Most campaigns do not revolve around policy commitments; instead, we think of campaigns as contests in which candidates spend time, energy and money to win. This paper develops models of electoral competition in which candidates select levels of effort. The analysis offers insights into which possible causes of the incumbency advantage are consistent with the empirical record. Marginal asymmetries in costs or technology can explain the advantage; asymmetries in voter preferences cannot. The analysis also speaks to the consequences of campaign finance reform. Reforms can be interpreted as shocks to the cost of influencing voter's perceptions; limits generally increase the likelihood that advantaged incumbents win, and even limits that target incumbents do not actually improve the welfare of disadvantaged challengers. Alternativel,y caps on the amount of effort can either increase or decrease the probability that the disadvantaged candidate wins. Either type of reform lowers voter welfare. Finally, while extant models with fixed valence typically do not generate Fiorina's long-studied marginality hypothesis (that stronger candidates would locate at less centrist polices) extensions to the model with endogenous policy platforms and effort offer more refined and conditional versions of the hypothesis.
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