Top political insiders talk about how campaigning has changed during the last 20 years — and how it’s likely to change during the next
SEVERAL TRENDS, EVIDENT in 1980, have since become major changes in our politics. The most obvious of these is the expanding reliance upon communications technology and the accompanying explosion of specializations in the political consulting industry. The growth of professionalism in politics can be measured by the marked evolution of Campaigns Elections itself from a somber, academically oriented journal to a vibrant and colorful trade magazine. And, in a seemingly contradictory trend, the increased reliance on technological expertise has permitted the creation of academic degree programs which now serve as a prominent doorway into the profession.
On a deeper level, technology has transformed the whole mind set by which democratic politics is practiced. From a highly personal structure of relationships, our politics have been transformed by a market orientation based on the science of probability, a change which is more significant than is suggested by the oft used distinction between Aretail@ and Awholesale@ politics.
While party organizations had many detriments (which, incidently, political scientists often ignore), one of their principal benefits was to provide a direct, personal link between candidate and voter, between public official and constituent. Demands for services and policies passed up this chain of human contacts, while requests for support, volunteers, money and votes passed down through the same structure. The people in these organizations — from party leader to ward heeler to precinct captain to loyal voter — mattered.
Modern politics have eviscerated these networks, replacing them with polling and mass communications. In the process, the individual voter has become a cipher, a statistical construct rather than a living, breathing person. Targeting involves creating an electoral majority by sending out messages to voters on the basis of the probability of support, depending on certain demographic characteristics or known Afacts@ about the individuals in a given group. Given the large number of citizens involved, campaigners cannot treat (or even conceptualize) these voters as individuals. In fact, to some degree, the individuals themselves are unimportant. As long as the total number of supporters can be pushed over the 50 percent mark, one voter is more or less substitutable by another.
In time, of course, voters have become wise to this strategy. Much of campaign communications are seen for what they are, mechanized, mass, and, inherently, inauthentic. While mass communications may still be effective, they are, nonetheless, widely disdained, a fact which may account for the low regard and skepticism with which much of the public now views election politics.
That brings us to the present and growing use of the Internet. Very recent observations suggest that the Web may help reverse this trend and redesign the connections between voters and candidates. In a survey conducted by Lake, Snell and Perry and the Tarrance Group, Internet users reported that they trusted information coming over the Web more than through other media, precisely because those receiving the campaign communications had greater control over messages they accessed.
Thus, in the near future, we may be able to establish a new, more personalized connection between candidate and voter. The relationship will still be rooted in technology. The communication will still be recognized as a mass medium. The technology will still allow abundant possibilities for targeting messages to voters depending on their interests. And the medium will undoubtedly raise anew all sorts of ethical issues in campaign communications. But even so, instead of positioning voters as essentially passive receivers of incoming messages, the Web will give voters a much greater degree of ownership over their interactions with their public office holders. That may restore some balance and mutual respect to the relationship.
Chrisropher Arterton is dean of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and Principal Investigator of the Democracy Online Project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
WHEN THE FIRST ISSUE of Campaigns & Elections was published 20 years ago, the overwhelming majority of Americans relied on the network news shows for their political information, and television advertising and direct mail were the preferred forms of campaign communication.
In recent years, we’ve had the advent of talk radio and — even more recently — of 24-hour cable TV news. Now, with the arrival of the Internet as a tool of campaign communication and organization, a whole new era has been born.
Two decades ago, voters were passive receivers of information, dependent upon the judgment of editors and reporters to decide what was newsworthy. But the Internet changes that, offering interested voters the ability to go online and actively seek out the information they desire.
Just as importantly, the Internet radically changes the old models of campaign organization. Old precinct organization techniques follow a model first laid down by Abraham Lincoln, based on identifying, informing, recruiting and mobilizing voters in a given geographic region — usually, the voting precinct. The Internet changes that, but not entirely. With the introduction of the “e- precinct,” a campaign volunteer in California can share her support for her favored candidate with everyone in her e-mail address book, and recruit volunteers all around the country from the comfort of her own home — for free. But there remains the task of getting people to vote. This is basic and must be done well to win.
