Non-Traditional Candidates and Negative Campaigning in American Presidential Elections
This paper will compare the campaigns of three American presidential elections over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries; namely, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four consecutive campaigns beginning in 1932, John F. Kennedy in 1960, and Barack Obama in 2008. Each of these men broke the mold for traditional presidential candidates - an able-bodied, white Protestant man- for a different reason. FDR's disability, Kennedy's religion, and Obama' s race made them the first of their kind to be elected president, which inspired negative attacks and advertising from a host of opponents. Each of these three candidates chose to respond in a different way to such attacks, given their particular circumstances and campaign liability. There are a number of factors in a campaign which could influence a candidate's decision to respond to negative attacks from opponents and voters, including social perception, media and voter information, number of undecided voters, and the candidate's level of support and standing in the race. These factors will be examined in the context of these three historical elections, and then applied to three new types of nontraditional candidates - Hispanic, female, and homosexual- who could potentially run for the presidency in future elections, given current political and social trends.