Background: The Top 20 Presidential Campaign Slogans
The following background information on the top 20 presidential campaign slogans was culled primarily from Wikipedia or cobbled together from a variety of other online sources.
1. A ‘New Deal’ for the American People
A ‘New Deal’ for the American People was an expression used by FDR during the 1932 campaign to help propose and popularize a series of economic programs in response to the Great Depression, focusing on what historians called the 3 Rs: relief, recovery and reform (relief for the unemployed and poor; recovery of the economy; and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression). The New Deal produced a political realignment, making the Democratic Party the majority party with its base in liberal ideas, big city machines, and newly empowered labor unions. The Republicans were split, either opposing the entire New Deal as an enemy of business and growth, or accepting some of it and promising to make it more efficient. The realignment crystallized into the New Deal Coalition that dominated most American elections into the 1960s.
2. It’s morning again in America
It’s morning again in America is a phrase used as the opening line in an effective political campaign television commercial entitled "Prouder, Stronger, Better." The ad was part of the 1984 U.S. Presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. It featured a montage of images of Americans going to work and a calm, optimistic narration that suggested the improvements to the U.S. economy since his 1980 election were due to Reagan's policies. It asked voters why they would want to return to the pre-Reagan policies of Democrats like his opponent Walter Mondale. It is generally considered one of the most effective political campaign ads ever made, mainly because of its simple, optimistic message. The phrase It's morning again in America is used both as a literal statement (people are shown going to work) and a metaphor for renewal. The ad was written and narrated by ad man Hal Riney.
3. I like Ike
The simple and catchy I like Ike slogan is attributed to Peter G. Peterson of Market Facts, a Chicago-based market researcher, who, while working on behalf of the Eisenhower campaign, discovered that most people trusted and felt comfortable with Ike, but didn’t care to describe their views on the issues. By the spring of 1951, I like Ike was being used on all Eisenhower campaign materials, and Republican admirers were quick to echo the sentiment and jump on the bandwagon. Eisenhower remained steadfastly nonpartisan and unaffiliated with any political party; however, in December 1951, Republican Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. of Massachusetts finally persuaded him to run. Peter Peterson later became Secretary of Commerce for the Nixon administration.
4. It's the economy, stupid
It's the economy, stupid was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy achievements such as the end of the Cold War and the recently-waged Persian Gulf War. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, asserts that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the faltering economy, which had undergone a recession in the previous year.
5. Yes, we can!
Yes, we can! was a slogan introduced by Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign following the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. Then-Senator Obama used a similar English translation of the slogan of the United Farm Workers, "Sí, se puede" (Spanish for "Yes, it can be done"), in his speech. The slogan dates back to 1972 when Cesar Chavez and the UFW's co-founder, Dolores Huerta, coined this expression during Chavez's 24-day fast in Phoenix, Arizona. On February 2, 2008, the music video, Yes, We Can, which was released by Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am, was honored with the first-ever Emmy Award for Best New Approaches in Daytime Entertainment. Its impact was also felt across the globe: British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both used this expression in their respective political campaigns.
6. Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Are you better off than you were four years ago? was an effective slogan used by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential campaign to disparage the economic malaise that had characterized the Carter years. Coming just one week before the election, the encounter gave President Carter little time to recover from a stumble. That night, Reagan displayed a mastery of stagecraft, dismissing Carter’s critique of his view on Medicare with a mocking “There you go again.” In his final statement, Reagan delivered the knockout punch. Reagan’s rhetorical questions, carefully rehearsed but delivered with his typical aplomb, pierced Carter’s presidency and helped cement Reagan’s legacy as the Great Communicator.
7. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Speak softly and carry a big stick was a slogan first used by Theodore Roosevelt in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair on September 2, 1901, twelve days before the assassination of President William McKinley. Roosevelt referred to the phrase earlier (January 26, 1900) in a letter to Henry W. Sprague of the Union League Club, and claimed it was West African in origin. Synonymous with Roosevelt himself, the slogan was also emblematic of his brand of foreign policy, which promulgated the idea of negotiating peacefully but simultaneously threatening with a “big stick” (e.g., the military). It became a successful strategy exercised by Ronald Reagan during the Cold War.
