Fourth of July: The Perfect Presidential Campaign Holiday
Independence Day is the perfect holiday for a presidential candidate.
WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 -- With its widely attended parades, voter-filled picnics and overt patriotism, the Fourth of July may be the perfect holiday for a presidential candidate looking to connect with constituents during the long haul of the summer campaign.
For the two men currently vying for the White House, Independence Day this year will the perfect opportunity for a festive photo-op showcasing, in Mitt Romney's case, his family man-cred and, in President Obama's case, his support for military veterans.
"It is a day for people of all political stripes, a day for holding faith with America," said Robert Allison, the chairman of Suffolk University's history department. "This is the one [holiday] that has it all: patriotism and a celebration of our history."
But for Romney and Obama, this Fourth of July is a balancing act between campaigning and vacationing.
Romney is taking the holiday week off for a family reunion at his New Hampshire vacation home, where about 30 family members are facing off in the annual "Romney Olympics" to compete in swimming, running and who can hang on a pole the longest.
But the presumptive GOP presidential nominee will squeeze in at least one Independence Day campaign event, taking a brief detour from his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren on Wednesday to march in the local Wolfeboro Fourth of July parade.
After a weekend of R&R at Camp David with his family, Obama will spend the Fourth at home, hosting a picnic with military families and his administration staff and their families on the White House's South Lawn. But on the fifth, family time is over as Obama sets off on a two-day swing-state bus tour.
The candidates' mostly at-home celebrations this year are low-key compared to the hectic schedule of a primary election year.
Last year, six of the eight announced Republican presidential candidates attended Fourth of July events, marching in a total of six parades and attending a picnic, a baseball game and an Independence-themed museum.
"As it turns out, July 4th for presidential candidates is much more exciting in the year before the election when there is a contested primary," David Redlawsk, a political science professor at Rutgers University and the co-editor of the journal Political Psychology, said in an email to ABC News. "But now that we are in the general election, the campaigns are much more about media than pressing the flesh."
The same was true during the 2008 campaign. During the crowded primary campaigns of 2007, candidates seemed to be competing for the most hectic Independence Day schedule. Romney and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton each attended three events in Iowa, including the same parade in Clear Lake.
Then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden packed in a parade, a picnic, a house party and a fundraiser.
But by 2008, the two remaining candidates, Obama and John McCain, had seriously toned down their Fourth of July schedules. McCain took the day off to spend time in Phoenix with his family. Obama contained his campaigning to one Montana city, unlike the three-city tour of Iowa he did on July 4, 2007.
"Since it is the national holiday to which we trace the birth of our country, I think you would be foolish if you didn't celebrate it," Allison said. "It's a touchstone."
Unlike other patriotic holidays like Labor Day, President's Day or Memorial Day, which are all held on a particular Monday, the Fourth of July is pegged to a specific date which is tied to an exact event in history, in this case the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For that reason, Allison said, Independence Day packs a more potent patriotic punch.
"There really isn't another holiday, another patriotic holiday that is of the same caliber of July Fourth," Allison said. "This is the essential American holiday."