The Surprising Political Strategy That President Trump Is Missing

March 5th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

President Donald Trump's White House is missing a key member, a snuggly resident that has shared a roof with every first family in living memory: a dog. 

That makes Trump is the first president since William McKinley to lack a canine companion, according to the Presidential Pet Museum, a website dedicated to tracking White House pets. McKinley took office in 1897, 120 years ago and was assassinated in his second term. His pets included a parrot and cats, but no dog. 

Some media reports said that Trump got close to adopting a dog in Florida, but it didn't work out. 

Why does it matter if Trump has a dog?

Politicians often look for ways to seem relatable to specific income or ethnic groups, like former Vice President Joe Biden's use of the Irish-American word "malarky," former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign use of the Spanish word "abuela," or former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz's photo opportunity eating traditional Jewish soup in Brooklyn. 

Americans from all backgrounds love dogs. 

"Presidents and their pets have a long and storied history," Garrett Graff, editor-in-chief of Washingtonian magazine told CNN in 2012. "Most of us don't get Middle East oil politics, and the rise and fall of the G.D.P., but we can get if you connect with a dog or you connect with a cat."

A lot of Americans can relate to a relationship with a dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that Americans own between 70 to 80 million dogs. 

Dogs have not only played a strategic role in appealing to the American public, but have sometimes made candidates lose favor.

In 2012, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney saw huge backlash for a 30-year-old story about a dog. When Romney was 36, he put the family dog in a carrier on the roof of their station wagon, and drove for 12 hours to Canada, according to The Washington Post. 

“It really says this guy is not like us and is mean,” Scott Crider, an Alabama marketing guru who founded Dogs Against Romney told the Post in 2012. During the same election, some attacks on former President Barack Obama centered on his eating dog as a child in Indonesia. Obama then went on to put two dogs in the White House. 



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In 1952, President Richard Nixon used his family dog to deflect accusations of receiving improper gifts during his campaign. He listed his dog as one of the gifts he received.
“And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re going to keep it,” he said. It later became known as the "Checkers speech."

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office he used his terrier Fala to deflect questions about misusing the U.S. Navy. 
"Well, of course, I don't resent attacks," he reportedly said. "My family don't resent attacks. But Fala does resent attacks!"

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