With digital and wireless technologies growing by leaps and bounds, there’s no telling what the world of campaigns and elections will look like 20 years from now. Internet voting? Probably. Campaign advertising — in all sorts of new, eye-catching and innovative forms — directed via e-mail to targeted cyberactivists? Definitely.
But one thing’s for sure — whether it comes in on hard paper stock or is delivered to my e-mail inbox and read on my Palm Pilot, I’ll still be counting on Campaigns & Elections. What you do is very important. Congratulations on 20 years, and best wishes for the next 20!
Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican National Committee
EDWARD G. RENDELL
THE MOST OBVIOUS CHANGE that has occurred in political campaigning in the past 20 years is the dominant, all encompassing role that television has assumed. The 30-second TV ad has, to a great extent, replaced political organizations, field workers and door-to-door canvassing. This is especially true when the district encompasses a large number of people, such as in a congressional district or a statewide election.
Sophisticated focus groups and multi-screened polling discover messages that resonate and experienced media buyers target those messages to the groups they are intended to reach by careful media buying. This development is, in my judgment, not a positive one for our political system. Thirty second ads are simply too short to give voters sufficient information from which to make a reasonable judgment. They too often are highly negative personal attacks that turn off the electorate and reduce participation and turnout. They only magnify the importance of raising absurd amounts of money to pay for these ads.
Is there any hope for our political ,or can we only look forward to an in avalanche of these types of ads? I beat we do have hope and it’s spelled I- -R-N-E-T. As more and more American get on the Internet, it will allow campagins to communicate with voters in a substantive (and cost effective) way. The voters, treated with respect for the first years, can read about the candidates’ is in depth and make discerning evaluations and decisions. Wouldn’t it be nice? Tune in 20 years from now to an edition of Campaigns & Elections to see how we’re doing.
Ed Rendell is general chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was mayor of Philadelphia (1992-1999)
Transition in Place
TWENTY YEARS AGO, a transition was in place from campaigns run by party leaders and activists to professional strategists and managers. The old “kitchen cabinet” has been replaced with consultants specializing in polling research, advertising, telemarketing and fund raising. The men and women in today’s political kitchen are paid chefs. Campaigns in 2000 resemble more of a corporate public relations effort than two decades ago.
DAVID R. WELCH
High-profile congressional campaigns these days assume a budget of a million or more dollars. In 1980 it was half that amount. Twenty years ago most voters had the choice of four broadcast television stations. With cable we now have dozens of stations. Outside of California, most voters had never seen high-impact direct mail. Most campaigns now produce mail that competes visually with the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Three hundred gross rating points in a week was once standard. Today, it’s a thousand. And the campaign that generated four direct mail pieces in 1980 will now send 20 pieces.
Getting voters to pay attention is harder. In 1980, political battle lines were more distinct. Most FDR-era seniors were still alive and voting. The Soviet Union remained a real threat. The Reagan Revolution was in full force. Today, more people will discuss the NASDAQ than a congressional campaign.
Twenty years ago I would not have believed that I would send my finished television spots and camera-ready mail pieces to a campaign via a thing called e-mail. You could not have convinced me my candidate could respond to a press attack (hands free) while driving to the next event. I didn’t know how to target 45-year-old Catholic suburban women who think gun control is a good thing. Now I do. The next 20 years? Ask an astrologer.
David Welch is a senior partner at Welch, St. Claire & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in media, direct mail and strategy.
TWENTY YEARS AGO, there were only three Democratic polling firms of any note and their political client lists were comprised almost exclusively of presidential and statewide candidates. Most interviewing was conducted door-to-door, tabulation of results was a time-consuming process and turnaround time for a benchmark analysis was, in today’s terms, laughably long.
Around 1980, three changes on the political marketplace combined to shift dramatically both the scope and the role of contemporary polling: 1) exponential growth in the availability of high capacity personal computers; 2) the maturing and expansion of downballot campaign budgets, especially congressional; and 3) the addition to the profession of a new generation of polling specialists, often alumni of the Big Three parent firms, who brought new energy and new expectations to the process.
Congressional polling, a virtual stepchild in the marketplace 20 years ago, is now a given. In the next 20 years, sophisticated polling at the state legislative level — a process that in most states has only in the past several election cycles begun to be utilized aggressively and effectively — will also become a given. Too, after a brief sorting-out phase, a significant majority of caucus managers and local managers will insist on top-quality work product, not simply the cheapest.
