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History shows “coattail” effect not so crucial to presidents

The "coattail" effect may not be key to a successuful administration: History shows US presidents have always had to deal with opposition in Congress, whether their party held sway or not.

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The trifecta of national politics is for a candidate to win the White House and help his party win control of Congress on presidential "coattails."

But is it "game over" for a president when the other team controls the House, the Senate, or both? Not necessarily. Turns out, presidents don't always get what they want when their party has a majority on Capitol Hill – or fail, when that majority is lost. Moreover, divided government can be the mother of legislative invention, forcing presidents to find common ground with a hostile Congress, if they can.

Past presidencies offer hints for dealing with a Congress of a different persuasion.

Numbers on 'our side' do not equal control

President Dwight Eisenhower, the World War II hero, was swept into office winning all but nine states and helping Republicans take control of the House and Senate on his coattails.

But rather than line up behind the new president, the GOP majority attacked his nominees, his legislative priorities on defense spending, and his presidential powers in foreign policy.


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