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Strategic Assessments: Assessing Opportunities and Strategies in the Obama Presidency

George C. Edwards

Texas A&M University


APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper

In The Strategic President, I argued that presidential power is not the power to persuade. Presidents cannot reshape the contours of the political landscape to pave the way for change by establishing an agenda and persuading the public, Congress, and others to support their policies. Instead, successful presidents facilitate change by recognizing opportunities in their environments and fashioning strategies and tactics to exploit them. These conclusions lead us to predict that governing strategies dependent on persuasion will fail. The Obama administration provides an excellent test for these predictions, because it adopted two governing strategies highly dependent upon persuasion: going public and bipartisanship in Congress. In this paper, I analyze the prospects of these strategies for governing adopted by the Obama White House. I find that Barack Obama is only the latest in a long line of presidents who have not been able to transform the political landscape through their efforts at persuasion. When he succeeded in achieving major change, it was by mobilizing those predisposed to support him and driving legislation through Congress on a party-line vote. Moreover, it is entirely possible that the president’s failure to understand the nature of presidential power has undermined his ability to govern in the remainder of his term.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: president, leadership, agenda, persuasion, Congress, public opinion

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Date posted: July 19, 2010 ; Last revised: July 31, 2010

Suggested Citation

Edwards, George C., Strategic Assessments: Assessing Opportunities and Strategies in the Obama Presidency (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643323

Contact Information

George C. Edwards (Contact Author)
Texas A&M University ( email )
College Station, TX 77843
United States
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