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The Presidency. Magruder Chapter 13. The President’s Roles. Chief of State Rules and reigns Chief Executive Vested with immensely broad powers in both domestic and foreign affairs. Chief Administrator Head of one of the largest government machines in the world Chief Diplomat

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The Presidency

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The Presidency

Magruder Chapter 13

The President’s Roles

  • Chief of State

    • Rules and reigns

  • Chief Executive

    • Vested with immensely broad powers in both domestic and foreign affairs

  • Chief Administrator

    • Head of one of the largest government machines in the world

  • Chief Diplomat

    • Speaks for the nation around the world

  • Commander-in-Chief

    • Head of the American military

  • Chief Legislator

    • Main architect of public policies

  • Chief of Party

    • Leader of his respective party

  • Chief Citizen

    • Representative of the people

  • Each role is played simultaneously and is inseparable from the others

Formal Qualifications

  • The President must be:

    • Article II, Section 1, Clause 5

    • 35 years of age

    • Has lived in the United States for at least 14 years

    • Is a natural-born citizen, or a citizen at the time of the adoption of the US Constitution

The President’s Term of Office

  • The President is elected for a four-year term

    • Article II, Section 1, Clause 1

  • Originally could serve as long as the Electoral College would elect him

  • Today, can only be elected to two full terms

    • Twenty-Second Amendment

Pay and Benefits

  • The pay of the President

  • $400,000 per year

  • Fixed by Congress

  • Washington paid $25,000 per year

  • $50,000 taxable expense account

  • Pension of $181,100 per year

  • Many other perks.

Presidential Succession

The Constitution and Succession

  • If the President dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the Vice President succeeds to the office

The Constitution and Succession

  • The Constitution states: “In case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve upon the Vice President.”

  • Article II, Section 1, Clause 6

The Constitution and Succession

  • John Tyler took the office in 1841 instead of becoming acting president

  • 25th Amendment

  • “In case of the removal of the President from office or his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President”

The Constitution and Succession

  • Presidential Succession Act of 1792

  • President, Vice President, President pro tempore, Speaker of the House

  • Special Election to fill the Vacancy

The Constitution and Succession

  • Presidential Succession Act of 1886

  • President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.

The Constitution and Succession

  • Presidential Succession Act of 1947

  • President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, President pro tempore, Secretary of State, etc.

Presidential Disability


  • The Constitution made no provision for the disability of the President

  • Dwight David Eisenhower had three serious illnesses

  • James Garfield

  • Woodrow Wilson


  • 25th Amendment meets this problem

  • Vice President will become acting President

    • If the President informs Congress in writing that he cannot discharge the powers

    • The Vice President and a majority of Cabinet inform Congress that the President is incapacitated

The Vice Presidency

The Importance of the Office

  • The Constitution pays little attention to the office itself

  • Vice President has only two formal duties

    • Preside over the US Senate

      • Article I, Section 3, Clause 4

    • Help decide presidential disability

      • 25th Amendment, Section 3 & 4

The Importance of the Office

  • The Vice President is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency

  • Eight presidents have died in office

  • One president resigned

  • Vice Presidency has been vacant 18 times

    • 9 times by succession to President

    • 2 by resignation, 7 by death

The Importance of the Office

  • 25th Amendment changes this

  • When a vacancy occurs, the President will nominate someone who will take the office upon a majority confirmation vote of both houses of Congress

    • 1973 – Gerald Ford

    • 1974 – Nelson Rockefeller

The Importance of the Office

  • President has made the Vice President more important of late

  • Sits in on Cabinet meetings

  • Head of NASA

  • National Security Council

  • Special Ambassador of President

  • Still not an assistant President

The Importance of the Office

  • Basic bottom line is that the President of the United States cannot fire the Vice President

The Electoral College

The Electoral College

  • Created in Article II of the US Constitution

  • Not well understood by most people

  • Combination of the Constitution, a few State and federal laws, and a number of practices born of the nation’s political parties

Original Provisions

  • Many debated this plan

  • James Wilson (PA) “this was the most difficult of all on which we had to decide”

  • Most favored selection by Congress

  • A few by the people

  • This would lead to tumult and disorder

Original Provisions

  • George Mason: “The extent of the country renders it impossible that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge the respective contentions of the candidates.”

  • Plan that was approved was originally put forward by Alexander Hamilton

  • The President would be chosen by electors

The College

  • Each State would have as many presidential electors as it has representatives and senators in Congress

  • These electors would be chosen in each State in a manner the State legislature directed

The College

  • The electors, meeting in each State, would each cast two votes – each for a different person for President

  • The electoral votes would be opened before a joint session of Congress and counted

  • The person receiving the largest number of votes (if a majority) would become President

The College

  • The person with the second largest number would become Vice President

  • If a tie occurred, the President would be elected by the House of Representatives, voting by States

  • If a tie occurred for the second spot, the Vice President would be chosen by the Senate

The College

  • The Framers intended the electors to be the “Most enlightened and respectable citizens from each State”

  • They were to be “free agents” who would be “deliberate freely” in selecting the person’s best qualified to fill the nation’s top two offices.

The Rise of Parties

  • System works only as long as Washington was President

    • Only President elected unanimously

  • In 1796, political parties began to play a role.

