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The Teleprompter Presidency: Comparing Obama's Campaign and Governing Rhetoric


  • Richard Waterman shall share all data and coding for replication purposes. We would like to thank Sendil Nathan for his ideas and inspiration in guiding this publication.

Direct correspondence to Richard Waterman, University of Kentucky, Department of Political Science, 1637 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506-0027 〈〉.



Are the skills presidents require to be elected the same skills they will need once they assume office? Is there a change in rhetoric between presidential campaigning and presidential governing? The objective of this article is to examine those questions.


We compare candidate Barack Obama's campaign speeches with his governing speeches to determine if his rhetoric on the campaign trail provides the basis for his later governance. We compare speeches on certainty, positivity, and inclusiveness.


We find that, in general, Obama's campaign and governing rhetoric are consistent, suggesting that he used the rhetoric of the campaign to help build a basis for governance. We find no statistical difference in the level of certainty or inclusiveness that he used before or after taking office.


We conclude that most differences between presidential campaign rhetoric and governing rhetoric, at least in the case of Barack Obama, seem to be caused by the specifics of the political environment.