Campaigning to Govern: Presidents Seeking Reelection

In the presidential election of 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt refrained from campaigning as it was considered “undignified to campaign from the White House”(Troy 1991, 212 emphasis added). This fear of losing one’s “dignity” had gone by the wayside when President Woodrow Wilson actively campaigned for his 1916 reelection. Since then, there’s been no turning back. Dramatic advancements in telecommunications have made presidents ubiquitous–campaigning on daytime talk shows, MTV, and internet sites have become de rigeur. These days, the notion of presidents campaigning for reelection is commonplace. In fact, when presidents claim that they are avoiding the campaign trail to take care of government business, journalists and observers scoff in disbelief.

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of PS: Political Science and Politics. Reprinted by permission of the American Political Science Association.