Policy issues, particularly competence and trust, are crucial elements in any election.  James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist in 1992, famously emphasized the importance of the economy in their campaign with the phrase 'It's the economy stupid'. Clinton’s victory was partly attributed to his critique of the incumbent president’s economic performance. In most election campaigns, the economy tends to be a key concern for voters, influencing their decisions. Competence in handling crises, both domestic and international, is another significant factor. For instance, George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks boosted his approval ratings and aided his re-election bid in 2004. Conversely, his handling of Hurricane Katrina negatively impacted his ratings. Additionally, the timing of unexpected events, known as the ‘October surprise,’ can sway presidential elections. In 2016, events such as the 'Hollywood Access' tape featuring Trump and accusations against Hillary Clinton regarding private email usage had notable effects on the campaigns. 

One notable difference in US politics compared to the UK is the emphasis on personality over party affiliation. Campaign ads and promotional material often highlight a candidate's personal qualities, experience, and policies rather than their political party. The party affiliation is viewed more as a secondary factor rather than the primary focus of the campaign. For instance, slogans like 'Hope and Change' for Obama in 2008 and 'Make America Great Again' for Trump in 2016 and 2020 were more associated with the individual candidates rather than their respective political parties. This focus on individual leadership is influenced by the primary system where candidates are responsible for running and financing their campaigns, relying on their own efforts and abilities. The presidential office itself also contributes to this emphasis on the individual, despite the importance of party affiliation both in the electoral process and in governance, particularly in collaboration with Congress. The impact of social media further reinforces this trend towards personality-driven politics. 

Individuals, rather than parties, tend to attract more followers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Trump, for example, had amassed 42 million Twitter followers by early 2020, compared to the Republican Party's account with just under 2.4 million followers. The qualities expected from a leader are multifaceted and sometimes conflicting – requiring candidates to demonstrate principles, pragmatism, compassion, decisiveness, and other seemingly contradictory traits. Candidates who emphasize family values or liberal ideals risk facing public scrutiny if scandals like extramarital affairs or allegations of misconduct surfaced. The significance of personal qualities and errors remains a focal point in election campaigns.