Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties and elections.

Recent Articles

Will Zombie Marco Rubio Win in 2016?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

If there’s one simple lesson from past presidential elections I wish reporters and pundits could adopt, it’s this: Stop declaring candidacies dead before the primary even starts! Mistakes during the invisible primary can doom a campaign. But they usually don’t.

But What Does Iran Mean for 2016?

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

There are two things to say about the electoral effect of the Iran deal.

Barck Obama isn’t going to be up for re-election. Still, his approval rating will matter for Democrats in both 2014 and 2016.

The first thing—and it’s correct, as far as it goes—is that the deal won’t have any electoral effect, whatever happens. Smart analysts know that voters just don’t care very much about foreign policy. And this one … well, it’s pretty distant from the concerns of most voters. Iran’s nuclear program has been in the news for a long time, but it’s not headline stuff for the most part. No matter how much of a fuss there is about it in the press this week, most voters won’t engage. The blunt truth is that this too will be gone from the headlines before very long, anyway.

Without most voters paying any attention to it, that leaves only the most politically attentive, and they’ll divide the way they always do: as long as the balance of the coverage isn’t radically lopsided, Democrats will be inclined to support the administration, and Republicans will be inclined to oppose it. It’s true that some Democrats in Congress are opposed to the deal, but for most rank-and-file Democrats, the president is the opinion leader who matters.

In short—no change in the president’s approval rating. No electoral effects in either 2014 or 2016.

How Republicans Lost the Chance to Win Obamacare

AP Photo/Dylan Lovan

The argument for the national government administering things over the states has always been summed up, I thought, by an old James Carville joke: I’ll race you from Disneyland to DisneyWorld. I get to take the federal roads.

That joke, however, has been turned upside down by implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The whole sequence has been weird. After all, the law—as a concession to moderate Democrats who feared Republican attacks about a federal-government takeover—wound up asking the states, and not the federal government, to run the exchanges. But Republican-led states refused to do so. When the federal-run crashed, the odd result is that the current winners of the federalism battle—which is often waged, at least rhetorically, by Republicans dead set on keeping the feds out of their local government—are Democratic states such as California and New York where things are running reasonably smoothly. Or at least far better than the federally-run exchanges.

Who’s on First? Under Boehner, It’s Always the Senate.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

If someone is looking for the week that proved a perfect example of how the 113th Congress functions, it doesn’t get much better than last week. The Senate beat back a filibuster to pass a popular bill, with every Democrat joined by a handful of Republicans.

The House? Oh, they took the week off.

Long Live the Kludge

AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Jonna Spelbring

Last week’s buzzword was “kludge,” as everyone from Paul Krugman to Michael Lind decided that the Affordable Care Act was a perfect example of “What’s Wrong With America.” It’s an argument that Steven Tales made recently in an important essay at National Affairs.