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Blog 3 Then and Now: 1968 and 2010

Then and Now: How Campaigns have changed and stayed the same.

In “The Selling of a President” McGinniss gives readers and inside look into the 1968 presidential campaign. Unlike the failed campaign before, Nixon used the media to his advantage this time around. With the aide of Jones, he was able to use the public’s emotions to popularize his image. This aspect of political campaigns has not changed to this day.

Ads prey on the emotions of the viewer. Nixon’s team knew that, which is why they started presenting the image of him, not so much the man. He was conveniently pre-packaged for the public’s benefit. Today, politicians have to have the “it” factor. Charisma is a must. Like the 1968 campaign demonstrated, people work off (and vote for that matter) emotions. People want to connect human to human, especially when they feel can relate to the candidate. The majority of ads have moved away from discussing the issues to appealing to emotions. For example:

Nixon’s ad is image based. Showing the nation’s monuments stirs a sense of patriotism. Images of the war causes powerful emotions. President Obama’s 2008 ad feels like an intimate conversion with him. He talks about “trusting” the American people, which makes viewers feel like their thoughts and opinions are worth something.

The 1968 campaign started to reach certain demographics, like appealing to the youth. Now, that is the basis of most ads. Certain ads will be played in certain states for certain people. There are ads targeting small town people, big cities, teenagers, working class, upper class, seniors, etc. The internet has made it easier to reach specific demographics with Facebook, MySpace and blogging.

A major difference is the controlled events. McGinniss discusses the packaging of Nixon. Politicians today are packaged to an extent, but it is unheard of to have such controlled media environments. The debate we watched in class was very unusual because Nixon did not have a rebuttal. There is no way that would happen today. Candidates need to have the last word. Every last sentence is picked apart and analyzed, so they have to deliver a precise message.

Although Nixon was able to use the media to his advantage, many voters today have become cynics. We are not as likely to “fall” for emotional ads. It is easier to see through. Have we gotten to the point where we look past it or will we accept packaged politicians?

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