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 ¼ 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.