Modern Political Campaigns in the United States

Authored by: Paul S. Herrnson , Colton C. Campbell

Routledge Handbook of Political Management

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  March  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415962254
eBook ISBN: 9780203892138
Adobe ISBN: 9781135897499


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Elections are central to the struggle for power in democracies, and political campaigns bring meaning to those struggles. Like much of our political landscape, the participants, strategies, and campaign tactics involved in elections have shifted over time. Early campaigns were inexpensive, nonpartisan, and highly personalized events geared toward persuading a small percentage of the population. By contrast, many contemporary campaigns are orchestrated events that entail large sums of money, professional campaign organizations, political parties, interest groups, volunteers, and complicated targeting and marketing strategies involving millions of voters. The one principle that has remained relatively constant is that the candidate who garners the most votes wins. This winner-takes-all principle applied to the campaigns for colonial legislatures held prior to the United States’ founding, and it continues to hold true for most contemporary elections. With some exceptions, most notably the requirement that presidential candidates win a majority of the Electoral College vote, it applies to nomination contests, general elections, and run-off elections.

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