Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2010
Existing theories of change in campaign strategies predict cross-national convergence in candidates' linkages to voters and the degree of policy focus and cleavage priming in their appeals. However, the prevailing national patterns of electioneering in Chile, Brazil, and Peru have actually diverged from one another since their transitions from authoritarian rule. Based upon content analysis of television advertising, interviews with campaign staff, and case studies of specific elections in these three countries, this article develops a theory of success contagion that can explain the evolution of presidential campaign strategy in third-wave democracies. The author argues that the first politician to combine a victorious campaign with a successful term as president establishes a model of electioneering that candidates across the ideological spectrum are likely to adopt in the future. Such contagion can occur directly, through politicians' imitation of each other's strategies, or indirectly, with communities of campaign professionals playing an intermediary role. Strategic convergence is less likely in cases of repeatedly poor governing performance. Instead, candidates tend to choose strategies through an inward-oriented process of reacting against previous errors. Initial testing suggests the theory is generalizable to other new democracies with at least moderate organizational continuity across elections.