Getting elected to public office is a process affected by many factors, not all of which are directly related to the candidate and his or her platform. Other factors may influence voters and sway their thinking about a particular candidate.
Polls are commonly used to get the pulse of the public regarding candidates and their relative strength in campaigns. The first-known straw vote opinion, conducted by the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, was taken during the Presidential election campaign between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1824 and the poll indicated that Jackson was ahead of Adams. (Adams defeated Jackson and became the sixth president in 1865.)
No discussion of polling can take place without mentioning the name of George Gallup, an American statistician who invented the Gallup Poll, a successful statistical tool used for measuring public opinion. His poll attained notoriety in 1936 when it accurately predicted the outcome of the presidential race between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alf Langdon, despite the alternative prediction of a much larger sampling done by Literary Digest magazine, which was widely respected at the time. The Gallup Poll, however, was again in the news in 1948 when it predicted that Dewey would defeat Truman but this did NOT occur (see Historical Perspective.) Mr. Gallup blamed that faulty result on the fact that the polling took place three weeks before election day.
polls can greatly influence the public who can be swayed to back to
an underdog out of sympathy, or back the to the candidate who appears
to be ahead in the race based on the poll. Polling data is released
to the public constantly and this barrage of information can "spun"
in many different ways. As the conventions approach (March 2008) and
the Democratic Party is split over the candidates Obama and Clinton,
the polls are buzzing with talk of an easy win for John McCain, a result
of the strife in the Democratic ranks.
Fundraising, in the general sense, is the act of soliciting and/or collecting money or other gifts by asking for donations from government agencies, businesses, charitable foundations or individuals. In politics, the fundraising efforts are toward one purpose: electing individuals to public office. Political fundraising is fundamental to any political campaign. Political action committees (PACs) create many jobs for professional fundraising consultants. Fundraising is a very controversial topic in past campaigns, and in this 2008 campaign especially. The Federal Election Campaign Act governs how campaign fundraising can be conducted and how funds can be used. Limits on contributions are adjusted every election cycle to account for changes in the consumer price index (CPI).
Political Action Committees acquire donations with the objective of impacting a federal election. In the United States, there are two distinctly different kinds of political committees: Separate Segregated Funds (SSF’s) and nonconnected committees. SSFs are made and managed by corporations, membership organizations, trade associations, or labor unions. They can only solicit and/or collect money from associated individuals. Nonconnected committees have no relation with any groups or organizations. They can solicit and collect money from anyone, because they have no affiliations.
Most political candidates hire professional fundraising consultants. Presidential candidates actually hire several staff members to work with the hired consultants. These consultants are involved in a variety of activities: preparing and supervising direct mail and e-mail fundraising efforts, collaborating with donors to arrange and host fundraising events, organizing telemarketing efforts and appointments with possible contributors, and soliciting PACs (Political Action Committees). Most professional fundraising consultants are paid a monthly fee in addition to a ten to fifteen percent commission. The most important part of their jobs is to build a database of potential donors.
In spite of various campaign finance reform laws, political fundraising continues to be an extremely controversial subject in political campaigns. Many citizens believe that the large donations of some will lead to favoritism if a particular candidate gets elected. However, political fundraising is a major part of a political campaign. It pays for a major part of every candidates’ campaign, including advertisements, campaign workers, traveling expenses and more.
Election Campaign Act
2007-08 Election Year Spotlight
In the 2008 presidential election, most candidates have conducted numerous fundraisers, a major part of their campaigns. According to the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic candidates have raised more money than the Republican candidates. At the time of the first version of this article in the fall of 2007, Senator Hillary Clinton, a Democrat candidate, had the highest amount of money raised overall and Barack Obama, another Democrat, was second in fundraising dollars. Republican Mitt Romney, who has since dropped out of the race had raised approximately $63 million total and was in third place for overall fundraising in the fall of 2007. However, Barak Obama is now well ahead of Clinton in total dollars raised, as of this writing on March 30, 2008. Below is a summary of the campaign dollars raised by Obama and Clinton, as of March 30, 2008 according to the size of the donation:
Source of data: Federal Election Commission
statistics show an interesting phenomenon and comparison of the two
campaigns. Senator Obama raised the greatest percentage of his money
in small donations of $200 or less, while Senator Clinton's greatest
percentage is in the highest category of spending. Many attribute Obama's
success to his appeal to minority, young and lower income individuals.
