Thesis Title

The Role of Fantasy Theme Chaining in Howard Dean's 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary Campaign

Date of Graduation

Spring 2006


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Eric Morris


The purpose of this study is to determine what compelled many Americans to donate large amounts of their time and money to the candidacy of Governor Howard Dean during the 2004 Presidential Primary. His campaign successfully decentralized fundraising by motivating a large number of contributors to make a series of small donations. This study uses fantasy theme criticism to assess what rhetorical vision impelled these people to act in support of Dean’s candidacy. The focus of the study is on the impact of the internet, particularly web logs, on the fundraising success. A rhetorical analysis was conducted on selected speeches in support of Howard Dean’s candidacy to determine the rhetorical vision of the campaign. A series of web logs were analyzed to demonstrate fantasy chaining of this rhetorical vision. This study found that Dean was able to use the drama of conflict between his new, open politics and a politically alienating status quo that sacrifices the participation of the people in favor of catering to powerful economic interests. The analysis demonstrated that this drama was salient for those participating on Howard Dean’s web logs and the chaining out of the fantasy themes in his rhetorical vision may have been responsible for Dean’s ability to generate large amounts of support from the internet. This study provides the framework for understanding how Governor Dean used the internet to challenge traditional campaign fundraising techniques.


fantasy theme analysis, Howard Dean, internet campaign, blogs, fundraising

Subject Categories

Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication


© Benjamin Ryan Warner