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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

6 - Completing the Cycle


Cycles of spin bring diverse actors and strategies into policy debates that extend far beyond the halls of Congress. This book unpacks the strategic communication campaigns that create these cycles of spin. By combining theories of agenda setting and collective action with diverse evidence from a variety of congressional debates, I have developed arguments about how politicians and journalists jointly shape the policy agenda and legislative outcomes. To summarize these arguments, this concluding chapter first reviews the four stages of promotional campaigns and how these stages interact. In the chapter's second section, I discuss four broader insights emerging from my arguments and findings: the strengths of multimethod research, the sticky yet malleable reputations of political parties, reporters' struggle for independence, and the diverse influence of institutional rules on promotion and coverage. The final section discusses the book's broadest implication: whether strategic communication helps or hinders the functioning of our democracy.


In the congressional debates in this book, two central concerns motivated the parties' strategic communication campaigns: agenda setting and collective action. Each congressional party wished to concentrate the legislative agenda on favorable issues, which unify the party while dividing the opposition. Partial birth abortion offered a favorable issue for Republicans, while the supplemental debate favored congressional Democrats. Focusing the policy process on these issues helped steer Congress toward producing outcomes that furthered the reelection and policy interests of each party's members.

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