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American Government

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Chapter 14 1. During the nomination campaign, the candidates target party leaders and interest groups. This is the time for the candidates to learn that a single phrase could end the campaign or guarantee a defeat. The media take much less notice of mistakes at this time than in the general election campaign. A danger not always heeded by candidates during the nomination campaign is that a candidate can move too far left or right and appear too extreme to the electorate. If a candidate tries too hard to appeal to the interests of party elites, they jeopardize their chances of winning the election. An example of this is the election of 1964 when Barry Goldwater went too far right and lost the presidential election. 2. After earning the party’s nomination, candidates embark on the general election campaign, or the phase of a political campaign aimed at winning election to office. Unlike the nomination campaign, where candidates must run against each other, during the general election campaign, candidates in partisan elections run against nominees from other political parties. All eligible voters, regardless of political party, have the opportunity to vote. For this reason, candidates are more likely to move their positions on political issues toward the ideological center. The length of the general election campaign varies from state to state. 3. Paid staff, political consultants, and volunteers work behind the scenes to support the candidate. Collectively, they plan strategy, conduct polls, write speeches, craft the campaign’s message, and design a communications plan to disseminate that message to the public. Others are responsible for organizing fundraising events, campaign rallies, and direct voter contacts. The size and nature of the staff varies depending on the type of race. The campaign manager runs nearly every campaign at the state and national level. The campaign manager travels with the candidate and coordinates the campaign. He or she makes the essential day-to-day decisions, helps to determine the campaign’s overall strategy, and works to keep the campaign on message throughout the race. A campaign manager is hired directly by the candidate and works directly for the campaign; this person may be the only full-time employee of the campaign. The major role of the finance chair is to coordinate the financial efforts of the campaign. This job includes raising money, keeping records of funds received and spent, and filing the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. A communications director, who develops the overall media strategy for the campaign, heads the communication staff. It is the communication director’s job to stay apprised of newspaper, TV, radio, and internet coverage, as well as supervise media consultants. The communications director works closely with the press secretary. The press secretary interacts and communicates with journalists on a daily basis and acts as the spokesperson for the campaign. It is the secretary’s job to be quoted in news coverage, to explain the candidate’s issue positions, and to react to the actions of the opposing candidate. An important part of the team is the internet team, which manages the campaign’s online communications, outreach, and fund-raising. Members of the internet team post on blogs advocating for the candidate and create candidate profiles on social networking sites. Campaign consultants are the private-sector professionals and firms who sell the technologies, services, and strategies candidates need to be elected. Candidates generally hire specialized consultants who focus on only one or two areas, such as fund-raising, polling, and speech writing. Pollsters, on the other hand, are campaign consultants who conduct public opinion surveys. They are useful because they can tell a candidate where he or she stands relative to their opponent, or provide useful information about the issues and positions that are important to voters. Volunteers are the lifeblood of every campaign. They answer phone calls, staff candidate booths at festivals, and serve as the public face of the campaign. They go door to door to solicit votes, or use computerized telephone banks to call targeted voters with scripted messages. In addition, volunteers run get-out-the-vote campaigns by calling and e-mailing supports to encourage them to vote. 4. The U.S. has struggled to regulate campaign spending for well over one hundred years. The Corrupt Practices Acts, Hatch Act, and Taft-Hartley Act all attempted to regulate the manner in which candidates finance their campaigns and to limit the influence of campaign spending. Serious, broad campaign finance regulation was not enacted until the 1970s in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The FECA and its amendments established disclosure requirements; the Presidential Public Funding Program, which provides partial public funding for candidates who meet certain criteria; and the FEC, which enforces the nation’s election laws. By 2002, it was clear that these provisions were unable to regulate the campaign expenditures. Led by John McCain and Russell Feingold, President George W. Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The BCRA regulates political advertising and funding. The act limits the broadcast of issue advocacy ads within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election, and it regulates campaign contributions. Contributions regulated by the FEC are called hard money and contributions not regulated by the FEC are known as soft money. After a Supreme Court decision in 2003, it was determined that the restrictions on soft money donations and advertising did not violate free speech rights. Unfortunately, they did rule that the 30 and 60 day limits were unconstitutional. Then in 2008, the Court overturned another provision that had attempted to limit the amount of a candidate’s own money that could be spent running for office. Most recently, in 2010, the Court declared that BCRA’s ban on electioneering communications was unconstitutional. This decision is likely to increase the power of interest groups and corporations in campaigns. 5. Hard money campaign contributions are funds that are regulated and limited by the FEC. On the other hand, soft money campaign contributions are funds that are not regulated or limited by the FEC. Soft money may not be given directly to the candidate, but it may be used for indirect issue advocacy on the candidate’s behalf, as long as such advocacy does not directly mention the candidate’s name and does not occur in coordination with the campaign. 6. Although the FEC regulates campaign contributions, candidates are still able to receive outside assistance from soft money groups. Most candidates receive a majority of all funds directly from individuals, and most individual gifts are well below the maximum level. Candidates receive substantial donations from the national and state committees of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Under the current rules, national parties can give up to $5,000 per election to a House candidate and $42,600 to a Senate candidate. When interest groups such as labor unions or corporations seek to make donations to campaigns, they must do so by establishing political action committees (PACs). PACs are officially recognized fund-raising organizations that are allowed by federal law to participate in federal elections. Under current rules, a PAC can give no more than $5,000 per candidate per election and $15,000 each year to each of the national party committees. On average, PAC contributions account for 33% of the campaign funds of House candidates and 20% of the treasuries of Senate candidates. Incumbents tend to benefit the most from PAC money. Some observers claim that PACs are the embodiment of corrupt special interests that use campaign donations to buy the votes of legislators. PACs effectively use contributions to punish legislators and affect policy, at least in the short run. In Congress and in state legislatures, well-funded, electorally secure incumbents often contribute campaign money to their party’s candidates who are struggling to raise money in competitive races. Generally, members contribute to other candidates by establishing their own PACs through which they distribute campaign support to candidates. In general, members give their contributions to the same candidates who receive the bulk of congressional campaign committee resources. Thus, member contributions at the congressional level have emerged as a major supplement to the campaign resources contributed by the party campaign committees. The Court ruled there is no limit on the amount of money candidates can spend from their own pockets. Public funds are donations from general tax revenues to the campaigns of candidates. On the federal level, only presidential candidates receive public funds. Under the FECA, a candidate for president can become eligible to receive public funds during the nomination campaign by raising at least $5,000 to individual contributions of $250 or less in each of 20 states. The candidate can then apply for federal matching funds, whereby every dollar raised from individuals in amounts less than $251 is matched by the federal treasury. During the general election campaign, the two major-party presidential nominees can accept an $85 million lump-sum payment from the federal government after the candidates accepts their nomination. If the candidate accepts the money, it becomes the sole source for financing campaign. A candidate may refuse the money and be free from the spending cap the government attaches to it. A third-party candidate receives a smaller amount of public funds proportionate to his or her November vote total. Candidates in some races may also receive indirect assistance from groups that raise and spend soft money. These funds cannot be spent in coordination with the candidate’s campaign or used to endorse a particular candidate. But, they can and are used to fund issue advocacy, often in the form of advertisements. One of the groups engaged in raising and spending soft money is the 527 political committees. The 527 committees perform many of the same functions as political action committees; the major differentiation between the two lies in the Internal Revenue Service code from which they derive their name. And, in fact, many 527 organizations are affiliated with PACs. The other type of group responsible for raising and spending soft money in recent elections is 501 groups. This group can engage in varying levels of political activity, depending on the group. 