Targeted Marketing and Long Campaigns

In her article targeted marketing, Keya Dannenbaum addresses how political campaigns continue to evolve and use new technologies. From television to social media and targeted advertising, the ways politicians are trying to communicate with potential voters continue to expand. However, As Dannenbaum highlights, while micro-targeting political messages can appeal to specific groups, the politician faces a serious problem with meeting everyone’s expectations once in office. This is one example of how being good at campaigning does not necessarily translate into any real skill at governing.

Neil Irwin looks at political campaigns from a different perspective, describing campaigns as one long hiring process. His opinion of this form of candidate evaluation is generally positive, but he does not address the problems of promising different things to different people (as addresses by Dannenbaum), or the downsides to the fundraising machine that is a presidential election campaign.

My point is not that either author is right or wrong–both make good arguments from where they are standing–but rather that, when it comes to our current campaign system, there are plenty of good and bad sides. Depending on which aspect of campaigns you are examining, your evaluations will look wildly different. But maybe that is part of the problem.

Going back to our discussion on presidential mandates, I think the layers of campaigns in a sense make it too difficult for the elected officials to discern why people chose to vote for them. If this is the case, taking the advise of Gary Gutting, and voting purely based on party might not be such a bad idea.



Two GOP senators join call for Bi-partisan Investigation.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy over election results in various battleground states around the nation. This prompted a recount of votes, after many citizens and politicians called for a review. To further add to the election controversy, the CIA has released a report on suspected Russian activities affecting the recent presidential election. In this article, two key GOP senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, join Democrats Charles Schumer and Jack Reed in call for bi-partisan investigation on Russian influence of the previous election.

The beginning of the article states that this call for action came after The Washington Post reported the CIA’s “private conclusion” that Russian interference was intended to benefit Trump in the election. The Senators released a statement saying “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American… Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks.” The article goes on to state that McCain and Graham have had difficult relationships with Trump, so this is does necessarily signal wide ranging support of the bi-partisan investigation. In the latter part of the article, opinions from Republican John Cornyn and House Speaker Paul Ryan were given. This is obviously an important matter that should be addressed, and it will be interesting to see if this will gain further support among both parties.

“Andrew Jackson’s Lessons for Donald Trump” Article

            Like many other students in our class and around the country, I am still processing Trump’s election and what it will mean for the United States. This week I searched for an article about him, and one that Jon Meacham wrote titled Andrew Jackson’s Lessons for Donald Trump drew my attention.

Towards the beginning of the article, Meacham discusses how there are “surface similarities” between Trump and Andrew Jackson such as their “powerful personalities,” their campaigns which championed “freeing the country from established, ossified interests,” and the shock their election success brought to the traditional establishment (Meacham). Yet, the author highlights a sharp distinction between the two individuals: their political experience (Meacham). However, the most interesting statement that Meacham tells the reader is one that Senator Thomas Hart made about Jackson saying that “‘He always said the people would stand by those who stand by them’” (Meacham). Now, as Meacham says, “it is President Trump’s move” given Americans’ support of Trump (Meacham).

Meacham is right. America, although not the majority population, threw their support for Trump. Millions of Americans have entrusted him to lead our country through all of the challenges it is facing and will face in the coming years: Global Warming, a threatening North Korea, and economic/social problems right here in America. I, like all Americans should, want Trump to be a great president and support policy that will benefit all Americans and the world. Now, it is time for Trump to prove himself to the people and  rise to this challenge.

Here is a link to the article.

Governing: Senator McCain (24 hr extension)

Now that Senator McCain has comfortably won re-election in the Arizona Senate race for the 6th time in his tenure, and that the recent presidential campaign with all its glory is over, he can turn back to focusing on which issues and legislation to address. Senator McCain is, and should continue to be an effective law maker considering the experience he has gathered during his long political tenure. The election results seem to be very positive for Senator McCain this election cycle because he is now a Senior Senator in a “unified” government in the majority party. This adds up to be very promising for Republicans, like Senator McCain, if they can seize the opportunity they have been given.

