crimson logo
ProductsServicesAboutResourcesBlogLoginContactRequest a Demo



Sacred Cow

Any program, policy, or person that is regarded as being beyond attack or untouchable. The term references the status held by cows in Hindu culture, where the cow is regarded as a sacred animal.

Separate Segregated Fund (SSF)

A political committee established, administered or financially supported by a corporation or labor organization, popularly called a Corporate or Labor Political Action Committee (PAC). The term “financially supported” does not include contributions to the SSF, but does include the payment of establishment, administration or solicitation costs. Also see PAC.

Shadow Committee

A nonprofit group with close ties to a political party that collects large soft money contributions to spend on efforts intended to influence the outcome of elections. Formed after BCRA prohibited national political parties from raising soft money, the organizations are registered with the IRS, and often as 527 Groups and must file disclosure reports with the IRS. A shadow committee that works too closely with a political party could be considered to be coordinating with that party, a finding that could subject both to legal action by the FEC. See 527 Group.

Shermanesque Statement

A clear and direct statement by a potential political candidate indicating that he or she will not run for a particular office. The term dates back to 1884 when General William Tecumseh Sherman said, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected” when considered as a possible Republican candidate for president.

Six-year Itch

The election held in the sixth year of a president’s tenure in which the party holding the White House historically loses a substantial number of House and Senate seats.

Smoke-filled Room

Refers to a place where secret political deal-making occurs. In earlier times, many political operatives smoked cigars which filled the rooms with smoke. The term dates back to 1920’s Chicago when the gathering of US Senators that selected the nomination of Warren G. Harding was described by the Associated Press as a “smoke-filled room.”


A politician who will go to any lengths to win public office, regardless of party affiliation or platform. The term dates back to 1895 when it was used in the Columbus Dispatch. It was revived again in 1952 by President Harry Truman. See also Carpetbagger.

Social Capital

Mutual trust and habits of cooperation that are acquired by people through involvement in community organizations and volunteer groups.

Social Fundraising

The act of soliciting nonprofit donations directly from one’s online contacts using online tools like CrimsonRPM, email or social networks. Generally, social media tools and peer-to-peer fundraising software facilitate this fundraising method. Often the peer-to-peer fundraising software is provided by the nonprofit to their supporters to enable them to solicit online donations for that nonprofit.

Soft Money

Contributions made outside the federal contribution limits to a state or local party, a state or local candidate, or an outside interest group.


To ask, request or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.

Solicitation (SSF)

A statement that publicizes the SSF’s right to accept unsolicited contributions from any lawful contributor; provides information on how to contribute to the SSF; or encourages support for the SSF.

Special Election

A primary, general or runoff election that is not a regularly scheduled election and that is held to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Spending Limits

The dollar limits on the amount of money that presidential candidates who receive public funds may spend on their campaigns. There are separate limits for the primary and general elections, and limits are set by law and adjusted for inflation.

Spin Alley

The place designated after a political debate where reporters interview analysts and campaign operatives who attempt to “spin” the news coverage of the event.

Splinter Party

A third party formed when a faction from a major party breaks off and forms its own party.

Split Ticket

When a voter chooses candidates from different political parties in the same election.


A losing candidate who costs another candidate the election.

Spoils System

The practice of elected officials rewarding supporters and allies by giving them government jobs.


A person who works for Congress or a campaign in a supporting capacity.

Stalking Horse

A candidate put forward in an election to conceal an anonymous person’s potential candidacy. If the idea of the campaign proves viable, the anonymous person can then declare their interest and run with little risk of failure. Also used to divide the opposition in order to help another candidate.

State Party Committee

A political committee which, by the bylaws of a political party, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the party at the state level, as determined by the FEC.


Refers to whether the candidate is an incumbent, challenger or running unopposed.


A rousing political speech that galvanizes a crowd to take action. The term originated in the mid-1800s after a stem-winding watch was invented, and the phrase came to convey “excellent” or “outstanding.”

Straight Ticket

When a voter chooses all of the candidates of the same party. To facilitate straight ticket voting, some jurisdictions may allow voters to pull a lever or check a single box to choose all the candidates of a particular party.

Strange Bedfellows

An unusual political alliance that is derived from Shakespeare’s The Tempest when Trinculo says, “There is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. I will here shroud till the dregs of the storm be past.”


A term coined for a Saturday Night Live sketch mocking President George W. Bush and his reputation for mispronouncing words during the first presidential debate in 2000. Bush himself used the term in a 2001 interview with CNN, presumably as a self-deprecating nod to the comedy sketch.

Stump Speech

A candidate’s routine speech outlining his or her core campaign message. The speech can be tailored to suit specific audiences and may evolve over the course of the campaign. The phrase stems from the days when candidates would make speeches standing on tree stumps. Campaigning politicians are still said to be on the stump.

Super Delegate

Unpledged delegates in the Democratic Party. They include senior members of the party hierarchy and rank-and-file members elected to the Democratic National Committee, the party’s governing body. See Delegate

Super PAC

A super PAC, also known as an independent expenditure-only committee, is a type of political action committee that came into existence in 2010 following a federal court decision in v. FEC. Super PACs may raise and spend unlimited sums of money for the sole purpose of making independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates. Unlike traditional political action committees, super PACs may not donate money directly to candidates. Super PACs are required to disclose their donors to the FEC. See also IEOPC.

Super Tuesday

The day in the campaign calendar, usually in February or early March of an election year, when numerous states hold primary elections. The first Super Tuesday occurred in the 1988 campaign, when southern state party officials hoped that by holding their votes on the same day they would increase the influence of the South and downplay the importance of the earlier New Hampshire primaries and Iowa caucuses. Since then other states have chosen to hold their primaries on the same day, including California.

Surplus Funds

Campaign money left over after the election and the payment of all the campaign’s outstanding bills and debts.

Suspended Campaign

A practice used since the 1970s for presidential candidates to end primary bids without closing down campaign committees. This is not a federally-recognized status, but candidates usually get to keep any delegates they have won and can continue to raise money in order to retire campaign debts.

Swing States

States in which the electorate is relatively evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, making them targets for aggressive campaigning by both sides. In recent elections, the most important swing states were Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Those have a high number of electoral votes, making them prime battlegrounds during the election. See Purple State.