As Castells states, "In our society, politics is primarily media politics." We learn from the media, be it print, television or Internet, everything about a candidate, from where they stand on abortion, foreign policy, or healthcare, to how they take their coffee. In this race it has been little different: we are deluged daily with TV ads from both candidates and read about them in the newspaper and online. Castells reminds us that the vast majority of voters do not actually read candidates' platforms--they make their decision based on how they present themselves to citizens, who in this case become media consumers. The media's power lies not in its inherent characteristics, but in how they are used by others: "the media are not the holders of power, but they constitute by and large the space where power is decided."
Why is this? Politicians try to build up an atmosphere of trust through the media--vote for me! I know what I'm doing! Plus, I'm just more likable than the other guy! Personality becomes extremely important in elections--can voters relate to the candidate as a person? They wouldn't be able to decide without campaign ads, televised debates, and editorials in the paper. Without the media, how would anybody get elected?
The media has shaped the course of this upcoming election in Virginia, not always to the benefit of the candidates. In one ad, Deeds is seen on camera changing his position on tax increases, a subject he'd been asked about--and answered differently--just a few minutes before. In McDonnell's case, the Deeds campaign has focused closely on the master's thesis he wrote in 1989, which stated that working women were "detrimental" to the family. These negative tactics are emphasized through media, which again conveys its political sway. Will the negative ads work in this case? Currently, Deeds is considered to be running a more negative campaign than McDonnell, which could be contributing to his lag in the polls: people often respond more favorably to ads that focus on the candidate and his values, rather than those that attack his opposition. As Castells says, "... character, as portrayed in media, becomes essential; ... politicians are the faces of politics."
How this will translate on Election Day remains to be seen. I'll definitely be watching, neutrally, from the other side of the river in Maryland. Our governor's race is next year.