WHAT IS IMPORTANT IF CAMPAIGNS ARE NOT? The theory that the importance of campaigns is overrated has always had a great deal of appeal for me. I have not yet encountered a gaffe or a one liner that I thought made much difference to anybody but the press, which has an interest in making things exciting. When I saw Lloyd Bentsen say “I knew Jack Kennedy….”, I never thought it would make any difference in the long run. I never thought television commercials made much difference. That leaves as important factors in elections things like the state of the economy, who is the incumbent, the personalities of the candidates, whether the parties are unified, and important policy issues. Molly Ball cites political scientists Lynn Vavreck and John Sides: “The vast majority of presidential elections, Vavreck and Sides write, can be forecast based on the state of the nation’s economy and the approval rating of the sitting president.
The best argument that campaign consultants are important is that very smart people are willing to spend a great deal of money on them.