Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 175-195

First online:

Mission Accomplished: The Wartime Election of 2004

  • Helmut NorpothAffiliated withStony Brook University Email author 
  • , Andrew H. SidmanAffiliated withStony Brook University

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The war in Iraq, so the widely accepted view, hurt the reelection of George W. Bush. We contend, to the contrary, that the war helped him get reelected. First, we show that his victory fits the dominant pattern of wartime elections in American history. Second, we find that Bush’s approval ratings benefited from a complex rally where the Iraq war prolonged rather than diminished the 9/11 effect; most Americans affirmed rather than disputed a link between the war in Iraq and the war on terror. Third, while Bush’s approval proves sensitive to U.S. casualties in the Iraq war, any damage to his standing prior to the election was mitigated by sufficient popular support for that war. And finally, on Election Day, Bush was able to garner the vote of two critical blocks with favorable feelings about the Iraq war, be it the decision to invade or the prospect of success.


Presidential elections Wartime elections Rally effect