The presidential candidates of the upcoming 2008 election have very strong spouses behind them. These spouses, such as Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former candidate John Edwards, take pride in their ability to be informed about their spouse’s campaign policy. Today’s spouses tend to wield much political power, and not just from behind the scenes. These spouses are more than just quiet figures standing at the candidate’s side.
The spouses of today all have a common goal: to gain the support of as many voters in as many states as possible. The wives of the 2008 candidates (and the husband of the one female candidate) often speak out to support their spouses and their causes. They have also seemingly lashed out at other candidates by commenting on their campaign strategies and home life. Past spouses have also had similar goals.
The past First Ladies have used their influence to hold the country together when circumstances permitted. Abigail Adams warned John Adams not to put too much power into the men’s hands while inventing the Republic. Mary Todd Lincoln was very opinionated about Cabinet members and Supreme Court nominees. Edith Wilson kept the country’s government whole after her husband’s stroke. Rosalyn Carter also had power when her husband was not completely capable of leading the United States. One of the most influential and well known First Ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt, seemed to set the stage for the first ladies of today. She had much influence and was very outspoken. She was one of the few who didn't mind being alongside her husband in the limelight. Betty Ford also paved the way for today’s spouses. She answered any type of question she was asked and was completely honest and open on 60 Minutes when speaking of her alcohol dependence. She continued to be outspoken, although some people did not approve of her frankness. As a result of this type of candor, everyday citizens began to realize that the President and First Lady were not so different from anyone else. Today, the difference is many of these people are stepping out of the shadows to be seen and heard by the entire nation. First Spouses want a large say in the campaign and want to earn voters for their candidate.
However, the spouses are not even certain that voters want to see a stronger person backing the candidate. It is quite untraditional and a big change from almost all past elections. Even if they accept a First Spouse husband, voters may want a quiet figure in the background: a more traditional personality, with a more traditional role.
presidential candidates’ marriages are also at risk of being scrutinized.
Michelle Obama was very open with her husband’s flaws and the
strains on their marriage when she spoke to Glamour magazine.
She reported that her husband isn't a neat person, that he is “snore-y
and stinky,” so his daughters don’t cuddle with him in bed.
Michelle Obama also believes that today’s voters can relate to
her family’s problems. She believes they understand problems and
difficulties of family life and that the candor will help the campaign.
Rudy Giuliani has even gone so far as to propose having his wife, Judith
Giuliani, act as his presidential advisor. At the beginning of Hilary
Clinton's campaign, former President Bill Clinton was not interested
in meddling with his wife's campaign, but rose to her defense when accusations
against her began coming into light. As a matter of fact, many people
blame him for her declining support as the campaign proceeds, because
of his negative comments and attacks on people at various public appearances.
As a former President, Bill Clinton is very knowledgeable and experienced
in politics and campaigning and feels his wife is executing her campaign
the right way, but can't help stepping in when she is attacked or insulted.
Bill Clinton will not be a spouse who steps away from the limelight,
and offers a strong spouse for Hilary to rely on.
The United States has a long history of separating church and state, but in reality, religion plays a big part in the politics of the country, especially in recent years. Issues such as civil rights, women's right, gay rights and abortion have prompted religious figures to speak out for or against particular candidates, based on the opinions held by the candidates on these controversial issues.
In the 2008 campaign, religion has been a major topic of conversation with regard to two candidates: Mitt Romney and Barak Obama.
