The 1976 presidential debates : a Toulmin analysis of the personality issues

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1978

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The 1976 presidential campaign gave birth to a series of events unique in American history: three debates between Jimmy Carter, the Democratic nominee, and Gerald Ford, the Republican nominee and incumbent president. This thesis examines personal attributes as argumentative issues in these encounters. Utilizing a rhetorical framework, the writer has analyzed the personality issues as they existed before and within the debates. A necessary component of the study is the analysis of the context and the public reactions to each debate. Personality issues played an important role in the 1976 campaign and debates. The Toulmin construct of an argument, which is used in this study, enables the critic to analyze the individual arguments as classified in the categories of demonstrated capability, political character, and leadership ability. The personalities of the candidates, strategic factors, and the viewpoints of the audience were important constraints on the advocacy of the issues.

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