Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and the Emergence of the President as Party Leader


  • AUTHOR's NOTE: In addition to two very helpful anonymous reviewers, I would like to thank Jeremy Bailey, Donald Brand, Brian Cook, Morton Keller, Cheri Klinghard, Mark Landy, Sidney Milkis, Timothy Nokken, Howard Reiter, B. Jeffrey Reno, Jack Reynolds, and Steven Teles for their helpful comments on this article and its earlier incarnations.

Daniel P. Klinghard is assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.


The modern concept of the president as party leader emerged during the late nineteenth century. Through independent leadership of the party-in-the-electorate, presidents enhanced their capacities to be renominated, and thus their capacity to be reelected. This popular leadership also enhanced the president's ability to shape the content of national electoral campaigns in ways not available to traditional party organizations. There is good reason to suggest that this development, rather than the emergence of the rhetorical presidency or the formalization of national administrative capacities, marks the origins of the modern presidency.