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Please be aware that this is a student-generated wiki designed for review for my students' AP exams. Come in, look around, and enjoy yourself...just be aware of the nature of this wiki. Even though most everything is correct, I advise caution before citing this as an authoritative source.

Elections and Campaigns

Presidential Versus Congressional Campaigns

  • There is more voter participation in the presidential campaigns than congressional
    • From 1948-2012, the voting-age population turnout rates for presidential elections have been consistently over 50%, while that of midterm election has always dealt with rates that are below 50%. (Pew Research)
  • Presidential races are generally more competitive than congressional races, with a more narrow margin of victory (Fast Track to a 5). Because of this, politicians running for congress have to try and get the vote of the more active and decided voters.
    • However, resulting from the increased competition in presidential elections makes the results more volatile - that is, there is no virtual "guarantee" that the presidential incumbent will be reelected.
  • Congressional elections have become more independent from presidential elections over the years.
  • Low voter participation from young voters when compared to older voters.
  • Candidates in Congressional elections must be more appealing to the more motivated voter and partisan voter (Wilson).
  • There is a low turnout rate for congressional elections during years with no presidential elections
  • Members of Congress can do things for their constituents that a president cannot, such as take credit for every grant, bridge, canal, and highway that the government provides the district or state, even when credit is not deserved.
  • A candidate for Congress can deny if he or she is to blame for "the mess in Washington, "even if the candidate is an incumbent, in contrast to the President, who is often or always blamed for "the mess." Essentially, a candidate tries to distance themselves from Congress and the President when things are unfavorable or a mess.
  • Barring scandal, here is an incumbency advantage in most elections; however, this incumbency advantage is extremely important in Congress due to the lack of term limits (Benson and Waples)
  • The high percentage of incumbents who get reelected can be explained by low voter turnouts, services to constituents, and the ability to duck responsibility (Wilson).