While the applications will vary, two central challenges will face those genuinely interested in the future of American political polling:
Methodological Rigor: The unsung hero of accurate polling is the rigor that characterizes the often boring, but critical processes of drawing a sample, designing a questionnaire, gathering the data and generating the raw results. More and more we see inadequate screens, the absence of true open-ended questions, sloppy turnout projections and poorly crafted poll questions combining to yield inaccurate and inactionable surveys, as too many firms misuse technology as a substitute for judgment.
Analytical Rigor: Just as important as the accuracy of the numbers is the judgment and experience with which they are analyzed. Increasingly a lost art, projective polling is a critical analytical tool in avoiding the researcher’s biggest enemy: defaulting to the conventional wisdom.
As important a tool as polling is, and as widely used as it is compared to 20 years ago, the real challenge for the next 20 years is to raise the bar of expectations in terms of the work product, rather than acceding to lowest-common denominator polls as the norm.
Alan Secrest is principal of Cooper & Secrest, a Democratic polling firm.
BRADLEY S. O’LEARY
THE USE OF DIRECT response fundraising for mail and phones caused a revolution in the political system almost 30 years ago in the 1972 elections.
In 1970, in California, George Murphy’s Republican campaign was the first Senate campaign to raise $2 million. In 1972, the John Tower campaign in Texas, which our firm did, raised $3 million and had 30,000 contributors. The Nixon campaign of the same year had 65,000 contributors. But the explosion in direct mail was fueled by Morris Dees in the George McGovern campaign that had 165,000 donors. All of these statistics were records at the time.
Morris Dees went on to use the “list” to enrich the treasuries of many left-leaning organizations, but more importantly, he used the “list” to help elect Jimmy Carter president of the United States. This occurred in a campaign year when the lack of small donor names almost ended Vice President Gerald Ford’s quest for the presidency due to an onslaught of fundraising that was executed by a 200,000 person mailing list in the hands of the Reagan campaign.
The use of direct mail and phones in Federal campaigns, where top contributions have been limited to $1,000, will probably culminate this year in the Clinton/Giuliani race in New York, which should raise $20-25 million for each candidate.
Since Gallup and Harris indicate that over 50 percent of voters would make a political contribution if asked, today’s dollars will then be dwarfed when every registered voter acquires an e-mail address and when those voters can be reached at their computers with inexpensive yet persuasive requests for fundraising participation. We have seen a sample of this in the Bradley/McCain campaigns and in a recent computer assisted mailing that our firm completed for the National Rifle Association which raised $18 million dollars from three million members.
Most political firms involved in direct response fundraising today find that 90 percent of their business is being generated by mail and phones. Twenty years from now, we will find that only 10 percent of their business will be generated by mail and phones while the rest is acquired by direct response Internet techniques.
The future of fundraising is the Internet.
Brad O’Leary is a political analyst, author, entrepreneur and Republican fundraising and public affairs consultant.
I WAS ON A FLIGHT IN THE late ’80s with former Senator Tom Eagleton, a thoughtful and wonderfully humane man. Naturally, we talked politics and campaigns, and the incredible impact of television ads.
Eagleton spoke wistfully of shooting his commercials during the summer break, all positive, and airing them during October. After all, campaigns never started before Labor Day. And if there was an attack or a response needed, it would be cut and produced in the studio at the last minute, usually with the candidate to camera.
Over the last 20 years all that has changed. We are in the era of the “instant commercial.” The advent of high-quality video, state-of-the-art graphics, Avid editing and immediate transmission to TV stations has made the creation of TV spots an hourly endeavor, not something that takes days or weeks.
But what will political media look like in the next 10 to 20 years? The trend for politics and public affairs is rapidly turning to the Internet and cable news — CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, CNBC, as well as CSPAN. The Pew poll just discovered that the networks had declined from 39 percent in ’96 to 24 percent in 2000 for election viewership, newspapers dropped from 50 percent to less than a third and cable news rose from 23 percent to 31 percent. Internet use has tripled for politics.
As political media consultants we will be increasingly focusing on the shows that voters watch and the Internet sites they visit. Once the television and Internet come out of the same portal (“CompuTV,” how’s that for a name?) and everything is digital, viewers will be able to choose whether they want breaking news, a movie or any show that has been aired. Competition will be stiff. Campaign advertising will change dramatically.
