Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Out

Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Out

Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Out

Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Out


Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Outexamines the ins and outs of political campaigning through the eyes of both an academic and a political consultant.

This text takes a unique approach to the subject of campaign communication by examining its intricacies from views both inside and outside of the process. Unlike many texts in this field, Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Outtakes a broad view of political campaigning, discussing theories and principles, along with topics such as political socialization, the role of money, ethics, and critical events.


Both of the authors grew up in political environments, among families who assumed that political involvement was both a right and a responsibility of American citizens. The importance of politics was drilled into each of us well before we reached high school.

At the age of eight, Joseph Cowart worked in a precinct handing out literature for Wallace “Wah-Wah” Jones, a candidate for sheriff in Fayette County, Kentucky. By the time he was sixteen, Cowart was a precinct captain despite the fact he was not yet old enough to vote. By the age of twenty, he was a veteran political organizer and eventually became a full-time political consultant.

Larry Powell was a relatively late bloomer. His first campaign activity came at age thirteen, distributing literature during his father’s run for a state legislature seat. As a junior in high school, he ran for student body president and won. His actual tenure in office was less successful—a lesson he interpreted as meaning he was more successful at understanding the campaign process than at governing.

For Cowart, politics was a family business. They made no money from this activity, but it was, as his mother said, “Our contribution to make our community a better place to live.” She instilled a respect of, and duty to, democracy. Her lessons remained with him after years of representing veteran politicians, managing multimillion dollar campaigns, editing television spots late into the night, and shmoozing at length by telephone with reporters. His resulting philosophy of campaign leadership is simple. Don’t make the candidate something he or she is not. Never lie. Always tell the objective truth and never “settle” for the technical truth. Don’t ever mistake the candidate’s accomplishments for your own accomplishments.

As a campaign professional, Cowart’s contribution to these ideals has been to keep them foremost in his mind and in his planning while applying the latest technology, tactics, and strategy to the political landscape. His goal has remained the completion of campaigns in which candidates have the opportunity to express their ideas to an audience receptive enough to elect them to public office.

Larry Powell’s father was a political activist. Harold Powell was a news junkie decades before CNN, Fox News, and other news networks went on the air. Evenings at home began with watching NBC Nightly News, the only network broadcast available at the Powells’ rural home. Sunday mornings meant rising early enough to watch Meet the Press before heading to church. This all seemed normal at the time; Larry Powell didn’t learn until he studied the Nielsen ratings at Auburn University that fewer than 3 percent of U.S. households tuned into the show.

Both authors realize that others may not share our desire to understand the intricacies and controversies of our chosen field of study. We do hope, however, that students will share our trust in the democratic process and that this book will help them better understand that process. We believe that by looking at campaigns from both an inside and outside perspective, each reader can become a more critical observer of the political communication process.


Since the release of the first edition, political campaigns have adapted to a changing world. Thus, this edition includes several features not available in the first edition. Here is a brief . . .

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