With the growing number of centrist senators diminishing on Capitol Hill, the next few election cycles will be crucial to the survival of this moderate group of lawmakers. Campaign debate scholars should investigate how vulnerable incumbents construct a centrist issue agenda and image to connect with voters in states ideologically incongruent with the incumbents’ parties. In doing so, debate scholars will also fill the lack of lower-level debate research. Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods, this analysis examined the debate appeals of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Scott Brown (R-MA). Findings suggest McCaskill’s issue agenda was congruent with a centrist image in contrast to Brown’s contradictory issue and image messaging. Additionally, centrist incumbents were more likely to acclaim a centrist image than attack their opponents’ partisanship.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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