Normal Winners: The Strategies of Strong Candidates Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 19, 2019
  • Galantucci, Ellen
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • Much research has focused on what challengers do to win an election. Little research has been dedicated to exploring the behavior of candidates who are expected to win their elections. Candidates who find themselves in close races are likely to act differently than candidates in landslide elections because, as Kahn and Kenney (1997) suggest, voters evaluate candidates differently based on the intensity of the election. What things do candidates who are expected to easily win their elections discuss? By content analyzing websites of candidates for the U.S. House, Senate, and state governorships from 2008, I find that candidates who are expected to win their elections are likely to act in ways that will not draw attention to the election. They are less likely to discuss controversial issues or mention their opponents than candidates in close races or those expected to lose. Alternatively, they focus on valence issues and constituent service. The same is true for their advertisements. Expected winners air fewer ads than candidates in competitive elections and the ones they do air tend to have less controversial content. In addition to the content differences between expected winners and competitive candidates, the spending patterns are much different. When an incumbent faces a quality challenger, he or she is likely to spend significantly more money than an incumbent who does not face a quality challenger. The two most common theories for the reasons the incumbents spend so little are that they want to avoid raising funds in the future (Jacobson 2004) and that they want to save a war chest for future elections (Sorauf 1988, Goldenberg, Traugott, and Baumgartner 1986). However, by looking at the spending patterns of candidates expected to win their elections, I find that they spend nearly as much money and expend as much effort to raise funds as other candidates, so that cannot possibly explain the decisions of these candidates. I also find that expected winners are willing to donate large sums of money to other candidates, parties, and committees, leaving them with fairly small war chests, so that cannot explain their behavior either. Instead, I find that expected winners make a strategic decision to refrain from spending on their own campaigns.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • MacKuen, Michael
  • Roberts, Jason
  • Stimson, James
  • Aldrich, John
  • Gray, Virginia
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • There are no restrictions to this item.

This work has no parents.