Vital Signs

Vital Signs: Perspectives on the Health of American Campaigning

David A. Dulio
Candice J. Nelson
Foreword by James A. Thurber
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    Vital Signs
    Book Description:

    It was the best of elections; it was the worst of elections. The 2004 presidential contest mobilized a record number of voters, with 121 million Americans showing up at the polls. But in many eyes, the 2004 race also plumbed new depths. It was the most expensive presidential election in history, with a price tag of $2.2 billion. It was also marked by unprecedented negativity -for example, both George W. Bush and John Kerry came under fire for their activities during the Vietnam War, which ended three decades ago. In Vital Signs,David Dulio and Candice Nelson analyze the Bush and Kerry campaigns and use them as the springboard for a broader exploration of the current U.S. campaign system and its strengths and weaknesses. The book addresses four key issues: Who's in charge of modern campaigns? How effective are the key players? What role does money play? And are campaigns being conducted in an ethical manner? In answering these questions, Dulio and Nelson draw on a wide range of sources, including focus groups, interviews with campaign professionals, and a unique dataset based on multiple surveys of political consultants, party operatives, and the public. The culmination of the seven-year "Improving Campaign Conduct" project, Vital Signs should become an integral part of the debate about American campaigns and elections.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9790-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    James A. Thurber

    Election campaigns are central events in American democratic life. An important function of campaigns is that they link citizens with government by providing a regular opportunity for the governed both to give their consent to their representatives and to hold those same representatives accountable for past performance. These political campaigns profoundly affect public officials and the policies they pursue, as they are democratic battles among candidates for the opportunity to serve in public office. Campaigns educate voters about candidates’ policy positions and persuade the electorate to vote for one of those candidates based on their visions for the role of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 A Tale of Two Campaigns?
    (pp. 1-24)

    In what is certainly an indelible image from the 2004 presidential race, Howard Dean’s now infamous “scream” can be seen as a microcosm of the larger campaign. It was simultaneously a sign of the good and the bad that appeared throughout the election season. One might be tempted to ask, How can the scene that played out on caucus night in West Des Moines, Iowa, possibly be indicative of anything good? Well, if one goes back and looks at the full video of the speech, it is clear that Dean was speaking to a crowd of dedicated supporters who were...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Who’s in Charge? Candidates, Consultants, and Political Parties
    (pp. 25-51)

    After the spectacle that was the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election and the fiasco that was the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, the question in the title of political scientist Stephen J. Wayne’s book,Is This Any Way to Run a Democratic Election?is certainly appropriate. It is also appropriate, however, in another context—a context that is the subject of this book, and specifically this chapter.

    In an electoral environment that is dominated by twenty-four-hour news coverage, thirty-second ads, special interest groups, and big-dollar contributors and in which a number of competing interests vie for control of election...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Where Do We Stand? A Comparative View among the Actors
    (pp. 52-87)

    A thorough examination of the health of American campaigning must include an investigation of the players central to the process. How are different electoral actors performing within our system of campaigning? There are many different levels on which the main actors in campaigns could be judged. (In this book, we focus on candidates, the public, political consultants, political parties, and journalists as electoral actors.) Because of actors’ different roles, however, these measures do not always overlap. Therefore, for each of these groups of actors we offer a general performance assessment, again based on our survey research and examples from recent...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Money, Elections, and the Impact of Reform
    (pp. 88-110)

    Perhaps the most disturbing characteristic of campaigns in the United States is the inequality in the resources, particularly money, that candidates face in their campaigns for office. There is no better example than the 2004 presidential election campaign: in March of 2004, President Bush had $110 million in the bank, forty-six times the amount available to John Kerry.¹ And this was part of a presidential financing system where partial public funding in the prenomination phase and full public funding for the general election was supposed to provide a level playing field, at least for major-party candidates.

    It was not just...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Ethics and the Health of American Campaigning
    (pp. 111-153)

    During the third and final presidential debate of 2004, the candidates were asked whether they believed homosexuality was a choice. In addressing this question, Senator Kerry invoked the name of Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary Cheney, an openly gay woman who occupied a high-level position in her father’s campaign. Earlier, in the lone vice presidential debate, Senator John Edwards had also made reference to the Cheneys’ daughter. The Cheneys—both the vice president and his wife, Lynne—took umbrage at the mention of their daughter’s name by Senator Kerry. After the last presidential debate, Lynne Cheney called the use...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Health of U.S. Campaigning after the 2004 Election
    (pp. 154-174)

    From the Howard Dean scream to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads to the references to Vice President Cheney’s daughter’s sexual orientation, the 2004 election provided many opportunities to examine the health of American campaigns. In the preceding chapters we have looked at major players both inside and outside American campaigns to assess their views of campaign successes and problems of the past and the difficulties campaigns face at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Throughout this book, we have combined empirical data we have collected on these major electoral actors with examples from recent campaigns to illustrate both...

  11. APPENDIX Details of Survey Sample Selection and Administration
    (pp. 175-180)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 181-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-225)