Elections in Parliament Vs. Elections in the U.S.
  • In most European nations winning your party's nomination for parliament involves an organizational decision.
    • The party looks you over, the party decides whether to allow you to run, and the party puts your name on its list of candidates.
    • The people vote for a party and the percent of the population that votes for a certain party determines what percent of the house of commons will be represented by that party. In other words, the people do not vote for candidates directly but for parties. (This is just an example and do not pertain to all European countries).
  • American political parties do play a role in determining the outcome of the final election, but even that role involves parties more as labels in the voters' minds than as organizations that get out the votes.
  • By contrast many other democratic nations conduct campaigns that are almost entirely a contest between parties as organizations. In essence, people vote for a party in other countries and not entirely for the individual himself.
    • In European countries like Great Britain, often times, there is no directly elected president and the prime minister is chosen by the party with the most seats in parliament (Wilson).
  • In the United States, we vote for an individual based on his or her personal abilities and qualifications and not simply their political party.
  • At one time parties played a much larger role in elections in the United States than they do now.
  • Incumbent: An incumbent is the person who is already holding an elected office. (Wilson and Dilulio)
    • Most post-1988 candidates such as governors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and vice presidents George Bush and Al Gore have made the run for President while holding elective office (Wilson 233).
    • In most elections, the race usually involves an incumbent vs. a non-incumbent.
    • An election that does not involve an incumbent is called an "open seat".
    • Incumbents in Congress are far more likely to win reelections than presidential incumbents.
    • In a typical house race, the incumbent wins over 60 percent of the vote. (Wilson and Dilulio 232)
  • Incumbent Advantage:
    • Find it easier to raise money
    • Provide services to their constituents
      • Franking refers to the privilege that members of Congress have to send mail to their constituents for free
      • Congress members may not send campaign material with franking privileges
    • Free publicity: have opportunities to participate in highly visible activities that are covered by local newspapers and local television stations (Krieger 83).
    • Incumbents can use their power while they are already in office to make themselves seem more appealing to the public. This power can be used to pass pork-barrel legislation that can benefit their own district. They have more liberty to do things that will give them more public support while new candidates running against them must do much of the campaigning and advertising on their own, making it much more difficult for them to win.
    • representatives who run for reelection win approx. 90% of the time (Meltzer)
    • The more popular/successful the previous post-holder, the better the advantage of maintaining favorability.
    • Incumbent senators have a great electoral advantage, but house incumbents have an even greater advantage (Meltzer)
    • In the typical presidential race the winner gets less than 55% of the two party vote, in the typical House race the incumbent wins with over 60% of the votes.
    • One disadvantage of incumbents is that new candidates can blame the incumbents for the littlest of problems that occur during the administration of the incumbent. This is effective because no administration is free of problems.
    • Coattails: The alleged tendency of candidates to win more votes due to the presence of a better-known candidate at the top of a ballot (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • In a similar fashion, but not in regards to an actual ballot, is the commonly portrayed depiction of Martin Van Buren riding Andrew Jackson's coattails into presidency.
    • There has been a sharp decline in the value of presidential coattails.
    • The net effect of these factors is that, to a substantial degree, congressional elections have become independent of presidential ones. This is because political party is playing less of an important role, and congressional candidates cannot depend on the party affiliation of say, a popular or successful president. This can be seen in many recent elections where President's are elected with an opposing Congress.
    • Incumbents often represent districts that have been gerrymandered to support them, which discourages challengers in elections
    • As seen in the 2008 elections where Obama's presence on the ticket brought out a generation and generally voters that would not typically vote (i.e. African Americans and young voters)
  • Presidential and Congressional races differ:
    • Size: More voters vote in the presidential elections than the congressional ones which causes the presidential candidates to work harder and spend more money.
      • Presidents spend more time on campaigning. For example, Ronald Reagan invested six years in running a campaign. The candidate must focus on a strategy and a theme for their campaign.
    • Competition: Presidential campaigns are more competitive.
      • A smaller percentage of people vote in congressional elections during off years, so that congressional candidates must appeal to the more motivated and partisan voter, they often try to appeal to the voters by passing pork-barrel legislation that appropriates money to fund local projects and improvements which are tangible evidence that the congressman is helping his district
    • Congressional competition differs, in one sense, by incumbent's one-up on a new candidate with their ability to prove services for individual voters
    • Members of Congress send letters to a large number of their constituents and visit their districts every weekend, whereas the President get little credit for district improvements and must rely on the media to communicate with voters.
    • Congressional candidates can deny that they are responsible for the mess in Washington (even incumbents can, since they usually run as individuals), whereas the President is always held responsible for things gone wrong in the government and the nation as a whole.
    • Presidential candidates may receive matching funds once they have gotten at least $5000 in at least 20 states
  • According to Wilson & Dillulio, the first step to running for president is to get "mentioned" and plan to set aside time to becoming more well-known.
  • Money
    • Federal law is such that presidents cannot accept more than two thousand dollars from any single individuals. (Wilson)
    • Political action committees, however, can give up to five thousand dollars to presidential committees. (Wilson)
      • "Political action committees (or PAC) are set up by a corporation, labor union, or interest group that raises and spends campaign money from voluntary donations." (Wilson)
    • Another loophole against the $5000 limit that is imposed upon PACs is the 527 organization - a tax-exempt organization that has no limits on campaign contributions (soft money), so long as they do not propose a specific, name-based political agenda
    • PACs must consist of a minimum of 50 voluntary members, give to at least 5 federal candidates, and limit must limit donations to $15,000 per year to any political party.


