Political Science Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaign
by
Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0227

Introduction

The term “permanent campaign” is relatively new to our political discourse. The creation of this term is often credited to Democratic pollster Pat Caddell who, in 1976, used the term in a transition memo to President-elect Jimmy Carter. Shortly thereafter, journalist Sidney Blumenthal wrote a book called The Permanent Campaign (see Blumenthal 1982 in Broader Studies of the Permanent Campaign) in which he contended that the declining role of political parties had led to the rise of campaign consultants and their burgeoning role in governance. While the term characterizes a phenomenon occurring across the government, this chapter examines the permanent campaign as it relates to the American presidency. The permanent campaign typically refers to the notion that the line between campaigning and governing has become increasingly blurred. As such, it is commonplace to see campaign-like tactics (polling, public relations techniques, sound bites) being used in governing. Since journalist Blumenthal’s book, it was not until the late 1990s when scholars began to examine this concept in a rigorous fashion. Given its relatively short lifespan, subsequent scholarship on the topic does not break down into traditional categories like textbooks, journals, and edited volumes. Instead, I have chosen to break it down into three categories: foundations, permanent campaign as framework, and evidence of the permanent campaign. 1) Foundations: The first category includes works that themselves helped lay the foundations for the permanent campaign or have subsequently provided greater insight into its emergence. These works include those that addressed changes in the presidential electoral process (including fundraising), the political party system, and changes within the presidency itself (e.g., the growth and specialization and the emergence of the public presidency). 2) Permanent Campaign as Framework: The second category of scholarship includes those works that explicitly use the permanent campaign as the vantage point from which to study the American presidency. 3) Evidence of the Permanent Campaign: The third category includes scholarship that demonstrates or measures the trends associated with the permanent campaign, including studies documenting the emergence of the presidential pollster or the strategic allocation of federal funding to swing states. While literature in this last category often explains broader developments in American politics, aspects of this research contribute to our understanding of the permanent campaign.

Foundations

Explaining the emergence of the permanent campaign is neither simple nor straightforward. Like most political phenomena, there is no single cause or easy explanation, but rather a complex series of events that ultimately paved the way for the permanent campaign. The scholarship below documented these critical developments in American politics. Understanding the origins of the permanent campaign makes it easier to spot and understand its prevalence in modern presidential politics.

The Historical Approach to Understanding the Permanent Campaign

Due to the multiple factors influencing the rise of the permanent campaign, it is important to understand its historical roots. Some key developments include the emergence of the public relations field (Bernays 1952), the decline of political parties (Milkis 1993), and the rise of candidate-centered campaigns (Ceaser 1979).

  • Bernays, E. L. Public Relations. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.

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    A pioneer in the field of public relations, Bernays documents the emergence of public relations activities within the federal government. Over time, the tools of Madison Avenue (e.g., advertising and public relations) have found a role in American politics, so it is important to understand the early stages of these efforts.

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  • Ceaser, James W. Presidential Selection: Theory and Development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

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    Required reading for understanding key changes in the presidential electoral process and the emergence of the candidate-centered campaign. This broad historical overview (which begins with the Founders’ perspective) led Ceaser to conclude that reformers and scholars did not consider the initial purpose of the presidential selection process. If they had done so, they would have sought to strengthen political parties.

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  • Ellis, Richard. Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008.

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    Ellis’s ambitious examination of the history of presidential travel is quite useful for those studying The Public Presidency and the Permanent Campaign. Presidential trips have become a key data point for measuring and demonstrating the permanent campaign. Understanding the evolution of presidential travel provides valuable insight into the institution as well as the modern presidency.

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  • Milkis, Sidney. The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System since the New Deal. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    In order to understand the rise of the permanent campaign, it is critical to explain the pivotal but changing relationship between the president and the political parties. Milkis provides a valuable overview of these important 20th-century developments.

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  • Sheingate, Adam. Building a Business of Politics: The Rise of Political Consulting and the Transformation of American Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

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    This early-21st-century book explains the evolution and now omnipresence of political consultants (and pollsters). Sheingate argues that political consultants have both helped to propel and benefited from the rise of the permanent campaign, and that this industry has transformed American politics.

