Jesse Helms meant that in 1996 one candidate would circumvent news media and go directly to voters to remind them of his effectiveness and service to all North Carolina citizens. Helms also would suggest that only liberal special interests would be served if his opponent, Harvey Gantt, was elected. The styles and strategies used in the ads enhanced the overall images offered to voters of an elder, experienced senator who stood up for North Carolina values against a challenger who called for changes and wanted to try out his agenda to help working-class families. Voters, concerned about their families and about moral values, may have been persuaded by the cues offered in Helms' ads that only special liberal interests would be served by' anyone other than Helms.
Adding to this, just 2 months before Election Day, North Carolina residents were faced with uncertainty, disruption, and loss because of Hurricane Fran. The unsettling effect of Fran only enhanced Helms' image as a senator who would take care of his constituents. Stability and continuity, not change and new ideas, seemed to be the focus for many of the residents. As the months of cleanups and disrupted lives wore on, most North Carolinians just wanted their lives to return to normal. For many voters, that meant reelecting Jesse Helms to his fifth term in the U.S. Senate.
I wish to thank doctoral students Dolores Flamiano, Lois Boynton, and Anthony Hatcher for their assistance with content analysis and data entry on this project.