Fun campaign lists
Complete change of topic…
Like many people, summers blunt my level of attention to day to day political news. But now it’s September – just a few days from Labor Day – and the calendar is kind of getting me back in campaign mode. So, just for fun, a few of my personal favorites/least favorites of American campaign history. Feel free to play along and offer your own picks.
Best quirky political ad that would play even better today than it did at the time:
Best mainstream political ad:
Campaign ad I’m supposed to think is brilliant but just find silly (maybe I need to channel that Cold War mentality…):
Most inexplicable political ad:
Best convention speech: Cross of Gold, 1896 (I HAD to throw that in here…)
Best stump speech: Truman – Give ‘em hell, Harry, 1948. No link for standard stump speech text; convention speech link as stand-in.
Most legitimate, “game-changing” October surprise: Cuban missile crisis, 1962.
Best example of the media describing a minor news story as an “October surprise:” George W. Bush’s DWI discovery, 2000.
Most effective campaign stunt:
Richard Nixon, 1960 (but please check out part 2 for the awkwardness…)
Most crash-and-burn campaign stunt: John McCain’s campaign suspension, 2008
Honorable mention on the crash-and-burn stunt: Giuliani skipping the early primaries to campaign in Florida, 2008, or, as Margaret Carlson put it, “like so many New Yorkers, Rudy Giuliani went to Florida to die.”
Best beating of expectations in a loss: Can’t decide between McCarthy’s ’68 New Hampshire showing and Bill Clinton’s ’92 “Comeback Kid” finish.
Worst spin in pretending expectations have been beaten: Joe Lieberman’s 3-way tie for 3rd (nothing else even comes close), 2004
Best passage describing how a candidate should campaign: November 4, 1964, Time Magazine on Hubert Humphrey.
Humphrey had every reason to be happy and excited, for he had waged a bold and joyous campaign, and in the aftermath he could validly claim that he had made a considerable contribution to the size of the Democratic victory. Soon after his nomination, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Karl Rolvaag dubbed Hubert “the happy warrior of our generation,” and throughout the campaign Humphrey lived up to the title. He had “The Happy Warrior” painted on the chartered Electra that carried him some 52,000 miles back and forth across the U.S. Aboard the Warrior, happy days were mandatory. West Virginia Folk Singer Jimmy Wolforcl twanged his guitar, and campaign aides joined in verses from The Hubert Humphrey Sing-Along Book. Presiding over the festivities was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate himself.
On the stump, Humphrey counted the countless mis- deeds of Barry Goldwater. “He wouldn’t vote yes for Mother’s Day,” he cried in Peoria, 111., and in Decatur he added: “I imagine that Abraham Lincoln would be called a socialist by the present pretender to the presidency of the Republican Party.” As for his own speeches, Humphrey chortled: “I never know whether the audience likes them, but I sure do.” He even had fun with his hecklers, smiling down on groups of sign-waving Goldwaterites and saying: “They carry their badge of political sin as if they come to repent.”
[Incidentally, I’ve been trying to come up with any modern-day Happy Warrior types; aggressive and partisan without being mean-spirited.]
Best political candidate in a movie: The Last Hurrah, Spencer Tracy
Worst political candidate in a movie: The Best Man, Henry Fonda
If I could bring back one campaign tradition that has been lost: Parades put on by political parties.
If I could kill one campaign tradition: Candidates coming up with gimmicky dates or dollar amounts for fundraising.