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  • Tulis, Jeffrey K. The Rhetorical Presidency. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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    The 20th-century development of the presidency, particularly during the Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson administrations, opened the door to a new role—presidents seeking to shape and lead public opinion. Tulis’s findings represent an important turning point in the American presidency, and one could argue that it paved the way for the permanent campaign.

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Parties, Polling, and the Public Presidency

Contemporary studies of US political parties, the public presidency, and the institution of the presidency provide another key dimension to our understanding of the permanent campaign. For example, changes in the presidential electoral process, particularly reforms in the 1970s that expanded the use of primaries (Davis 1997), played a major role in the emergence of the candidate-centered campaign. Advancements in communications technology in the late 20th century encouraged the 24/7 media coverage of the presidency (Edwards 1983, Kernell 2007). At the same time, the expansion and specialization of the White House staff occurred in an effort to adapt to the permanent campaign ethos (Hess and Pfiffner 2002, Pfiffner 1996).

  • Davis, James W. U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997.

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    For those who are seeking a detailed understanding of the nominating process, this sourcebook is the answer. In addition, the historical overview allows the reader to grasp how and why the process changed over time.

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  • Edwards, George C., III. The Public Presidency: The Pursuit of Popular Support. New York: St Martin’s, 1983.

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    One of the early foundational texts that examines presidential leadership through the lens of the public presidency. Edwards examines public opinion, press relations, and leadership. This book paved the way for many students, and in its wake lies a wealth of scholarship on the public presidency.

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  • Edwards, George C., III. On Deaf Ears. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

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    This book examines presidential leadership of public opinion and concludes that the cost of their efforts far outweighs the benefits. Moving public opinion is a task that is difficult for even the best communicators.

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  • Edwards, George C., III. The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    Acknowledging the difficulty of moving public opinion, George C. Edwards addresses how a president can recognize favorable conditions and exploit them. Presidential leadership cannot be limited to persuasion, but must consist of other important skills including compromise and accommodation.

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  • Hess, Stephen, and James P. Pfiffner. Organizing the Presidency. 3d ed. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2002.

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    This book documents the 20th-century growth of the presidency and, in the process, demonstrates the mini-bureaucracy within the institution. It is this growth and increasing specialization that has allowed the White House to adapt to the permanent campaign. Offices like Communications, Public Liaison, and Political Affairs devote substantial effort to managing the president’s message and image, as well as bolstering the president’s political standing.

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  • Kernell, Samuel. Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership. 4th ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2007.

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    There is a reason why this book is in its fourth edition, and it is a testament to its groundbreaking findings that address a president’s ability to persuade the public. A must-read for understanding the permanent campaign.

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  • Lowi, Theodore J. The Personal President: Power Invested, Promise Unfulfilled. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.

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    Lowi coined the term the “plebiscitary president” to describe an increasingly powerful chief executive who cannot meet the impossibly high expectations of the public (with whom he is in direct and frequent contact). He suggests strengthening Congress as a means of tempering presidential expectations and obtaining a more realistic perspective. Understanding how the presidency has evolved is critical to comprehending the permanent campaign and the presidency.

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  • Mayhew, David R. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974.

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    In the early 1970s David Mayhew explained that the way to understand Congress was to understand every member’s drive to get reelected. Mayhew argued that the quest for reelection was the primary influence on lawmakers’ behavior, suggesting a basis for the permanent campaign in Congress.

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  • Pfiffner, James. The Strategic Presidency: Hitting the Ground Running. 2d ed. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

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    By drawing attention to the unique features of the American political system, Pfiffner explains the difficulty new presidents encounter in gaining control of the government and achieving their goals. He urges presidents to take the transition seriously, plan their agenda, and hit the ground running so that they can maximize opportunities presented in the early days of the new administration. This strategic angle is facilitated by the tools and actions of the permanent campaign ethos.

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Permanent Campaign as Framework

Roughly two decades after the publication of Blumenthal 1982 (see Broader Studies of the Permanent Campaign), political scientists sought to provide rigorous Evidence of the Permanent Campaign and its impact on the American presidency. Set out below is a listing of books and articles that expand our understanding of the presidency and the permanent campaign.

Broader Studies of the Permanent Campaign

Many scholars have examined the permanent campaign at large. The only edited volume to date on this subject (Mann and Ornstein 2000) examines the permanent campaign as it relates to the presidency, Congress, campaign fundraising, and interest groups, and includes a chapter that explains factors influencing its emergence (Heclo 2000). Other works examine the permanent campaign as it relates to the specific presidencies of Bill Clinton (Jones 1996) and George W. Bush (Edwards 2007), and more recently, of the permanent campaign in Canada (Marland, et al. 2017).

