Presidents as Candidates: Inside the White House for the Presidential Campaign

By Kathryn Dunn Tenpas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Inside the White House for the President's Campaign

Though we know a great deal about the electoral process and the details of various presidential campaigns, surprisingly little analysis has been conducted about how presidents actually prepare for the forthcoming campaign. Cynical observers, like journalist Sidney Blumenthal and former Johnson aide, Jack Valenti, frequently accuse the president of spending the entire first term preparing and campaigning for reelection. 1 This judgment, however, trivializes the activities of the president by failing to recognize the fact that presidents often care about governing despite electoral considerations.

In any case, whatever a president's inclinations, it is frequently difficult to plan ahead given the overwhelming day-to-day demands at the White House. External, unpredictable events also hinder White House efforts to focus on the reelection campaign. As one former staff member explained, “At the White House we had often talked about long-range planning, but we rarely did it-we were almost entirely crisis-oriented.” 2 Notwithstanding the fact that presidents sometimes act without regard to their electoral interest, and that planning efforts often go awry, it remains true that one staple of the modern presidency is an attempt to improve the chances for victory by carefully planning the reelection campaign.

This chapter explains how presidents prepare for the reelection campaign by answering three major questions: who participates in campaign planning, when do residents begin preparation for the

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