Will the continued development of electronic media and Internet campaigning further diminish the power of political parties to influence the course of elections, or has the power of the candidate to determine the course of a campaign reached its zenith?
I would argue that political parties are not going to get any stronger. However, I do not believe that candidates will get stronger. I think that candidates will lose more control over their campaigns. That control, I would argue, will go to rich donors more than to political parties.
I do not believe that political parties are going to take more power over campaigns. We can see, for example, in the splits within the Republican Party that the party establishment cannot control its membership. The “Tea Party” seems to be able to defeat the more establishment-oriented candidates every time. With the internet and electronic media, it is easier than ever for groups that are not affiliated with parties to get together, raise money, make ads, and generally run campaigns. The parties are not returning to dominance.
However, the candidates are not going to keep getting stronger. Recent court decisions have made it easier than ever for rich donors to take over the course of campaigns. They can put so much money into ad campaigns that they can completely change the trajectory of elections. These rich donors are the ones who are going to keep getting stronger; it will not be the parties or the candidates.