  • Blumenthal, Sidney. The Permanent Campaign: Inside the World of Elite Political Operatives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982.

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    This is the first publication that popularized the term and drew attention to the phenomenon. Journalist Sidney Blumenthal contended that the decline of political parties had created a vacuum that was filled by professional campaign consultants, pollsters, and others skilled in the arts of political campaigns. These professional consultants engage in “packaging and selling” politicians, and do so on a permanent basis. According to Blumenthal, there is no separation between governing and campaigning.

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  • Edwards, George C., III. Governing by Campaigning: The Politics of the Bush Presidency. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 2007.

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    Following on his rich research on the public presidency, Edwards focuses on the George W. Bush administration to illustrate a modern president’s increasing tendency to appeal to the public. Rather than meeting and working with members of Congress in the legislative trenches to achieve policy change, President Bush preferred to go straight to the citizenry.

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  • Heclo, Hugh. “Campaigning and Governing: A Conspectus.” In The Permanent Campaign and Its Future. Edited by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, 1–37. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2000.

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    A chapter within the Mann and Ornstein edited volume, this is an ideal short piece for understanding the basics of the permanent campaign concept. It includes a thoughtful definition of the term and a discussion of its prominent features, as well as why campaigning and governing are not simultaneously compatible.

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  • Jones, Charles O. “Campaigning to Govern: The Clinton Style.” In The Clinton Presidency: First Appraisals. Edited by Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman, 15–50. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1996.

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    In analyzing the performance of the early Clinton years, Jones points out that the Clinton strategy did not move from a campaigning to a governing phase. Instead of working across party lines and investing time bargaining with key members of Congress, President Clinton opted to “go public” and appeal directly to the citizenry. This approach, according to Jones, did not succeed and limited his policy success at a critical point in his presidency.

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  • Jones, Charles O. Passages to the Presidency: From Campaigning to Governing. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1998.

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    Jones focuses on four presidential transitions (Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton) and draws on a series of interviews with campaign, White House, and transition staff members to learn about this important phase of the presidency. The Clinton transition marked a departure point in which the team was far more attuned to a campaign style of governing. His findings suggest that future presidents will prepare to govern more publicly because the permanent campaign requires such an approach.

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  • King, Anthony. Running Scared: Why America’s Politicians Campaign Too Much and Govern Too Little. New York: Free Press, 1997.

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    The British political scientist Anthony King examines the American system from a comparative perspective, noting that American politicians are forced to focus on campaigning at the expense of governing. The features of the American system that contribute to this state of affairs include weak political parties, the electoral process itself, expensive campaigns, and relatively short terms in office.

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  • Mann, Thomas, and Norman Ornstein, eds. The Permanent Campaign and Its Future. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2000.

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    As of the early 21st century, this is the only edited volume that tackles the permanent campaign in a holistic manner. The volume includes chapters on the press and the permanent campaign, polling, campaign finance, interest groups, Congress, and the presidency. While this literature review focuses solely on the presidency and the permanent campaign, this book demonstrates its presence in many other aspects of the American political system.

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  • Marland, Alex, Thierry Giasson, and Anna Esselment, eds. Permanent Campaigning in Canada. Toronto: UBC, 2017.

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    This edited volume focuses on the emergence of the permanent campaign in Canada. The essays are broken down into three categories: theoretical parameters, political parties, and governance, and provide a broad overview of the subject. Students of American government will note that there are many similarities despite the geographical variation.

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  • Needham, Catherine. “Brand Leaders: Clinton, Blair and the Limitations of the Permanent Campaign.” Political Studies 53.2 (2005): 343–361.

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    Noting that the constant campaigning used by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton to boost public approval was not successful (nor could it have been), Needham contends that the permanent campaign approach fails to explain the tenure of these two politicians and their reputed success. Instead, she offers up the concept of “branding” as a means of explaining their relationship with the voters.

