Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in an Era of Party Polarization and Media Fragmentation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Presidential Road Show

Public Leadership in an Era of Party Polarization and Media Fragmentation, 1st Edition

By Diane J. Heith


192 pages

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In The Presidential Road Show: Public Leadership in an Era of Party Polarization and Media Fragmentation, Diane J. Heith evaluates presidential leadership by critically examining a fundamental tenet of the presidency: the national nature of the office. The fact that the entire nation votes for the office seemingly imbues the presidency with leadership opportunities that rest on appeals to the mass public. Yet, presidents earn the office not by appealing to the nation but rather by assembling a coalition of supporters, predominantly partisans. Moreover, once in office, recent presidents have had trouble controlling their message in the fragmented media environment. The combined constraints of the electoral coalition and media environment influence the nature of public leadership presidents can exercise. Using a data set containing not only speech content but also the classification of the audience, Diane J. Heith finds that rhetorical leadership is constituency driven and targets audiences differently. Comparing tone, content, and tactics of national and local speeches reveals that presidents are abandoning national strategies in favor of local leadership efforts that may be tailored to the variety of political contexts a president must confront.


“[This book does] a commendable job investigating important aspects of the public presidency and…educating readers on the realities of “going public” and the concomitant aspects of presidential engagement with the public. [The book] will also be of interest to scholars toiling in adjacent or relevant fields and to instructors who are searching for engaging and intrepid volumes to include on their upper-division and graduate American politics course syllabi”

—Presidential Studies Quarterly

“The Presidential Road Show offers a provocative framework that scholars will be better able to test as new presidents provide additional data points. For that reason—and many more—Heith’s book is a valuable contribution to the growing literature that seeks to better understand the communication of America’s most important political figure.”

–Political Communication

“Past research into ‘going public’ has probed its use as a presidential strategy, its influence on public opinion and its impact on Washingtonians. None of these inquiries involved more than a quick, superficial glance at what presidents actually had to say and to whom. Thanks to Diane Heith’s careful, systematic analysis of presidents’ rhetoric, we now know.”

—Samuel Kernell, University of California–San Diego and author of Going Public

“The Presidential Road Show is a powerfully argued book that takes seriously the context in which presidents operate. Heith argues that changes in the election process and media environment have made it more difficult for presidents to govern. This book helps us understand why presidents have had such a difficult time navigating the choppy waters of the modern political world, and how they might develop new strategies for governing a fragmented nation.”

—Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount University

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Redefining Presidential Leadership Chapter 2 The Depth and Breadth of National Leadership Chapter 3 A National President: Bill Clinton Chapter 4 A Constrained President: George W. Bush Chapter 5 An Obstructed President: Barack Obama Chapter 6 Changing Tactics, Improving Outcomes? Chapter 7 Alternate Models of Leadership Chapter 8 Presidential Leadership for the Twenty-First Century

About the Series

Media and Power

Media and Power is a series that publishes work uniting media studies with studies of power.

This innovative and original series features books that challenge, even transcend, conventional disciplinary boundaries, construing both media and power in the broadest possible terms. At the same time, books in the series are designed to fit into several different types of college courses in political science, public policy, communication, journalism, media, history, film, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies.

Intended for the scholarly, text, and trade markets, the series should attract authors and inspire and provoke readers.

Learn more…

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