As the nation's highest elected officeholder, the president wields considerable influence over his political party. He sets party policy, defines the legislative agenda, establishes the tone for political dialogue, and serves as the party's chief spokesperson. The political fate of his party is inextricably linked to the president's fortune.
The president's most important party function is fundraising. Every year, the president raises hundreds of millions of dollars for the party and fellow officeholders at the state and national level. Cabinet members and high-profile White House officials assist in the fundraising, particularly during election seasons. During the 1990s, many Republicans, consumer advocate groups, and even some in the press criticized President Clinton for his aggressive use of the White House for party fundraising. They believed that Clinton's White House coffees and Lincoln bedroom sleep-overs were an inappropriate use of the White House, although prior administrations had used it in a similar fashion.
In addition to fundraising, the president also has the following responsibilities as the leader of his party:
He selects the national committee chairperson.
He writes the party policy platform at the nominating convention.
He influences party members in Congress with promises of fundraising support and projects for their district.
He campaigns for candidates.
Most presidents stay clear of Congressional and gubernatorial primaries. During the midterm elections of 2002, however, President George W. Bush and his chief strategist Karl Rove handpicked and backed candidates they believed would be the strongest in key Congressional and Senatorial races. The strategy was successful, as Republicans retook the Senate and gained seats in the House.