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Specific Examples of the Permanent Campaign in Action

An alternative scholarly approach has been to examine the permanent campaign phenomenon as it relates to specific instances and actions. For example, one work explains that presidents begin campaigning for reelection shortly after inauguration (Tenpas 1997). While the efforts may not be strictly related to the forthcoming campaign, the White House is engaged in reaching out to groups that will help secure reelection. One highly visible and public sign of this effort is presidential travel (Doherty 2012). Time is the president’s most valuable resource and selecting which cities and states to visit is not a haphazard practice, but rather one that is carefully conceived (Charnock, et al. 2009). Scholars also began focusing on presidential public appearances in an effort to illustrate the campaign-like atmosphere of the presidency (Cook 2002). The consequences of the permanent campaign have not gone unnoticed, but have been documented in terms of, for example, increased White House staff turnover (Dickinson and Tenpas 2002).

  • Charnock, E. J., James McCann, and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas. “Presidential Travel from Eisenhower to George W. Bush: An ‘Electoral College’ Strategy.” Political Science Quarterly 124.2 (2009): 323–339.

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    The authors examine patterns of first-term presidential travel, demonstrating that since President Eisenhower chief executives have become far more strategic about where they spend their time when they are outside Washington, DC. The data clearly demonstrate that first-term presidents are focused on reelection from Day One, choosing to spend their time in those states where they narrowly won or lost the election. This “swing state” strategy is now commonplace and reflective of the permanent campaign ethos.

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  • Cook, Corey. “The Permanence of the ‘Permanent Campaign’: George W. Bush’s Public Presidency.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 32.4 (2002): 753–764.

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    After President Clinton departed, some speculated that no successor could possibly engage in permanent campaign activity the way he did. This theory suggested that the permanent campaign may be largely dependent on the occupant of the Oval Office. In the first year of the George W. Bush administration, Cook examined his travel and speechmaking, effectively demonstrating that the permanent campaign may well be a permanent fixture of the American presidency.

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  • Dickinson, Matthew J., and Kathryn Dunn Tenpas. “Explaining Increasing Turnover Rates among Presidential Advisors, 1929–1997.” Journal of Politics 64.2 (2002): 434–448.

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    The authors demonstrate that following the demise of the party-controlled presidential electoral process in the 1970s, it became much more difficult for presidents to meld governing and campaigning expertise within the White House organization. As presidents gear up for reelection, campaigning becomes the focus and the staff shifts accordingly, resulting in higher rates of staff turnover.

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  • Doherty, Brendan J. “Hail to the Fundraiser-in-Chief: The Evolution of Presidential Fundraising Travel, 1977–2004.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 40.1 (2010): 159–170.

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    Doherty provides a longitudinal analysis to demonstrate that party building and fundraising are ongoing projects throughout the president’s term. In the process, however, the president appeals to two different constituencies: electoral and fundraising.

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  • Doherty, Brendan J. The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign. University Press of Kansas, 2012.

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    Recognizing that the line between campaigning and governing has become increasingly blurred, Doherty focuses on two sources of data: the frequency of presidential fundraising and presidential travel. His thorough analysis demonstrates that modern presidents are constantly in campaign mode.

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  • Doherty, Brendan J. “Presidential Reelection Fundraising from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama.” Political Science Quarterly 129.4 (2014): 585–612.

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    Doherty continued his research on presidential fundraising to show that President Obama set records with his reelection campaign fundraising. His findings revealed that changes in campaign finance laws coupled with the increasing costs of campaigns pressured the president to spend more time fundraising.

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  • Medvic, Stephen K., and David A. Dulio. “The Permanent Campaign in the White House: Evidence from the Clinton Administration.” White House Studies 4.3 (2004): 301–317.

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    Drawing on interviews with former White House staff members and relevant literature, the authors examine the permanent campaign concept as it relates to the Clinton administration. This article provides insight into executive-legislative relations as well as the role of political parties during the Clinton administration.

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  • Melber, Ari. “Year One of Organizing for America: The Permanent Field Campaign in a Digital Age.” TechPresident, 2010.

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    By analyzing “Organizing for America,” Melber provides a modern example of the permanent campaign. After the 2008 election, the Democratic National Committee created a nonprofit organization dedicated to generating support for administration priorities (“Organizing for America”). This report details the first-year performance of this innovative organization.

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  • Murray, Shoon K., and Peter Howard. “Variations in White House Polling Operations.” Public Opinion Quarterly 66.4 (2002): 527–558.

