I have been reading a new volume of TR’s letters and speeches (Library of America, Louis Auchincloss, ed.,) and I found one letter in which he is grateful to be included in some veterans’ celebration since he only fought in a little war for four months…
As we push back beyond the 20th century, the nature of campaigning changes more and more, making the question harder to answer. Old Hickory was certainly most known as an Indian fighter and the hero of New Orleans. William Henry Harrison was Tippicanoe. But in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s, candidates had little to do in their own campaigns, the work being done by gnomes and surrogates.
Gen. Winfield Scott, Whig candidate in 1852, was a proud, florid, indsicreet man (nickname: Fuss and Feathers) who toured military bases during his campaign, which was thought to be unseemly, and surely was meant to burnish his (well-merited) military reputation. It didn’t help–he was crushed.
So it would seem that John Kerry is a leader in military campaign bluster, as well as nuance.