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Blog 3: Nixon v. Now- How Campaigns Have Changed & Remained the Same

 Nixon’s successful 1968 political campaign changed the game of politics forever. In the political campaigns of today, an observer can still see Nixon’s influence, but also numerous disparities as well. Consumed with fear after a unsuccesful presidential television campaign in 1960, Nixon utilized the press to his advantage in 1968’s presidential election. In order to use the press to his advantage, Nixon and his advisers had to use what they referred to as a type of “controlled media,”  to secure a win. To do this, the Nixon campaign put the candidate in only controlled situations and enlisted the help of filmmaker Eugene Jones who worked in the medium and had vast knowledge about the field.  Candidates during the 1960’s were experimenting with television campaigns and in 1968 Jones created a formula that worked and still influences political advertisements today. Instead of appealing to ideology on a short television commercial, Jones aimed for an emotional grab, in which voters could instantly connect with  and relate to Nixon. The television advertisements Jones created, featured a seamless transition of  pictures, narrated by Nixon, that grabbed at the viewers’ feelings. One can see how Jones’s advertisements in the link below, and observe how they indirectly, and pretty subtly, linked H. Humphrey and the Democrats with problems such as the Vietnam War.


Even with the similarities between colorful political advertisements in 1968 and today, there are still noticeable differences. The idea of using solely “controlled media” would not be possible in today’s political scene, where the press is more invasive and cut-throat than ever before. The press has reasserted itself in the political scene with political commentators and new anchors now being national celebrities. For example, CBS Evening News viewers’ feel like they know or at least have a pretty good idea of who Katie Couric is as an individual because they see her regularly. Thus, a political candidate’s interviews with anchors such as the personable Couric are even more important because everyday television viewers’ relate to Couric and “trust” her, at least more so than some unknown NBC/CBS affiliate. The candidates’ ability to interact with television personalities and convey a charismatic persona is even more crucial today when it comes to winning an election. After Couric’s interview with VP hopeful Sarah Palin, the magazine Harpers-Bazaar states they can only recall: “Couric peeling Sarah Palin like a raw carrot on issues of foreign policy and the economy.”


Besides using the media to their advantage, political campaigns from Nixon to now both feature more publicity focused on the advisers and consultants behind the scenes. McGinniss’s, “The Selling of the President,” brought influential people such as Patrick K. Buchanan and Roger Ailes to light. Those who help the candidate to carefully create his marketable image, are now put in the spotlight themselves. Now that voters’ are increasingly more aware of how political campaigns work, they want to know who the individuals are that put them together. In the 1968 Nixon political campaign, Joe McGinniss questioned Nixon’s strategy and “controlled” image and  brought skepticism to the foreground, where it has embedded itself in politics today.

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