First-term presidents and their party's House freshmen: crafting a strategic alliance

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Authors: John Tierney and David Yalof
Date: Winter 1998
From: Presidential Studies Quarterly(Vol. 28, Issue 1)
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 10,904 words

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Abstract :

"First-Term Presidents and Their Party's House Freshmen: Crafting a Strategic Alliance." John Tierney and David Yalof examine how first-term presidents craft strategic alliances with House freshmen of the same political party. House freshmen are the most electorally vulnerable elements of the presidential party's governing coalition. In the 1994 elections, for example, 24 percent of Democratic House freshmen seeking reelection were defeated, compared with 12 percent for veteran Democrats, a defeat rate twice as high for the former as for the latter. Tierney and Yalof argue that a president must protect and advance the interests of the freshmen if he is to persuade them that the policies he advocated in the election campaign are worthy of adoption. Freshmen lack the service records of the more experienced congressmen; they are consequently disproportionately affected by the president's popularity, his performance, and the policies he pursues. Furthermore, a first-term president typically needs the votes of House freshmen from his party to achieve his policy goals just as those same freshmen find their own political future linked to that of their president. Wheeling and dealing presidents thus form a strategic alliance with same-party House freshmen for mutual enhancement. The authors explore the process by which such an alliance is forged. They examine the Democratic freshman class of 1992 and conclude that Clinton was not successful in his campaign promises to "change the way Washington does business." The strategic alliance between Clinton and the Democratic House freshmen of 1992 was weakened when Clinton chose to cast his political lot with the more established Washington politicians, rather than those newly elected on the campaign promise of political change. The resultant shaky relationship was one cause for the high rate of defeat for those freshmen in 1994.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A20791082