Never Cared to Say Goodbye: Presidential Legacies and Vice Presidential Campaigns


  • John M. Murphy,

    1. Associate professor of speech communication at the University of Georgia. He specializes in contemporary political rhetoric.
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  • Mary E. Stuckey

    1. Associate professor of communication and political science at Georgia State University. She has just finished a book manuscript titled Americans in Light and Shadow: Presidential Articulations of National Identity; other books are Strategic Failures in the Modern Presidency and The President as Interpreter-in-Chief.
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  • AUTHORS' NOTE: The authors thank Gordon Stables for his help with this article.


Presidents are always concerned with their places in history and spend considerable time trying to influence historical judgments. One important locus for the exercise of such influence is the campaign of a potential successor. This article analyzes the ways in which presidents attempt to influence judgments of their legacies through the campaigns of their vice presidents. We focus on presidential discourse during the campaigns of 1960, 1968, 1988, and 2000. Each president used three primary rhetorical strategies in support of his vice president. These strategies formed a coherent narrative, a story that almost inevitably diminished the vice president and cut against the ostensible goal of the discourse: the elevation of the vice president to the presidency.