Getting Elected
  • Gerrymandering: According to Wilson and Dilulio, it is "the drawing of boundaries of legislative districts in bizarre or unusual shapes to favor one party." (235)
    • For example, in the early 1960s Democrats in control of the state legislature, in California, drew district lines so that two pockets of Republican strength were separated by miles, but connected by a thin strip of coastline, leaving the republican voters in one single district with the Democrats spread more evenly over several districts. This gives the democrats a greater chance of winning more seats.
    • Gerrymandering was started when Elbridge Gerry altered district lines in Massachusetts to guarantee that Republicans would win the election.
    • Can additionally be utilized to make minorities the majority of a district (an issue that has received contradictory rulings from Supreme Court).
  • Malapportionment: Drawing the boundaries of legislative districts so that they are unequal in population (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • This leads to problems because if one district has twice the population as another district’s, then that means a citizen’s vote in the smaller district is worth twice as much as a vote in the larger (because the larger district needs twice as many votes to elect a representative) (Wilson).
  • Little was done about apportionment and gerrymandering by states until they were ordered to do so in 1964 by the Supreme Court who ruled that : "districts be drawn so that, as nearly as possible, one person's vote would be worth as much as another's" (Wilson 236).
  • Because of these issues, certain issues rose in how to decide who gets represented in the House. These issues included:
    • Establishing the total size of the House
    • Allocating seats in the House among states
    • Determining the size of congressional districts within states
    • Determining the shape of those districts
  • Congress decided the first two issues above, while the states have decided the last two, but under some strict Supreme Court rules (Wilson).
  • While running for a position in the White House (especially the president), one should conduct a strategy consisting of answers and approaches to the following things (Wilson):
    • tone- knowing the demographics of a candidate's constituents, such as age, income brackets, race, and religion is important for deciding how to address them while campaigning
    • theme- a candidate must be consistent with his platform while campaigning, i.e. not promising far-left legislation in one issue and far-right legislation in another
    • timing- candidates should be able to use current events, be they local, national, or international, to their advantage, and tie them to their campaign
    • target- candidates must have a platform that will appeal to the greatest proportion of eligible voters, which often requires moderating personal political ideologies in order to reach a certain demographic of voters
  • The 22nd amendment limits the presidency to only serve two terms, which was passed in 1951 soon after President FDR was elected to over four terms.
  • Members of Congress can serve for an unlimited number of terms.
    • The House serves two years and a senator six years before having to run for re-election.
    • In 2000, only 9 out of 364 incumbents running for the House of Representatives were not re-elected, further proving that running against an incumbent in the House is very much an uphill battle.
  • Sophomore Surge: an increase in the votes congressional candidates usually get when they first run for reelection (236).
  • According to Wilson, generally Freshman candidates who run for reelection may get 8 to 10 percent more votes than in their first race.
  • Delegates: Members of Congress that do what their district wants (act as representatives of the people's will) (237).
  • Trustees: Members of Congress who use their best judgment on issues without regard to the preferences of their district (237).
  • Most members of Congress are some combination of a trustee and a delegate depending on the issue in order to stay in office. Those who are considered delegates tend to value reelection more than a trustee and therefore seek out committee assignments and projects for their districts; while trustees seek out committee assignments such as foreign affairs that have no implications for their districts.(237)

Ways to Nominate Candidates

  • Self-Announcement: A person declares him or herself to be a candidate
    • Potential candidates will often get their presence started by spreading their intentions to run for candidacy word-of-mouth among media
  • Petition: A certain number of qualified voters sign a petition
  • Caucus: Meeting of campaigners to choose potential presidential candidates.
    • The Iowa caucus is important because is the first test of the primary season to choose presidential candidates. Held on February, the candidates must do well in the Iowa caucus in order to gain media attention and interest of contributors.
  • Direct Primary: An election is held within a party to pick its candidates
  • Convention: A political party’s members meet to select candidates.

Campaign Issues
  • Position issue - "one in which the rival candidates have opposing views on a question that also divides the voters" (Wilson 239).
    • many of the party realignments have been based on position issues since 1860
  • Valence issues - "An issue about which the public is united and rival candidates or political parties adopt similar positions in hopes that each will be thought to best represent those widely shared beliefs" (Wilson 239).
    • one major valence issue this election year (2012) will be the economic crisis and what actions the candidates will take if they are elected into the presidency.
    • Politicians tend to adopt the public's opinion on a valence issue when running for election. No right-minded politician would support the opposing side of an issue that society does not favor, like a high unemployment rate. Nixon was an advocate of anti-crime laws, Carter made known that he would prioritize keeping the government honest, and Reagan was an avid supporter of maintaining a healthy economy.
    • Valence issues, while clearly being topics of widespread interest at the time, can sometimes solely be responsible for the surge of a candidate into office or one of his largest factors of success.
      • On the same token, a candidate can topple his opponent by taking a more provocative stance or showing more of a favorable position to the public on a valence issue than his opponent. This can effectively make valence issues have winners and losers, and to the winner go the spoils.

