An Analysis of Presidential Campaigns of Sitting and Former Vice Presidents: So Close and Yet so Far

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Mansharamani, Neil Hiro
Kendall, Kathleen E
Klumpp, James F
This study examines the presidential campaign communication of American sitting and former vice presidents. In recent history, four sitting U.S. vice presidents have run for president with only one (George H. W. Bush) succeeding. Three, Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and Albert Gore in 2000, lost close elections, with Nixon and Gore losing in very close and controversial contests. In the two cases of former vice presidents who ran for president, Nixon prevailed in 1968, whereas Walter Mondale failed in 1984. All of these candidates faced similar rhetorical problems attributable to their vice presidential status, particularly in defining their relationship with the president and their role in the administration. This study is a content analysis and historical analysis of campaign speeches, statements made during debates, and television advertisements by sitting and former vice presidents in the elections of 1960, 1968, 1984, 1988, and 2000. The purpose is to understand each vice president's discourse regarding both the president and the administration in which he served; and better appreciate how the inherent rhetorical situation that accompanies a superior-subordinate relationship is illustrated in these types of campaigns. Results showed that some vice presidents (e.g. Richard Nixon) chose to discuss their president/administration more often, while others chose to almost never discuss their president/administration (e.g. Al Gore). This analysis shows that when a vice president seeks election to the presidency, he has tended to pursue one or more of the following strategies: run on the administration's record; minimize the record and argue that if elected, he will produce better results; emphasize their own personal involvement and achievements in the administration; or mostly avoid discussing the president/administration.