Leverage vs. Letting Go

The California and New Jersey primaries have finally come and gone, and Hillary Clinton has claimed her place in history as the first presumptive female presidential nominee of a major political party. Her overwhelming victory in New Jersey was expected, her comfortable victory in California was not, but even before the votes were counted on the west coast the campaign had … Read More

Leaving Washington

I’m tired. I’ve now been in Washington for three weeks, where I have been engulfed by political myopia fed by a certain detachment from the rest of the country. Politics is Washington’s major industry, and like any company town it is infused with an insider’s sense of how things are done that can look quite different from how they appear on the outside. Normally at the … Read More


A garbage truck bearing the name “progressive” turns left as it exits Republican National Committee headquarters, June 2, 2016. No word on whether the Trump campaign was on board.    

Two Islands

Ten days ago, at the start of my DC program, I noted that few people I met in official Washington seemed to have a grasp of the political situation. With two-thirds of the program now complete, I would say that quite a few political professionals are rattled by Trump’s rise and confused about how it happened. To help them out, I offer the … Read More

Defending Trump

When Republicans appeared to be heading toward a divided convention we said the cost of denying Trump the nomination would be conceding the presidential election. But I thought this outcome might be better than allowing Trump to win the nomination and rebrand the Republican Party in his image. We are now getting the first glimpse of what that rebranding looks like and it … Read More

Covering Trump

Donald Trump’s ad hoc presidential campaign has upended official Washington as political professionals try to figure out how to deal with the outsider nominee-in-waiting who by every indication appears to be uninterested in toning down his outrageous tactics. Trump’s unconventional ways pose a particularly acute problem for political reporters. My students and I have had the opportunity to talk with several prominent … Read More


Washington is preoccupied with polls, which is one reason why so much election coverage rides on the release of new polling data. Political reporters love polls because they make for an easy narrative hook, and the investment in polling by large news organizations guarantees headlines. Candidates love pointing to polls to build momentum for their campaigns, and there are enough … Read More

No One Seems To Know What’s Happening

For the past few days my students and I have been meeting high level political professionals, some generally well known and others well known in Washington circles. Two things stand out from these interactions: all people want to talk about is Donald Trump, and everyone is struggling to some degree to understand the political moment. Now, I’m reluctant to draw firm conclusions from limited … Read More

Entering Washington

It’s probably too easy to regard the two-mile backup I encountered approaching the Beltway yesterday as a metaphor for official Washington. After all, horrendous traffic was a hallmark of the District during the days when bipartisan cooperation wasn’t a punchline. But it did get me thinking about how predictability is embedded in the political mechanics of this city as much as it defines its rush hour traffic … Read More

Outside the Beltway Goes To Washington

Every year in mid-May, I have the opportunity to take a group of undergraduates from my home institution, Villanova University, to Washington, DC for a three-week program where they get to meet high-level policymakers and explore the political process from the inside. The program begins Monday, so for the next three weeks I will continue to bring you commentary on the … Read More

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