Are you stumped by stump speeches?

Last week, students in my editing classes worked on a story about a Joe Biden appearance in Ohio. The assignment was based on an Associated Press story and included a reference to a “stump speech” by the senator.

About half of the 30-odd students who edited this story deleted “stump.” A few replaced it with “campaign.” Others eliminated the adjective altogether. One left a note in the InCopy file: “Not sure readers know what this is so I took it out.” defines a stump speech as “a political campaign speech, esp. one made on a campaign tour.” A sketchy Wikipedia entry offers the legend of how politicians once stood on tree stumps so those in the crowd around them could see better. (Some still do it that way.) Wikipedia also includes a useful link to a Washington Post analysis of how a stump speech by Barack Obama changed over time.

Are the students correct? Is “stump speech” political jargon used only by politicians and the writers and editors who report on them?


One Comment

  1. My sense is that a stump speech in modern times has become the speech that a candidate repeats over and over from place to place.
    The only parts of the speech that change are the comments about that specific location like, “Hello Cleveland!”
    At a Ronald Reagan rally in West Virginia in 1976, a reporter “on the bus” I observed didn’t write too many direct quotes. Instead, he wrote down numbers to represent the order of the paragraphs from “The Speech” – the work that President Reagan had honed over the years.
    I doubt much has changed since then.

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