Examining Democratic and Republican National Committee Party Branding Activity, 1953–2012
By Boris Heersink, Fordham University
Recent scholarship on the role of national party organizations in American politics—specifically, the Democratic and Republican National Committees—has argued that political science research has thus far undervalued the importance of these organizations. These studies have noted the importance that party leaders—including presidents, Congressional leaders, and governors—place on the national committees’ role in shaping a party brand. Notably, these studies are all qualitative historical accounts—perhaps because finding consistent quantitative data from within the DNC and RNC across time is complicated due to limitations in access to archival resources across both parties and time. I present a new quantitative data set measuring DNC and RNC activity on the basis of an external source: New York Times coverage of national committee activity in the period 1953–2012. I use this data to test the claim that, while “party branding” is a core national committee goal, the DNC and RNC do not consistently engage in it. I find that monthly New York Times references of party branding operations decline for parties that hold the White House. Meanwhile, coverage of other service operations does not decline, suggesting committees step back their branding role when their party has control of the executive branch of the federal government.