We study how parties balance the benefits of disciplined programmatic campaigning with the electoral appeal of charismatic, but potentially less faithful candidates. We incorporate the well known collective action problem arising from candidates’ inability to fully internalize the fruits of programmatic brand-building. While parties may strategically use promotions to overcome this problem, we show that when highly charismatic candidates bring strong electoral rewards, the party may be unable to commit to promoting based on programmatic effort over charisma. We further demonstrate how electoral volatility and parties’ in-group loyalties shape their ability to achieve such credible commitment. Volatility increases the focus on candidate charisma and decreases programmatic campaigning, but only among parties with weak group attachments. Parties with loyal partisans place emphasis on both candidate charisma and programmatic messaging. Empirical analyses of cross-national data and quantitative and qualitative case studies in Brazil, Austria and Spain support our predictions.
Discussant: Spyros Kosmidis (Oxford)