Presidential Campaign ads of 1968, 1984 and 1996: The Evolution of Campaigns

Essay by paulkimCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2006

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During the presidential campaigns of 1968, 1984 and 1996, democrat campaign themes have become increasingly simplistic giving rise to the importance of image. In 1968, a great deal of time and energy is given to the various issues from Social Security, Medicare and family values. In the 1984 campaign the primary focus was to attack Reagan's deficit spending. In 1996 the democratic campaign no longer emphasized issues, instead they used big flashy figures and dramatized the image of the President. Over time, the roles of presidential candidates have become increasingly centered on what the public perceives their characters to be and less on the actual issues.

In 1968, the democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey ran against Republican

Candidate Richard Nixon. Much of the strategy behind Humphrey's ad campaign revolved around building a sense that he could be trusted and displaying Humphrey's extensive knowledge on the issues. In nearly half the campaign ads we see Hubert Humphrey talking to Americans about issues like family values and other domestic policies.

Throughout the campaign, Humphrey is visible to audiences, which becomes increasingly rare in future democratic candidates. In what appears to be a Question and Answer forum, in "Law and Order," the announcer poses a direct question asking how Humphrey will gain the trust of Americans. Humphrey's response attacks Nixon and then explains his own stance on fighting poverty and crime. We see Humphrey sharing with the audience his own personal opinion on a domestic issue. However, throughout Humphrey's campaign ads he was careful not to boast about his successes because of the unpopular Johnson Administration. Therefore it was important that Humphrey's ads separate him from the Johnson administration, which had been marred by the Vietnam quagmire, and try to gain the trust of Americans.

On foreign policy issues, the "Bomb (Nuclear Treaty)"...