David Winston

Opinion: Beware the Dog Days of August
A critical month to figure out which party has the initiative into the fall

Nothing happens in August, right? At least that’s always the usual explanation for the mass exodus that leaves Washington nearly uninhabited for much of D.C.’s dog days.

But actually, throughout history, August has been a month of big events, especially in the realm of politics and war. The Brits burned Washington, and World War I started with the “Guns of August.” Women got the right to vote. Social Security became law, and we dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Opinion: A Midterm Environment Is Beginning to Take Shape, but Beware the Late Decider
Don’t bet on only political conventional wisdom in November

It’s June, five months out from the fall elections, and the midterm speculation has gone from a simmer to a slow boil. Over the past year, thanks to an expanding body of survey research, the political conventional wisdom has evolved from wishful thinking (the blue wave is inevitable) to educated guessing (Democrats have an advantage based on past elections) to what now seems to be cautious agreement: The battle for control of Congress has become a real horse race.

Skeptics argue that the presidential polls in 2016 got it wrong, and so it would be foolish to put too much stock in surveys showing Republicans gaining on what had been a huge Democrat advantage only a few months ago. While there were some problems with individual poll results in the last presidential election, especially at the state level, most national poll results in general were within the margin of error.

Opinion: With Russia Claims, Clapper Crosses a Line
No clear evidence Moscow influenced outcome of 2016 election

For those who work in the partisan fields of electoral politics, there is nothing harder than losing. Even for those whose only real interaction with partisan politics is the first Tuesday in November every two or four years, the loss of an election or a chosen candidate can be difficult to accept. Emotions are raw and often morph into misplaced rationalization or even the rejection of reality.

As a political strategist, I believe it’s critically important that both winners and losers understand the political outcomes of elections and the dynamics that drove them. It’s a process that both sides need to work through in order to understand voters and what they want, and then, with that understanding, define the next steps to move forward.

Opinion: Is the Democrats’ Pivot to a ‘Scandal Strategy’ a Wrong Turn?
Voters may not bite and there’s potential for blowback

In 2006, Nancy Pelosi told The Associated Press that after 10-plus years of Republican control of the House, she would begin to “drain the swamp” in her first 100 hours as speaker and also “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.”

Yes. She really said “drain the swamp.”

Opinion: It’s Too Soon to Bet the Ranch on the Midterms
With enthusiasm gap closing, blue wave is no longer a sure thing

So, the Supreme Court this week OK’d sports betting by the states, giving plaintiffs Chris Christie and New Jersey a big win. Not being a gambler, I hesitate to give advice, but maybe the bookmakers can kick off their newly won legal status with the 2018 congressional elections. After all, these days, politics is somewhat akin to a professional sport, but knowing where to place a bet this fall — on the Dems or the GOP — is becoming less and less clear.

A few months ago, most political prognosticators would have characterized the Democrats’ chances of winning back the House as just shy of a sure thing. They predicted, with a modicum of certainty, an impending blue wave, destined to wipe the Republican House majority off the map. Many are still putting their chips on the Democrats to win, place and show.

Opinion: Cost of Living Is the Sleeper Issue of 2018
Voters less interested in Russia investigation and scandal

If there’s one question that I get asked by reporters these days, it’s “what’s the sleeper race to watch for this fall?”

The question I think they should be asking is “what’s the sleeper issue likely to impact the outcome of the elections this fall?” The answer is the cost of living, or COL, one of the most politically potent and underreported issues out there today.

Opinion: Americans Are Telling Both Parties — “Show Me the Money”
GOP has an opening this fall with millennials moving away from Democrats, new poll shows

“It sounds strange to me to say this about the Republicans, but they’re helping with even the small things. They’re taking less out of my paycheck. I notice that.” So said Terry Hood, a young, African-American, Clinton voter in a recent Reuters interview about why millennials are moving away from Democrats.

Music to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s ears. And luckily for the GOP, Hood is apparently not the only millennial who’s noticed. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll of 16,000 young voters, ages 18 to 34, repeating a similar 2016 survey, found that support for congressional Democrats among this key group (as measured by the generic ballot test) went from 55 percent two years ago to 46 percent today — a drop of 9 points.

Opinion: The Big Test for Business
Private sector needs to make the most of tax cuts and regulatory relief

Last December when President Donald Trump signed the Republican tax cut bill, large and small businesses were given an opportunity, literally and figuratively, to deliver the goods for the American people.

The economic advantages business is now enjoying are obvious. Lower tax rates and less regulation for both large companies and smaller S corporations lead the list and position the private sector to drive growth and reap the financial benefits of that growth.

Opinion: When the Survey Says the Holocaust Is Fading Away
When we see data like this, it says something is terribly wrong

Just a few days ago, on April 12, the world commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Much of the news this year focused on a new national survey, conducted by Schoen Consulting for the Claims Conference, to assess just how much Americans, especially young Americans, know about the Holocaust today.

The results were disheartening and disturbing. People are beginning to forget.

Opinion: Is Pelosi Still the Gift that Keeps on Giving for Republicans?
Democratic leader’s value as a GOP political target may be fading

Is Nancy Pelosi all she’s cracked up to be or a political conundrum? I’m not talking about her control of the House Democratic Caucus or her ability to raise enormous sums of money for House Democratic candidates. She seems to have a pretty good track record in both areas.

I’m talking about the nearly legendary notion in the GOP consulting community that Pelosi is the gift that keeps on giving to Republican candidates and campaigns.

