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Presidential Visits and Midterm Senate Elections


Patrick J. Sellers is an associate professor of political science at Davidson College and the author of articles appearing in journals including the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Politics.

Laura M. Denton is a third-year law student at the University of Virginia.


We investigate presidents' midterm domestic travel between 1982 and 2002. The president concentrates campaign appearances in states with competitive Senate races. These campaign visits appear to boost the candidates from the president's party. Yet, the president is not always working to further his party's collective goals. His individual electoral interests lead him to make official noncampaign visits to strengthen his own electoral support in some states. Self-interest also encourages the president to campaign for his party's candidates in states with numerous electoral votes, regardless of their chances of winning. Such campaign visits may help the president's own electoral fortunes but inefficiently further his party's collective interests.