Presidential Campaigns
Documents Decoded
by Daniel M. Shea and Brian M. Harward
October 2013, 305pp, 8 1/2 x 11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-192-5
$96, £74, 84€, A132
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-193-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Something as important as the selection of a president should be determined by important issues and serious reflection. Yet a lackluster endorsement, a handwritten note, a debate mistake, and an offhand comment have each played a significant role in deciding who would be chosen the next leader of the free world.

Combining primary sources with expert commentary, this timely book probes critical moments in U.S. presidential elections in the last 20th- and early 21st-centuries, empowering readers to better understand and analyze the electoral process.

Presidential Campaigns: Documents Decoded illuminates both the high stakes of a presidential campaign and the gaffes, controversies, and excesses that often influence the outcome. With a view to enabling readers to develop skills essential to political literacy, the book examines crisis points in modern presidential elections from the early 1950s through the late 2000s.

Chronologically organized, the study focuses on key events pertinent to each election. It provides an original account of the event, such as a debate transcript or news report, as well as a discussion detailing how the issue emerged and why it was important. This unique and engaging approach enables students to experience the actual source material as voters might have. At the same time, it shows them how an expert views the material, facilitating a deeper understanding of the narratives every presidential campaign constructs around its candidates, its party, and its opponents.


  • Primary sources such as speeches, advertisements, candidate platforms, press coverage, internal campaign documents, and more are presented side by side with accessibly written, expert commentary
  • A contextualizing introductory essay explains the logic behind the selection of documents and pinpoints narratives that can be traced through the collection
  • Novel stories about many behind-the-scenes events will engage reader interest
  • Photos, quotes, artwork, slogans, commercial stills, and other illustrative campaign media help bring history alive
Daniel M. Shea, PhD, is professor of government and director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, Waterville, ME. His published works include Praeger's Campaign Craft: The Strategies, Tactics, and Art of Political Campaign Management, now in its fourth edition, as well as Teaching Matters: Engaging Students in the Study of American Government and Can We Talk? The Rise of Rude, Nasty, Stubborn Politics.

Brian M. Harward, PhD, is associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He received his doctorate in political science from the School of Public and International Affairs at The University of Georgia. His recent publications explore issues related to federalism, the presidency, the U.S. Senate, and congressional oversight.


"While students might not gravitate to this volume on their own, it provides examples of close and critical reading, and using text to support analysis within an historical framework—both expectations of the Common Core State Standards. Consider for specialized government classes, courses needing primary source analysis, or those teaching speech and debate."—School Library Journal, April 1, 2014

"This accessible volume focuses on the 1952–2012 presidential campaigns, covering many of the 'crisis points' of those election seasons. . . . This is a great starting point for general readers and students of political history."—Library Journal, January 13, 2014

"This work has a unique focus in that it pulls together primary source documents that have played a critical role in the outcome of U.S. presidential elections. . . . This work will provide students with a deeper understanding of why each president was elected and what obstacles they or their opponent had to face during their candidacy. This will be a particularly useful book in high school libraries and undergraduate libraries."—ARBA, January 1, 2014
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