election, a number of orientating landmarks mark the way to Election
the traditional Labor Day kick-off, the ad campaign, September debate
the debates themselves, and a grueling last ditch effort as the
go all out to win over a few more voters in key states. Charges and
fly; excitement builds. While all this is happening, the
are operating with one goal in mind: 270. Two
electoral votes is the number needed to win, and major party
campaigns deploy their resources accordingly.
campaign recieves a fixed amount of money from the Federal Election
Fund for the general election; once the nomination has been secured and
the conventions concluded, it must determine how best to spend that
In some states the campaign will "play hard" or even "play very hard."
These states receive visits by the candidate, his wife, the vice
candidate, and surrogates, and the campaign makes serious ad buys in
At the other extreme, some states are essentially written off as
they receive minimal resources.
Once a campaign has
it will contest a particular state, it does not blindly throw resources
in. A rule of thumb in presidential elections is that about 40
of those who turn out will vote for the Republican candidate no matter
what and another 40 percent will vote for the Democrat no matter what.
Thus much energy and resources are devoted to trying to reach the
20 percent of the electorate--persuadable swing voters--with the
in media markets with high concentrations of persuadable voters.
People in these areas can expect to see a lot of political ads.
mail pieces go out to swing voters. The message is carefully
to attract persuadables or allay their concerns. To attract
the major party nominees generally move toward the middle, toning down
more extreme elements of their messages that they had used to appeal to
party activists during the primaries.
a campaign, the electorate can be divided into three groups: those who
are for the candidate, those who are "agin" him and the
In the fall, much of the campaign's resources are directed to this
group. Then, in the closing weeks, the campaign makes a
effort to mobilize its base supporters.
As Election Day
the campaign also seeks to mobilize its core supporters.
and precinct-walking are staples of get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts.
The fall campaigns
major party candidates are financed by direct grants from the Federal
Campaign Fund, which in turn is financed by the $3 check-off on
income tax returns. In 1996, the Dole/Kemp and Clinton/Gore
each received $61.8 million from the Fund. Perot '96 received $29
million, based on Perot's showing in 1992. In addition, the
parties are allowed to spend a fixed amount advocating the election of
their nominees; in 1996 the limit for coordinated party expenditures
$12 million. (All these figures will be adjusted for inflation
2000). In 1996 campaign finance laws were essentially shredded as
the parties employed a very broad definition of soft money, which by
is not supposed to be used in connection with federal campaigns.
Needless to say,
the money given to the campaigns goes into television advertising.
in the summer, the campaign will have put together an ad team which
both political and Madison Avenue talent. Based on polling data, the
the campaign wants to stress will have been identified. The ad team
ideas to convey those themes, and produces spots which are then tested
in focus groups, and, hopefully, approved by the campaign management.
the work does not stop with an ad "in the can" and approved; careful
is required to ensure that the ads are seen by the target audience. The
demographic watching "60 Minutes" differs markedly from that watching
It is left to media planners, juggling GRPs and dayparts, to put
television is not
the only medium available to the campaigns. Radio is an effective way
reach some audiences, for example during drive-time. Because of its
profile radio is sometimes used to deliver negative messages. Magazine
and newspaper advertising can be very effective, but are not often
Persuasion mail and phone calls also convey the campaigns' messages.
in 2000, Internet advertising will no doubt play a role as campaign
ads appear on various Web sites.
Travel information above is compiled from public schedules provided by
the campaigns, supplemented in some instances by news accounts.
impromptu stops and private meetings are generally not reflected; also
the Bush campaign was not very rigorous about providing info on
Finally, in terms of overall campaign travel, the activities of the
spouses are not included. Tipper Gore and Hadassah Lieberman were
quite active; Lynne Cheney did some independent travels and Laura Bush
PBS program "The
Television Bureau of Advertising
Nielsen Media Research
Examples of Media Planners/Buyers: Harmelin
Media & Associates, TBS Media
A Leading Media Rep: Katz
Media Group, Inc.
Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.