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Influential Factors for the U.S. Presidential Re-Election Campaign

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One of the main goals for any president is to be able to serve a second term in office. Some presidents succeed in this goal and some falter. There are various factors that contribute to a successful re-election campaign, however this essay will discuss three factors that are arguably the most important contributors in getting a president re-elected. These three elements are military success abroad, constructive relations with Congress and crisis management ability. This essay will also seek to define these factors and analyze them with comparisons across presidencies.

The first factor that is crucial to a re-election campaign is military success abroad. Military success or failure can often change the public’s perception of a president, as they may look weak if they fail and as a result harm their chances of being re-elected. look at what constitutes as military success through the lens of the Iraq war. Casualty sensitivity is a concept in which they discussed, defining it as one’s price sensitivity to the human cost of war. They found that the electorate had a lower casualty sensitivity if military intervention is worth the substantial cost of war. Through surveys, they were also able to find that participants had consistently similar ideas as to what success in Iraq is. The general consensus of a positive outcome for Iraq was the country having ‘a stable and democratic government’, that Iraqis ‘provide for their own security’ and for Iraqis to be able to ‘live peaceful, normal everyday lives’. Reports by and show that a post invasion Iraq has a long way to go before Iraqis can ‘live peaceful, normal everyday lives’. President Bush justified the war on Iraq with the rational that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, however this was proven to be false as Iraq had not conducted biological weapons production research since 1996. With the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and given the fact that the current state of Iraq is far from stable, meaning the justifications for invading Iraq were never met, it calls into question the legitimacy of the war. This came at an electoral cost to President Bush, despite winning the election, research by has shown that Bush suffered politically in states that had the most amount of deaths or wounded personnel per 100,000 people. States like Vermont suffered nearly 8 casualties or wounded per 100,000 and Bush’s percentage of the vote obtained dropped by 2.2%. Had the 2004 US election been closer like the 2000 US election, President Bush could have possibly lost the 2004 US election, with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan playing on the minds of the American electorate. Military success has also played a factor in other Presidencies, namely Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Investigates whether war has a detrimental effect for candidates of the party that occupied the White House when the war started. Lyndon B. Johnson, as a result of the electorate’s growing concern over the war in Vietnam, had announced he would not pursue a re-election campaign. When Nixon took over as president, his policy of Vietnamization sought to deescalate the war in Vietnam. Nixon was able to gain re-election to the White House in 1972, in part due to his efforts to decrease the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Across the span of three Presidencies, whether it be President Bush suffering politically in certain states, President Johnson announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election with one of the reasons being the Vietnam War, or President Nixon doing well in his re-election campaign, it is clear that military success is key in a President’s re-election campaign.

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The second factor that is key to a re-election campaign is a constructive relationship with Congress. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which combine with the executive branch and the judicial branch to be a part of the checks and balances system. The checks and balances system uses all three branches to counterbalance the power of the others, preventing tyranny by a minority. As a result, the checks and balances system makes it hard for legislation to be passed unless a party holds a majority or there is a constructive relationship between the legislative branch and the executive. Presidents need to have a constructive relationship with Congress so that they have the ability to pass legislation they promised. If they do not have a constructive relationship with Congress, they will not be able to fulfil their campaign promises, which will harm their chances of being re-elected as the electorate may feel as if they have been lied to. explore the early stages of the Obama presidency and make predictions as to how effective he might be in his second term. In the first years in office, he was able to win 93 and 86% of House votes and 75% of Senate votes. Compared to other presidents who had majority control, Obama did significantly better, with other presidents averaging 77.5% in the House and 73.9% in the senate. Moreover, this resulted in a flurry of significant legislation being passed, including economic stimulus, financial industry reform, health care reform, tax reform and the repeal of the ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ policy. With all these reforms it is clear that in the dawn of his presidency, Obama had a constructive relationship with Congress which allowed him to be able to carry out significant changes, that wouldn’t have been possible with an adversarial relationship with Congress. Obama was able to use the fact that he had conducted numerous reforms as a tool to convince the electorate to re-elect him, which wouldn’t have been a possibility without a constructive relationship with Congress. The American people saw Obama’s success and subsequently he was re-elected. This clearly shows how crucial a constructive relationship with Congress can have, as it can be used a tool for re-election and it allows for a president to be productive. Whilst Obama showed the power of having a constructive relationship with Congress, Trump showed the opposite. With him inheriting an increasingly partisan and polarized Congress, Trump was not the candidate for bridging the gap between the Democrats and Republicans. Reasons such as Republican incohesion, partisan polarization and the fact that there was little pressure on the Democrats to work with Trump, causing him to have an unproductive relationship with Congress. As a result, Trump failed to secure Congress’s support on his major policies. This amongst other reasons could have contributed to Trump not being re-elected, as during the 2nd half of his presidency, Democrats held the house making it impossible for Trump to be able to implement legislation. The examples of Obama and Trump show that having a constructive relationship with Congress can change the outlook the electorate has on a presidency, whether they view you as a productive president or vice versa. This then effects a candidate’s chances of being re-elected and hence why a constructive relationship with Congress is one of the most important factors to a successful re-election campaign.

The third and final factor in a successful re-election campaign is crisis management ability. During times of crisis, citizens of the US look towards their president for leadership. How presidents deal with times of crisis can ultimately determine their perception and can certainly affect their chances of re-election. explores President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and identifies a number of failures such as slashing bureaucracy, which got rid of departments that could have been utilized to fight the pandemic. Also noted Trump’s conflict with his staff members, with him ignoring advice. A report by revealed the true extent of Trump’s failure to get a grip of the pandemic, with the authors finding that 40% of the coronavirus deaths could have been preventable. In addition to this, the electorates opinion of Trump’s handling of Covid-19 has been hovering in the mid to late 50s for several months now. With nearly half of the deaths in the US from Covid-19 being preventable, and a majority of the US people disagreeing with the way Trump handled the Covid pandemic, it comes as no shock as to why Trump lost the election.

Overall, this essay has described three factors that are pivotal to a re-election campaign. The first of which was military success abroad. Military success can provide a good appreciation for whether a president is a good leader. Failure abroad can not only diminish the possibility of a second term, but also tarnish your reputation as the electorate will pin the deaths of military personnel on a president if they start to question the legitimacy or the necessity of a conflict. The second factor that was explored was a constructive relationship with Congress. A constructive relationship between the legislative branch and the executive allows for legislation to be passed with ease, allowing campaign promises to be fulfilled. This is handy come election time as the incumbent president can leverage this to his advantage, since heshe delivered the electorate what was promised to them and may feel inclined to vote for them a second time. The final component that was considered to be one of the three most important factors in a re-election campaign was crisis management ability. Just like in times of war, a president’s handling of a crisis can make or break their reputation. Poor handling of a crisis can lead to the electorate thinking of a president as weak and hence will not vote for them. On the opposite spectrum, the electorate would re-elect a president who handles a crisis well as it shows strong leadership skills, a quality desired in an ‘ideal president’. All three of these factors combine to become the most important factors in a president’s re-election campaign.

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Influential Factors for the U.S. Presidential Re-Election Campaign. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from
“Influential Factors for the U.S. Presidential Re-Election Campaign.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022,
Influential Factors for the U.S. Presidential Re-Election Campaign. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Feb. 2023].
Influential Factors for the U.S. Presidential Re-Election Campaign [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Oct 28 [cited 2023 Feb 4]. Available from:
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