Look for the following changes in political media:
* Longer programs — 5-minute, 15-minute, half-hour programs — to communicate with voters.
* More interactive engagement with voters — answering questions online, via phone, in forums — and more candidates engaging each other in forums for all to see.
* More comparison between candidates, with “CompuTV.” Shopped for a car lately? Compared a Ford Explorer, a Chevy Blazer and a Lexus GS 300 on the Internet? Amazing information — we’ll see it for politics.
* Issue Videos — We’ve relied on written position papers — the future will have video clips of the candidate on any given issue, easily called up on your “CompuTV.”
* We will be e-mailing TV spots to voters — this will be the new form of direct mail, by the way.
* Purchasing spots on Internet sites — targeted, voter specific, and keyed to voters’ likes and dislikes.
Is short, the future will see more interaction between voters and candidates, not less; more information about candidates, not less; more of an opportunity for involvement in government and politics, not less. A future to make Sen. Eagleton proud.
Peter Fenn is a Democratic media consultant with the firm Fenn & King.
Ever Increasing Speed
JOSEPH R. CERRELL
FUNDAMENTALLY, THE essential elements of political campaigns have not changed in the past 20 years and won’t in the next 20. To paraphrase former California Speaker Jesse Unruh, “money has been, is and will be the mother’s milk of politics.” Winning campaigns still remain exercises in getting your candidate’s message to his or her targeted voters at the right time, in multiple formats and, ultimately, getting your voters to vote on election day.
What has changed in the past 20 years is the speed of the political campaign and the ability to churn out targeted information at ever-increasing speed and in more unique formats. We’re gone from the daily mail, carbon paper and mimeograph machines to blast faxes and Internet banner ads. The virtual campaign has become the reality, and rapid response, made popular by the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, has become commonplace.
During the next 20 years, with continued advances in technology, political campaigns will be able to target specific messages to individual voters using multiple mediums — television, radio, print advertising, the Internet and who knows what else. Instead of campaigns ordering off a “fixed menu” in terms of communicating with voters, campaign managers and consultants will have multiple choices at their fingertips, each of which will reach voters in unique and creative ways.
The past 20 years has witnessed the true professionalization of politics. We’ve seen the campaign profession grow from a boutique business to a mature, thriving industry. If the sun rose on the political campaign profession in the past 20 years, it’ll reach unforetold heights in the next 20.
Campaigns & Elections — Congratulations on 20 years. Here’s to the next 20!
Joe Cerrell is a political and public relations consultant based in Los Angeles. He’s a past president of the American Association of Political Consultants.
Grabbing the High Ground
THERE HAVE BEEN two major changes in American politics since 1980. The first was the advent of new technologies to identify, contact and persuade voters. Grabbing the high ground has always been key to any successful campaign. In 1980, phone bank and direct mail were state-of-the-art devices to allow campaigns to get at their desired segment. Now it is e-mail and the Internet.
Last year, Steve Forbes announced his candidacy for president at a New York hotel in front of hundreds of supporters there in person and also to countless others across the nation via the Internet. Every one of the presidential candidates is working to use the Internet in new and innovative ways to reach their objectives from Forbes’ use of the Internet to form “e-precincts” to augment his grassroots organization, to John McCain’s wave of online donations after his victory in New Hampshire.
The other change in the last 20 years was the demise of broadcasting’s “fairness doctrine.” Broadcasters don’t have to ensure that all points of view are heard; they could now let hosts speak their mind. The fairness doctrine’s eradication in the late-’80s spurred the entire talk radio phenomenon that has swept America. Now millions tune into national programs and regional talk kings to get their political fix.
We will see campaign finance reform come about through the elimination of the $1,000 individual contribution limit as well as the Federal Election Commission and its byzantine rules. With higher individual contributions, the need for corporate soft money and independent expenditures will melt away and candidates will be able to compete for donations on the strength of their ideas and their positions.
Craig Shirley is president of Craig Shirley & Associates, a public relations and public affairs firm specializing in conservative causes.
