Previous analyses have treated presidential debates as isolated incidents, focusing primarily on arguments within the text. This essay argues that, in order to understand the full political and rhetorical significance of such debates, they must be studied within the rhetorical context created by previous campaign discourse. A case study of the 1968 presidential campaign and California primary debate between Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy is used to illustrate this perspective. Analysis of this debate also reveals the class between the progressive and the populist case for change and contributes to the ongoing study of the impasse in liberal argument today.
ASJC Scopus subject areas