Rhetoric in the Presidential Debate

Like many of you, I watched the presidential debate this past week between the Republican nominee Mitt Romney and the Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama. Within minutes of the debate starting, I was analyzing the rhetorical techniques that the candidates were employing. It was simply out of habit; I didn’t even have to “flick on the switch” or anything like that. Being in CAS 137H has consistently made me more aware of the way people speak. It’s nice to know that these somewhat abstract rhetorical concepts are firmly grounded in reality and apply to my everyday life.

Specifically, I noticed how both candidates made appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos at different times during the debate. For example, Mitt Romney used logos when he made a rational argument about how he thinks Obamacare is not the right option for the country to be pursuing. He used ethos when he explained his background in business, which is meant to convince the American public that he is a man who knows the ropes and can fix our economy. Finally, he used pathos when he told stories of voters he has talked with across the country over the past few months. I remember one example when he said that a woman in Ohio came up to him and told him that she has been out of work for several months and pleaded for him to help her. By using this story, Romney made an emotional appeal to thousands of Americans in similar situations.

Likewise, Obama used these same three tactics many times. He used logos when discussing issues such as the economy and Obamacare, arguing with logical terms in defense of his policies over the last four years. He employed pathos when discussing his grandmother and how she worked hard over her life to climb up the social ladder. Toward the end of the debate, he used ethos as well. He simply stated that he knew going in that he would not be a perfect president, but that he is working to the best of his ability everyday to help the citizens of this country.

Recognizing logos, pathos, and ethos in the debate really helped me to understand more about what each candidate stood for and why I should or should not vote for them. In writing this blog entry, I did not even have to look up the examples I used because they stuck in my memory so well. I definitely think this is due to having these three terms to help categorize and compartmentalize rhetoric in my mind, making it more manageable to digest and relate to. I’m definitely glad I’m in this class, and I hope to learn a lot more before the end of the semester!

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1 Response to Rhetoric in the Presidential Debate

  1. Lori Bedell says:

    Glad you’re finding this course useful! This blog was supposed to be about a personal paradigm shift. You might make the case that this class has been a paradigm shift for your understanding of political speech.

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