Nation: The Un-Magic of TV

Throughout the campaign, the political uses of television advertising and packaging of candidates were heralded by proponents as the inescapable wave of the future and by doomsayers as the ominous forerunner of 1984. The voters issued different ratings. On balance, the Almighty Tube gave and it took away: of 26 clients in statewide races managed by media experts, 13 won and an equal number lost. Television was undeniably effective in primary campaigns where virtually unknown opponents vied for voter recognition.

But often opposing batteries of TV spots merely cancel each other—or backfire. In the Utah senatorial contest, Republican Representative Laurence Burton posed...

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