How Presidential candidate announcements have changed

How Presidential candidate announcements have changed

Back in the day, it was common to see large Presidential campaign gatherings and "whistle stops" alike. But much has changed in just a few short years.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz on the stump, making use of his well-known public speaking skills. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2015 − In the good old days of politics (around 4 years ago), announcements by political hopefuls that they were running for the Presidency closely resembled those that Americans had heard and experienced for generations.

Back in the day, it was common to see large campaign gatherings, punctuated at times by short “whistle stops” and sometimes even featuring balloons and confetti, making some events closely resemble the action in a used-car lot. But much has changed in just a few short years.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is universally known for his ability to speak to a crowd. In college he was ranked among the top competitive debaters around the country. With an undergraduate degree in public policy from Princeton, Cruz also had an impressive reputation as a debater there. He won the top speaker award at both the 1992 U.S. National Debating Championship and the 1992 North American Debating Championship.

All these accolades and others made him Princeton’s highest-ranked debater, and his prowess as a debater will live on at Princeton, given that the school has named their annual novice championship after him.

In the Senate, that reputation as a speaker has persisted, including his now famous, or infamous, 21 hour filibuster, that included a rendition of that Dr. Seuss classic, “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Yet the Senator with the gift of gab also managed to launch his candidacy with just 140 characters (or less) on Twitter, stating: “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support.” While he also had a huge campaign kickoff celebrated at the country’s largest Baptist university (Liberty University of Virginia), his first campaign announcement was lofted into the Twitterverse, employing modest words via the most contemporary and immediate of social networking technologies.

Fast forward to Senator Rand Paul who decided to take a chapter from Hollywood when making his formal campaign announcement. Before formally announcing his candidacy back in his home state of Kentucky, Paul released a feature film quality trailer, letting people know via visual media that he was in the hunt for the country’s top job. In this film, we see a great deal of the Kentucky Senator, although we don’t actually hear him speak. Instead, his case is largely made by his very articulate and attractive wife, Kelley.

The announcement page on the Senator’s presidential campaign site featured just one really political statement concerning his candidacy, one almost as short as Cruz’s Twitter announcement. In it, Paul stated “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.”

The remainder of Paul’s page includes the aforementioned video and a very lengthy bio of the candidate as well as a shorter one for his wife.

On the whole, Paul’s entire online announcement is not overtly political, which may not be unusual for a candidate working to refine a message that aligns with his values while attracting the largest number of voters. The remaining content in both the online verbiage and the video was all about compassion as well as discerning the important things in life that truly motivate him.

Taking these messages together, it appears that Paul’s campaign wants to position the Senator as “Doctor President,” stating on the announcement page that “Dr. Paul’s entrance into politics is indicative of his life’s work as a surgeon: a desire to diagnose problems and provide practical solutions, whether it be in Bowling Green, Kentucky or Washington, D.C.”

This week, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her own Democratic candidacy with a hybrid of old school (a “whistle stop” bus campaign) and new school events, including a two minute video described by many as similar to a State Farm commercial.

A day later, the “next generation” candidacy of Marco Rubio (R-Florida) began his run for the White House with a very traditional speech in his home state of Florida, noted with little fanfare on social media. In spite of this, one of his competitors, Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is being accused of trolling Rubio on Twitter on the reliably left-leaning CapTimes web site.

There are still plenty of candidates yet to formally throw their hats in the ring for Campaign 2016, and the technological possibilities available to them seem almost limitless. Perhaps one or more of these still-to-announce candidates will get the initial job done via LinkedIn, since that site has a huge career networking component. Pinterest and Instagram are also available, both of them perfect sites to drop an announcement along with a presidential-looking “selfie.”

Say, that’s not a bad idea. It has Donald Trump written all over it.

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