7. Media can take a number of different forms; among these are traditional media, new media, and campaign advertisements. Traditional media coverage of a political campaign includes content appearing in newspapers, magazine, radio, and television. New media coverage includes content that appears on the internet, in blogs, and on social networking sites. During campaign season, the news media constantly report political news. The press often reports what candidates are doing, such as giving speeches, holding fundraisers, or meeting with party leaders. Reporters may also investigate rumors of a candidate’s misdeeds or personal history. Although the free media attention may help candidates increase their name recognition, it may prove frustrating for campaigns, which do not control the content of the coverage. Candidates and their media consultants use various strategies in an effort to obtain favorable press coverage. First, campaign staff members often seek to isolate the candidate from the press, thus reducing the chances that reporters will bait a candidate into saying something that might damage their case. Second, the campaign stages media events: activities designed to include brief quotes called sound bites and staged with appealing backdrops so that they will be covered on the television news and in the newspaper. Third, campaign staff and consultants have cultivated a technique termed spin – they put forward the most favorable possible interpretation for their candidate on any circumstance occurring in the campaign. Fourth, candidates have found ways to circumvent traditional reporters by appearing on talk shows and occasional comedy shows. Face-to-face presidential debates have become a fixture of presidential campaigns as well as races for governor and U.S. senator. Candidates recognize the importance of debates as a means of consolidating their voter base and also for correcting misperceptions about the candidate’s suitability for office. Although candidates are able to control what they say, they are unable to control what the media reports. Due to an advance in technology, candidates can gather and disseminate information quicker than ever. Candidates now have the ability to employ a “rapid-response” technique, which is a formulation of prompt and informed responses to changing issues. Many candidates use recorded phone messages to target narrow constituencies, which are used to spread negative information about an opponent and to raise money and rally supporters. The internet is the most widely used new media tool. Candidates and their media consultants may choose to buy airtime in the form of advertisements. Positive ads stress the candidate’s qualifications, family, and issue positions with no reference to the opponent. Negative ads attack the opponent’s character of platform. Contrast ads compare the records and proposals of the candidates, with a bias toward the candidate sponsoring the ad. Although negative ads have grown dramatically, they have been a big part of American campaigns almost since the nation’s founding. Voters frequently vote against the other candidate, and negative ads can provide the justification for such a vote. In an attempt to stave off criticisms from challengers, incumbents began airing inoculation ads to protect themselves in advance from the other side’s spots. Inoculation advertising attempts to counteract an anticipated attack from the opposition before such an attack is launched. 8. The 3 Democratic hopefuls in the 2008 presidential campaign were Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Clinton served as the first lady as the wife of Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. Then from 2001 to 2009 she served as U.S. Senator for New York from 2001 to 2009. Since then, she has served as the U.S. Secretary of State under President Obama. Barack Obama served three terms representing the 13th district in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, running unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2000. After serving in the Illinois Senate, Obama won election into the U.S. Senate representing Illinois. Then in 2008, Obama defeated Clinton to become the Democratic nominee and went on to defeat John McCain to become the first African-American to be president. He was re-elected in November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney. John Edwards served as a U.S. Senator for North Carolina and in 2004; he became the Democratic nominee for vice president. In both 2004 and 2008, Edwards was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although Edwards was the third member of the presidential campaign, the race was primarily between Clinton and Obama. After a bruising nomination battle that threatened to split the Democratic Party, the nomination contest came to a close when Senator Clinton conceded to Senator Obama. 9. Senator McCain chose the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his vice president pick. Palin was seen as a rising star in Alaskan politics with a strong record of government reform. Palin’s strong pro-life views connected on a personal level with social conservatives and evangelicals. Some even argued that the selection of Palin was an attempt to appeal to middle-aged, white, female Clinton supporters, many of whom were still disaffected by the Democrats’ nomination of Obama. 10. After a grueling presidential campaign, Barack Obama defeated John McCain by a comfortable margin. Not only did Obama crush McCain in the Electoral College, but he also defeated McCain in the popular vote by the highest margin since 1964.…...

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