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    By examining party polling expenditures over time, the authors demonstrate that there is variation among presidents in terms of the amount of money spent on polling. So while polling has become commonplace within the White House, each president chooses to use polling in a unique manner. Extended to the permanent campaign concept, the authors indicate that it is not a static phenomenon.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn. Presidents as Candidates: Inside the White House for the Presidential Campaign. Garland, 1997.

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    How do presidents simultaneously run the government and run for reelection? This book examines reelection campaigns from Eisenhower through Clinton to explain the dramatic changes over time and the increasingly politicized nature of White House operations. Not only has the starting date for reelection planning moved forward, but the once paramount role of political parties has nearly disappeared. This book provides ample evidence of how the modern presidency has adapted to the permanent campaign.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn. “The American Presidency: Surviving and Thriving amidst the Permanent Campaign.” In The Permanent Campaign and Its Future. Edited by Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, 108–134. Brookings Institution, 2000.

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    A chapter within the Mann and Ornstein edited volume, this research reveals how the modern presidency has adapted to the permanent campaign ethos. Tenpas demonstrates that the changing composition of the White House organization, the emerging role and influence of pollsters and campaign consultants, and the use of campaign-like tactics to govern have all played a role in the modern president’s adaptation to the permanent campaign.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn, and Matthew J. Dickinson. “Governing, Campaigning and Organizing the Presidency: An Electoral Connection?” Political Science Quarterly 112.1 (1997): 51–66.

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    This article explains the transition from governing back to campaigning: the point at which sitting presidents gear up for reelection. Instead of political parties managing an incumbent president’s campaign as they did in the pre-reform era (the late 1960s when political parties changed the nominating process), the modern White House has seized control, consequently requiring presidents to restructure their presidential staff. The findings reveal the strain on the presidency as it essentially performs two different missions.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn, and J. A. McCann. “Testing the Permanence of the Permanent Campaign: An Analysis of Presidential Polling Expenditures, 1977–2002.” Public Opinion Quarterly 71.3 (2007): 349–366.

    DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfm020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on the concept that the White House is in permanent campaign mode, the authors examine presidential polling expenditures from President Carter through the early George W. Bush years. Their findings demonstrate that presidents spend more intensely on polling during the reelection campaign, and that polling expenditures increase over the course of each presidential term. These patterns suggest that there are common forces affecting all presidents: the quest for reelection and a natural decline in support over time.

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Evidence of the Permanent Campaign

This third category of research includes those works that illustrate features of the permanent campaign, but do not rely on the concept to organize their findings. Their lines of inquiry are rooted in other subfields within American politics, but their findings provide important evidence of the permanent campaign.

Public Opinion and the Permanent Campaign

Perhaps the most fruitful line of permanent campaign research has been institutional or historically based research that documents the emergence of presidential polling (Jacobs and Shapiro 1995, Eisinger 2003 and Heith 2004). Presidential concern (or some may even say, preoccupation) over public standing has been well documented, though all White House occupants (staff and president) continue to grapple with efforts to improve public approval ratings (Brace and Hinckley 1992).

  • Brace, P., and B. Hinckley. Follow the Leader: Opinion Polls and the Modern Presidents. New York: Basic Books, 1992.

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    The authors examine the influence of opinion polls on presidents from Harry Truman through George H. W. Bush. This book is an important early account of how presidents seek to influence opinion polls, particularly as their popularity wanes. This intense focus on public approval is part and parcel of the permanent campaign mentality.

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  • Eisinger, R. M. The Evolution of Presidential Polling. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Privately conducted polls on behalf of the president emerged in the FDR administration, but in a highly secretive manner. What was once concealed has now become commonplace, particularly since President Nixon. Pollsters help presidents gauge support and provide options for selling their programs to the public; maximizing public approval and “selling” the president’s policy agenda are key elements of the permanent campaign. Eisinger’s historical overview is a valuable source for understanding the modern permanent campaign.

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  • Heith, Diane J. Polling to Govern: Public Opinion and Presidential Leadership. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford Law and Politics, 2004.

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    Heith examines presidential pollsters from Presidents Nixon through Clinton. She calls into question the degree to which polling has altered presidential leadership, suggesting instead that it coexists with long-standing governing strategies. Her findings offer a different take on the permanent campaign.