Senior Senator McCain has multiple benefits at his disposal, but to be effective Volden and Wiseman (2014) list 5 habits he must possess. Due to Senator McCain’s long time in office, he has had the time to learn these habits to become much more effective in office then say, a Junior senator with little to no experience. Most of these habits have helped him stay in office too. The first habit Volden and Wiseman list is to “develop a legislative agenda rooted in personal background, previous experiences, and policy expertise.” A good example of this would be Senator McCain using his previous military background to provide expertise in veteran’s affairs, which has constantly been an issue on Senator McCain’s list. He has also sat as chairman of the Committee of Armed Services. Both these points show a clear agenda that Senator McCain has, and now that republicans hold the house and senate, Senator McCain could be extremely effective in passing legislation benefitting veterans.

The next habit Volden and Wiseman list is to develop an agenda focusing on your constituencies needs. Senator McCain has been a staunch opponent of Obamacare since the bill was made. Health care is a major issue among Arizona voters and it was one of Senator McCain’s top campaign issues. Polls show Arizonans opinions of Obamacare as highly negative, especially after the recent premium hikes. With the current status of the government, Senator McCain prove to be a big part in facilitating change in this field for the Voters of Arizona.

The next habits Volden and Wiseman list are very important when it comes to getting things done in the Senate. These habits are basically to have a wide range of allies and be able to compromise when need be. Compromising is necessary so all Americans can have legislation that benefits them, but with the current political climate, compromise might be difficult. Senator McCain has comprised a wide range of allies, and he should since he has had the time to do so. Looking at Senator McCain’s endorsements show that he does have allies around the nation and in the senate. This obviously a skill that Senator McCain has used to his advantage and this helps proves that he is definitely an effective law maker and will be effective, as always, in governing.

Governing as the Junior Senator from California

After a decisive win in the election for California’s seat in the U.S. Senate, Senator-elect Kamala Harris has begun her transition leading up to being sworn in on January 3rd. This week, Harris began announcing the names of people from her campaign and Attorney General offices that will be part of her team in Washington.  As we might expect based on the Vox piece we read about the effects of electing women to office, Harris’ hires for her D.C. staff includes several women in prominent roles. However, assessing which kind of lawmaker Harris intends to be goes beyond her picks of staffers; looking at the kinds of issues on which she is focusing as she transitions to Washington should give us an idea of which policies we can expect her to work on.

Since the election, Kamala Harris has frequently spoken out against President-elect Trump and his policies. She is especially focused on Trump’s immigration policy, which she has vowed to fight against. Her focus was underlined by her decision to make her first public appearance after the election at the head quarters of an immigrants’ rights group in California. This suggests that she has already chosen immigration as a central issue in her legislative agenda. However, Harris faces several obstacles to being an effective lawmaker, the most significant of which is being a freshman senator from the minority party.

In their analysis of what makes an effective lawmaker, Volden and Wiseman (2014) present a list of qualities and approaches that seem to be common practices for the most effective legislators. While some of these qualities are harder to assess in a politician new to a legislative position, some of these can nevertheless help us make an educated guess as to the kind of legislator Senator-elect Harris will be.

First off, Harris’ focus on immigration issues throughout her campaign and now her transition suggests that she takes the interests specifically relevant to Californians into account when shaping her message. Furthermore, a focus on immigration and criminal justice reform serve a good extension of her expertise and experience as the Attorney general of California, a further indicator of success.

Finally, while it seems unlikely for a Democrat in the current climate to seek out compromises across party lines, Harris has certainly mastered the skill of cultivating a broad set of powerful allies. This skill is best exemplified by looking at her list of endorsements from the election.

One final interesting aspect of Harris’ legislative agenda what her choice of issues might tell us about her priorities in terms of her future political career. Her clear indication that she intends to lead the fight on immigration issues against President Trump’s administration aligns with Herrnson’s (2016) analysis of the types of committees legislators pursue. In this case, immigration reform is a divisive issue with plenty of opportunity for Harris to position herself on the national stage. This, in combination with the already consistent speculation that Harris is aiming for a presidential run in 2020, suggests that Harris intends to continue to try to advance her political career.

