Erin Ryan

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Harvard Negotiation Law Review Online

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Harv. Negot. L. Rev. Online

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This short essay uses negotiation theory as a lens to analyze the McCain campaign's efforts to manipulate its media coverage during the 2008 presidential election. It offers a timely consideration of the troubling dynamic that can arise between the media and the campaigns that they cover, which often approximates a formal negotiation. The essay compares the campaign's strategies for managing press coverage of its candidates to the well-researched techniques of competitive bargainers, including anchoring tactics, the scarcity effect, and psychological warfare. It reviews how reporters are uniquely hamstrung in coping with competitive bargaining tactics compared to ordinary negotiators, and tailors the recommendations of negotiation theorists for adaptation by the news media. Campaigns from both sides of the aisle are prone to opportunistic behavior within this negotiation, but the tactics employed by the McCain-Palin campaign transgressed previous limits. The essay argues that this occurred at the expense of public credibility in the press, and accordingly at the expense of the marketplace of ideas in which our presidential elections are decided.



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