Latin American Trends
CAMPAIGNS IN LATIN America have changed tremendously during the two decade lifespan of Campaigns & Elections. Twenty years ago most countries in the region did not even have elections, and now only Cuba remains outside a regional democratic process that is set to continue its advance, albeit in a tango-like fashion (“one step back, two steps forward, swivel, squeeze, and turn around to see if mother is looking.”)
The more obvious changes are technological. Most have been resisted, and many have been championed by U. S. consultants. Television and radio have replaced massive rallies, opinion polls are now to be believed rather than belittled, phone-banks and direct mail work (now that the privatized telephone and mail companies do), and in short, most politicians have accepted the importance of communications. They have gone through the “first epiphany,” and now accept that perception is reality. Very few have completed the “second epiphany,” regarding the role of money in politics, and the subject is still treated less than objectively (i.e. less than intelligently) in most campaigns. This is one area where change in the next twenty years seems likely, opening the way for greater use of professional fund-raising, and more openness about money and politics in general.
Issues have also changed, especially as the system has worked, and pressing problems have been solved. Human-rights, regional integration, and economic stability and modernization are now part of the consensus, and the debate has moved to poverty, unemployment and crime. They affect different segments of the electorate differently, and are also less prone to be approached ideologically. Hopefully, these problems will also be solved democratically, and thus campaigns will continue to change.
Last but not least, people have changed. They have been exposed to what has become a permanent campaign, and have become more skeptical, and outwardly reject the political process. However, if you ask the typical voter whether he would like to talk about politics, he is likely to tell you how much he hates politics, and proceed to talk about politics for hours on end. Sound familiar?
Felipe Noguera is a political consultant and pollster based in Buenos Aires.
Count the Ways
POLITICAL. CAMPAIGN consulting has changed in five ways since 1980:
1. There was little competition between consultants; the challenge was getting candidates to use consultants. In the mid to late 1970s, there were only about two dozen consultants in each party making their livings from campaigns. The hard part of marketing was convincing a candidate why he or she should use a Washington consultant instead of the local “publicist.”
2. The media campaigns had relatively little point-counterpoint instant responses. Basically, each campaign prepared a half dozen ads, which started a few weeks before the election. Compared with today’s instant response to the opponent’s ads, we were essentially finished three weeks before the election.
3. Research techniques were not sophisticated. Opposition research barely existed, polling for message development was primitive, focus groups a luxury and continuous tracking polls were unheard of.
4. Direct mail was multi-page letters. Unlike the highly creative, copy light mail of today, three to five page typewritten letters were the rage. Since few voter files were computerized, targeting was not as sophisticated.
5. Marketing started comparatively late. Assuming they even used consultants, most candidates did not want to even think about interviewing them until the election was less than a year away. “Off years” were truly down time for most of us to travel or read for personal pleasure. Also, most candidates interviewed consultants when they were in Washington. Today, marketing can begin years ahead of an election, and many consultants travel extensively to recruit clients.
And in the future? I believe today’s campaign consultant is a public affairs consultant who doesn’t know it yet. Of the 45 consultants who were active when I started, I can only think of three who still personally work on a number of U.S. campaigns. Most of the others make a majority of their living from public affairs work or have left the business altogether. The pressure of making a living solely from campaigns becomes wearing. In fact, Prof. David Perlmutter of Louisiana State University surveyed political consultants and discovered that candidate campaigns constitute 34 percent of consultant income and ballot measures another 10 percent. Public affairs work like issue advocacy and grassroots lobbying provide a much more stable income base.
Gary Nordlinger is president of Nordlinger Associates, a Washington, DC-based strategy and communications firm.
TV in the Mailbox
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF persuasion mail has undergone a revolutionary change over the last two decades.
From wordy letters and brochures, direct mail has been transformed into a medium driven by powerful visuals and compelling graphic design.
It’s called “television in the mailbox,” and it has proven far more effective in reaching persuadable voters (who are typically the least political of voters), than the lengthy letters that are still the rule in fundraising mail targeted at highly ideological audiences.
What we’ve learned is that only by inte grating powerful images, designs and messages is it possible to penetrate the voter’s resistance and avoid killing a tree for no particular purpose.
As a result of this revolution, direct mail has become the most effective method of delivering targeted messages to specific geographic and demographic subsets of voters. And mail has become the most cost-effective vehicle to deliver a campaign’s message in markets where it is inefficient to buy electronic media.
