Politicking Goes High-Tech
Steven V. Roberts
This reading dealt with the fact that the major decision makers for people when voting (especially for Senators) are the television spots. The article discussed how today's campaigns are now candidate-centered rather than political party-centered and how they require large sums of money in order to pay for all the advertising, and a team of professional workers rather than a team of volunteers is a necessity. Much of the money goes to commercial advertisements, but another large portion goes to continuous polling and direct mail strategies.
The article talked about the need to have the speed and technology to know how the people feel right away. A candidate cannot wait weeks or even days for the results to come back to him or her whether he or she is in the lead. The results are needed within hours. After getting the results from the polls, it is then time to determine what action needs to be taken to aid your campaign (or more often hurt your opponent). The candidate then needs to create new television ads to make himself or herself appeal to the interests of the people or sometimes to counteract the bad things the opponent has to say. This fight between the television ads is often referred to as Spot Wars.
While the Spot Wars help out the candidates (or harm the opponents with derogatory remarks), they can cost an enormous amount of money; and after being played on television the opponent will return the attack with one of his or her ads-then, the candidate will have to go back to work all over again creating new ads regarding the new polls-all of which costs more money. A major portion of the money for candidates to use comes from PACs. These PACs make up 1/4 off all contributions to Senate campaigns, while some of the other money comes from fund raisers and cost-per-plate dinners.
Before the candidate begins to play the ads on television he/she needs to determine what the campaign focus is going to be. Focus groups are small groups of voters who gather with the candidate to give an idea of perhaps what the people are looking for. Then the candidate has to decide when to run the ads. Determining that can be more difficult: if you have the money it is probably best to start early and hope your opponent runs out of money trying to counteract your ads-"One candidate puts on a message, and the other has to decide how to respond." After you run the ads you have to poll the people, of course, to determine how they feel about your standings on issues. If they don't like them, then you have to change your ads; and if your opponent is winning, you might as well say something about him/her to make him/her look bad to the viewers-"negative ads always cause a critical reaction at first, but are effective in the long run." In just a matter of seconds on a commercial, you can tarnish the life-long reputation of your opponent if you so desire; and the opponent will have to run new ads to bring his/her reputation back into good standing and then possibly tarnish yours. Many times, however, a candidate will overreact when a negative ad is thrown against him/her. "They tend to believe the voters will turn against them." A negative ad does throw the candidate off-guard and causes him/her to respond and take up precious time and resources.
I thought that this article was fairly interesting in that the candidates are able to respond so quickly to the television ads and have new ones made at the drop of a dime. The article made me realize how much "bashing" goes on between the opponents-they are always saying bad things about each other. The amount of money that it takes to run the ads was talked about briefly, and it seems hard to fathom that the candidates can come up with the money so easily.