U.S Elections: Running A Campaign
[We continue our Election Series with a look at Presidential Campaigns]
Last week, Newt Gingrich -- the last of the Republican hopefuls announced his plans to withdraw officially on May 1st and throw his support behind Mitt Romney. With the largest delegate count so far, Romney is sure to win the Presidential nomination at the Republican convention in August.
Meanwhile, Democratic President Barack Obama who will be running for his second term in office announced the start of his campaign with two rallies planned on May 5th in Ohio and Virginia.
What is a campaign and what does it take to run one. Lets take a look.
What is a campaign?
A presidential political campaign is an opportunity for would-be leaders to define their vision for the country and rally people behind them. While George Washington was unanimously elected to become the first President of a free nation, the first contested election was between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, the candidates themselves were not allowed to campaign.
Nowadays, running a campaign is one of the most challenging and exhausting activities possible. It begins with identifying a staff of people who will manage the campaign, planning for and raising money, determining the right strategy and message, and finally implementing it. Implementing a campaign may involve advertisements, town hall meetings to show how the candidates relate to the common man, seeking the endorsement of public figures -- movie stars or ex-presidents, and using all means of communication including social media (Facebook and Twitter).
Campaigns sometimes do get ugly, especially when candidates launch negative messages to discredit the other. They have to defend themselves against attacks not just from the opposing candidates but from PACs -- political organizations that campaign for or against candidates.
What is Campaign Finance?
The success of a campaign depends on how much money the candidates raise. Everything from ads to TV airtime, flights, hotels, campaign staff, renting an event space and catering food costs money -- and loads of it!
Campaigns raise funds from private individual donors or public corporations. Your parents may receive phone calls or email messages from party supporters requesting them to contribute. The wealthy candidates will put in a substantial amount of their own money in their campaigns as well.
There is a limit however on how much an individual or corporation can contribute. Candidates have to report all funds that were received and will be used towards their campaign, to the FEC (Federal Election Commission) that monitors the election for fairness. However, there are always loopholes and workarounds and candidates don't report how they spend every penny received. The misuse of campaign funds has prompted calls for reforming the system, but it is hard for politicians to change a system that they themselves have come to depend upon.
Presidential campaigns are a very important step -- more so in the 2012 election where both candidates are running neck to neck. Each will be trying to win over the 20% of independent, undecided voters who hold the key to their win!