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Charismatic Rhetoric in the 2008 Presidential Campaign: Commonalities and Differences


  • AUTHORS’ NOTE: We would like to thank Stephanie Glassburn, Angela Mouton, Bong Hee Park, Gloria Sweida-DeMania, and Sheisha Willis for their helpful suggestions. We also are very appreciative of the thoughtful comments provided by George C. Edwards III and the anonymous reviewers. The article is much improved due to their efforts.


For all of the attention given to charisma in media accounts of presidential campaigns, there is surprisingly little systematic research on the use and effect of charismatic rhetoric, even though researchers outside of political science have attempted to deconstruct and analyze the different components of rhetorical speech. We draw from this scholarship to explore the use of different forms of charismatic rhetoric throughout the entire 2008 presidential campaign season. We use DICTION 5.0, a content analysis program designed specifically for political discourse, to explore the use of rhetoric in the campaign. We begin by mapping the prevalence of different types of rhetoric and then move on to examine the impact of partisanship and electoral context (primary vs. general election) on rhetorical choices.