Television, Debates and Campaigning
  • Spots: short TV ads
    • They do not really have that much effect on the outcome and usually cancel each other out.
  • Visuals: campaign activity captured on news broadcasts.
    • They cost very little, but not provide as much information as spots do.
  • Sound Bite: Short Clip of speech that summarizes the candidate's message; it is broadcasted on the radio or tv.
  • Paid commercials generally provide more information in comparison to news programs
  • Federal Communications Commission Telecommunications Act of 1996: free TV time to be given to big presidential candidates only by larger TV networks
  • Fear of the slip of the tongue makes candidates rely on "stock speeches".
    • Debates are usually only beneficial to the challenger. For example when VP Nixon debated JFK in 1960 JFK won (John F. Kennedy=JFK)
  • T.V. ads are usually less effective in general elections compared to primaries. This is because in general elections people have many other sources of information such as their ideological beliefs, news papers, and other types of advertising.

Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)

  • The Watergate scandal and illegal donations from corporations, unions, and individuals resulted in the 1974 amendments of the act.
  • The amendments brought several changes including:
    • Established the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce the law
    • A limit of $1,000 on individual donations per candidate
    • PACs have to maintain at least fifty volunteer members
    • PACs must give money to at least five federal candidates
    • PACs may give no more than $5,000 per candidate per election and $15,000 per political party per year
    • Primary and general elections count separately for donations (Benson and Waples)
    • Using public funds for Presidential Elections includes the matching of the primary candidate to the funding conditions. Full funding or partial funding depends upon the status of the party i.e. major or minor.
      • For major party candidates, they get full funding for presidential general campaigns.
      • For minor party candidates, they will get partial funding if they are able to get at least five percent of the vote in their previous election.
- After Effects:
  • Campaign spending increased
  • Loopholes allowed PACs to spend unlimited amount of money ("soft money") to political parties provided the money wasn't used to back candidates by name. Another loophole in the law is the use of independent expenditures.

The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act
  • Was the second campaign finance law
  • Amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
  • Signed by Bush and passed in 2002
  • Also known as McCain-Feingold Act after its chief proponents, Russell Feingold and John McCain
  • 1. Prohibited corporations and unions from giving “soft money- funds obtained by political parties that are spent in party activities-" to political parties
    • national parties can only receive money from individual donors or PACs
  • 2. Individual contributions were raised from previous limit of $1000 per candidate in each election to $2000
  • 3. Within the sixty days before a general election or thirty days before a primary election, corporations and unions may not advertise for a candidate
  • 4. Individuals who are 17-years-old and younger are prohibited from making contributions to candidates and from making contributions or donations to any accounts of state or local party committees (including "Levin" accounts). They may make contributions to other types of political committees.
  • In the Supreme Court case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act was upheld.

