Presidential Campaign Songs — The Best, the Worst, and the Confusing

It’s that time again. Once every four years the United States chooses a President, and the candidates trot out to vie for the vote. Part and parcel with a campaign these days, comes the decision on which popular song will be used for the campaign. Candidates like to affiliate themselves with a song that they feel somehow best sums up their message to voters.

For the most part, candidates manage to choose songs that make sense one one level or another. There are other times, though, when a candidate’s choice puts them at odds with the singer of the song. Of course, as with anything involving the sometimes murky waters of American politics, there are also some times when a candidate chooses a song and it leaves you scratching your head, because the song’s message has been taken entirely out of context.

Here now are some of the best and worst Presidential campaign song choices of the last 40 years.

The Best

Bill Clinton (1992) “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac – At the time of his first campaign, Clinton was up against incumbent George H.W. Bush. The economy was in the tank and things were looking bleak. Clinton’s message for his campaign was to look forward, to a better future, and Fleetwood Mac’s song matched his message perfectly. The message worked, because they didn’t stop voting him, and he won not only 1992, but again in 1996.

The Worst

Ross Perot (1992) “Crazy” by Patsy Cline – We’re not really sure what Independent candidate Ross Perot was thinking in choosing this song as his campaign song. Sure, it’s a great, classic tune. Cline’s version of it is iconic. But in an election where Perot already seemed a little like the eccentric rich man who may or may not know what he’s doing, choosing anything with the word “crazy” in it to be associated with you and your campaign is a really bad idea.

The Confusing

George McGovern (1972) “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel – His heart was surely in the right place, but when George McGovern chose this song as his campaign song when he ran against Richard Nixon’s re-election efforts, he made a confusing choice. Sure, the country was experiencing tumult and turmoil, and the message of the song is that comfort can be found in those you trust, and George probably wanted everyone to see him as the trusted friend. However, it seems like such a slow, almost depressing song to choose as a song to motivate people into action and to vote for him.

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