Making Campaigns Count: Leadership and Coalition-Building in 1980

By Darrell M. West | Go to book overview

3
Candidates and Electoral Coalitions

Campaigns are complicated events. Because the new electoral system requires personal campaigning and the demonstration of popular support, candidates and their advisors have to think carefully about electoral coalitions. Which constituencies should they attempt to rally? Do they want to go with what worked in the past, that is, coalitions that successful candidates of their party put together in previous elections? Or do they want to develop new coalitions?

In making these decisions, candidates usually consider three things. First, as prominent politicians who have sought office before, they are influenced by their own electoral histories. Most candidates, by the time they seek the presidency, have several campaigns under their belts--either for a governorship, the House, the Senate, or perhaps even a presidential race. These campaigns influence candidates' views of electoral coalitions. If campaigners previously won elections with blacks, labor unions, and senior citizens in their coalitions, they are likely in a presidential race to continue those appeals. Similarly, candidates who developed close ties with "big business" are not likely to forget that support when they run for president.

Second, as members of a particular party, they must be aware of their party's electoral history. Despite voter complaints about the indistinguishability of the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats generally have appealed to different constituencies. According to Robert Axelrod, Republicans have aimed at moderate to conservative voting blocs (mainly the better off, white, nonunion families, Protestants, Northerners, and rural and suburban dwellers) while Democrats have appealed to moderate to liberal blocs (generally the poor, blacks, union members, Catholics and Jews, Southerners, central city dwellers, and the young); even though party loyalties have weakened, candidates cannot ignore party histories.1

Third, candidates have policy interests. It no longer is fashionable to consider candidates' policy motivations. Much of the work on candidate strategies describes them as "vote maximizers" motivated primarily by electoral incentives.2 According to this approach, campaigners survey the political landscape

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Making Campaigns Count: Leadership and Coalition-Building in 1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments iv
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1- Introduction 3
  • Notes 12
  • 2- The Changing Nature of Presidential Campaigns 15
  • Notes 34
  • 3- Candidates and Electoral Coalitions 39
  • Notes 62
  • 4campaign Rhetoric and the Political Agenda 69
  • Notes 92
  • 5- Constituencies and the Allocation Of Travel Time 97
  • Notes 114
  • 6- The Role of Political Symbolism 117
  • Notes 131
  • 7- Candidate Presentations and Audience Reactions 133
  • Notes 148
  • 8- Campaigns and Governance: Predicting Presidential Behavior 151
  • Notes 161
  • Appendixes 163
  • Notes 174
  • Bibliographical Essay 189
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 199
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