A stump speech is an American name for a speech delivered by a politician on a campaign tour. The name comes from earlier days of American politics, when candidates might stand on a tree stump in a clearing to be seen by rural voters. In fact, McKinley Stump in Chehalis, Lewis County, Washington state claims to be the location of the phrase's origin, when President McKinley stood on the stump to deliver a speech in 1903; however, Doug Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary says the phrase has been seen in print as far back as 1775 (and avalyn points out that McKinley was assassinated in 1901, so the McKinley Stump site is wrong on multiple counts). (A British equivalent is "Hustings," the name of a raised platform where nominees for Parliament stood and addressed electors until 1872.)

Though stages and platforms have long become standard in U.S. politics (except for one place in Weston, West Virginia, where a silver maple destroyed by a storm around 2000 became a place for speakers to promote their views -- complete with safety rails to hold on to), the phrase remains current. The ideal stump speech, according to Hugh Hewitt on worldnetdaily.com, is "one which can be used over and over again to guarantee not just applause, but a connection with the audience that endures and even a contribution to speed the campaign forward." The phrase is occasionally used for situations outside politics, such as an article on job hunting with the headline "Good stump speech goes far in job hunt."

Sources:
http://wordsmith.org/words/stump_speech.html
http://www.word-detective.com/back-b2.html
http://www.travelcascadia.com/chehalis/
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=s&p=43
http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/32-10182004-384617.html
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33950
http://www.detnews.com/2004/money/0410/02/d08-278213.htm

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