Seeing Spots: A Functional Analysis of Presidential Television Advertisements, 1952-1996

By William L. Benoit | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Third-Party Candidates: Another Choice

In the modern era, presidential campaigns have been dominated by the two major political parties. However, third-party candidates regularly seek the presidency. Humphrey decided to attack Wallace in several of his 1968 spots, while a Nixon advertisement cautioned citizens against "wasting" their vote on a third-party candidate (in an interesting twist, in 1996 Perot urged "Don't waste your vote on politics as usual"). Perot clearly exerted an influence on the 1992 campaign, and was selected to participate in the presidential debates. Third-party candidates--and their spots--are relatively uncommon. I located 60 spots from four campaigns ( 1968, 1980, 1992, 1996) and four candidates ( Wallace, Anderson, Perot [twice], and Browne). While much more limited than the sample for either general or primary spots, I was unable to locate any study in the literature that focused on third-party spots (of course, third-party candidates are sometimes mentioned in articles devoted to a single campaign).

The earliest third-party candidate for which I located television spots was Wallace, in his 1968 campaign. His spots hammered away at issues like forced public school busing, crime and violence, and foreign aid. Another theme was that he has the courage to lead America in the proper direction. Here is one of his advertisements:

Announcer [ 1968; scenes of riots, poverty, violence]: 1968, a time of international crisis and domestic chaos. In times like these we need a President who can meet the challenges of America. A man of sufficient courage to return the nation to its proper course.

Wallace: And the most recent mistake they made was when Castro was in the

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