeholders try hard and often succeed in many of their promises.

6 VII. Do elections matter? A. Elections do matter. Candidates run for office for personal reasons, including power, but they also run to implement promised policies. The myth of broken promises is, at best, only a partial truth, and evidence suggests that many campaign promises are kept. B. Money is important in fact, it is necessary for any campaign. However, we find that money alone is insufficient in most campaigns to win an election. Incumbency, issues, personality, skills, national trends, partisanship, and many other factors contribute to the success or failure of a candidate s quest for office. Voter characteristics, including religion, ethnic identity, race, age, and other factors also have an impact on the way people vote.

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