In addition, cutting-edge campaigns have recognized that persuasion mail can play a significant role in enhancing the effectiveness of television advertising by presenting documentation to support its television spots, thus reducing voter skepticism.
Over the next 20 years, the “television in the mailbox” revolution will surely evolve, including exciting opportunities for mail and the Internet to work together to deliver a campaign’s message by using mail to drive targeted voters to visit a campaign’s Web site.
But while technology may change how messages are delivered in the mailbox, on television or the Internet, the fundamentals of persuasion will remain the same as when the snake persuaded Eve in the Garden of Eden. Tell a good story. Make it emotional, brief and relevant. Repeat it again and again.
And just as with the snake with the apple, there’s nothing like a good visual.
David Gold is president of Gold Communications (Austin, TX) and the senior political strategist of Winning Directions (San Francisco, CA).
IN THE PAST two decades, the world of campaign politics has seen remarkable change. Innovations in technology, novel approaches to campaigning, and major changes in the political arena have included the following:
Election campaigns no longer have discrete time horizons. Since the 1980s, incumbents and challengers alike are continuously campaigning. This non-stop campaigning has had a profound influence on the amount of money needed to coordinate and execute a professional campaign and limits the attention officeholders can give to governing. In 1978, the average incumbent campaign for the US. House cost only $111,159. By 1998, the average winning congressional campaign spent $650,428, with many candidates spending well over a million dollars for a House seat. Dramatic increases in the cost of campaigning in the future are guaranteed.
The growth of professionalism and specialization of the consulting industry has also transformed campaigning in the last two decades. In today’s campaign world, general strategy, media production and buying, polling, finance and grassroots firms are just some of the specialists found in most campaigns, even for local office. In 1978, only 39 percent of U.S. House of Representatives candidates used professional political consultants. That proportion is now around 60 percent. Winners are much more likely to use consultants than the losers. Of those who used consultants in the 1980s, only one consultant type was employed, where now two are used on average. Virtually every Senate candidate uses a consultant — about three consultant types per candidate.
There has been a rapid increase in the use of technological outlets to disseminate a candidate’s message. Television has become an instrumental tool in the campaign process. The strategic use of media markets and ad placement can make or break a campaign.
A more recent innovation in campaigns is the Internet and the use of Web sites. The Internet provides candidates with a cheap, fast medium to reach campaign contributors, volunteers and voters. Change on the Internet is rapid.
Political parties have also dramatically changed their role. Professionals have taken the place of parties in many areas, but parties are still central to campaign finance. Parties have utilized the soft money loophole to help candidates with finances and to produce and broadcast hard-hitting issue advocacy ads. Unions, PACs, issue groups and grassroots organizations also use issue advocacy ads to support or discredit candidates. Despite the call to end such practices, issue advocacy promises to play a big role in the future.
Each election cycle brings innovations that change the strategies and tools for the next cycle. Technological innovations, an abundance of candidates (with special thanks to state term limits), and the rapid rate of innovation in communications tools promise even more change with unintended consequences in the coming 20 years.
Professor James A. Thurber is director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, the Campaign Management and Lobbying Institutes, American University.
LET’S DO SOME QUICK MATH. There are 300 million Americans on Earth, one-twentieth of a total population of six billion. For U.S. businesses — like the political consulting sector — does that not suggest a tremendous potential market lying largely untapped beyond the border?
The short, simple answer is yes. For any domestic firm, providing services internationally is complex and logistically daunting. But for experts in winning elections, growing business around the globe represents the most interesting and challenging business opportunity of the next 20 years.
Working abroad is nothing new for US political consultants. Pollster George Gallup broke the ice in the ’60s when he tested public opinion for Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Nearly four decades later, American expertise is helping decide elections in scores of countries from the United Kingdom to Israel to Latin America.
The appetite for political consulting is triggered by the recognition that campaigning is an undertaking for professionals. This can happen anywhere, and it makes for an unusual mix of emerging markets for campaign expertise: Western nations that once disdained the ways of the United States; new democracies such as eastern Europe’s New Independent States; autocratic regimes on several continents; and in time, post-conflict states like East Timor, a brand new country borne of a fight for autonomy and freedom.
