Presidential capital and the supreme court confirmation process

Timothy R Johnson, Jason M. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process has become one of the most contentious aspects of American politics in recent years, representing a seismic struggle between the president and the U.S. Senate over the ideological makeup of the nation's highest court. Existing research focuses on how the ideological compatibility of the president and the Senate affects the ideology of the president's nominees. However, little work addresses whether presidents can overcome an ideologically hostile Senate by spending political capital to support a nominee. As such, we examine the president's public expenditure of capital to obtain confirmation for Supreme Court nominees facing a Senate that is reticent to confirm. By content analyzing public statements made by presidents during confirmation battles we find strong support for the hypothesis that presidents strategically "go public" Further, this strategy has a marked influence on presidents' ability to win confirmation for their most important nominees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-683
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2004


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