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Political Communication in American Campaigns

Political Communication in American Campaigns

October 2007 | 304 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

In Political Communication in American Campaigns, Joseph S. Tuman provides a comprehensive, clear, and accessible treatment of American campaign rhetoric and argues that modern elections are not really about contests between candidates or political parties; rather, they are more about the competing messages each player in the political process must present to persuade and reach voters.. This book's triangulated approach to political communication includes (1) all forms of campaign speech and oratory; (2) the rhetorical dimensions of campaign debates; and (3) candidate/campaign interaction with mass media.

Key Features 

  • Allows readers to deconstruct and understand how and why speeches affect voters: Offers methods for understanding how political speeches are constructed and targeted, as well as how to apply these methodologies to a variety of campaign oratories.
  • Provides a comprehensive and entertaining explanation of the history of campaign debates in the United States: A historical description of the evolution of political campaign helps situate modern debates within the context of specific mass media strategies and tactics employed by campaigns.
  • Reflects how changes in mass media have now influenced how campaigns communicate messages to voters: Explores the relationship between campaigns and mass media, with an emphasis on paid and free media, and addresses the contemporary intersection of campaign Web sites and blogs with campaign main messages, fundraising, manipulating news coverage and creating ads.
  • Offers an insider's view of how campaigns work—and how news media coverage of campaigns works: The book is written with additional insights from the author's experiences as a political consultant and as a political analyst for news media.
  • Presents contemporary examples that all readers will understand: Real-life case studies of debates from both state and national elections; all forms of campaign oratories; and mass mediated campaigns.

Intended Audience
This text is designed for advanced courses dealing with such topics as political communication, media & politics, presidential rhetoric, and persuasion, as found in departments of communication, media studies, and political science.

Introduction: Bobby Kennedy and Me
1. Introduction to Political Communication
Democracy, Voter Participation and Voter Apathy

Elections as Contests

Election as a Process of Communication

Political Communication as Process

2. The Players in the Process
Political Parties

Political Consultants

Political Surrogates

The Media: Reporters and Pundits

The Players and the Process in Perspective

3. Campaign Oratory and the Communication Process
Getting the Message Right

Typologies of Political Campaign Speeches

Convention Speeches

The Inaugural Address


4. Methods for Deconstructing Political Oratory
Political Oratory and Public Speaking as Audience-Centered Rhetoric

Political Oratory and Rhetorical Appeals

Political Oratory and Rhetorical Figures

Political Oratory and Rhetorical Fallacies


5. Political Campaign Speech Examples
Richard Nixon’s “Checkers”

Barbara Jordan’s “Who Then Will Speak for the Common Good?”

John McCain’s Keynote Address to the 2004 GOP National Convention

Remarks by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to the NYS Family Planning Providers


6. Introduction to Political Debates
Understanding Debate

Debate and Democracy

Political Campaign Debates


7. Negotiations, Tactics and Strategies for Political Debates
Negotiating the Details of the Debate Before the Debate

Pre-Debate Pitch and Spin

Strategies in Debate Performance

Tactics in Debate Performance

Post-Debate Spin


8. Political Communication and Mass Media
Defining Mass Media

Mass Media and Political Communication

Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show with John Stewart, Rush Limbaugh and Howard


9. How Campaigns Influence and/or Control Mass Media
Strategies for Influencing Free Media

Strategies for Paid Media

Blended Media Strategies and Future Trends with Blogs



"What makes this book unique is the basic structure: Descriptive or historical chapters, followed by discussions of strategies and tactics of political communication in numerous contexts."

Pete Bicak
Rockhurst University

The course was canceled at the last minute in fall 2014. However, I plan to use the book when I teach the course in 2016.

Mr Benson Sexton
Communication, Lindsey Wilson College
January 15, 2015

I recommend this book to students interested in learning more about US political campaigning - it's accessible and provides an excellent background.

Dr Julia Jahansoozi
Department of Film and Media Studies, Stirling University
June 28, 2013

Wanted a broader look at political communication.

Ms Shawn Snidow
Communication Studies Dept, Marshall University
April 3, 2012

Tuman's book is a fantastic overview of political communication!

Professor Steve Hunt
Communication Dept, Illinois State University
September 1, 2010
Key features
  • Using a communication-based perspective, this text introduces students to methodologies for understanding how public speeches are constructed and targeted (with an audience-centered rhetoric) as well as how to apply these methodologies to a variety of campaign oratories (such as the stump speech, the announcement speech, the nomination speech, the convention acceptance speech, and special-event speeches). The text also explores why some speeches fail where others succeed.
  • The text analyzes campaign debates by addressing negotiations, formats, tactics, strategies, skill sets, delivery and spin (as well as cross-referencing tra­ditional theories of argument and debate to illustrate how they are em­ployed in campaigns). Similarities and differences are highlighted by referencing real campaign debates, beginning with those practiced by Lincoln and Douglas and extending to the most recent state debates (e.g., California Governor's Recall elec­tion of 2003) and the most recent Presidential election debates.
  • The unique communication-based perspective extends to the treatment of the relationship between mass media and political candidates or campaigns. The book differentiates between free media (analyzing the interactive and symbiotic relationship between Ameri­can political campaigns and news media and discussing and exploring the techniques for manipulation of free media by campaigns and candidates) and paid media (assessing how broadcast, print, and Internet messages are constructed along with the emphasis, effects, and ethics of negative advertising).
  • Real-life case studies of: debates from both state and national elections; all forms of campaign oratories; and mass mediated campaigns.
  • The is the first political communication text to address the significance of campaign websites to campaign main messages, fundraising, and volunteerism. In addition, extensive coverage of new media (blogs, etc.) illustrates the intersection between traditional news sources and new media outlets.
  • This book is written with additional insights from the author's experiences as a political consultant and as a political analyst for the news media.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

Chapter 9