As the global marketplace for professional campaigning expands, U.S. consultants must consider providing their services directly to new clients hungry for help, thinking carefully about who to work with, why and for what price — the latter a critical factor when many parties and causes are desperately short of resources.
Does this trend mean an “Americanization” of campaigns around the world? Not at all. Modern electoral techniques can be applied or adapted almost anywhere; the expertise happens to be clustered in the United States. Campaign consulting is simply another business sector experiencing globalization, a sector in which entrepreneurs and innovators can expand, compete and succeed. And so they should, because the demand is out there — as universal as the desire to win.
Dan Rath is president of Ideation Group, a Toronto marketing communications firm.
WITHOUT QUESTION, THE big-gest influence over the conduct of political campaigns these past two decades has been — not a phenomenon of technology — but rather the unintended consequences of public policy.
Although the Federal Election Campaign Act and its horde of state-level imitators were primarily instituted in the mid-to-late 1970s, their eventual enormous impact had only begun to emerge by 1980. These campaign finance laws forced special interests to organize into political action committees and greatly institutionalized the practice of buying influence with campaign contributions.
Although the unchanged ceilings on donations have been a restraint against excess, the lobbies have utilized innovative methods in recent years to keep pumping ever-greater amounts of cash into the system: individual donor networks, soft money, independent expenditures, and thinly-veiled “issue” campaigns. The result has been a precipitous rise in spending on the electoral process and an attendant proliferation of campaign professionals, particularly in the fields of fundraising, persuasion direct mail and phone-banking. Technological advances in voter list enhancement, personalized direct mail, focus groups and cable TV, have made targeting the greatest strategic advance of the last two decades.
All of these developments have led to rapidly increasing levels of sophistication down-ballot. In 1980, TV ads were rarely seen in legislative races and often absent in many competitive congressional campaigns. Today, it is not unusual for a local campaign with a four-figure budget to have a significant presence on cable, or a carefully targeted direct mail effort.
The low cost, interactivity and enormous breadth of the Web will be a tremendous boost to populist politics. Media elites will be largely bypassed; money and the support of established organizations will be less crucial to victory. Utilizing cyber town halls and a broad range of issue narratives, personalized, indepth, direct communication will reign. Aroused masses will act in concert toward a common goal, coordinated by instantly updated schedules, event information and strategy memos.
Moreover, the power of this new politics will bring changes in policy that will largely dismantle the current campaign finance system and subdue lobbyist influence over government.
The downside of this advance toward freedom is impending anarchy. With gatekeepers (such as established editors) being bypassed in the flow of information, what is true and what is not will no longer be so clear, and misinformation will not be easily corrected. We may return to the wild and wooly days of the partisan press, with campaign fireworks that make today’s look like a damp sparkler.
David Beiler is a political analyst and an elected member of the Board of Supervisors of Stafford County, Virginia.
BY TOM HOCKADAY &
THESE ARE INCREDIBLY EXCITING times for political campaigning. In the last 20 years, we’ve been part of a wave of campaigning that has utilized direct mail and telemarketing for voter contact. Now the Internet is expanding our ability to reach voters directly.
At the most fundamental level, the Internet is an incredibly powerful communication and organization tool. It also provides unparalleled fundraising capabilities. If a Web site is designed correctly, people can come to the site, and if they like what they see, get involved and contribute directly. One of our clients, Sen. John McCain, recruited tens of thousands of supporters and raised more than $5.5 million online. We’ve seen the Internet work lust as effectively at the state and local levels as well.
Direct mail and telemarketing will always play a vital role in campaigning and fundraising. But the Internet provides another link in direct communications and enables campaigns to rapidly communicate to voters, organize and raise funds (which are immediately available). Voters can visit a candidate’s site, gather information, volunteer and make a donation — all in one stop at the Web site.
The Internet also provides the ability to respond to events very quickly When Senator McCain won New Hampshire, he was immediately able to capitalize on his victory by recruiting thousands of volunteers and raising millions of dollars online. We have learned that nearly 60 percent of surveyed donors were under 45 and nearly half were making their first political contribution! In other words, the Internet helps campaigns find an untapped, younger audience.
In the end, an intelligent campaign integrates the Internet with traditional campaign and fundraising tools. Over the next 20 years, we will see the Internet play an increasingly greater role in campaigns at all levels.
