Mudslingers / Edition 1

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"You wouldn't think there would be positive news in a book about negative campaigning. But Kerwin Swint has found some. Ranking the most vicious American election contests in their proper order, he found that only one race in the top 10 -- Bush vs. Dukakis, in 1988--is less than 20 years old. In short: Things are bad now but not nearly as bad as they used to be…. Negative campaigns are not especially pretty, and they are not always edifying, but we should be glad when they are all we have to worry about. Many democracies around the world would take a little of our vitriol for an end to the thievery and bribery that ruin their elections."


Wall Street Journal

"During the course of some of the most venomous campaigns - the kind that dredge up everything from salacious trysts with questionable women to shady deals with sleazy men - it becomes clear that politics can be a dirty, disgusting profession. This is precisely why we love it….[e]ven after the readers thinks they can be shocked no more a candidate utters something or creates a rumor that sets them back for a minute. This book is also unique in the fact that it appears as if Swint had a good time writing it - inserting a snarky comment here and there - and to think how many campaigns he probably had to wade through to get the top 25, the man must have a heckuva sense of humor."


The Hill

"Don't base your vote on just one issue, especially one that hurts people or one that fails to address the state's real needs. Don't believe everything you hear. And look for positive reasons to vote for a candidate, not trumped-up reasons to vote against him."


The Decatur Daily

"Texas politics is right up there with the best of them when it comes to mudslinging."


Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Don't let them fool you--people love negative campaigns. Campaign consultant Swint rates political campaigns over the course of US history. He supports his rankings, in reverse order, from the 2004 presidential election to the dirtiest one thus far: the overtly racist 1970 Alabama Democratic primary between George Wallace and Albert Brewer. Lest one think that this is a modern phenomenon, the 1828 presidential campaign rates a close second. The book include images of candidates and related propaganda."


Reference & Research Book News

"The political historian who is intrigued by the downright nasty will be interested in Mudslingers. In the book Swint chronicles what he deems the 25 nastiest, dirtiest campaigns of all time. He includes examples from modern day and historical examples, illustrating the point that politics has always been dirty, it's in the nature of the game. The entries about each race are very complete, giving readers a full picture of the campaign, the attacks and the candidates. And each chapter is cleverly named based on facts about each race and allows readers to imagine the worst of politics. . . . Swint's book is an interesting look at campaigns through time and at what makes a campaign so negative."


Campaigns & Elections

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275985103
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/30/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

KERWIN C. SWINT is Associate Professor of Political Science at Kennesaw State University, a former campaign consultant, and a political commentator for local and national media. He is the author of Political Consultants and Negative Campaigning: The Secrets of the Pros (1998).

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Table of Contents




25. "From Vietnam to Iraq" George W. Bush v. John Kerry, President, 2004

24. "It's a Jungle Out There" Upton Sinclair v. Frank Merriam, Governor, California, 1934

23. "'Senator Pothole' v. 'Putzhead'" Alphonse D'Amato v. Charles Schumer, U.S. Senate, New York, 1998

22. "Electronic Mudslinging" Lyndon Johnson v. Barry Goldwater, President, 1964

21. "The Art of War"

Jesse Helms v. Harvey Gantt, U.S. Senate, North Carolina, 1990

20. "Homo Sapiens, Thespians, and Extroverts" Claude Pepper v. George Smathers, U.S. Senate, Florida, 1950

19. "Vote for the Crook: It's Important" Edwin Edwards v. David Duke, Governor, Louisiana, 1991

18. "Who's the Boss?" Richard Daley v. Robert Merriam, Mayor, Chicago 1955

17. "Polluting the Garden State" Frank Lautenberg v. Pete Dawkins, U.S. Senate, New Jersey, 1988

16. "God Save the Republic...Please" Rutherford Hayes v. Samuel Tilden, President, 1876

15. "Rudy and the Jets" Rudolf Giuliani v. David Dinkins, Mayor, New York City, 1993

14. "A New Jersey Street Fight" Robert Torricelli v. Richard Zimmer, U.S. Senate, New Jersey, 1996

13. "In This Corner...Little Lord Fauntleroy?" John Tower v. Robert Krueger, U.S. Senate, Texas, 1978

12. "Sex, Lies and Videotape" Charles Robb v. Oliver North, U.S. Senate, 1994

11. "'Claytie' v. The Lady" Clayton Williams v. Ann Richards, Governor, Texas, 1990

10. "Richard Nixon v. The United States of America" Richard Nixon v. Goerge McGovern, President, 1972

9. "Bye-Bye Blackbird" Herold Washington v. Bernard Epton, Mayor, Chicago, 1983

8. "America, Meet Willie Horton" George H. W. Bush v. Michael Dukakis, President, 1988

7. "'Tricky Dick'v. Helen Gahagan Douglas," U.S. Senate, California, 1950

6. "Grantism and Mr. Greeley" Ulysses S. Grant v. Horace Greely, President, 1872

5. "The First Campaign" Thomas Jefferson v. John Adams, 1800

4. "A House Divided" Abraham Lincoln v. George Mclellan, President, 1864

3. "Mud, Mugwumps, and Motherhood" Grover Cleverland v. James G. Blaine, President, 1884

2. "The Dirtiest Campaign in American History?" Andrew Jackson v. John Quincy Adams, President, 1828

1. "George Wallace and the Negro Block Vote" George Wallace v. Albert Brewer, Governor, Alabama 1970



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