The campaign season is in full swing now. The candidates are barnstorming the country, pressing the flesh and rallying supporters.

And they include not just politicians. AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case and Disney CEO Michael Eisner are doing everything except TV ads and kissing babies as they seek support against board members who are aiming to push the executives out.

The directors and major shareholders are furious over falling stock prices and over serious problems at the two companies' scarlet A's America Online and ABC.

Case and Eisner take the challenges seriously and have stepped up their meetings with key institutional shareholders and analysts. AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman Ted Turner is among the leaders of efforts to push aside the former America Online head. Eisner's opposition includes Roy Disney, Walt's nephew.

Case seems to face the tougher fight. AOL stock has lost 60% of its value in the past 12 months.

Shareholders also are furious at anyone from America Online. Many feel that they were sold a bill of goods as ad sales plummeted and subscriber growth slowed at the Internet giant. Now they are frightened by Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission probes of AOL's pre-merger accounting.

Also, "Case is remote," says corporate communications consultant Robert Dilenschneider. "He's not seen as part of the company. He's a figure who does not appear to have added value."

Conventional wisdom has it that Case will leave if he loses the support of the outside directors. The company insists that he isn't going anywhere and it would take 11 votes on the 14-member board to oust him. But executives and analysts say they would be shocked if he hung in with just four supporters.

Some believe Eisner is in just as much trouble because there's no doubt that he runs Disney and, therefore, is responsible for its shortcomings. For example, he could be punished if struggling ABC can't deliver the higher ratings he promised in the new TV season.

"Eisner is a rare case of a CEO who's been in his job for a long time," says Directors & Boards editor James Kristie. "The world changes."

For now, Case and Eisner appear to be angling for shareholders to give them time in hopes that something, anything, will raise the companies' fortunes. Supporters say that any move to oust them would be too disruptive at a time when AOL Time Warner and Disney need some peace.

But that's a risky strategy.

A lot of people are clamoring for accountability after a decade in which top executives at media conglomerates enjoyed unusual job security. That changed last year when Gerald Levin saw his power base crumble and left AOL Time Warner. After that, the Vivendi Universal board blasted out Jean-Marie Messier, and Bertelsmann made Thomas Middelhoff walk the plank.

In a sense, media companies are catching up to the rest of the business world. Last year, 53% of CEOs who left their jobs did so under unusual circumstances that is, not because they died or retired at a scheduled time consultants Booz Allen Hamilton recently found. That's up from 28% in 1995.

The executives, however, may find their more aggressive campaigns to keep their jobs as unsettling as a visit to the Florida Elections Commission.

For one thing, it isn't clear who the real voters are.

"The primary constituency is the outside directors, the people you don't control," Sanford C. Bernstein's Tom Wolzien says. "Secondarily, it's the major investors who can influence those directors. Then, more broadly, it's Wall Street at large."

What's more, the executives have to play the game carefully.

"If you have a campaign that appears to be a campaign, it's going to be a loser," Dilenschneider says. Yet they can't just offer business-as-usual presentations. "It's got to be much more," he says. "If you're just parroting numbers from the CFO or showing slides from the art department, that isn't going to do it."

That's why they may find it easier to do their real campaigning behind the scenes.

"They should talk to board members, one-on-one and privately," says Raymond Troubh, a former Time Warner director who's now chairman of Enron and sits on eight other corporate boards. "That way nobody's showing off in front of colleagues and peers."

In addition, Case and Eisner should "talk to their 10 largest shareholders one-on-one, admit their errors and lay out their plan," he says. "I think you can change people's minds. I don't think it's too late for either one of them."