NBC News' Kristen Dahlgren talks about political campaigns and how their activities help elect their chosen candidates to public office.
Modern Political Campaigns
KRISTEN DAHLGREN, Anchor:
Getting elected to public office can be a long process, and a candidate can't do it alone. They need to convince the public that they are the best person for the job. That's where political campaigns come in. Campaigns act as the mouthpiece for a candidate, to get across their message and positions on important issues.
There are many different ways campaigns do this, from attending public events, to advertising a candidate's positions in print, television, radio and online. Social media is a hugely effective way to reach and engage potential voters directly without going through traditional media. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow candidates to have greater control over their messaging like never before.
But social media can also create new challenges for political campaigns. During the 2016 presidential election, false stories and advertising were posted on social media sites. This misinformation influenced how people thought of the major candidates and issues and some say helped determine the results of the election.
Modern campaigns need a lot of money to operate. And every election cycle is getting more expensive. In 1996, the two major party candidates for president spent almost $240 million, while in 2016 it was closer to $2.3 billion. The reason? Before the 1970s, party leaders often chose presidential candidates so there wasn't a need for extensive campaigning.
By 1976, both major parties turned to state primaries to select presidential candidates, so every state and some overseas territories vote throughout the election year. Because the first primary votes are cast in January of that year, candidates have found it necessary to campaign for at least 9 to 10 months before the general election.
Campaigns receive money through fundraising. They receive donations both large and small from individuals, businesses, and organizations. The federal government also provides funds to campaigns in presidential elections. Campaigns also get support from political action committees, or PACs. These are local, state, or national organizations that raise and spend money to help push an issue, elect candidates, and defeat their opponents.
PACs used to be limited to the amount of money they could raise. But in 2010, a Supreme Court case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruled that spending money on a political campaign is considered a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Now, corporations and unions are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to support their chosen candidate.
While modern campaigns can be a lot of hard work, it all pays off if your candidate is the winner.
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