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A Functional Analysis of Presidential Direct Mail Advertising
Unformatted Document Text:  Functions of Direct Mail 7 7 H7. Democrats will discuss Democratic issues more, and Republican issues less, than Republicans. An important distinction between political candidates is whether they are incumbents or challengers (see, e.g., Trent & Friedenberg, 2000). The incumbent party candidate has a record in the office sought; the challenger may have a record elsewhere (e.g., as Governor or Senator), but not a record as president. This record is obviously pertinent to predicting a candidate’s likely performance in office. Interestingly, record in office is asymmetrical. That is (given the fact that the president oversees a huge national and international bureaucracy for four years), it is inevitable that there will be some successes and some failures during that time. The incumbent uses his or her record in office to acclaim successes; the challenger uses other parts of that same record to attack failures. Of course, challengers do attempt to acclaim records elsewhere (e.g., in the Senate or as Governor), and incumbents attack the challengers’ records. However, a challenger’s record in another office is just not as relevant as the incumbent party’s record in the White House (e.g., a governor simply has a smaller responsibility, particularly in the area of foreign policy; the Senate provides legislative but not executive branch experience). Hence, Functional Theory predicts (Benoit, 1999; Benoit, Blaney, & Pier, 1998): H8. Incumbent party candidates acclaim more, and attack less, than challengers. Incumbents, by virtue of their position in the White House, tend to be better known than challengers. Even those incumbent-party candidates who are not sitting presidents (e.g., when Vice President George H. W. Bush ran in 1988) are often better known than their opponents (Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988). This means that challengers may feel a need to introduce

Authors: Stein, Kevin. and Benoit, William.
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Functions of Direct Mail 7
7
H7. Democrats will discuss Democratic issues more, and Republican issues less, than
Republicans.
An important distinction between political candidates is whether they are incumbents or
challengers (see, e.g., Trent & Friedenberg, 2000). The incumbent party candidate has a record
in the office sought; the challenger may have a record elsewhere (e.g., as Governor or Senator),
but not a record as president. This record is obviously pertinent to predicting a candidate’s likely
performance in office. Interestingly, record in office is asymmetrical. That is (given the fact that
the president oversees a huge national and international bureaucracy for four years), it is
inevitable that there will be some successes and some failures during that time. The incumbent
uses his or her record in office to acclaim successes; the challenger uses other parts of that same
record to attack failures. Of course, challengers do attempt to acclaim records elsewhere (e.g., in
the Senate or as Governor), and incumbents attack the challengers’ records. However, a
challenger’s record in another office is just not as relevant as the incumbent party’s record in the
White House (e.g., a governor simply has a smaller responsibility, particularly in the area of
foreign policy; the Senate provides legislative but not executive branch experience). Hence,
Functional Theory predicts (Benoit, 1999; Benoit, Blaney, & Pier, 1998):
H8. Incumbent party candidates acclaim more, and attack less, than challengers.
Incumbents, by virtue of their position in the White House, tend to be better known than
challengers. Even those incumbent-party candidates who are not sitting presidents (e.g., when
Vice President George H. W. Bush ran in 1988) are often better known than their opponents
(Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988). This means that challengers may feel a need to introduce


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