In the early years, we elected incumbents because they were good, often even great. Today, we tend to elect incumbents because they are there.
Did you know that if President Obama is re-elected in November and serves his entire 8-year term, it will be only the second time in history that we have had three two-term Presidents in a row (Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama in this case)? And the first goes all the way back to the triumvirate of founding fathers, Jefferson (1801-09), Madison (1809-17), and Monroe (1817-25). In fact, only 19 of the 44 US presidents have been re-elected (though FDR did it three times). Even accounting for FDR’s long run, as a national practice, getting re-elected to the presidency has actually been harder than getting elected in the first place.
So why do we think of incumbency as such an advantage in presidential politics? Continue reading