Opinion: Hollywood Discovers America!
Roseanne has tapped into the frustrations of many voters

As a matter of preference, television sitcoms rank somewhere behind handyman shows and zombie apocalypse series when it comes to my viewing habits. But like 25 million other Americans last week, I watched the societal/political phenomenon that is “Roseanne.”

For me, watching this working-class family struggle to make ends meet was eerily familiar.

Opinion: If the Generic Ballot Is a Midterms Canary, It’s a Cagey One
Context is key when it comes to the popular poll question

For many in the political community, the generic ballot test, a standardized question in most national polls, has become the electoral equivalent of the canary in the coal mine — a harbinger of things to come in November. It’s an important tool to gauge how each party is doing at any given point in time, as it gives us a fairly good, though not infallible, idea of which party is heading to the polls with the wind at its back.

This election cycle, there has been even more focus than usual on the generic ballot, with months of grim numbers for Republicans until recently, when national polls have shown a more positive trend for the GOP.

Opinion: It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again in Southwest Pennsylvania
Republicans still have time to remember the lessons learned

Here’s the scenario. A special congressional election in southwest Pennsylvania becomes the center of national attention as control of the House hangs in the balance come fall. The Democratic candidate runs as an anti-Nancy Pelosi, pro-gun, pro-life candidate concerned with economic issues — in other words, as a centrist.

Meanwhile, the Republican nominee, for the most part, runs a mostly negative ad campaign trying to tie his opponent to Pelosi and her liberal agenda. Both national parties make huge multimillion-dollar investments in the outcome for a district that is going to disappear in a matter of months thanks to redistricting. Meanwhile, the media has upped the ante by declaring this a bellwether race whose outcome will signal whether the minority party is about to win a wave election or the majority will defy the odds and hold on to the House.

Opinion: Trump Can’t Help Stepping on His Own Message
President hurts himself, perhaps his party’s chances — and obscures his accomplishments

As the firestorm known as Iran Contra began to ebb, a new White House director of communications joined the Reagan team to help rebuild the presidential persona and move beyond what had been a grueling and damaging scandal.

A consummate communications professional, Tom Griscom had been a reporter, Majority Leader Howard Baker’s press secretary and the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee before landing at a prestigious D.C. public relations firm. That’s when Baker came knocking one more time.

Opinion: Democrats’ Own Spanish Inquisition Could Burn Party
How Democratic ‘restisters’ stand to hurt party’s chances in November

When a Democratic candidate picks up nomination papers, to quote Monty Python, “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” — that is until now. More and more, Democratic primary candidates are being treated to a litmus test that feels more grand inquisition than great debate.

A particular brand of progressivism rooted in the “Resistance” is growing in its distemper and disassociation with what these activists see as outdated, traditional Democratic ideology, further dividing their leaderless and, as they see it, increasingly aimless Democratic Party.

Opinion: Trump’s Negatives Are the Biggest — but Are They Also the Best?
The economy may be more important than approval ratings

Someone once told me, “Numbers will be the death of you.” He may yet be right, but at the risk of a premature demise, I’m going to attempt to enter the mathematical belly of the beast and tackle the argument underway in political circles on the average or mean number of House seats Republicans are likely to lose this fall based on presidential job approval.

Let’s begin with whether using a historical mean to determine projected election losses makes sense. From 1950 on, the average loss of seats for the party holding the presidency in a nonpresidential congressional election is 24.

Opinion: Digital Discourse, Not Division
The deep anger driving partisan politics is a problem for everyone

After a Facebook user posted an old satirical Onion spoof on teachers, guns and the National Rifle Association as an expression of her political opinion on the gun control issue, one of her buddies on the social media platform lamented, “I can’t tell Onion headlines from NYT and WaPost ones any longer.”

In this case, the issue was the Parkland school tragedy, hardly the stuff of satire, but when it comes to digital literacy and political discourse in general, this exchange only illustrates a larger point, that some folks may need a crash course in just how to tell when they’re being played — by the Russians or anybody else.

Opinion: America Doesn’t Care How the Sausage Is Made
Both parties need to outline the outcomes of their policies first

Process rather than outcome has become the new definition of governing in D.C. and that’s not good for America.

The inside story of how a controversial bill is passed or a presidential decision is reached has historical value. But when day-to-day political discourse thrives on gossipy renditions of process as we see now rather than focusing on the outcomes these actions will deliver, a disillusioned electorate is the unfortunate consequence.

Opinion: To Filibuster or Not to Filibuster
The American public wants government to act

To filibuster or not to filibuster. That is the question and only Senate Democrats can supply an answer. The choice is clear. More uncertainty for the country and putting economic growth at risk — or a willingness to accept compromise neither side may like but both can live with.

Yet a government shutdown looms once again, the markets are rattled and frustration is rising — especially for House Republicans who have sent bill after bill to the Senate only to have Democrats block consideration.

Opinion: The Schumer Chaos Strategy
Democrats have good reason to be afraid of the economy

The loss of the House in 2006 and the election of Barack Obama two years later led political pundits, prematurely as we now know, to declare the Republican Party dead, doomed to remain a minority party, perhaps permanently. In the summer of 2009, the weak economy was still the top issue, and Republicans on the Hill found themselves debating strategic options as they looked for a way back from the political wilderness.

There were plenty of opinions among leadership and the rank and file on how to move forward. But one conversation stands out: It not only helped determine the party’s strategic path, but the dynamics at play then are not that different from the political environment we’re seeing unfold today.