History suggests Obama will step up international travel in 5th year


If he continues the trend of recent second-term presidents, President Obama is likely to have a marked increase in international travel in his fifth year in office, a Dec. 10 Brookings Institution paper says.

The paper's authors looked at the trips that Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush took in their second terms. Since the Eisenhower administration, as air travel became common, presidential trips have increased.

International travel jumps in a president's fifth year and tends to remain above first-term levels for the remainder of the second term, the paper (.pdf) says.

International trips let presidents cultivate an image of statesmanship and international issues can be less contentious than domestic ones, the authors say. Presidents may also find they have more control over their legacy on the international stage.

As a consequence, the paper says, there may be a shift in the balance of power among the White House staff as those with international expertise play a larger role than staffers who specialize in domestic policy.

Heightened public awareness of the trends of second terms might also change expectations of what a president's focus will be in the latter 4 years, the authors suggest.

They also found that, predictably, while first-term domestic trips disproportionately occur in swing states, the locations of second-term domestic trips don't correlate with a state's importance in the Electoral College.

The public side of presidents' second terms have generally received little attention in academia though, the paper says.

For more:
- download the paper, "What to Expect in the Second Term: Presidential Travel and the Rise of Legacy Building, 1957-2009" (.pdf)

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