Objective. Although the impact of the president's rhetoric on public opinion remains unfound, it appears to increase the president's success in Congress. This article argues that instead of moving public opinion, presidential speeches act as informational cues for legislators and holds that the impact of the president's public speeches in Congress is conditional on the salience and complexity of the policy voted on by Congress.
Method. I use probit methodology to examine the effect of presidential rhetoric on the likelihood of presidential success on House roll-call votes from 1989–2000. An interactive model assesses the conditioning impact a policy's salience and complexity have on the relationship between presidential rhetoric and legislative success.
Results. Presidential rhetoric increases the president's legislative success on votes pertaining to policies that are both salient and complex.
Conclusion. Presidential rhetoric matters to the president's relationship with Congress, despite the limited impact it appears to have on public opinion.