This week on Campaign Trails, Janna Deitz and Keith Boeckelman talk about the differences between campaigning for president and governing as president.
Boeckelman is Chair of the Western Illinois University Political Science Department. Deitz teaches in the department, and she spent much of the past year in Washington DC participating in the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship Program. As part of the program, Deitz served in office of US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), giving her a first-hand look at how Congress works.
Deitz and Boeckelman agree a fundamentally different set of skills is needed for the campaigning process as opposed to the governing process.
“Debates are almost comically irrelevant to what a president actually has to do,” said Boeckelman. “We put so much weight on the debates, but if anything it’s more relevant to being in Congress.” He pointed out the president never debates anyone once he’s in office.
Boeckelman said interpersonal and negotiating skills are more important for governing. He also said those who change their minds on the campaign trail are considered flip-floppers, but the ability to evolve and compromise while in office can be a good thing.
Deitz said many promises made on the campaign trail can only be achieved if Congress cooperates. If Congress is determined to not act, those policies won’t be implemented. In addition, Deitz said those in office often have an eye on the next election so there are clear connections between policy wins and how those can be used in an upcoming election.
Deitz also said the challenger in presidential elections has to be careful about what he/she criticizes or face the possibility of being accused of politicizing an issue.
“An example that comes to mind is the recent death of the US ambassador (to Libya). The Romney campaign was criticized for how quickly they responded to that issue,” Deitz said.
Campaign Trails will air every Wednesday during Afternoon Edition in the weeks leading up to the November 6 election.