On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Trump and Sanders Are Doing Well Because They Tap Into the Same Anxious Feelings

Last summer, as America fawned over Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the media dismissed them as unelectable—reasonable-seeming bets given Sanders’s socialism and Trump’s chronic offense-giving. But after both took second place in the Iowa caucuses, Sanders and Trump are now on track to win the New Hampshire primaries for their respective parties (or so say the polls). The men have something else in common too: outrage at trade policies that have hurt America’s middle class.

Of course, populist upstarts like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader have flared up in past elections—but they ran as third-party candidates. Sanders and Trump are seriously challenging their parties’ mainstream contenders. It’s an imperfect measure, but if you combine their vote shares in the Iowa caucuses and in the average of the New Hampshire polls, the Sanders-Trump populist bloc beats out the aggregate share of establishment candidates (namely, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush) and conservaties (Ted Cruz and Ben Carson).

It’s probably no coincidence that both campaigns are resonating with voters in a way they haven’t in the recent past. Over the course of the last decade or so, changes in...

Three Lanes to the Finish of the 2016 GOP Race

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—The Republican presidential race was in the process of consolidating when it hit a jarring speed bump in a debate on Saturday night.

After last week’s Iowa caucus, a growing number of Republican strategists had expressed hope that mainstream conservative voters would coalesce behind Florida Senator Marco Rubio in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, allowing him to join Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to form a new top tier in the race. 

But Rubio’s dizzyingly unsteady performance under sharp criticism from Chris Christie in Saturday night’s debate has thrown those hopes into question. With Rubio staggering, and not only Christie but also Jeb Bush and John Kasich delivering strong showings Saturday night, the odds increased that the GOP’s mainstream conservative lane will remain fragmented—providing an edge to Cruz and Trump, the candidates relying most on disaffected and more ideological voters. “The rush to coronate Marco Rubio is off,” Mike DuHaime, Christie’s long-time chief strategist, exulted after the debate. “I think it’s more likely after tonight that more people come out of New Hampshire [as viable] than people anticipated.”

Heading into the debate, many Republicans saw a pathway developing for a...

Why Bernie Sanders Can't Govern

Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have something in common. Both have an electoral strategy predicated on the ability of a purist candidate to revolutionize the electorate—bringing droves of chronic non-voters to the polls because at last they have a choice, not an echo—and along the way transforming the political system. Sanders can point to his large crowds and impressive, even astonishing, success at tapping into a small-donor base that exceeds, in breadth and depth, the remarkable one built in 2008 by Barack Obama. Cruz points to his extraordinarily sophisticated voter-identification operation, one that certainly seemed to do the trick in Iowa.

But is there any real evidence that there is a hidden “sleeper cell” of potential voters who are waiting for the signal to emerge and transform the electorate? No. Small-donor contributions are meaningful and a sign of underlying enthusiasm among a slice of the electorate, but they represent a tiny sliver even of that slice; Ron Paul’s success at fundraising (and his big crowds at rallies) misled many analysts into believing that he would make a strong showing in Republican primaries when he ran for president. He flopped.

Is there a huge core of committed ideological...

Clinton’s Coronation Becomes a Grind

Bernie Sanders has already giv­en Hil­lary Clin­ton a nasty scare in Iowa, and is likely to hand her a loss next week when New Hamp­shire voters cast their bal­lots.

If that were the only dam­age his in­sur­gent, an­ti­cor­por­ate cam­paign in­flicts on the Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner’s pre­sumed path to the nom­in­a­tion, it prob­ably would mean little to her chances to win the White House this Novem­ber.

Un­for­tu­nately for Clin­ton, though, that’s not the only dam­age she can ex­pect: The lay­out of the primary sched­ule, the pro­por­tion­al man­ner in which del­eg­ates are awar­ded, and Sanders’s sur­pris­ing fun­drais­ing strength all mean that the former sec­ret­ary of State will be forced to ex­pend both money and, even more pre­cious, staff time com­pet­ing in places that al­most cer­tainly will not be in play this Novem­ber.

Clin­ton cam­paign man­ager Robby Mook, in an MS­N­BC ap­pear­ance, ac...

The Frustrations of Divided Government Play Out in Iowa Races

AMES, Iowa—It doesn’t take much time with voters in Iowa to re­cog­nize that the 2016 pres­id­en­tial race is be­ing fought in the chasm between the tower­ing chal­lenges fa­cing the coun­try and the crimped re­sponses that our po­lar­ized and para­lyzed polit­ic­al sys­tem can now pro­duce.

Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic audi­ences here di­verge wildly in their pre­ferred solu­tions for the coun­try’s biggest prob­lems—and even over what is­sues qual­i­fy for that list. But they are united by a com­mon con­vic­tion that Wash­ing­ton is now in­cap­able of mov­ing very far in any dir­ec­tion. As next week’s Iowa caucuses form­ally be­gin the 2016 vot­ing, each party is di­vid­ing over how to break that im­passe—with evol­u­tion­ary change that works with­in today’s lim­its or with the prom­ise of a re­volu­tion that some­how washes those lim­its away?

On both sides, the en­ergy is...