The US Electoral Process

In recent years the increase in money poured into US elections has created a seemingly money dominated election with some arguing success relies on the highest level of campaign funding. As a result of the Watergate scandal The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 attempted to make a number of significant changes. However with the increased regulations there have been increased loopholes and many ways to get around these regulations, many donating large sums of money argue they are not the most important part of the campaign and the significance still lies with the Candidates strength and skills.
But as the 2008 and 2012 hugely exceeded the expenditure of any previous election it is clearly to see money is playing an increasingly significant role. FECA of 1974 aimed to reduce candidates’ reliance on few wealthy donors and equalise money spent by the major parties. This law was however weakened by the Supreme #Court in the Buckley v Valeo ruling that limitations on what individuals or PACs could spend infringed the 1st amendment. In a similar case the 2010 Citizens united v FEC decision restrictions on corporations was removed leading to Super PACs.
These played a significant role in the fundraising and spending in the 2012 presidential election. Supporters see them as a positive consequence of free speech, however many see that they are yet another outlet for unlimited money in electoral politics. It is evident to see that money is the arguably the most significant part of the election process due. Barack Obama has taken part is the two most expensive elections, with 1. 1 billion being raised by Obama in 2012, raising more than Romney and subsequently won the presidential election.

The increasing importance of finance has been shown by Obama’s actions in 2008, when he rejected federal funding in order to avoid restrictions on his spending, aware of the advantage of large fundraising support. Indeed in 2012, neither Romney nor Obama took matching funds and neither did any of Romney’s rivals in the Republican primaries suggesting an end to the era of matching funds. Campaign finance has not been sufficiently regulated; this is partly why it is increasingly dominate in the electoral process.
As the campaign increases in length, and the apparent non-stop campaigning of US politics, with the invisible primaries, primaries and mid-term elections it is increasingly essential that candidates receive financial support and the need for bigger and earlier funds to compete in all rounds of the election process. The need to campaign through increasingly expensive TV adverts is ever the more important, as these target a large audience and can be very effective in building up own support or knocking an oppositions support.
Money is also the most important factor due to the diversity and size of the American electorate. Many interests need to be targeted and this relies on different angles of campaigning with different emphasises on differing policies for individual groups of the electorate. For example Obama in 2012 gained a significant proportion of Latin voters – a +44% advantage over Romney – and targeted these voters with information about immigration. The need to reach out to such a large demographic of voters further puts strains on the costing of elections.
Many states require visits and this insures great travel costs for each of the candidates as they go on election tours and rallys. Obama in 2012 visited 4 states in one day in November – New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. As the elections become ever closer swing states also play a higher significance and winning these states have a higher impact on the outcome of the election, visiting these is of primary importance and more money in advertising is require for these states due to the difference undecided voters can make.
As the campaign extends and increases more political advisers are typically hired by candidates, Romney in 2012 had 24 Foreign Policy advisors working with him throughout the campaign. However, although money plays a part in the campaign, especially from an administrative point of view it is not the main deciding factor in a candidate’s success. Despite the spending of Bush in 2004 he would have most likely won despite this funding, and Romney is 2008 was the highest spender in the Republican primaries but was not the eventual winner.
The use of the free media by candidates is limited and this requires to be bought supporting the argument of the significance of finance, however commercials can backfire and if the candidate is not a strong candidate with wide support this can cost them an election e. g. Bush and Willie Horton. The influence adverts has shown a higher significance media has rather than money being most dominant. This can be supported by the Presidential TV debates, where verbal errors can be costly and have proved difficult for many candidates for example Mondale in 1984.
Elections can be won or loss due to the outcome of these debates, debates often do more to confirm what voters already feel about candidates and can challenge and influence de-aligned voters and can convert passive audiences. However the significance of these can be questioned, very few debates have been controversial or change the course of election events out of 30 debates that have taken place. Media today allows for 24hr news on cable and network TV.
Radio, websites, social media and smart phones also play an increasingly role with many crediting Obama’s success among younger voters to the influence of social media. The media set the agenda, amplify debate and frame debates and messages. The role of policy and a candidate’s personal strengths can be said to play the most significant part. Opinions on key issues such as the economy in 2012, views and actions to tackle these key issues are likely to change voters’ minds and capture undecided voters.
For example the swing voters play a large impact on deciding who wins an election, many in 2012 believe Obama’s ‘Latin vote advantage’ won him the election over Mitt Romney, and in a Reuters poll 61% of mothers felt the country was on the wrong track favouring their vote against the incumbent president. In conclusion, money does not guarantee electoral success but it is increasingly difficult to win without large funds due to the financial demands of the elongated campaigns and reliance on advertising.
It is capturing the vote of most Americans that is most essential and significant in the election, and although this can be easier done with financial backing, finance does not necessarily affect people’s opinions presidential candidates and key issues. But as elections get increasingly expensive the dominance of money may lead to a situation whereby only wealthy candidates are able to mount a successful attempt at winning the presidential election.

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