8. Happy days are here again
Happy days are here again was a phrase from a campaign song used by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Democratic Party convention of 1932. The song, which was written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen in 1929, was first used in the 1930 film Chasing Rainbows. Popularized by radio, this optimistic and buoyant tune offered an alternative vision to the disaster that the U.S. economy had become under incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover and to the many failures of Prohibition. The Democratic Party opposed Prohibition, which Hoover persisted in defending as a "noble experiment." FDR came out unequivocally for repeal. In this respect, Happy days are here again stood for both economic recovery as well as the repeal of the 18th Amendment.
9. Don’t swap horses in midstream
Don’t swap horses in midstream was a slogan popularized by Abraham Lincoln in a speech to the Delegation from the National Union League during his reelection campaign of 1864. Lincoln cited an old Dutch farmer who once remarked to a companion that it was “not best to swap horses when crossing streams.” For Lincoln, who was trying to hold the Union together as the Civil War raged on, was obviously making the point that it would be unwise to choose a new leader or a new position during the middle of an ongoing crisis. Lincoln considered his chances for reelection slim; however, by November 1864, the tide was turning and Union forces had scored impressive victories. Nevertheless, Lincoln didn’t take any chances. The slogan helped buttress his leadership position, and the orders he issued to his generals to send major detachments of troops home to vote were instrumental in protecting slim Republican margins in several key States.
10. The stakes are too high for you to stay at home
The stakes are too high for you to stay at home was a slogan used by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 Presidential campaign. His opponent, Barry Goldwater, who had advocated using tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam, had the tables turned on him when the Johnson campaign broadcast a T.V. commercial about two months before Election Day dubbed the "Daisy Girl" ad. The ad featured a little girl picking petals from a daisy in a field and counting them, and then segued into a launch countdown and a nuclear explosion. Voters increasingly began to view Goldwater as a right wing fringe candidate whose slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right," was successfully parodied by the Johnson campaign ("In your guts, you know he's nuts"). The Johnson campaign's greatest concern may have been voter complacency leading to low turnout in key states. To counter this, all of Johnson's broadcast ads concluded with the line: "Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home." Johnson crushed Goldwater in the general election, winning over 61 percent of the popular vote, the largest percentage since Harding’s election in 1920.
11. A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage.
In 1928, Herbert Hoover ran for President with the successful campaign slogan A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Hoover carried 58.2 percent of the vote, easily defeating Democratic candidate Alfred E. Smith. The slogan, which epitomizes the long and remarkable period of prosperity characteristic of the Roaring ’20s, convinced voters that the economic boom’s trajectory would continue and eventually lead to an eradication of poverty. Sadly, the Republican Party's promise of prosperity was derailed seven months after Hoover took the oath of office. The stock market crash of 1929 plunged the country into the Great Depression and people eventually lost confidence in Hoover.
12. Return to normalcy
A return to normalcy was Warren Harding’s campaign promise in the election of 1920. Coined by Harding himself, the slogan symbolized a return to the way of life before World War I as well as a return to big business, isolationism, and more conservative approaches to government. Disillusioned by war, progressive reforms, and the failure of President Wilson’s plans to create a new world order, Americans sought the stability and traditionalism that Harding represented. Harding won by a landslide – the largest Presidential popular vote in American history since tallies were recorded in 1824. The subject of intense semantic discussion at the time, the slogan itself was labeled a malapropism for the word normality. However, evidence was found that normalcy had been listed in dictionaries as far back as 1857.
13. Give ‘em Hell, Harry!
Give ‘em Hell, Harry! was a phrase that originated at an incident that took place during the 1948 Presidential election campaign. While in Harrisburg, Illinois, Truman delivered a speech attacking the Republicans. During the speech a supporter yelled out Give 'em Hell, Harry! to which Truman replied, "I don't give them Hell, I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell." Subsequently, the phrase became a hallmark expression that audience members would shout out at every whistle stop during the campaign. The 1948 presidential election is best remembered for Truman's stunning come-from-behind victory. His doggedly determined, no-holds-barred style of campaigning in the face of seemingly impossible odds became a campaign tactic that would be repeated by future Presidential incumbents who also trailed in the polls and fought constantly with Congress.
14. He kept us out of war
He kept us out of war was an effective and popular slogan used by President Woodrow Wilson when he ran for reelection in 1916 against Charles Evan Hughes. While fighting in Europe dominated the campaign, Wilson pledged continued neutrality in the Great War. In contrast, Hughes advocated a program of greater mobilization and preparedness. Some pro-Wilson newspapers claimed that Hughes, if elected, was secretly planning to take America into the war. With Wilson having successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, it was difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's peace platform. After a hard-fought contest, Wilson defeated Hughes by a narrow margin. Ironically, five months after his re-election, President Wilson decided that the war had become a real threat to humanity and asked Congress to make “the world safe for democracy” and declare war on the Central Powers.