Mitt Romney (who is no longer in the race) is a Mormon. Ironically, the only other Mormon to run for President was the first Mormon himself, Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints. His campaign was short-lived. Many people feel that Mormonism is too "eccentric" and that the Mormons' view of salvation is not "Christian." During his short run for the Presidency, many attacks were waged against Mormonism, alleging that the religion endorsed multiple gods, polygamy and that a vote for Romney was a vote for Satan. The religious right is an influential constituency in American politics and many feared that having Romney as the Republican candidate would be a negative factor, since traditionally many of the religious right tend to vote for Republicans.
March 2008, the news was inundated with stories about Barak Obama's
pastor and longtime mentor, Jeremiah Wright. Many believe that Reverend
Wright's sermons have advocated black separatism and that Senator Obama
should have been more forthcoming in condemning the Reverend and his
sermons. One of the Reverend's sermons, given shortly after the September
11 terrorist attacks on the United States, seemed to imply that the
U.S. had brought the attacks on itself. Senator Obama quickly retaliated
against the allegations that he supported Reverend Wright's beliefs
by giving a speech on race in Philadelphia. This speech was generally
favorably received and boosted Obama's ranking. Some criticized it as
not being tough enough on the Reverend. This speech had been viewed
on the YouTube website more than 3.5 million times as of March 30, 2008.
A relatively new but crucial aspect of American political campaigning is the importance of being bilingual, or speaking Spanish, as well as the native English language. As Latinos have become the largest minority group in the United States, the importance of reaching this key demographic group can make or break a political campaign.
The number of eligible and registered Latino voters has been steadily increasing. At this time, the Latino vote has the power to influence the Electoral College votes in crucial swing states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico. These 4 states alone make up 46 votes of the Electoral College, or approximately 9%. This could be vital to the presidential election in 2008. In 2000, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by the small margin of five electoral votes, approximately 1%. It was such a close election that even though Al Gore lost, he had a higher popular vote than George W. Bush. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico could be the states that decide who our next president will be.
In addition, there are large Hispanic populations in Arizona, California, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, and New York. Most Hispanics tend to be Democrats, based on the Democratic platform. Texas, which has been Republican for the past 27 years, and Arizona, which has been chiefly Republican, could be the new swing states. Texas controls 34 electoral votes and Arizona controls 10. These large numbers could greatly change the presidential race. Perhaps in 2008, with the new Hispanic factor, Texas and Arizona will vote for a Democratic candidate.
Both Republican and Democratic political parties have been working hard to charm the growing group of Spanish-speaking voters. Many politicians have recently added Spanish websites, links, speeches, biographies, and videos to their campaigns. Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all followed this strategy in the 2008 race.
To the main Democratic presidential hopefuls who were all in the race at the time of this writing (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson), speaking Spanish is a very important part of their campaigns. Hillary Clinton formed the National Hispanic Leadership Council, in the name of her campaign; Barack Obama sang “Beautiful and Beloved Mexico” in Spanish; John Edwards had a Spanish interview with Jorge Ramos; and Bill Richardson has well publicized the fact that his mother, Mrs. Lopez, was Mexican.
And as for this year’s main Republican presidential hopefuls at the time of this writing, (John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani), speaking Spanish can mean the difference in their campaigns. John McCain is currently the most successful Republican in the Spanish segment of his campaign. He recently broadcast that he will take part in a Spanish-language presidential candidates' debate on Univision, even though he doesn’t speak Spanish. Also, part of McCain’s platform is about granting illegal immigrants a means to citizenship. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney wasn’t as lucky when it came to the Spanish segment of his campaign. He misused a famous sign-off quote of Fidel Castro, “Patria o muerte, venceremos.” Instead of applauding, the audience winced. The quote actually means “Fatherland or death, we shall over come.” Lastly, Rudy Giuliani has agreed to participate in a Spanish-language debate at the University of Miami.
