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The President on Capitol Hill: A Theory of Institutional Influence, Jeffrey E. Cohen

Reviewed by Joshua B. Kennedy

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In the latest of his many books, Jeffrey E. Cohen has once again provided students of the presidency with fascinating new insights into the world’s most powerful office. The topic of this study is one of the more well-trodden fields of research in the American presidency, but Cohen attacks it from a fresh perspective that contributes to a seminal debate in the literature. For years, political scientists have probed the question of whether and how the president succeeds in his legislative program. What predicts presidential success in Congress? Does the president matter in the legislative process, and if so, how much? Why do some presidents succeed where others fail? Numerous answers to these questions have been offered and much progress has been made. Where Cohen comes in is to argue that scholars have neglected a more nuanced approach that could shed light on the actual nuts and bolts of how (and whether) presidents get things done in Congress. The President on Capitol Hill presents a new theory, arguing that much past research has neglected to draw a distinction between presidential success and presidential influence. It is the latter phenomenon which is the attention of Cohen’s study.

Cohen succinctly lays out the existing debate in the literature, noting

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