Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '88

Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '88

Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '88

Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '88


The 1988 Presidential campaign, considered by many to be one of the most negative in recent history, is candidly reviewed by the people involved. This book is a result of a campaign review conducted four weeks after the election by Harvard University's Institute of Politics, which brought together key decision makers of the campaigns of the 14 announced candidates along with a select group of leading election commentators and political journalists. The campaign officials tell why their candidate undertook the campaign, how they planned to win, how they assessed their strengths and weaknesses and their strategies for overcoming obstacles. The role of the press is reviewed by nationally respected journalists and reforms in the campaign process are suggested by the managers and the journalists.


The 1988 election year, the first in 20 years without a sitting President in the race, has been roundly criticized. Many have said that it started too soon, that it was too long on negative advertising and too short on discussion of the problems and challenges facing the country, and that the press was too intrusive in the political process.

Only 50 percent of the eligible voters participated--the lowest voter turnout since immediately after women were added to the pool of eligible voters. Some attribute the lack of interest to revulsion by the electorate to the conduct of the campaign, while others contend it was just a further expression of the inwardness of the "me" generation of the 1980s. One of the campaign decision makers said the challenge facing campaigns in the future was to make "politics as interesting as sex."

While the public may not have been as interested in politics as in the past, the professional politicians leaped into the 1988 campaign with both feet. Fifteen persons officially entered the race, while numerous others considered running, only to decide against it. An estimated $500 million was spent in the candidate exploration stage, the primaries, and the general election. Hundreds of thousands of persons participated in the process by working full time or part time on campaigns, volunteering, hosting candidates in their homes, or donating money to one of more of the candidates.

This book offers an analysis of the campaign from the viewpoint of those persons who actually made campaign decisions. The major part of the book is a verbatim transcript of discussions about the campaign by party leaders and persons who held top management positions in each of the announced campaigns. These discussions took place during a three-day meeting, December 2-4, 1988, sponsored by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

The session, the fifth of its type held by the Institute, was organized around the major issues in the campaign--not the issues . . .

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