Why Catherine Cortez Masto Won the Nevada Senate Seat

On November 8th, Catherine Cortez Masto won the open Senate seat in Nevada, replacing Harry Reid. She is the first ever Latina senator and arguably beat many odds that were stacked against her. Masto ran against a white male Republican who had served in the military, traits that are historically advantageous when running for public office. It was a widely held assumption that this race would prove to be one of the most competitive in the 2016 elections, and received a significant amount of national news coverage. Cortez Masto beat opponent Joe Heck by about 35,000 votes, or 4 percentage points (Ballotpedia).

The state of Nevada is 50.9% male and 49.1% female. More importantly, the state population is around 20% Latino or Hispanic (US Census). According to 2015 Gallup findings, 39.4% of the state leans or is Democrat and 43.5% leans or is Republican; leaving Democrats with a -4.1 advantage. However, the senate seat up for contention was one that had previously been held by Harry Reid, a Democrat and the current Senate minority leader, which likely gave Cortez Masto a slight advantage over Joe Heck solely based on party. Additionally, in the last three presidential elections, including 2016, the state of Nevada has gone blue. Based on this background information, an initial theory to help explain Cortez Masto’s win could be coattails from Hillary Clinton.

An interpretation of Robert Erickson’s (2016) theory of coattails helps support the application to the 2016 Nevada senate race. While Hillary Clinton did not secure a presidential victory, she did win in the state of Nevada. By looking only at how she performed within the state, it becomes evident that Cortez Masto would have been able to ride the coattails of Clinton. Had the state gone red, it is possible that Trump’s coattails would have helped secure a victory for the Republican, Joe Heck.

Looking next at Paul Herrnson’s “Predictors of House Open-Seat Candidates’ Vote Shares”, parallels can be drawn that also apply to Senate races (p. 262). While the partisanship of the state of Nevada leans right, the resources of Cortez Masto greatly outweighed Heck; both highly influential factors on election outcomes according to Herrnson. In this election, it appears that spending was a more determinant factor of who won. In line with another important factor according to Herrnson was Cortez Masto’s strategy to “emphasize themes that are consistent with the national political agenda” (p. 265). The senator-elect ran on a platform centered on “protecting families”, raising the minimum wage and fighting for equal pay, immigration reform with a path to citizenship helping undocumented immigrants currently residing the US, and utilizing clean energy to preserve natural resources ( This echoes the 2016 National Democratic Platform, and likely helped mobilize voters by employing a partisan approach and focusing on issues that are considered to be ‘owned’ by the party.

Another factor in Catherine’s win could be the overall favorable view the state holds of President Obama, who campaigned on behalf of Cortez Masto. Abramowitz (2008) argues that one factor in predicting election outcomes is the approval rating of the incumbent president at the time of an election; this holds true in years when the sitting president is not on the ballot, as was the situation in this election. The most recent Huffington Post poll, taken seven days before Election Day on November 1st, found Obama’s approval rating in Nevada to be 49.9%. This lends support to the assumption that a factor in the Democratic Party win of the seat was the view of the current president.

Campaign spending likely had a large impact on the outcome of this race. It was the seventh most expensive senate race of the 2016 elections, with Cortez Masto raising $16,063,918 and Heck raising $11,083,639 (OpenSecrets). In keeping with Holbrook and McClurg’s (2005) finding that states with more funding than average see 3-4% points difference in turnout, Joe Heck’s $5 million disparity likely increased partisan turnout for the Democrats.

