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CAMPAIGNING WITHOUT TV HAS BENEFITS

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Today's political gurus say that television ads have become a necessary tool for any campaign above the level of dog catcher. Of course, most of the consultants who say that are the ones paid to make the ads.

Still, it was interesting to see Republican Genevieve Atwood in Washington last week talking about the possibility of bucking conventional political wisdom by running against Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, without using many TV ads.The reason, she honestly admitted, was that she probably cannot raise enough money to afford much TV. It tends to raise the cost of a congressional campaign from $200,000-$300,000 to $500,000-$700,000.

So she is exploring the possibility of a more traditional and inexpensive campaign using door-to-door visits, lawn signs and print and radio ads.

That would probably violate all the new-wave thought among highly paid political consultants. They seem to argue for approaches aimed at the masses, not at individuals.

It's the mentality that leads more candidates to spend their time waving at drivers from busy street corners instead of visiting them personally at their homes or in small groups.

It's the mentality that leads to the use of phone banks by volunteers - and sometimes even computers - to quickly spread one-way, impersonal political messages without listening to and discussing voters' concerns.

That mentality also leads to only simple, quickly understood issues to be discussed. After all, a 10- or 30-second ad doesn't allow much time for detail, nor do signs held while waving at cars.

It also takes the personal touch out of government and politics, and may be part of the reason that polls and studies increasingly show that Americans feel government doesn't really care about them personally - and they don't really care that much about it either.

It would be nice to see more candidates have success with an old-fashioned campaign. Among the benefits would be lowering the cost of campaigns, and thereby reducing dependence by candidates on special interests for money; increasing the personal touch to voters; and, frankly, helping candidates listen more to voters.

For example, Atwood tells about how on the second day of her first campaign for the Legislature, she was visiting a nursing home and found a young man her own age living there because he was slightly mentally retarded.

"It brought to life many social issues instantly," she said.

She made another interesting comment. "While campaigning door-to-door may help you win, it really helps you understand the concerns of the district."

Modern political geniuses try to figure out the district with polls and surveys, a useful way to study the masses. But it lacks the power of hearing concerns from an individual, seeing his condition firsthand and giving him the satisfaction of explaining his desires.

I'm personally convinced that old fashioned door-to-door campaigning can win elections too - and that people are more likely to vote for someone who came to their home than someone they merely have seen on TV.

As a child, I remember how word spread like wildfire through the neighborhood that candidate X has been visiting some homes there. He didn't even have to visit every home, just a few, to get the word out he cared about the area. Particularly wise candidates even wrote down concerns of people they visited and wrote them letters just before the election saying they remembered their concerns and asking for support.

When I lived in Salt Lake City, I remember an unusual visit that led me to vote for a candidate even though I thought I was a firm supporter of his opponent, an incumbent legislator. Volunteers for the incumbent had asked permission to put a lawn sign at my house, which was across the street from a popular grocery store.

But the challenger, despite the sign, came to the door to explain his views and asked to hear mine. I never met the incumbent, but I did meet his challenger. He impressed me enough that I voted for him and took the lawn sign down. He won easily, I think because of such visits.

In short, people like being listened to, and it brings votes. Such a personal approach by candidates requires harder work and more time than appeals to the masses and TV ads. But the extra investment brings power and knowledge of people not obtained any other way.