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Presidential Campaigns and the Media

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Political campaigns are not always won by the most qualified and effective candidate. It is an unfortunate reality that the modern media can, at times, play a huge role in the outcome of political campaigns. This sample politics paper explores the impact that the media can have on political campaigns.

Media's portrayal of candidates during an election

The media plays a hugely important role in the outcome of political campaigns, and the single greatest political race in American politics is, without a doubt, for the office of the President. In particular, the presidential race of 2008 between Barack Obama and John McCain is a fascinating example of the influence and power the media has in vetting particular candidates.

The impact of the coverage of the candidates is significant in the sense of the relationship between mainstream media and independent media, and the ways in which individual news agencies retain a bias against particular candidates. The unique nature of digital media used on political websites, the importance of the internet, and the charismatic rhetoric of each candidate are examples of areas where presidential campaigns and the media interact.

Learning to appeal to the media

The first issue to address are the ways in which political candidates can appeal to the media using various techniques such as digital media, interviews, and other interactive approaches.

Barack Obama, in 2008, is credited with having “perfect communication skills with reporters [...] and the media in general” (Cury 831).

As a man, he is an ideal physical representation of a young, energetic, multiethnic American citizen endowed with impressive intellectual faculties and a drive to do right by his country. As a candidate of the modern age and promoting liberal values, Obama’s campaign was run in a manner designed to reflect his commitment to progress.

Capitalizing on digital media to connect with the masses

A heavy emphasis on digital media, including popular artists and musicians as well as independent efforts aimed at promoting the positive characteristics of the candidate, is an important factor that contributed greatly to the success of the campaign (Vernallis).

Indeed, the “phenomenon like the motion around the Democrat candidate that gain[ed] strength spontaneously [and] generated videos with more than a million visualizations on YouTube," as well as gathering half a billion dollars’ worth of campaign contributions online, is an unprecedented success for presidential campaigns in the modern era (Cury 834).

Without a doubt, Barack Obama’s digital media campaign of 2008 will go down in history as a landmark example of a campaign built around positive social media influence, driven by technology, and backed by the charisma and appealing character of the candidate himself. The hallmark characteristic of contemporary political races are the dangers and opportunities afford by the Internet.

It is a “recent phenomenon [that] the rise of the Internet as a medium for political communication” has come to pass, and a Pew Institute report in 2008 showed that, for the first, a majority of voting adults got their political information on presidential elections through the Internet (Christine B. Williams, et al. 670).

As such, politics in the United States have evolved to the point where mass media campaigns using the Internet are now necessary, and not engaging in these sorts of incredibly large appeals to the anonymous denizens of the Internet is a sure-fire way of dooming a candidate to the trash bin. In terms of the media’s impact on presidential campaigns, major efforts have been made by candidates and their teams to win the support of Internet media as a whole, usually by promoting their candidates’ views on particular issues in the form of short digital media clips, fact debunking of opposition points, and a continuous emphasis on efforts to disprove lies and misconceptions about candidates (Barr). Indeed, it can be said that modern-day presidential campaigns are hopeless without a strong presence on the Internet.

The media's love for charismatic presidential candidates

Charismatic rhetoric plays a major role in the relationship between the media and presidential campaigns.

Though Obama would become the first black president of the United States, what is truly surprising for some is that his “oratorical abilities seemed to garner as much media attention as his race” (Randall Gonzalez, et al. 102).

While Obama was not alone in his position as a great public speaker and orator, it was universally agreed by the media that the man represented a candidate who could speak at such a high level as to inspire others to follow his message. Central to this analysis is the unique position that the office of President has—as the nation’s highest elected official, much of the power of the President comes from his ability to garner domestic support for causes that would otherwise remain hidden to the public eye.

Obama’s oratorical skills were noted in the media and heralded as a key central trait to the candidate’s qualifications for office (Randall Gonzalez et al. 122). Indeed, many biased media sources favored Obama and took note of “voters desiring clear action rhetoric from the presidential candidates” and therefore took many opportunities to sell Obama’s candidacy with rousing speeches and other examples of charismatic rhetorical dialogue that exerts a powerful influence on domestic politics (123).

However, opposition media would often use the oratorical skills of Obama as an example of a man who could speak well but lacked substance. Thus, charismatic rhetoric plays an important role in the media’s relationship with presidential campaigns.


Overall, it is clear that media and the Internet play a major role in determining the effectiveness of a given presidential campaign, and that without a strong online presence and a charismatic sense exemplified in oratory skills, a prospective candidate may find him or herself in a difficult situation when attempting to get elected to public office. Thus, the media will continue to be integral to the success of political candidates.

Works Cited

Barr, Lisa. "Contradicting an Internet Rumor via Traditional and Social Media: Campaign Obama's Anti-Muslim/Pro-Christian Rhetoric." International Journal of Technology, Knowledge & Society 6.4 (2010): 55-65. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.

Christine B. Williams, et al. "Web 2.0 and Politics: The 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and An E-Politics Research Agenda." MIS Quarterly 34.4 (2010): 669-688. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.

Cury, Lucilene. "Barack Obama's Election: Digital Media's Success?." Journal of US-China Public Administration 8.7 (2011): 830-838. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.

Randall Gonzalez, et al. "Charismatic Rhetoric in the 2008 Presidential Campaign: Commonalities and Differences." Presidential Studies Quarterly43.1 (2013): 101- 128. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.

Vernallis, Carol. "Audiovisual Change: Viral Web Media and the Obama Campaign." Cinema Journal 50.4 (2011): 73-97. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.



Ultius, Inc. "Presidential Campaigns and the Media." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 23 Jun. 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/presidential-campaigns-and-the-media.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2014, June 23). Presidential Campaigns and the Media. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/presidential-campaigns-and-the-media.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Presidential Campaigns and the Media." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. June 23, 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/presidential-campaigns-and-the-media.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Presidential Campaigns and the Media." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. June 23, 2014. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/presidential-campaigns-and-the-media.html.

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