This volume explores a central political paradox: why American scholars, journalists, and citizens periodically question the viability of their presidential electoral system and yet believe that presidential elections are our best hope for tomorrow. The book argues that the key to understanding this paradox lies in the concept of "self-image," exploring relationships between campaign activities and political culture. After presenting an introduction to the history of presidential campaigning and a theory of political image, the book arranges essays in three parts: images centered on candidates, mass media, and the public. A final essay assesses explanations of the contrasts between the 1988 and 1992elections and suggests tomorrow's research agenda.
Preface -- Presidential Campaigning in America -- The Study of Presidential Campaigning: Yesterday's Campaigns and Today's Issues -- Candidate-Generated Images in Presidential Campaigns -- Introduction -- American Self Images and the Presidential Campaign Film, 1964–1992 -- Images of Civic Virtue in the New Political Rhetoric -- Negative Political Ads and American Self Images -- Mass-Mediated Images in Presidential Campaigns -- Introduction -- Shaping a Candidate's Image in the Press -- Coverage of Elections on Evening Television News Shows: 1972–1992 -- What Should Debates Be? Standards of Public Discourse -- Media Influence in Presidential Campaigns: A Caveat -- Images of the Voter-Citizen in Presidential Campaigns -- Introduction -- Campaign Polls and America's Sense of Democratic Consensus -- Voter's Image of Candidates -- Social Groups as Symbols in America's Sense of Democratic Consensus -- American Exceptionalism and the Quadrennial Peak in Optimism -- Money and Politics: In Pursuit of an Ideal -- Presidential Campaigning and American Self Images: Agenda for Tomorrow's Research -- Presidential Campaign Politics at the Crossroads