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American Campaign, Second Edition

U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote

By James E. Campbell

Publication Year: 2008

Reporting data and predicting trends through the 2008 campaign, this classroom-tested volume offers again James E. Campbell’s “theory of the predictable campaign,” incorporating the fundamental conditions that systematically affect the presidential vote: political competition, presidential incumbency, and election-year economic conditions. Campbell’s cogent thinking and clear style present students with a readable survey of presidential elections and political scientists’ ways of studying them. The American Campaign also shows how and why journalists have mistakenly assigned a pattern of unpredictability and critical significance to the vagaries of individual campaigns. This excellent election-year text provides: a summary and assessment of each of the serious predictive models of presidential election outcomes; a historical summary of many of America’s important presidential elections; a significant new contribution to the understanding of presidential campaigns and how they matter.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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pp. Cover-iv

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-viii


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p. ix-ix


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p. x-x


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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. xv-xviii

This book came out of a life-long fascination with presidential campaigns and an enduring ambition to find some order out of what appeared to be chaos. One of my earliest memories is of an editorial cartoon about the 1956 Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign. Many years later I studied with Tom Patterson and Bob McClure at Syracuse University and worked on their media and elections project for the 1972 campaign, a project that culminated ...

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pp. ixx-xxii

This book is about the effects of general election campaigns on the popular vote for the major-party presidential candidates in presidential elections. It makes two central points: that presidential campaigns typically have significant net effects on the division of the presidential vote and that these effects are to a large extent systematic or predictable. The systematic nature of campaign effects are the result of the fundamental conditions of political ...

The American Campaign ★Second Edition

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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★ Chapter 1 The Impact of Presidential Campaigns

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pp. 1-25

THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN is the focal point of American politics. No other political event attracts nearly as much attention. It is the Super Bowl, the World Series, and, some might say, center ring of American politics. The centrality of presidential electoral politics in American political life is demonstrated by the turnout in presidential elections. Voter turnout ...

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★ Chapter 2 The Theory of the Predictable Campaign

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pp. 26-48

DO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS affect the results of presidential elections? The answer is that they do. That this is not altogether obvious, particularly in light of the predictability of election results, is because most effects of presidential campaigns are themselves systematic and predictable. This chapter presents the theory of the predictable campaign, the reasons why most of the effects of presidential campaigns ...

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★ Chapter 3 Studying the Effects of Campaigns

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pp. 49-78

HOW A SUBJECT is defined, measured, and analyzed often plays a large role in the conclusions reached about it. So it is important at the outset to address four methodological matters about presidential campaign effects. First, several core concepts of the study are defined. Second, the data used to explore campaign effects are discussed. Third, the presidential elections examined in most of the analysis are reviewed. Finally, based on the vote, the polls, and data regarding the context ...

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★ Chapter 4 The Stable Context of the Campaign

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pp. 79-101

EVERY ELECTION IS different but also part of a political past. No election can be understood purely by its own campaign or even by the general conditions of its particular election year. There is a continuity to electoral politics that is missed by examining elections as discrete or unique events. Although political observers tend to focus on what is new to each election, much remains the same. There is continuity in the political parties, the electorate and its beliefs, many of the issues, and often one or both of the presidential ...

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★ Chapter 5 Presidential Incumbency

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pp. 102-127

WHILE THE STABLE context of campaigns establishes the boundaries for possible campaign effects, several other pre-campaign circumstances affect not only vote decisions made before the campaign gets under way but also decisions reached during the campaign. The incumbency status of the candidates and the condition of the election-year economy are pre-campaign conditions that systematically shape the course of the campaign that follows. They are factors that help or hinder the campaigns of the candidates ...

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★ Chapter 6 The Economic Context of the Campaign

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pp. 128-142

THE HEALTH OF the national economy establishes a second important and systematic context for the presidential campaign. Long before President Clinton’s campaign advisor James Carville concocted the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” to remind Clinton campaign workers to stay “on message,” political observers appreciated the political importance of the economy. As The American Voter (A. Campbell et al. 1960), the classic study of voting behavior, stated it: “Economic interest has long been seen as a primary motive impelling political action” (381).1 The aggregate consequences ...

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★ Chapter 7 The Normal Course of the Campaign

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pp. 143-164

THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER which presidential campaigns take place systematically affect how they develop and how they affect the November vote. Both presidential incumbency and the election-year economy establish important parts of the context for campaigns. Although these pre-campaign conditions are different in each election year, with incumbents running in some elections and not in others and with the economy booming in some years and faltering in others, they shape the course that campaigns take in ways that can be largely anticipated before ...

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★ Chapter 8 Electoral Competition and Unsystematic Campaign Effects

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pp. 165-188

WHILE FUNDAMENTAL POLITICAL forces systematically shape the course of presidential campaigns and election results, making both predictable, neither campaign effects nor election results are perfectly predictable. In addition to the systematic effects of campaigns, the particular decisions, strategies, and events that arise in campaigns may also influence their course. These idiosyncratic elements of campaigns may affect who votes ...

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★ Chapter 9 How Campaigns Matter

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pp. 189-204

DO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS affect election results? For campaign consultants and political pundits the answer is obvious: of course they do. Why else would anyone in his or her right mind devote the tremendous amounts of time and energy to devising intricate campaign strategies and to crisscrossing the country endlessly on speaking tours with a caravan of campaign workers and reporters? If they did not believe that campaigns affected the vote, why would candidates raise and spend the enormous amounts ...

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★ Epilogue The 2008 Campaign

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pp. 205-212

AS THIS IS being written, in the first week of January 2007, the dust is still settling from the 2006 midterm elections. Democrats gained thirty-one House seats, six Senate seats, and with them control of both House and Senate majorities for the first time since 1994. Though the members of the 110th Congress are only just about to begin their term, the 2008 presidential campaign is already on the horizon. About a year from now the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire presidential ...

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★ Appendix A Partisanship in the American Electorate

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pp. 213-226

THE MOST IMPORTANT concept in understanding American voters, and consequently campaigns and elections, is partisanship. The purpose of this appendix is to assess both the extent and dynamics of partisanship in the American electorate since 1952, when the first American National Election Study survey was conducted. With the NES surveys from each election since, we now have a continuous series of national surveys that measure, among many other things, partisanship in the electorate ...

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★ Appendix B Time of the Vote Decision and Partisan Loyalty

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pp. 227-232

THIS APPENDIX PRESENTS in tables B.1 through B.3 year-by-year breakdowns of the reported presidential vote in NES surveys from 1952 to 2004. Table B.1 presents the vote in each election aggregated by the time of the vote decision (early-deciding voters in part A and late-deciding voters in part B), party identification, and the vote choice. The 2004 vote is similarly aggregated in table 4.4. In each election year, reported votes for each candidate were weighted to bring the NES aggregated vote percentages for each candidate into line with the actual division of the national ...


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pp. 233-278


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pp. 279-292


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pp. 293-313

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444477
E-ISBN-10: 1603444475
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446285
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446289

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 43 tables. 9 figs.
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Voting -- United States.
  • Election forecasting -- United States.
  • Political science -- United States.
  • Political campaigns -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election.
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