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  2 What do you make of the phenomenon of outside interest groups this year putting on ads to influence elections?  
PAUL TAYLOR replies:

This seems to me the most important change in the dynamics of campaign communication that we've seen in a decade or more. The groups which until '96, maybe a little bit in '94, thought that the way they played in political campaigns was to give money to candidates or some instances to parties and let the candidates or the parties do the advertising, they discovered "Hey, why don't we eliminate the middleman? We can do it ourselves. In a sense we can get a two-fer: we can either support or oppose the candidate we're interested in seeing either in or out, but we can also promote our own issue." So, it works all sorts of ways.

I think there is going to be a continuation of that in 1998. I think that the batting average, the track record was mixed in '96, and is likely to be mixed again in '98. That's been the experience in some of the skirmishes so far.

Although some of the groups that do it, electing or defeating, a candidate is only one of many objectives, so that there's a lot that's attractive about this. On the other hand, if they really decide that what they want to do is to defeat a particular incumbent, or elect a particular challenger, they may conclude--some of these groups, particularly large membership groups--may conclude, "We're not spending our money as effectively by going on the air and appealing presumably to 100% of all the citizens of the given Congressional district or whatever, maybe it's better for us to activate our own base. Do more internal kinds of communications; literature, mailouts, and that sort of thing."

Again, you know, this is all tactical stuff. I think in the longer sweep of things, we're in a year now where candidates are in danger of becoming bit players in their own campaigns and where instead of just having a two-way contest, you suddenly have a cacophony of voices. It's very confusing. I think it's confusing for the voter in particular. I think it's somewhat scary, frankly, for the candidate. They worry not only about the opposition groups coming after them, you know, some of them worry about getting hit by friendly fire: the group that's really supporting their candidacy but does it in a ham-handed way ends up backfiring on the candidate.
  Paul Taylor
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