During most of the nineteenth century, presidential candidates were not
expected to play a public role in the national campaign. The lack of efficient
transportation made it difficult for candidates to interact with voters
outside their immediate regions. Not until 1928 did national speaking tours
by both major party candidates become a staple of the presidential race.
The only significant exception to this general inertia was the whirlwind
eighteen-thousand-mile speaking tour in 1896 of the Democratic candidate
The technological progress of the twentieth century brought profound
changes in the style of the national presidential campaign. By the 1930s,
radio carried the voices of the candidates directly into millions of American
homes. Within a generation, television had completed the picture by providing
the voters with visual images of the candidates. Thus presidential politics
had merged with the media revolution. It was now desirable that candidates
have both a polished speaking voice and a photogenic quality if they were
to be successfully marketed to the electorate.
More recently, television introduced the "electronic town meeting"
to the presidential contest. In this increasingly popular broadcast forum,
candidates answer questions from voters across the nation. Presidential
politics have even moved into the realm of cyberspace. Major and minor parties
have eagerly set up World Wide Web sites to disseminate their candidate's
views on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues.