Campaign '96: A Functional Analysis of Acclaiming, Attacking, and Defending

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 264 pages
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Benoit, Blaney, and Pier apply the functional theory of political campaign discourse to the 1996 presidential campaign. When a citizen casts a vote, he or she makes a decision about which candidate is preferable. There are only three types of rhetorical strategies for persuading voters to believe a candidate is the better choice: acclaiming or self-praise, attacking or criticizing an opponent, and defending or responding to attacks. As they illustrate, acclaims, if accepted by the audience, make the candidate appear better. Attacks can make the opponent seem worse, improving the source's apparent preferability. If attacked, a candidate can attempt to restore--or prevent--lost credibility by defending against that attack.

As Benoit, Blaney, and Pier point out, the functional theory of political communication is relatively new, and their book illustrates it with a detailed analysis of the most recent presidential campaign. One of the major strengths of the study is the variety of message forms examined: television spots, debates, talk radio appearances, keynote speeches, acceptance speeches, speeches by spouses, radio addresses, and free television time remarks. It also examines all three parts of the campaign--primary, nominating conventions, and general campaign. This comprehensive analysis of the '96 presidential campaign will be of considerable use to students, scholars, and other researchers dealing with contemporary American electioneering.


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Overview A Functional Theory of Political Campaign Discourse
Method Acclaiming Attacking and Defending
Procedures How We Analyzed Campaign 96 Messages
Republican Primaries Who Shall Lead Us?
Debates A FreeforAll
Television Advertisements Im More Conservative Than You
Acceptance Addresses I Will Lead Us to Victory
General Election Campaign The Final Showdown
Television Advertisements DoleGingrich versus the Liberal
Radio Addresses Hear Ye Hear Ye
Debates Direct Confrontation
Free Television Remarks Their Unfiltered Utterances
Conclusion and Implications
Outcomes Who Won and by How Much?

Talk Radio What Are the Candidates Saying about Each Other?
Nominating Conventions Anointing the Chosen
Keynote Speeches Its Great to Be a RepublicanDemocrat
Implications What Have We Learned?

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About the author (1998)

WILLIAM L. BENOIT is Professor of Communication at the University of Missouri. He has published numerous articles and three books, including Candidates in Conflict: Persuasive Attack and Defense in the 1992 Presidential Debates (1996, with William T. Wells).

JOSEPH R. BLANEY is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Northwest Missouri State University. He has published, with Benoit, in The Journal of Communication and Religion.

P. M. PIER is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri. She has published, with Benoit and Blaney, in Communication Quarterly.