POLI 360 – Lecture18
Parties in the Executive Branch
o One of the president’s many duties is to be the party leader.
o Modern presidents also take responsibility for party fundraising.
o Parties are very polarized now, but the citizens they represent are less polarized.
The citizens, however, are more sorted now; liberals are more likely to identify as
Democrats and conservatives are more likely to identify as Republicans.
o Even unpopular presidents are still popular with their bases, and therefore can still
raise lots of money for their respective parties.
o Another one of the president’s duties is to choose the chair of his/her party’s
1. Fun fact: Don Fowler, a faculty member of the USC Political Science
Department, was the Democratic National Committee’s chair from 1995-
2. Debbie Schultz, the current chair of the Democratic National Committee,
is very controversial because she appears to support Hillary Clinton over
Bernie Sanders. Additionally, she has pledged to not campaign against her
Republican friends in Florida.
o Nowadays, the president also creats their respective party’s foreign and domestic
policies. For example, the 111 Congress supported President Obama’s Medicare
overhaul in order to support his presidency, despite the fact that many Democrats
privately did not support the package. o On Election Day, presidents influence voting for their respective parties on the
rest of the ballot because of the position’s conspicuousness. Popular presidential
candidates can increase votes for his/her party, while unpopular presidents can
lessen votes for his/her party.
3. Coattail Effect: When candidates for lower positions are voted into office
on the coattails of the president (on the president’s popularity). This effect
has lessened in recent years, but it still exists.
4. Some candidates that the president sweeps into office are in competitive
districts or districts that are usually favored by the opposing party.
5. Additionally, some of these candidates are not strong campaigners.
o Presidential popularity also shapes congressional votes during midterm elections.
o The president usually loses congressional seats in the midterm election, but the
extent of that loss depends on the president’s popularity at the time.
o The president’s party usually loses seats in the midterm elections because of the
theory of surge and decline: the idea that losing seats in the midterm election
reflects different agents of change in the midterm and presidential election years.
6. For example, a popular president is not on the ballot during midterm
o As a result, the marginal candidates in marginal districts lose their seats in the
midterm election without the president’s popularity to support them.
o It is currently unclear if Obama’s coalition of voters is transferable to other