About this Blog

This blog focuses on presidential elections and politics and is oriented primarily toward anyone interested in understanding how we choose presidents and how the presidency works. It grew out of emails I initially distributed to my Middlebury College students at the start of the 2008 (actually 2007) presidential nominating season. My objective was to provide my students with a running commentary on the campaign, but from the perspective of political science. What could political science research tell them about the campaign events that the media couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say? By providing more in-depth analysis rooted in political science research and with a broader historical perspective, I hoped to provide a better understanding of the election. In my commentary I tried to avoid presenting my opinion as fact and instead readily acknowledged when my interpretation was as much conjecture as it was derived from solid research.  That remains my goal today.  Gradually, the distribution list grew to include students’ friends, parents, parents’ friends and, eventually, members of the “punditocracy” including the media. At this point I was persuaded to simultaneously post the emails on this blog site, which is hosted by Middlebury College. And so the Presidential Power blog was born. The title, as my students know, pays homage to the seminal work by political scientist and self-professed presidency watcher Richard Neustadt, who also happened to be my dissertation adviser and later, colleague.

Although my readership may have broadened, my target audience remains the same: students who may be interested in learning more about presidential politics.

About Matthew Dickinson

Matthew Dickinson is a professor of political science at Middlebury College. He taught previously at Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D., working under the supervision of presidential scholar Richard Neustadt. Dickinson is the author of Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch (Cambridge University Press), co-editor of   Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt (Brookings Institution Press) and has published numerous articles on national governing institutions, including Congress, the bureaucracy, the presidency, presidential decision making, and presidential advisers. His current book project, titled Leader or Clerk? The President and the White House Staff: People, Positions and Processes, 1945-2008, examines the growth of presidential staff in the post-World War II era.

Dickinson lives in Vermont with his wife Alison and his two sons Ethan and Seth’s science fiction book collection. When he is not blogging about the presidency, Dickinson likes to hike, swim, build stone walls and root for the Red Sox.


  1. Hi Matt,
    Looks like the turnout in Philly is good for Sestack. What’s your read on that election with a high turnout?

  2. Very much enjoyed your discussion tonight of the current presidential race between Obama and Romney in Manchester…Please add me to your blog list…Thanks

  3. Enjoyed your ESI class and predictions on the election. I’m not sure I can survive another debate! I will be happy when it is all over!

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