Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century: A Whole New Ballgame?

Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century: A Whole New Ballgame?

Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century: A Whole New Ballgame?

Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century: A Whole New Ballgame?


In view of the 2016 US election season, the second edition of this book analyzes the way political campaigns have been traditionally run and the extraordinary changes that have occurred since 2012. Dennis W. Johnson looks at the most sophisticated techniques of modern campaigning--micro-targeting, online fundraising, digital communication, the new media--and examines what has changed, how those changes have dramatically transformed campaigning, and what has remained fundamentally the same despite new technologies and communications.

Campaigns are becoming more open and free-wheeling, with greater involvement of activists (especially through social media) and average voters alike. At the same time, they have become more professionalized, and the author has experience managing and marketing the process. Campaigning in the Twenty-First Centuryillustrates the daunting challenges for candidates and professional consultants as they try to get their messages out to voters. Ironically, the more open and robust campaigns become, the greater is the need for seasoned, flexible, and imaginative professional consultants.

New to the Second Edition

  • Includes coverage of the 2012 and 2014 elections, looking ahead to 2016.
  • Updates coverage of campaign finance since the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
  • Adds to the discussion of demographic and technological changes in elections since 2012.


Professional political campaigning has undergone dramatic, even fundamental, changes over the past decade; yet many of the tried and true practices found in the twentieth century remain valuable tools today. The crowded field of Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination rely on old-fashioned rallies, fund raising events, and television ads to get their message across as they try to woo voters. Candidates have been doing this for generations. We can reliably call these activities twentieth century campaigning. But the 2016 candidates have also turned to Twitter, trying to reach supporters and grab the attention of traditional media. The candidates have also turned to outside funding sources, Super PACs and 501(c) groups, to fuel their campaigns and to help sustain them through the primaries and ultimately through the general election. In that way, the 2016 candidates are definitely using twenty-first century campaigning techniques.

Twenty-first century campaigning started nearly twenty years ago. There is no specific beginning point, but if we were to locate one nascent moment, it would have been an announcement made on television. On Thursday evening, October 6, 1996, PBS host Jim Lehrer moderated the first of three presidential debates between incumbent Bill Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole. The debate itself at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut was unremarkable and not very news worthy. But in his closing arguments, Bob Dole did something that no other major party candidate had done: he invited the millions of viewers to find out more about the Dole-Kemp campaign and to join its efforts by logging on to his campaign website.

I ask for your support. I ask for your help. And if you really want to
get involved, just tap into my home page, www.DoleKemp96org.
Thank you. God bless America.

Dole bungled the URL address, forgetting the “dot” before “org,” but the next day there were well over 2 million hits on his campaign’s website. Neither the Dole-Kemp nor the Clinton-Gore campaign website . . .

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