Politicians on the campaign trail are said to be stumping, as they cross the country delivering speeches and attending rallies. A stump speech, the linchpin of stumping, is designed to persuade audiences to support a candidate, through voting and campaign donations. Stumping is also sometimes used in other contexts, but usually refers to the political sense. Stumping is accompanied by long tradition, with most candidates hiring specific staff members to write and refine speeches, and a substantial portion of campaign funds being used to support stumping trips.
It is theorized that the term “stumping” came about because a stump provides a useful platform to stand on while speaking. Especially in rural areas, candidates could be seen head and shoulders above a crowd while they spoke if standing on a stump. In more settled areas, presumably a platform was built for stumping purposes, but the phrase stuck. In Britain, politicians are said to be “on the Hustings,” in reference to a platform traditionally used by candidates to address the Parliament.
Stumping is a crucial part of campaigning, and an opportunity for potential voters to meet candidates. Most politicians feel that no town is too small for stumping because of the additional exposure provided to the campaign. In addition to using rousing speeches, many candidates have come up with various stumping gimmicks, such as taking a train tour of the United States, delivering a speech at every stop. These tours are often called a "whistle-stop tours," and were especially popular in the golden age of railways, although they continue to be used today in campaigns.
Stump speeches are usually designed to be used in several locations with small changes, conveying the same basic ideas at each stop. Talented staff members will rework the speech slightly for each location, subtly changing the focus as needed. A successful stump speech requires some knowledge about the area it is being given in, and several compelling hooks to keep the audience engaged.
In addition to winning voters, stumping is also designed to raise funds for political campaigns. In most areas, the audience is encouraged to donate to the campaign in order to support the ideals it represents. While donations from individuals probably do not approach those given by large corporations, most politicians are aware that even small contributions are important. Furthermore, most voters who provide economic support will also provide support at the polls, voting for the candidates they assist financially and encouraging friends and workmates to do likewise.
Stumping is an integral part of politics in most nations, with politicians understanding the value of the personal visit in a campaign. Building a connection with the voting base will make a campaign more likely to succeed.