Contesting and Winning Elections
PRESIDENTIAL INFLUENCE CAN TRANSLATE INTO REPUBLICAN TOP-DOWN advancement--the contesting and winning of elections--in two interrelated ways. The first is that Republican advancement begins at the top of the federal electoral hierarchy and then trickles down to the lower tiers of office-holding. In this sense, top-down advancement represents an organizational method for building the party. Former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker (R) defined this aspect of top-down advancement: "First one wins for president, then for the senate, then for governor, and lastly adds more congressmen and comes close to winning the legislature" ( Bass and De Vries 1976, 294).
The second aspect is that top-down party advancement ensues at the subnational level in areas where upper-level Republican candidates have done relatively well. Top-down advancement identifies jurisdictions with the highest potential for GOP development. Even though this aspect of top- down advancement conjures images of some grand scheme or a "top-down strategy," in reality the basic mechanism through which top-down Republican advancement transpires is historically ad hoc rather than strategic. Especially in the 1960s and 1970s, top-down party advancement depended largely on the suppositions of potential Republican candidates that the conditions in a particular jurisdiction were favorable for election victory. The logic of top-down party advancement is that the success of Republican presidential politics provides an important cue as to how well a potential local Republican candidate might do in a district. Top-down influence can be thought of in a rational way: The better a Republican president does or is expected to do in a county, the greater the chance that a local GOP candidate will run and win.