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Political capital is the sentiment that a politician has a legitimate political mandate to enact policy in the eyes of the voting public.
A politician gains political capital by winning elections, pursuing policies that have public support, achieving success with initiatives, and performing favors for other politicians.
Political capital must be spent to be useful, and will generally expire by the end of a politician's term in office. In addition, it can be wasted, typically by failed attempts to promote unpopular policies that are not central to a politician's agenda. American President George W. Bush claimed to have earned "political capital" after the 2004 elections.
Political capital is highest in the "honeymoon period" of a presidency as in the United States, where the president is newly elected and the people still support the person they voted for. Along with the president's popularity are those who ride on the "coattails", congressional representatives of the president's party that are elected alongside the president. This support in congress enables the president to better use his honeymoon period and political capital to pass his ideal legislation.
See also 
- "A balance sheet of 'political capital'" by David Gura. Marketplace, American Public Media. (11-7-2012)
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