It is obvious to all that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is a factor to be reckoned with. Representing the largest minority in the U.S., they can determine the outcome of the next presidential election. Any politicians that want to win the election must address this key constituency. From Hillary Clinton, who started the National Hispanic Leadership Council, to Mitt Romney, who misquoted Fidel Castro, all candidates recognize the importance of this key segment. Speaking their language seems a natural way to reach the Hispanic population. Nearly all candidates have or will be participating in a Spanish-language debate, even those who can’t speak Spanish. We’ll see how successful those candidates will be.
is another critical factor in the 2008 election. Barak Obama may be
the first black candidate for
President of the United States. Many applaud this as a positive step
for the United States, while others are fearful of having a black President.
It is assumed that black Americans will vote along racial lines and
Senator Clinton has worked very hard to attract African-American voters.
Many feel that African-American voters as a whole would likely support
Senator Clinton, had Senator Obama not entered the race. Geraldine Ferraro,
the only female to be on the Vice Presidential ticket for United States,
made comments that stirred debate regarding Obama's popularity. She
contended that if Obama were white, he would not be in the position
he is currently in, as front-runner for the Democratic nomination for
President. She further stated that if he were a white woman, he certainly
would stand no chance to be in his position. These statements were highly
publicized and some people felt that they were inflammatory and reeked
of racism. Ferraro would not retract her statements, and as a member
of Hillary Clinton's finance committee, resigned her post, likely prompted
from a request by the Clinton camp, fearing that Ferraro's feelings
were shared by Senator Clinton.
It is common to see celebrities donating thousands of dollars to fund the candidate or political party of their choice during Presidential campaigns. Celebrities back their candidates with money to support them, and have also been known to change their support for candidates midway through a campaign. Since campaign donations are public (Federal Election Campaign Act), the public is aware of which candidates are being supported by which celebrities. The support or lack of support by celebrities may in cases cause voters to rethink their views of candidates, especially, if the celebrity is popular and influential . During the 2004 election campaigns, celebrities gave candidates 27.5 million dollars. Many Hollywood actors and actresses favor the Democratic party and candidates.
In the current presidential campaigns, Barack Obama has gained the support and funding of many celebrities. Some celebrities supporting Obama are: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodard, Jamie Foxx , Jodie Foster, Isaiah Washington, Jennifer Aniston, Ed Norton, Eddie Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Zach Braff, Gene Wilder, Leonard Nimoy, Rosanna Arquette, Angela Bassett, and Kate Capshaw.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters include Tom Hanks, Tobey Maguire, and Ben Stiller, who switched from Obama to Clinton. When celebrities switch their support, it may convince voters to sway their own as well. Other Clinton supporters include: Danny Devito and his wife, Rhea Pearlman, Fran Drescher, Lily Tomlin, Ruby Dee, Pauly Shore, Candace Bergen, Chevy Chase, Mary Steenburgen, Christine Lahti, Kate Capshaw, and Jamie Gertz.
While many celebrities support the Democratic party, there are contributions made to Republicans as well. Rudy Giuliani accepted donations from famous celebrities Kelsey Grammer, Melissa Gilbert, Adam Sandler and Ben Stein.
In the 2004 election, some celebrities took a different approach to supporting their favorite candidates. Joan Jett endorsed Howard Dean to an audience before performing for them. Janeane Garfalo also endorsed Howard Dean to audience members and gave them an explanation as to why he was her choice candidate. Many celebrities endorse candidates, and know that they may be swaying voters as a result of their endorsement.
Oprah Winfrey has most recently endorsed Barack Obama as a Presidential candidate. Oprah Winfrey is a very influential celebrity in today’s society, and her endorsement was much publicized on television and radio and on the Internet. Some believe that Oprah is one the most influential persons in the United States today, so her endorsement received much press.
As presidential campaigns have become more and more expensive, the support
of celebrities has been sought actively by candidates. The candidates
also believe that this support is important because of the sway that
celebrities can have over the public and their visibility.