A. T. Government / Campaign Spot-Ads / 2013/ Modified from Mr. Weisler

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A.T. Government / Campaign Spot-Ads / 2013/ Modified from Mr. Weisler
During the next class or so, you will be working in teams and using the Chromebooks to view a variety of campaign ads. You will then report to the class a short analysis (done together) of what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned.
Go to the website created by The American Museum of the Moving Image (www.livingroomcandidate.org) and watch the ads I assign to each pair. After watching, choose two ads to analyze in depth. Prepare your responses to the following questions together and be prepared to present them to the class on Tuesday. There is a quick historical synopsis below the ads listed, which will help you understand the context in which they were made.

  1. Identify your ad by title, year and name of candidate.

  2. What were your first responses to the ads? Write down words, sounds, images, feelings evoked. Be as specific as possible.

  3. What do you think the ad was trying to communicate? What was the message to voters?

  4. Explain whether in your opinion the spot is effective. If so, what makes it so? If it doesn’t work, why not? Avoid lengthy descriptions but rather explain, using the graphics, pictures, images and words, what works or doesn’t work.

(These are the Campaign Ads I would like you to watch)


Kennedy – Jingle

Nixon - Taxes                                                                          


Johnson - Peace Little Girl (Daisy)                                          

Johnson - Social Security

Johnson - Confessions of a Republican

Johnson - Eastern Seaboard

Goldwater - Ike at Gettysburg


Humphrey - Laughter

Wallace - Busing / Law and Order


Nixon - McGovern Defense

Nixon - McGovern Turnaround

Nixon - Nixon Now

Nixon - Passport

McGovern - Voting Booth

McGovern - This Time


Ford - Peace ("Feeling Good About America")

Carter - Bio


Reagan - Peace

Reagan - Podium

Carter - Oval Int

Carter - Ballot


Reagan - Prouder, Stronger, Better

Reagan - Bear


Bush - Family/Children

Bush - Revolving Door

Bush - Tank Ride

Republican - Willie Horton

Dukakis - Oval Office

Dukakis - Counterpunch


Bush - Arkansas 2

Clinton - Second Chance


Bush - Windsurfing

Republican - Sellout

Bush - Wolves

Republican - Ashley's Story


1960 – The Democratic candidate is a very young (42 years old) Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy.  He is also only the second Roman Catholic (the first was New York Governor Al Smith in 1928) to be nominated by a major party for the presidency.  His Republican opponent is Richard Nixon, who has been Vice-President of the United States for the previous eight years under President Eisenhower.

1964 – The Democratic candidate is President Lyndon Johnson.  Vice-President Johnson inherited the position on November 22nd, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  Johnson’s Republican opponent is Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater is quite conservative.  He has just wrested control of the Republican Party away from more moderate officeholders.  Goldwater has also come to be considered (fairly or unfairly) as an “extremist,” specifically, as someone who has a reputation for saying rather rash and irresponsible things about both domestic and foreign policy.  Although Johnson is the overwhelming favorite, there is some concern (again, perhaps fairly, and perhaps unfairly) that if Goldwater somehow were to be elected his “extreme” words might be accompanied by equally extreme actions.

1968 – There are three Presidential candidates in 1968.  President Johnson, destroyed politically by the War in Vietnam has announced in March that he “shall not seek and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as president.”  The Democratic candidate is Johnson’s Vice-President Hubert Humphrey.  But 1968 has been an awful year.  Robert Kennedy has been killed campaigning for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination.  Martin Luther King has been gunned down too – an event that was followed by massive urban riots in many large American cities.   The Republican candidate is Richard Nixon – the former Vice-President and former 1960 candidate.  Nixon – who was considered a political “has-been” in the early 1960s has made a remarkable comeback to claim his party’s nomination in 1968.  To the surprise of many, Nixon has passed over several more experienced and better known Republican Governors to select as his vice-presidential running mate the relatively obscure and lightly regarded Governor of Maryland, Spiro Agnew.  Also running in 1968 is an independent, Governor George Wallace of Alabama.  Wallace has spent much of the 1960s earning a national reputation as a strong opponent of civil rights and an equally powerful advocate of continued segregation.  Voters likely to support Wallace are expected to be in the South and those blue-collar workers in the North (sometimes called “hard hats”) who believe that the turmoil of the late 1960s (riots, assassinations, sit-ins, hippies, etc) are turning America in a dangerous direction.

1972 – The Republican candidate in 1972 is Richard Nixon.  He was elected in 1968, narrowly defeating Humphrey, and is now seeking re-election to a second term.  Although the president is expected to win, there is a lingering suspicion about him, his ethics and his political tactics among many voters.  This suspicion dates back to his days in Congress (when he was nicknamed “Tricky Dick” by one of his opponents) and as a Vice-Presidential candidate in 1952 when he was accused of accepting (while serving in Congress) improper (possibly illegal) funds from important national Republicans.     This time (unlike Goldwater in 1964) it is the Democratic Candidate whom some consider to be the extremist.  The Democratic Nominee is Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.  The “knock” on McGovern is not that he necessarily says wild things (the accusation against Goldwater) but that he simply was a very liberal Democrat, so much so that on a number of issues (including national defense) he was “out of the mainstream” of his party and too extreme to be trusted with the presidency during a time of conflict in Vietnam and continuing (albeit somewhat reduced) tensions with the Soviet Union.

