Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2023

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Evelyn Lechner

Second Advisor

John Carey

Third Advisor

Donald Pease


Over the United States’ 246-year history, the nation has had 46 presidents. These individuals often carried with them decades of military, political, or judicial experience. In 2016 this long held political norm was dashed, and America elected its first candidate without any traditional experience. With this enormous precedent setting change in electoral and governmental politics, experience has come under a new spotlight; and questions on what experience matters, or if experience matters at all have received new scrutiny. Polling data, historical precedent, conventional wisdom, and political norms will all be integral for the purpose of examining pre-presidential experience and put further scrutiny on the two positions that vie for the presidency most often. This thesis examines the notion of presidential experience, and what best prepares someone to run for and serve as the president of the United States. The gubernatorial advantage will be examined alongside the inherent senatorial disadvantage. Governors have a distinct ability to forge a strong path to the presidency, due to popularity, executive power, and avoidance of controversial issues. The gubernatorial advantage boils down to upscaling a gubernatorial position to a presidential one. Isolated within the legislative branch, senators often face roadblocks to the presidency that are deeply tied to the troubled institution of the Senate.