Tom Hockaday and Becki Donatelli are principals at Hockaday Donatelli Campaign Solutions, a Republican Internet and direct-contact firm based in Alexanria, VA.
BY MIKE CONNELL
TWENTY YEARS AGO, the Internet wasn’t much more than a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. Today it stands at the edge of revolutionizing how elections are won.
While the history of the Internet and politics is brief, the already considerable impact of this medium is indicative of the radical change this emerging technology will evoke in American politics. The future, of course, is impossible to see, but we can fully expect the continued escalation of technological innovation as it permeates every aspect of our lives. By election day 2000, we will be doing things that today are inconceivable.
In the near term, we will see the emergence of interactive video mail and more powerful search features. The proliferation of broadband delivery will result in people becoming more dependent on online services. We truly will achieve the vision in which every user can be a publisher and the variety of content will be staggering.
As more aspects of our daily lives move online, we should expect the demise of traditional mail and phones. The information explosion will escalate the need to filter all messages and unsolicited phone calls will be among the first causalities. As people become accustom to receiving personal and financial correspondence online, the mailbox will become a less effective avenue to voters homes.
As the telephone, computer, and television merge into one device, users will decide what they want to watch and when they want to watch it. Instead of getting the morning paper, you will be briefed on all items that meet your interest profile that have been collected by an intelligent search engine.
The end result will be the demise of “in your face” political advertising. The idea of reaching voters with a flood of television ads will also be impossible. People watching what they want to watch when they want to watch it means politicians aren’t going to be able to come into the living room uninvited.
The political campaign of the future will need to discard the politics of intrusion and embrace relationship building and permission marketing. The way the world communicates is going to change dramatically in the next 20 years.
Mike Connell is president of New Media Communications, a Cleveland-based high-tech communications firm.
AN AFTEERWORD FROM THE FOUNDER OF CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS
STANLEY FOSTER REED
When I first founded Campaigns & Elections back in l980, not only was there no journal that engaged in exposition of political campaign methods and technology, there was no institution of higher learning anywhere in the world that taught campaign management at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Now there are dozens of programs. Further, there were no seminar/exhibit programs anywhere, and during that first year we held the world’s first campaign teaching seminars coupled with exhibits of computers and software.
But there are still, as far as I know, no political campaign teaching programs that are affiliated with an established school of business. And that is what is needed at both the undergraduate and graduate level because of my belief that, in spite of the different ends – the one social and the other economic – the methods of business to produce a profit are not essentially different management-wise from the methods of political campaigns to produce votes.
Modern management theory evolved out of business operations. Survival depended on operating as an integrated organic whole. In contrast, even the most sophisticated of political campaigns still looks like a train of loosely-coupled little cars hooked to the great man’s locomotive.
One of the principal tools of the successful business manager is the idea of “teams.” In this case, I want to talk about “entrepreneurial teams,” assemblages of people with complementary management talents. To bring this about, both candidates and their managers must first start out knowing who they are and what they are good at and bad at.
A successful campaign requires a broad range of management talent, not a bunch of doppel-gangers. Effective management groups-and especially those that are entrepreneurially dirven, should be composed of people with useful but different and complementary talents – not think-alikes. What, in general, are those talents? Here are thumbnail sketches of them – not in order of preference or importance:
* First in innovation: at least one person in the management group must be an original thinker who thinks about the differences in things, who, in the idea-people-things continuum is primarily interested in ideas.
* Second is analysis: at least one person must think in analytical terms and concentrate on similarities.
* Third is organization: at least one person must have the talent to set a course of action and allocate physical and human resources in such a way as to achieve set goals.
* Fourth is execution: at least one person must have talent in the day-to-day running of organizations and in stimulating and in some cases forcing performance out of frightened and reluctant people.
* Finally, there must be a generalist-someone who knows a litter or a lot about everything.
* Fifth is human relations: at least one person must be people-rather than ideas-and things oriented.
The successful management-team, whether in business or political campaigning, is one that it continually engaged in self-examination to ensure that the necessary complementaries are there. And that, every day, in every way, they are getting better and better, both collectively and individually, at their separate but essentially equal responsibilities.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Campaigns & Elections, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group