“I will do what I have to do to be reelected.” 1 While nobody but President Bush can explain exactly what he meant, this examination of presidential reelection campaigns from 1956-1996 brings us closer to understanding the dual role that presidents play when seeking reelection. Further, this overview of the combined efforts of the White House, campaign and party organization boldly illustrates the sheer magnitude of a reelection campaign. This knowledge adds a new dimension to studies on the presidency as it sheds light on how an external event, one that has become a staple of first-term presidencies, influences presidential behavior and White House operations.
This chapter examines the principal findings of this book and discusses their implications for governance. Findings can be organized into those that fit pre-established patterns of White House development and thereby confirm some of what we may already think about presidential campaigns, and those that raise important questions about the ability of presidents to truly fulfill their role as president while acting as a candidate campaigning for reelection. In addition, the role of president as candidate elicits a discussion of reform, namely, the single six-year term. If the reelection campaign distracts the president from the business of governing, what can be done?