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  • Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Melanie Burns. “The Second Face of the Public Presidency: Presidential Polling and the Shift from Policy to Personality Polling.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34.3 (2004): 536–556.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2004.00211.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important article that demonstrates how the frequency of internal White House polling has increased from Kennedy to Reagan, and that these polls emphasized personal image over policy-related questions. This article is an important contribution to our understanding of the public presidency.

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  • Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Robert Y. Shapiro. “Issues, Candidate Image, and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy’s 1960 Presidential Campaign.” American Political Science Review 88.3 (1994): 527–540.

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    Though not related to governing, this article demonstrates how polling results were used to develop policies that would appeal to the electorate. Through the use of archival information and interviews, the authors demonstrate that Kennedy deliberately chose popular issues in an effort to shape public perceptions of his candidacy. This research sets aside the more innocuous perception of polls as tools to simply monitor public support.

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  • Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Robert Y. Shapiro. “The Rise of Presidential Polling: The Nixon White House in Historical Perspective.” Public Opinion Quarterly 59.2 (1995): 163–195.

    DOI: 10.1086/269468Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This frequently cited article finds that President Nixon’s use of pollsters represented a turning point as polling became an institutionalized component within the White House. Its findings are important to students of the permanent campaign as they formally mark the White House incorporation of the polling apparatus.

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  • Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Robert Y. Shapiro. “Presidential Manipulation of Polls and Public Opinion: The Nixon Administration and the Pollsters.” Political Science Quarterly 110.4 (Winter 1995–1996): 519–538.

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    There are different views of presidential polling: the tool can improve a president’s responsiveness to the electorate or presidents can use polling findings to manipulate the public. As the title suggests, the Nixon administration employed polls for the latter purpose.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn. “Words vs. Deeds: President George W. Bush and Polling.” The Brookings Review 21.3 (2003): 32–35.

    DOI: 10.2307/20081116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    President George W. Bush publicly expressed his disdain for polls, but the Republican National Committee spent handily on pollsters. The Federal Election Commission requires national party organizations to publish expenditures, thereby enabling researchers to determine exactly how much money was spent on polling. So while the president could publicly show disdain for polls, there is evidence that strategists within the party and White House were commissioning them.

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The Public Presidency and the Permanent Campaign

While some might attribute the emergence of television as a major event affecting the presidency, the sixty-plus years since then have witnessed even more technological change that has fundamentally altered the functioning of the modern White House and president (Cohen 2008). In an effort to respond to this sea change, the internal workings of the White House have expanded and become more specialized (Kumar 2007 and Maltese 1994).

  • Cohen, Jeffrey E. The Presidency in the Era of 24‐Hour News. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

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    The author highlights important changes in the media and contends that as news sources have multiplied, it has made it more difficult for presidents to influence the public through the news media. Due to these changes, Cohen contends that presidents have focused their appeals on key constituencies and interest groups rather than engaging the public more broadly through the media.

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  • Cohen, Jeffrey E. Going Local: Presidential Leadership in the Post-Broadcast Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Recognizing both the president’s ongoing need to move public opinion and difficulties associated with that task, Cohen has drawn attention to a new strategy—targeted appeals. Through the use of content analysis, the author finds that presidents can affect local news coverage. Such local appeals have become far more valuable in an era of polarized politics and multiple media sources.

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  • Kumar, Martha J. Managing the President’s Message: The White House Communications Operation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

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    Understanding the transformation and expansion of the president’s communication operation is critical to students of the public presidency. Focusing on the Clinton and George W. Bush press operations, Kumar demonstrates the immense time and effort dedicated to “managing” the president’s message.

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  • Maltese, John. Spin Control: The White House Office of Communications and the Management of Presidential News. 2d ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

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    Maltese demonstrates how presidents from Nixon to George H. W. Bush sought to manipulate the news to their advantage by employing public relations techniques and strategies. The White House Office of Communication is skilled in the art of when to release information and how to “spin” it in a way that maximizes its benefit for the president.

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  • Patterson, Bradley. The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2000.

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    This important volume explains the inner workings and components of the modern White House. It enables students to read about the functions of particular offices. In addition, it reveals the extent to which public relations, constituency outreach, and political strategy have emerged as central offices within the White House.

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  • Ragsdale, Lyn K. Vital Statistics on the Presidency—Washington to Clinton. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1998.