Money
  • Presidential elections are funded by the government unless the candidate decides not to accept the money. Congressional elections, on the other hand, do not receive government funding, and funded by donations from private donors, such as PACs and political parties.
  • As a result, congressional elections tend to be affected more by money. Challengers need to spend a certain amount of money in order to recognized above incumbents, who have several other privileges and advantages, such as easy access to publicity.
  • 527 Organizations: tax-exempt organizations that under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, raise and spend money to advance political causes.
    • Became an attractive alternative after the ban on soft money
    • "In 2004 the Democrats created the Media Fund, America Coming Together, American votes..." (Wilson and Dilulio 252)
    • Despite it, campaign finance laws are still not likely to take the money out of politics.
  • Limits on the amount of money that could be donated was set to keep most elections fair.
  • Independent expenditures: spending by PACs, corporations, or labor unions that is done to help party or candidate but is done independently of them (Wilson and Dilulio)
Running for the Presidency
  • During peacetime, presidential elections are decided by:
    • political party affiliation
    • state of the economy
    • character of candidates
  • Presidential candidates use reporters, tips, and speeches to get media attention.
  • Candidate must be at least 35 years of age.
  • Candidate must be born on U.S soil.
  • When running for presidency, money is not an issue because the government pays for it. The federal government will pay all campaign costs, up to a legal limit, of major-party candidates.
    • The government also pays for minor-party candidates, that are winning between 5 and 25 percent of the vote
Running for Congress
  • Money is an issue, because it all must come from private sources.
  • Every member of Congress, once elected, organizes their office to do as much as possible for their constituents back home. This is because once in office, a Congressmen's job is to basically stay in office for as long as possible.
  • House of Representatives:
    • The candidate has to be a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and at least 25 years of age, as well as inhabit the state which he/she wishes to represent in Congress.

    • The number of possible spots for the House of representatives has been capped at a maximum 435. Each state is given a proportional number of seats in the House based on the state's population. For example, the more populated states, such as Texas and California also have more members in the House; Texas and California have 36 and 53 members in the House, respectively (based on 2010 census). Each member is up for re-election every two years.
  • Senate
    • The candidate has to be a citizen of the United States for at least nine years, and at least 30 years of age, as well as inhabit the state which he/she wishes to represent in Congress.
    • There are two senators for each state, so that there are a total of 100 senators. Senators are elected for six year terms.

The Electoral College
  • The Framers created the electoral college to safeguard the presidency from direct popular election (Krieger 95).
  • According to Wilson and Dilulio, these are the people chosen to cast each state's votes in a presidential election. Each state can cast one electoral vote for each senator and representative it has. The District of Columbia has three electoral votes, even though it cannot elect a representative or senator.
  • There are 538 electors, 435 from the house representatives, 100 from the senate, and three from the District of Colombia. United States such as Puerto Rico do not get to partake in the electoral college.
Consequences of the Electoral College
  • The presidential candidate who receives the most votes wins all of a state's electoral votes, making it unrepresentative of true votes
  • Candidates devote a disproportionate amount of time and resources to closely contested states, swing states and competitive states (Krieger 96).
  • Restricts the prospects of third-party candidates severely

Kinds of Elections
  • In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that political parties, rather than state legislatures would be able to determine how delegates to the national conventions are to be selected (Wilson).
  • General Election: An election held to choose which candidate will hold office.
  • Primary Election: An election held to choose candidates for office.
    • An alternative to a primary election would be a caucus
    • One different between primaries and the general presidential election is the strategy employed. Since primary elections draw a party's activists, a candidate must appear more liberal as a Democrat and more conservative as a Republican. In a general election for president, the candidate must appeal to the mass, and appear more flexible to the people's wants.
  • Closed Primary:A primary election in which voting is limited to already registered party members (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • You must declare that you are a registered member of the political party in whose primary you want to vote in, in advance.
  • Open Primary: A primary election in which voters may choose in which party to vote as they enter the polling place (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • A person of any party affiliation may vote in an open primary
    • The highest voted candidate in each party move onto a runoff election.

  • Blanket Primary: A type of primary election where voters can vote for a candidate from either party.
    • You mark the ballot that has the candidates of all the parties, so you can vote for a Democratic candidate for one office and a Republican candidate for another.
  • Runoff Primary: A second primary election held when no candidate wins a majority of the votes in the first primary (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Runoff primaries are common in the South. (Wilson 241)
  • Presidential Primary: A special kind of primary used to pick delegates to the presidential nominating conventions of the major parties.

Two kinds of Campaign Issues:
  • Position Issue: an issue about which the public is divided and rival candidates or political parties adopt different policy positions (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Rival candidates have opposing views on a question that also divides the voters.
    • in 2004 G.W. Bush wanted to let people put money into private savings accounts, John Kerry opposed this.

