Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Margin of Victory: How Technologists Help Politicians Win Elections

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Margin of Victory: How Technologists Help Politicians Win Elections

Article excerpt

Margin of Victory: How Technologists Help Politicians Win Elections. Edited by Nathaniel G. Pearlman. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012. 253 pp.

Long before President Barack Obama tweeted the name of his vice presidential pick--bypassing the traditional media--cutting edge campaign technology had begun to intrigue political researchers, politicians, and technologists. Nathaniel G. Pearlman's Margin of Victory is a collection of personal reflections from professionals who incorporated that emerging technology into campaigns. This book is helpful for political communication academics who want to supplement their findings with actual accounts of how and why political campaigns implemented technology. The book's use of insider perspectives is both a strength and a weakness. Specifically, while the contributors were honest about what worked and what did not, some wrote their essay as if every reader has worked a campaign. If readers can look past such jargon, there is a plethora of knowledge here that will be useful for strategists, politicians, and academics who want to understand how technology was used in the past, how it is being used in the present, and how it should be used in the future.

Pearlman collects essays from sixteen contributors who have had firsthand experience in employing technology in campaigns. This book goes beyond what John Allen Hendricks and Robert E. Denton, Jr. included in their coedited Communicator-In-Chief How Barack Obama Used New Media Technology to Win the White House (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010). Pearlman reaches across party lines to develop a group of essays that adopts multiple viewpoints to trace the history, implementation, and strategies of campaign technology. Each essay shares the contributor's version of why technology is important by discussing the past, present, and future of political campaigning. The consensus of many of the contributors is that 2004 Democratic hopeful Howard Dean played the most significant role in showing politicians and campaign strategists how important emerging media is to our political digital culture.

Chapter 1 sets the tone for the book. Will Robinson's "The Digital Revolution: Campaigns and New Media Communications" explains the evolution of campaigns from the 1970s to the present from the perspective of different generations. Robinson details the technological transition. He writes that "seniors really represent the end of an era of the viewing behavior and technology we saw in the 1970s and 1980s" (p. 7). At the other end of the spectrum are the Millennials who do not watch broadcast television or read printed newspapers. Robinson explains that everyone whose ages land in between

these extremes uses "some combination of broadcast, Internet, cell phone and other communications vehicles" (p. 8). The most important advice he gives to future campaigns is that the relationship between candidates and those voters will become more significant again because technology allows more individualized campaigns. Robinson is correct, because campaigns that utilize social media to their full potential will allow for more intimate relationships between candidate and voter.

Another important aspect on which many of the authors agree is how the Internet became a catalyst that helped propel fund-raising for political campaigns. In Chapter 3, Nicco Mele remembers Gary Hart's 1984 campaign, which required supporters to submit checks to the candidate, but where to mail them was a major problem. …

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