Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1


Americans have a love-hate relationship with negative campaigning, claiming to despise it and ranting about how it turns off the electorate, while at the same time paying an increasing amount of attention to negative ads and tactics during ever-lengthening campaign seasons. Swint gathers the most compelling of these campaigns from the two Golden Ages of negative campaigning- 1864 to 1892 and 1988 to the present- in addition to some that fall outside those demarcations, and ranks them in descending order, from No. 25 to No. 1. Mudslingers covers presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial, and mayoral races and chronicles the dirtiest, most low-down campaign tactics of all time.

The list includes the presidential campaign of 1800, when the disputed outcome of the race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had to be decided by the House of Representatives, and the election of 2004, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry after one of the nastiest showdowns on record. The first round of negative campaigning in American history was driven by post-Civil War politics, the end of Reconstruction, an increasingly corrupt federal government, and a rabid partisan press. The current Golden Age of mudslinging and dirty politics is driven by huge increases in campaign spending, television advertising, decreased civility in public life, and a muckraking mass media. These fascinating stories from the annals of negative campaigning will entertain as well as educate, reminding us, the next time we are tempted to decry the current climate, that it was (almost) ever thus.


Don't let them fool you—people love negative campaigns. In survey after survey, registered voters say they don't like the negativity and the mudslinging in politics. But if that is true, then why is there so much mudslinging in campaigns? One reason is that the consultants who run most campaigns these days insist that they work. Maybe they are right; people love soap operas and they love gossip—and political campaigns have plenty of both.

There is another reason negative campaigns may be effective—people remember them. In this regard, this book is a sort of "greatest hits" compilation. There have been some very effective, very memorable, and very nasty political campaigns in the last couple hundred years, and the "top 25" are chronicled here.

This book covers more than two hundred years of American politics, beginning in 1800 with the bitter feud between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and ending with the 2004 blowout between George W. Bush and John Kerry. In between, there are rascals, patriots, robber barons, soldiers, and TV stars. And that's just among the presidential candidates.

The list of the most negative campaigns of all time also includes U.S. congressional races, races for governor, and even some for mayor. It was very difficult to choose just twenty-five campaigns because when looking at the vast landscape of American political history, there is a lot of material to choose from. It might be tempting to focus only on presidential races because they are the best known, and certainly they are usually extremely nasty affairs. But there are some, actually quite a few, campaigns below the level of president that deserved to make the list.

After all, was the 1984 race between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale particularly dirty, or was the 1996 campaign between Bill Clinton and Bob . . .

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