15. Tippecanoe and Tyler, too
Tippecanoe and Tyler, too, originally published as "Tip and Ty," was a very popular and influential campaign song of the colorful Log Cabin Campaign in the 1840 Presidential election. Its lyrics sang the praises of Whig candidates William Henry Harrison (the "hero of Tippecanoe") and John Tyler, while denigrating incumbent Democrat Martin Van Buren. The song firmly established the power of singing as a campaign device in the U.S. The North American Review at the time even remarked that the song was, "in the political canvas of 1840 what the 'Marseillaise' was to the French Revolution. It sang Harrison into the presidency." Today, the slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler, too is better remembered than the song itself – serving as a staple of American schoolbook history. The slogan itself is highly euphonious: it exhibits a triple alliteration, an internal rhyme, and nearly forms an iambic tetrameter.
16. Nixon’s the one
Nixon’s the one was a popular slogan used by the Nixon campaign in 1968. Simple and dogmatic, but somewhat ambiguous, the slogan still proved to be effective in portraying Nixon as a figure of stability during a period of unrest and upheaval. Appealing to what he called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators, Nixon easily secured the nomination. In contrast, his opponent, Hubert Humphrey, was nominated at a convention marked by mass protests. Also, with regard to the Vietnam War, Nixon promised peace with honor, and campaigned on the notion that "new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific." Overall, Nixon was perceived as the calmer and more acceptable choice to bridge the growing divide in the country.
17. A kinder, gentler nation
A kinder, gentler nation was a memorable campaign pledge made by George H. W. Bush in the 1988 Presidential campaign. The expression was coined by Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. Often criticized for being nothing more than a hollow, feel-good slogan, the phrase signaled a departure from the avarice and greed of the Reagan era by calling for a "new engagement in the lives of others." Bush promised to be more of a hands-on administrator than his predecessor, and he committed his presidency to being more sensitive and caring to the poor and disadvantaged. Despite the hopeful rhetoric of Bush’s brand promise, the 1988 campaign was unusually nasty and cynical, and was characterized by a battle over abortion, prison furloughs, school prayer, and patriotism. The campaign dramatized the growing power of media consultants and pollsters who marketed candidates by emphasizing imagery and symbolism over real substance.
18. 54-40 or fight
54-40 or fight was a provocative slogan used by James K. Polk in the Presidential election of 1844. Arising from disputed claims with Great Britain over the Oregon Country’s northern boundary, the slogan became a rallying cry that appealed to American expansionist sentiment known as “manifest destiny.” Polk and the Democrats took a strong stand that the U.S. had a valid claim to the entire Oregon Country up to Russian America at parallel 54°40′ north. Non-expansionist Whigs ridiculed the absurdity of going to war with Great Britain by saying that Polk’s expansionist stand could be summed up in the expression 54-40 or fight. Polk successfully usurped this sarcasm for his own use, shouting this challenge at every campaign stop. He rode it all the way to the White House. After the election, Polk retreated from his former position and magnanimously proposed giving the British everything above the 49th parallel, the now-current U.S-Canadian border that had been proposed by previous U.S. administrations.
19. Vote yourself a farm
Vote yourself a farm was a Republican Party pledge in the 1860 Presidential election supporting a law granting free homesteads to settlers of western lands. Put to good use by Lincoln during the campaign, the pledge was designed to appease the industrial North by promising to increase tariffs on imports. In this sense, the Republican platform that elected Lincoln was touted as a "marriage of iron and rye." To his credit, Lincoln kept his campaign promise and signed the Homestead Act in 1862.
20. Keep cool with Coolidge
Keep cool with Coolidge was a popular slogan used by the Coolidge campaign in the 1924 Presidential election. Nominated virtually without opposition, Coolidge rode to a landslide victory over John W. Davis, who garnered the lowest percentage of the vote of any Democrat in election history. By all accounts, Coolidge was a decent and taciturn man who had little time for partisan hatred. On the whole, the public responded favorably to his honesty and simple, no-nonsense attitude. The slogan Keep cool with Coolidge embodied the spirit and hopes of the American middle class, especially its support of Coolidge’s principles of small government and conservative fiscal policy. For a man of few words, it’s ironic that Coolidge was able to personalize his presidency by taking advantage of the newest communication medium of the day: radio.