    • John Adams is elected President

    • Thomas Jefferson is elected Vice President

The Election of 1800

  • Each party nominates a presidential and vice presidential candidate

  • Each party also nominates candidates to serve as electors (would vote for party)

  • Each of the 73 electors elected voted for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr

  • House took 36 ballots to decide on Jefferson

The Election of 1800

  • Election marked the introduction of three elements in the nomination of the president

  • Party nominations for president

  • Party nominations for electors pledged to vote for the candidate

  • Automatic casting of electoral votes in line with those pledges

The 12th Amendment

  • Added in 1804

  • Separates election of President and Vice President

  • The fiasco of 1800 will never happen again

Nominating Candidates Today


  • First method devised to nominate candidates was the Congressional Caucus

  • Used from 1800 to 1824

  • Both parties turned to the nominating convention in 1832 and used it ever since

The Nominating Convention

  • Largely a creation of the political parties

  • Constitution is silent on this and have few federal or state laws controlling it

  • The national committee makes the arrangements for the national convention

  • Will set the time and date of the convention

The Nominating Convention

  • Will select the city for the convention

  • Must have facilities

  • Gain support of a swing state

  • Many larger cities bid on a convention

  • Will make a bundle of money

Apportionment of Delegates

  • The national committee issues a call for the convention

  • Tells each state’s party organization how many delegates it is allowed to send.

  • 1996

    • Republicans – 1,990 delegates

    • Democrats – 4,320 delegates

  • Really are two campaigns for president

    • Primaries and election

  • State laws and/or party rules fix the procedures for picking delegates in each State

  • Can use primaries, conventions, and caucuses

Presidential Primaries

The Election

The Electoral College Today

  • One of the least understood parts of the American political process

  • Constitution provides for the election of the President by the Electoral College

  • Each State has the same number of electors that it has members of Congress

  • Founders expected the electors would use their own judgment

The Electoral College Today

  • Today, the electors are really just a rubber stamp of the popular vote.

  • They are expected to vote for their party’s candidates.

  • They go through the form

  • It is a far cry from the original intent

The Electoral College Today

  • Electors are chosen by popular vote in every State on the same day

  • Electors are chosen at large except for Maine and Nebraska (district)

  • Electors are chosen on a winner-take-all basis

  • Names of the electors are found on less than one-fourth of the ballots in the US

The Electoral College Today

  • The electors meet in their respective State capitals on the Monday following the second Wednesday in December

  • They cast their ballots for President and Vice President

  • The ballots are signed, sealed, and sent to the President of the Senate

The Electoral College Today

  • Formal election of the President does not take place until January 6th

  • Ballots are opened by the President of the Senate and counted before a joint session of Congress

  • The candidate who receives a majority of Electoral College votes will be the President

The Electoral College Today

  • The candidate who receives a majority of the Electoral College votes in the vice presidential race will be the vice president.

  • If no one receives a majority of votes (270 out of 538), the election is thrown into the House of Representatives

  • House chooses from the top three candidates

The Electoral College Today

  • Each State delegation has one vote

  • 26 votes necessary to win

    • 1800 – Thomas Jefferson/Aaron Burr

    • 1824 – John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, Henry Clay

  • If no one receives a majority of votes in the vice presidential race, the Senate chooses from among the top two

  • It takes a majority of Senators to elect

    • 1837 – Richard Johnson

Flaws in the Electoral College

The First Major Defect

  • The winner of the popular vote does not become President

  • Winner-take-all in the voting

  • 1992 – Clinton won 50% of the vote in New York and all 33 electoral votes

    • Bush won 2.2 million votes

    • Perot won 1.1 million votes

The First Major Defect

  • Way that electoral votes are distributed

  • California – 55 electoral votes

    • 1 for every 652,614.5 persons

  • Alaska – 3 electoral votes

    • 1 for every 218,478 persons

The First Major Defect

  • Popular vote winner has failed to win the presidency four times

    • 1824

    • 1876

    • 1888

    • 2000

The Second Major Defect

  • Nothing in any federal statute or the Constitution requires an elector to vote for the person who wins the state popular vote

  • States can and do require this

  • Not sure of the constitutionality of states laws

  • Virginia and Tennessee do require this

The Third Major Defect

  • Contest will be decided in the House of Representatives

  • Voting is by state, not by individuals

  • If the state is so divided that it cannot decide, it loses its vote

  • If strong third-party candidate, then might not have a winner by inauguration day

Proposed Reforms

The District Plan

  • Choose electors as one would do members of Congress

  • Two for the senators, and one per congressional district

  • Much more accurate reflection of popular returns

  • Would not eliminate possibility of winner of popular vote losing presidency

The District Plan

  • 1960 – Richard Nixon wins

  • Gives another reason for Gerrymandering

The Proportional Plan

  • Each candidate would receive the same share of the electoral vote as he won of the popular vote

  • 40% of popular vote, 40% of electoral vote

  • Cure winner-take-all problem

  • Remove faithless electors

  • Yield a more accurate count with states

The Proportional Plan

  • Would not necessarily produce the same idea nationally

  • 1896 – William Jennings Bryan wins

  • 1880 – Winfield Scott Hancock wins

  • 1876 – Samuel J. Tilden wins

  • 1888 – Grover Cleveland wins

The National Bonus Plan

  • Keep the electoral college as it now is

  • A pool of 102 electoral votes would be added to the total of the popular vote winner

  • Need 321 electoral votes to win

  • If no received 321, a national run-off election between the top two candidates

Direct Popular Election

  • Remove the electoral college altogether

  • “I am Vice President. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything.

  • “The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

  • “Honorable and easy”

  • “Tranquil and unoffending”

  • “The Vice Presidency isn’t worth a warm pitcher of spit”

  • “A woman had two sons. One of them went away to sea and the other one became Vice President and neither of them was ever heard from again.”

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