Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


School of Communication Studies


Matthew P. Brigham

Lindsey A. Harvell-Bowman

Paul E. Mabrey III


My thesis explores the implications of the references to President Ronald Reagan in the 2015-2016 Republican presidential primary debates. I conducted a rhetorical analysis of the references to Reagan throughout these debates, while also considering their relation to public and collective memory theory. In order to analyze the different ways in which Reagan was mentioned, I divided the analysis into the undercard debates, mainstage debates, and the mainstage debate that occurred at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. In the undercard debates, candidates often utilized attention-grabbing strategies in order to aid their chances of moving up to the mainstage debates. The mainstage candidates referenced Reagan to support different goals than the undercard candidates, often focusing on policy rather than personal qualities. In the Simi Valley debate, or “Reagan debate,” the candidates were inspired by the location at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and competed to claim Reagan’s legacy. Through my analysis, I discovered that the candidates referenced Reagan in order to support a wide range of ideologies and goals. Therefore, due to the prevalence and centrality of references to Reagan in the 2015-2016 GOP presidential primary debates, and the way in which his name was utilized to support candidates’ arguments, I concluded that Reagan’s legacy had affected and will likely continue to affect the communication of the modern Republican Party in primary debates, which scholars, candidates, and campaign teams would benefit greatly by systematically analyzing and exploring.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.