  • Valence Issue: an issue about which the public is united and rival candidates or political parties adopt similar positions in hopes that each will be thought to best represent those widely shared beliefs (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • Wilson and DiIulio also seem to suggest that valence issues serve as a good fail-safe for candidates with less-than-stellar records, or minority opinions on position issues, using former President Clinton as an example (239).
Party Identification
  • Many Americans vote for a candidate depending on what party they represent.
  • If elections were based solely on party identification, Democrats would consistently win
  • Since 1968 Republicans have won more elections because:
    • Democrats are less polarized than Republicans (Democrats have more factions within the party than do Republicans)
    • Republicans fair better with Independents
    • A reliably higher percentage of Republicans vote in comparison to Democrats
  • V.O Key Jr established that most people switch parties because of their own self-interest and nothing else ( Wilson 255).
  • Farmers have historically been one of the most sensitive demographics as they are quick to react to the prices of their crops and therefore in the 20th century, they probably had a great influence on the outcomes of elections.
Issues in Election
  • Prospective Voting: voting for a candidate because you like his/her ideas for handling issues. (255)
    • an example would be voting for Obama because he says he will aid the economy
    • Prospective voters tend to from among those, who either research a variety of political issues and examine all the slight nuances to determine their position on each of them and then choose a candidate that closely matches their preferences, or those that favor a candidate because of the candidates' stance on one, sole, issue that the voter considers extremely important (Wilson and Dilulio 255).
    • Prospective Voting is is more common among people who are political activist, have a political ideology that governs the voting decision (Wilson and Dilulio 255).
    • Most common method of voting among activists and special interest groups

  • Retrospective Voting: voting for a candidate because you like his/her past actions in office (255).
    • an example would be re-electing Obama because voters liked what he did in office his previous term
    • Retrospective voters are highly influential in the election process because they have a large presence
    • According to Wilson, elections are decided by retrospective voting, which requires less information and only looking at how things have gone in the recent past.
  • Clothespin vote: vote cast by a person who does not like either candidate. When this occurs, people often vote for the better of the two candidates or vote according to their political affiliation.
    • Many would argue that those who do vote retrospectively, does so based on the economic conditions at the time (Wilson 256).
    • Prospective voting is much more common than retrospective voting among those with higher education, particularly those who have done post-graduate work.
  • Many people vote on a candidate simply based on their party identification. Rather then looking into detail what a specific candidate believes, they vote with what ever party they are used to voting for.

The Campaign
  • campaigns reawaken the partisan loyalties of voters
  • campaigns allow voters to observe how candidates react under pressure and give candidates the opportunity to apply pressure to opponents
  • campaigns also allow voters to evaluate candidates' values and character
  • today activists and single issue groups can be the swing vote for many candidates

Finding a Winning Coalition:
  • Putting together a winning electoral coalition means holding on to your base among committed partisans and attracting the swing voters who cast their ballots in response to issues and personalities.
  • Two-thirds of democratic voters in every election have happened to be African-American (Wilson 258).
  • The Republican Party attracts those with interests related to business and those who are more conservative (Wilson 258).
  • The loyalty of these groups to Republican is in fact very strong: only in 1964 did they desert the Republican candidate to support Lyndon Johnson.
The Effects of Elections on Public Policy
  • Elections in the U.S. don't have that great an effect on the public policy unless they occur along with a disaster mainly policy stays the same no matter who wins.
    • An example of such disasters are the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Newly elected officials were afforded greater influence on public policy, passing legislation such as the Patriot Act, by using this disaster as a catalyst.
  • Our system was one built on the idea that the speed of change should be very slow, so its hard for large changes to occur. This is due to our thousands of representatives and officials, divisive issues, and opposing ideals on how to fix the country.
    • Built-in filters such as the system of checks and balances, painstaking process of passing a bill, and the sheer size of our bureaucracy are agents of more gradual and refined change.
  • Public policy stays the same, more or less, no matter which candidate gets elected into office.