I come across the word, “retail (oriented) politics” in an article under the title, “All presidential politics is local” in Conway Daily Sun (December 23, 2015), which contained the following paragraph:

He (Marco Rubio) said a lot, but at the same time said nothing. -- If there was a human side to senator, a soul, it didn’t come across through. That might sound like harsh critique, but in essence that is the point of the New Hampshire primary, to test candidates in a retail politics setting. Rubio said it himself: “New Hampshire is very town hall based,” he told us, the politics “retail-oriented.” After the New Hampshire primary, he said, it transforms into a media race, not a human race.

From the context, I surmise the retail (oriented) politics means either mass-marketing / mass media oriented politics or just populism, but I’m not sure of. Though it comes out in quotation mark, what does it mean precisely?

Is “retail politics” an established political word, or just the one coined by Mr. Rubio?

  • 2
    Had you Googled "retail politics" you would have found, among other things, the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 8, 2016 at 1:51
  • Is that an exact quote? Something seems wrong with it, there are several grammatical errors. Feb 8, 2016 at 4:26
  • @Xandar The Zenon. I simply copy/pasted the quoted part from the Conway Daily Sun text. I don't know what are wrong with the text. Feb 8, 2016 at 8:17
  • This retail politics/wholesale politics nomenclature somehow fails to address what seems to me to be the central question: Who is being bought and sold—the candidates or the voters?
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:58
  • 1
    @Sven Yargs. I understand the candidates are either or both wholesale / retail politics sellers, and voters are their purchasers / customers. Feb 9, 2016 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


The term retail politics is the opposite of wholesale politics and they are established political terms. The link shows the difference between the two:

Wholesale politics: A mode of campaigning that involves indirect contact with citizens, such as running campaign adds.

Retail politics: A mode of campaigning in which a candidate or campaign staff contact citizens directly, as would happen at a rally, a talk before a small group, or a one-on-one meeting between a candidate and a citizen

As you can see, the original definitions of retail and wholesale are used for politics to differentiate the two. Retail politics focuses more on direct (eye-to-eye) contacts while wholesale politics focuses more on mass media such as radio, television and newspaper advertisements.

[Flashcard Machine.com]


According to the Oxford dictionary website, retail politics means:

(In the US) a style of political campaigning in which the candidate attends local events in order to target voters on a small-scale or individual basis.

I've heard this phrase used once or twice, but I don't know a lot of people who talk very much about politics. It is, I'm inclined to believe, an established term.

  • Glad you liked it. Please try to follow the format when you answer a question next time. :-)
    – user140086
    Feb 8, 2016 at 13:51
  • @Rathony This was my first answer on the site, so I'm not used to the formatting just yet. But I'll get there. Feb 8, 2016 at 14:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.