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American Election Expressions

Some examples of American expressions about voting and elections. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

The presidential election in the United States is November fourth. So we hear a lot of people using expressions about the election.

Many opinion studies have asked Americans whom they will vote for. Experts say some states are likely to support John McCain, the Republican Party candidate. Others are likely to support Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's candidate.

Experts say there are a few states where the support for the two candidates is almost equal. These are called swing states, because they could go either way. They are also called battleground states. Experts believe the presidential election will be decided by the votes in those few states.

Traditionally, expressions used in horse racing are also used in election campaigns. The running mate is the presidential candidate's choice for vice president. The front-runner is the leading candidate. If both candidates have equal support, they are said to be running neck and neck. And candidates enter the home stretch when the race is near the end.

The candidates are now on the campaign trail, traveling around the country. They have favorite subjects that they talk about to different crowds. This is called a stump speech. Writer William Safire says the expression is two hundred years old. He says candidates many years ago spoke while standing on the stump of a tree in front of a crowd. Another expression, on the stump, is to make these speeches to different groups.

Some candidates carry out what is called a grassroots campaign. This involves voters at the local community level. The candidate talks to people and accepts financial donations for the campaign. This may involve getting the support of the political party's rank and file members. This expression is also used in the military and in trade unions. It means the members who form the major part of a group, but not its leaders or officers.

Many people hope that presidential campaigns are fair. But some campaigns include mudslinging. No, the candidates do not throw dirt at each other. But they may try to destroy their opponent's good name by saying bad things or through misleading advertisements. Spreading lies about someone is called a smear campaign.

Some American presidential elections have ended in a landslide victory. One candidate wins a huge majority of electoral votes. Other recent elections have been extremely close. We will know the results of this election in a few weeks.


This VOA Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Barbara Klein. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at