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    Though the book is primarily a resource text, chapter 4 focuses on the public presidency and provides a great deal of information about the frequency of public appearances. This allows students to notice intra-term changes and preelection changes, as well as other patterns related to the public presidency.

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  • Tenpas, Kathryn Dunn. “Institutionalized Politics: The White House Office of Political Affairs.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 26.2 (Spring 1996): 511–522.

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    This article examines the emergence and functions of the White House Office of Political Affairs, and boldly demonstrates its key role in constituency outreach, political party affairs, and reelection. In an effort to survive amidst the permanent campaign, presidents have created offices to help them cope.

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Federal Resource Allocation and the Permanent Campaign

Apart from institutional developments, scholars have carefully examined the politics of federal funding, and shifted their focus from Congress to the presidency (Nzelibe 2006, Wood 2009). In the process, several scholars have documented a sitting president’s inclination to dole out public funding to electorally advantageous locales (Hudak 2014, Kriner and Reeves 2015b). The politicization of grant making and the allocation of federal funding demonstrates this strategic approach, one that typically occurs in advance of or during a reelection campaign.

  • Berry, Christopher R., Barry C. Burden, and William Howell. “The President and the Distribution of Federal Spending.” American Political Science Review 104.4 (2010): 783–799.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055410000377Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlighting the role of the president in the allocation of federal dollars, the authors review twenty-four years of domestic spending. Their findings indicate that members of the president’s party tend to receive more funding (roughly 4 to 5 percent more) for their constituencies. By focusing on the critical role of the president in the appropriations process, these authors break new ground while demonstrating the strategic presidency in action.

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  • Hudak, John. Presidential Pork: White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2014.

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    The author demonstrates that presidents take advantage of pork barrel spending as much as their legislative counterparts. His findings demonstrate that presidents steer federal funds to swing states to improve their prospects of reelection. This volume provides important evidence of the strategic presidency in campaign mode.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. “The Influence of Federal Spending on Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 106.2 (2012): 348–366.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055412000159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examining county- and individual-level data, the authors present evidence showing that voters reward incumbent presidents for increased federal spending. Their data covers the twenty-year period from 1988 through 2008, and breaks new ground for its focus on the president rather than Congress.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. The Particularistic President. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015a.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139839341Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Calling into question whether presidents are national stewards, this book demonstrates that presidents allocate federal resources in a way that maximizes their electoral interests, and thus in a more particularistic manner than was previously expected.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. “Presidential Particularism and Divide-the-Dollar Politics.” American Political Science Review 109.1 (2015b): 155–171.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055414000598Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using county-level data from 1984 to 2008, the authors provide evidence that presidents direct federal dollars to key constituents in order to advance their political goals. They find that there is a preference for swing states (those states narrowly won or lost in the prior presidential election) particularly during presidential election years. This research provides even more systematic Evidence of the Permanent Campaign in action.

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  • Larcinese, V., Leonzio Rizzo, and Cecilia Testa. “Allocating the U.S. Federal Budget to the States: The Impact of the President.” Journal of Politics 68.2 (2006): 447–456.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00419.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the period from 1982 through 2000 to show that federal dollars given to the states are influenced by the prior presidential election and the party affiliation of the governor. States that supported the president in the election and those which are governed by a chief executive who shares the president’s party affiliation tend to fare better when federal dollars are allocated. The authors’ conclusions demonstrate the strategic and tactical nature of the modern American presidency.

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  • Nzelibe, Jide. “The Fable of the Nationalist President and the Parochial Congress.” UCLA Law Review 53.5 (2006): 1217–1273.

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    Traditionally, students of American government accepted the fact that Congress was the political institution most prone to parochial concerns. Dismissing this popular misunderstanding, this law review article demonstrates that the Electoral College encourages presidents to reach out to narrow constituencies and particular interests. In so doing, the author illustrates that presidents can be just as politically motivated as their counterparts on Capitol Hill.

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  • Wood, B. Dan. The Myth of Presidential Representation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511818660Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Similar to Nzelibe, Wood dismisses the conventional wisdom that the president has the national interest at heart while Congress is focused on parochial, narrow interests. Through the use of spatial modeling and empirical analysis, Wood shows that the president’s electoral interests make him more responsive to the ideological extremes, or “partisan allies.”

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