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Blog 3: The Selling of the President

Just as the issues, eras and people change in politics, so does the campaign. The comparison between Nixon’s 1960 campaign versus his 1968 campaign are significantly different, using techniques that had never been explored, particularly through television. The concept of “controlled media”  was seen as groundbreaking and innovative during Nixon’s time. Fast-forward forty years and this concept has been perfected and polished, in some ways completely differently and others a simple variation.

One of the biggest differences is the presentation of the press. Press was, has always been, and continues to be a staple in political races and essential to campaigns; however the ways in which it was used and displayed are different. The press coverage during Nixon’s campaign portrayed in The Selling of the President appeared to be very structured. The panel discussion show is an excellent example of this. Everything about that show was coordinated to present Nixon in a certain light – from the staging, to who was in the audience and how they were supposed to act, to the actual panel was particularly placed. Press was not allowed at the event for fear of being scrutinized of their set up.

And scrutinized they would be, especially in today’s campaign world. It appears that in present day, a presidential candidate must willingly relinquish a certain right to privacy. Of course, formally they are granted the normal respect that any other person in the spot light is given, but informally, the candidate better be ready to be a open book – and not only open but ready to sell it.

This idea of advertising the candidate was present during Nixon’s time. The book even describes the demeanor of advertising and politics as con-games and says of their relationship,

“It is not surprising the, that politician and advertising men should have discovered one another. And once they recognized that the citizen did not so much vote for a candidate as make a psychological purchase of him, not surprising that they began to work together.”

The new element of advertising during the Nixon campaign was television. The new element of advertising during the 2008 election, I believe, was the candidate becoming almost a brand in himself.

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