Cortez Masto’s win was an impressive feat in the current political climate. Being a minority and a woman put her at a significant disadvantage. Dave Cassino presents evidence to support the idea that when faced with supporting a man or woman for president, men take gender into account in a way that can skew the outcome regardless of party identification. This means that Cortez Masto successfully overcame the “threat to gender roles” that would have, or maybe did, cue men to vote for another male regardless of any other factor other than sex of the candidate. Additionally, as reported by Holman, Merolla, and Zechmeister, in times where the threat of terror is high and/or salient, female Democratic candidates are at a significant disadvantage, but Cortez Masto came out victorious regardless.

Sources (that are not hyperlinked):

Who won Arizona Senate and Why

The end result of the race for Arizona senate in the 2016 was no surprise as Senator John McCain was re-elected for the fifth consecutive time. This has been a position that Senator McCain has held since 1986, and he has achieved this feat with relative ease. This poll from CNN, shows Senator McCain’s victory with 53.4% of the vote. Representative Kirkpatrick only received 41.1% of the votes casted. In this election cycle, Senator McCain’s dominant incumbent status gave him significant advantages in funding, media coverage, and endorsements from the state and national level.

An extremely important difference between Senator McCain and Representative Kirkpatrick was the amount of funding each candidate had during the race or, in incumbent Senator McCain’s case, before the race started. In chapter 6 of Congressional Elections, Herrnson states “Senate incumbents’ most immediate advantage at the beginning of the election cycle is the funds already in their possession.” (Herrnson, pg. 196). Senator McCain started this race with more than $2,000,000 and Representative Kirkpatrick started with nothing. However, she ended up raising $8,468,556, but it was still not enough to match Senator McCain. Representative Kirkpatrick was no pushover despite her lack of funds. A good challenger will force an incumbent to spend money. (Crowder-Meyer. Nov.14, 2016). Senator McCain spent more than $11,000,000 in this race per stats taken by OpenSecrets.

This advantage in funds was important because it allowed Senator McCain to dominate in direct communication to voters. Senator McCain aired twice as many TV ads than Representative Kirkpatrick did, and he also used other methods of direct communication such as radio ads. Radio ads tend to reach around 80% of the public by themselves. (Overby & Barth, 2006). Direct communication was key for Senator McCain because it allowed him to precisely deliver the message in the manner that he wanted it. (Hayes. 2010. Ch.4). This proves the importance of being well funded, especially in high profile races.

Another factor that hurt Representative Kirkpatrick’s campaign was her serious lack of media coverage at the state or national level. This is important because she did not receive any mediated communication to disseminate her message to voters. (Hayes, pg. 53). Various prominent national news sources, such as The Washington Post, tended only to cover the negative relationship between President-elect Trump and Senator McCain. If Representative Kirkpatrick was mentioned, it was only a secondary topic in an article than was primarily about Senator McCain. The general strategy for Representative Kirkpatrick was to negatively associate Senator McCain with Trump however, Senator McCain redacted his endorsement of Trump. There was fear that this would hurt his campaign but given Senator McCain’s high profile status, he did not need the coattail of Trump. After the votes were counted, Senator McCain received a higher percentage of votes, proportionally, than Trump did in the presidential election.

Senator McCain dominated in the category of endorsements as well. Here, a list can be found of all the endorsements of both candidates. Representative Kirkpatrick only received nine notable endorsements compared to Senator McCain’s 26. The only major national endorsement Representative Endorsement Representative Kirkpatrick received was from Planned Parenthood. Senator McCain received several major national endorsements including the U.S Chamber of Commerce, National Border Patrol, National Right to Life Committee, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Senator McCain also received multiple endorsements from state level officials. These included endorsements from the current Governor of Arizona and the Maricopa County attorney.

Senator McCain benefitted from the many advantages of an incumbent in this election. The lack of funding and low name recognition combined with the lack of media coverage and endorsements give clear indicators as to why Representative Kirkpatrick was out-matched. Senator McCain has now defended his seat in the Senate five times, he has done so quite easily. He was well funded, and his relationship with Trump controlled the headlines of media coverage which helped him in the long run. Senator McCain was also well endorsed, and he used all these advantages to successfully secure his seat in the Senate.