Crafting character, moving history: John McCain’s political identity in the 2008 presidential campaign

Trevor Parry-Giles, Michael J. Steudeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A recurring critique of American campaigns is the normative assumption that campaigns, particularly at the presidential level, ought to concern important matters of public policy and that voter decision-making and judgment ought to be only, or primarily, based upon the considered judgment of public policy positions and platforms. This essay impiously seeks to bring history, theory, and possibility to the analysis of campaign practice in the service of appreciating and enhancing an understanding of political images and political identity construction. Specifically, we explore the numerous rhetorical manifestations of Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s political identity in the 2008 campaign. While all candidates employ such identity strategies, McCain did so with a particularly frank acknowledgment that he was privileging character over consistency, identity over issues. Attending to the rhetorical arguments of identity and political image that emerged from the McCain campaign in 2008, and that emerge every presidential campaign cycle, allows for the critical, indeed normative, engagement with presidential campaign praxis and democratic political deliberation as it operates meaningfully for millions of American voters every four years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-89
Number of pages24
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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