1976 – The Republican candidate in 1976 is Gerald Ford.  Ford was selected by Richard Nixon (and confirmed by the Congress) to be his Vice-President in 1973 when Nixon’s own Vice-President (the aforementioned Spiro Agnew) resigned amid a bribery scandal.  Thus Ford – unlike Lyndon Johnson for example, who was elected Vice-President with John F. Kennedy – is a “completely un-elected president.  Ford – having survived a severe primary challenge from Ronald Reagan - is running for national office for the first time seeking the support of the American people for a full, elected term of his own.  The first half of the1970s have been a particularly turbulent time for the United States.  Watergate has led to the first-ever resignation of a President of the United States from office. While the War in Vietnam has finally ended (with the withdrawal of the last U.S. personnel and the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975) the nation is still exhausted, somewhat divided, and uncertain about itself and its future as it commences its bicentennial year.  Ford is seen as a decent, honest, hard-working man who has brought a sense of normalcy back to the White House after the turmoil of Watergate.  But he faces the burdens of being a Republican in a “post-Watergate” environment where the “party of Nixon” remains unpopular, (here his pardon of Nixon – no matter how well intentioned – is not helping him).  Also, the U.S. economy had just emerged from a serious economic downturn in 1974 and 1975.  Ford’s opponent is a relatively obscure former Governor of Georgia named Jimmy Carter (unknown to most Americans when 1976 began) who has emerged from his party’s hard-fought primaries and secured the Democratic nomination.  Carter, a religious man, seems earnest and honest (welcome traits in the aftermath of Watergate) but many question whether he has the experience necessary to fulfill the awesome responsibilities that accompany the position he is seeking.

1980 – In 1980, the Democratic candidate is Jimmy Carter.  Carter, elected by the narrowest of margins over Gerald Ford in 1976 is (as we discussed in class) faced with a daunting challenge if he hopes to be re-elected.  While Carter is still perceived by most Americans as a hardworking and honest man, many question his competence as a president.  Consumer prices and inflation (due in no small measure to the explosion in energy costs) have skyrocketed.  And the United States faces humiliation in the Middle East as the Iran Hostage Crisis enters its second year and 52 Americans seem no closer to release from captivity in a nation torn by Islamic fundamentalist revolution.  Carter’s Republican opponent is the 69 year-old former Governor of California Ronald Reagan.  Reagan came within a whisker of defeating Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 and has emerged in 1980 as a formidable challenger to President Carter.  Americans seem ready for a change of leaders but are concerned that Reagan might be so conservative on foreign policy (echoes of the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater campaign) that he might take irresponsible action.   

1984 – In 1984 Republican President Ronald Reagan is seeking re-election.  He has the enormous advantage of an economy that is healthy and booming.  Unemployment (after a severe recession that lasted for several years of his term) has diminished and inflation appears to have been brought under control.  Americans (according to public opinion surveys) feel good about their country and the direction in which it is headed and also have strong positive feelings about their President.  Reagan’s Democratic Party opponent is Walter Mondale.  Mondale was Carter’s Vice-President from 1976-1980 and faced (by any measure) an uphill battle.  Mondale and his running mate, Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York, criticized Mr. Reagan and his administration for running large federal budget deficits, neglecting the poor, and for continuing harsh (and Mondale argues, irresponsible and potentially dangerous) foreign policy rhetoric against the Soviet Union.  Mondale is also critical of a 1983 proposal by Reagan (which critics sarcastically label “Star Wars”) to spend billions of dollars on a space-based system designed to shoot incoming Soviet missiles out of the sky.

1988 – The Republican candidate for President in 1988 was Vice-President George Bush.  Bush ran as a candidate who would essentially continue the policies of popular incumbent president Ronald Reagan – but who would tinker with those policies a little bit to make them slightly less harsh on those who had been left behind by the prosperity of the 1980s.  Bush’s opponent was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.  Dukakis ran proudly on what he claimed was a record of accomplishment while serving in the Massachusetts statehouse.  Bush tried to paint Dukakis as a left-wing liberal with ideas and programs that most Americans (if they knew about them) would be reluctant to support.

1992 - In 1992 it was George H.W. Bush as the incumbent President seeking re-election.  Unlike Reagan in 1984 or Nixon in 1972, Bush was not blessed with a booming economy but instead facing re-election at a time when the economy was just emerging from an economic slowdown.  Bush was considered by most to have masterfully handled several foreign policy challenges during his term - building an international coalition and winning the first Persian Gulf War and responding with tact and restraint to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany.  Americans were less certain about Bush's commitment to, interest in, and capacity for domestic matters.  Bush's opponent was Bill Clinton, longtime Governor of Arkansas.  Glib, exceptionally well-informed on domestic matters, and possessing enormous raw political talent, Clinton campaigned tirelessly against Bush by citing the weak economy.  Clinton was, of course, quite untested in the foreign arena.

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