Trump’s speech rolled out Republicans’ blueprint for general election
Democrats must present contrast to Trump without looking out of touch on humming economy

For an hour and a half, President Donald Trump used his third State of the Union speech to remind Republicans why they supported him in the past and why they will stand with him in November.  

“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” he boasted. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American.”

Illinois poll illustrates one challenge in campaign coverage
How results are released can influence whether polls are taken seriously

While polling elections is a challenge, analyzing polls can be even more dangerous. I considered scrapping a couple days of reporting work on a survey memo on an upcoming Democratic primary, but decided to share what happened to provide a small window into how I digest polling.

Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski fended off a competitive challenge in the 2018 Democratic primary and recently released a poll that showed him with a 23-point lead in a 2020 rematch with Marie Newman. That felt like a stretch considering their 2-point race a couple years ago.

Fate of ‘national security Democrats’ provides key to House majority
Republicans hope for impeachment backlash; these races tell a different story

Four months ago, seven freshman Democrats accelerated the impeachment process with an op-ed in The Washington Post. With less than a year before Election Day, their electoral fates represent a microcosm of the Republican challenge to win back the House majority.

For much of the impeachment discussion and process, Republicans have been emboldened. They believe Democrats will be held accountable for the time spent investigating President Donald Trump and experience a backlash similar to the one Republicans faced in the late 1990s when President Bill Clinton was impeached.

Was Hillary Clinton a terrible candidate?
Vote Above Replacement suggests she was more valuable than Trump

Rating change: With Hunter gone, California race shifts to Solid Republican
Democrat took 48 percent against wounded incumbent in 2018

Corrected 2:02 p.m. | California Republican Duncan Hunter finally left the House and took any Democratic chances of winning the 50th District with him.

Hunter won reelection in 2018 by 3 points in a Southern California seat that Republicans shouldn’t have to worry about defending, considering President Donald Trump carried it by 15 points in 2016. Hunter was under indictment at the time, which shows the strength any GOP candidate should have in the district.

Is Trump really the MVP of the GOP?
Data shows he underperformed compared to baseline Republican vote in key states

After a tumultuous 2018 that saw them lose their House majority, Republicans often seem eager to dismiss those midterm results as typical while pining for the next election when President Donald Trump will top the ballot and drive turnout in their favor.

A closer look, however, shows Trump may not be as extraordinary a candidate as he gets credit for, and his status as GOP savior might be overrated.

Rating Change: Pompeo decision makes Kansas seat more vulnerable
Leading GOP candidate Kris Kobach comes with risks in general election

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision not to run for Senate in Kansas creates a legitimate scenario for Democrats to win a seat in a Republican state and increases the chances Democrats win control of the chamber in November.

Pompeo has long been viewed as the Republicans’ easiest path to keeping retiring Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat in GOP hands. Now, there’s significant concern that polarizing former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will win the GOP nomination and lose the 2020 Senate race in the same way he lost the 2018 race for governor (which was by 5 points).

Political fallout from Soleimani could be biggest for Senate
Without Pompeo, Senate seat in Kansas could be vulnerable for GOP

President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, and it was rightfully treated as a big deal. But as with breaking news of any size and scope, it’s best to pause before determining the political fallout.

While most of the subsequent conversation revolves around potential future military conflict, retaliatory attacks, the president’s standing, the reaction from Democrats and the role of Congress in the use of force, the biggest impact could actually be in the battle for the Senate majority.

2020 Senate and House outlook looks a lot like it did at the start of 2019
Dramatic news made minimal changes to political landscape

More than a year into the election cycle and with less than a year to go, how much has the political landscape changed? The answer: not a lot. And that’s not particularly good news for Republicans.

Thus far, we know that a year’s worth of news (including impeachment) has not fundamentally altered the president’s standing. As 2019 came to a close, Donald Trump’s job rating stood at 44.5 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, according to the RealClearPolitics national polling average. A year ago, the president’s standing was virtually the same. On Jan. 1, 2019, Trump’s job rating was 43 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, according to RCP.

Ratings change: Van Drew going Republican tilts NJ race to GOP
Primary may still loom for freshman, who won district carried by Trump in ’16 and Obama in ’08 and ’12

As if impeachment wasn’t providing enough news, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew has decided to switch parties. Even though it’s not quite official, more than half of his staff resigning should be a significant clue.

His decision changes the partisan makeup in the House by one seat without fundamentally altering the 2020 fight for the majority.

Analysis: Impeachment’s no ‘game changer’ and other pet peeves
News flash: Two things can be simultaneously true without being mutually exclusive

After weeks of public hearings, I’m ready to take a stand on impeachment. Well, not quite. Actually, there are more than a few pieces of the impeachment coverage, arguments, and narrative that are driving me crazy. And writing a few hundred words seems like a semi-healthy way to attempt to set the record straight.

Impeachment is not a game-changer until proven otherwise. I’m skeptical that impeachment will fundamentally alter the electoral landscape, in part, because it has not dramatically swayed voters’ opinions of the president so far. According to Friday’s RealClearPolitics average, President Donald Trump’s job approval rating was 44 percent compared to 54 percent disapprove. On Sept. 24, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal impeachment inquiry, it was 45 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove. Maybe something can be historic and politically insignificant at the same time.

North Carolina ratings changes offer a taste of redistricting to come
After seats held by Holding and Walker lean more Democratic, one retires with the other deciding

Ten years is long enough to forget the chaos of covering campaigns during redistricting. But North Carolina, bless its heart, was kind enough to offer us an early taste of the upcoming craziness of a redistricting cycle.

First, new congressional lines can put new pressure on members.

Don’t know which candidate is stronger? We have a metric for that

Sometimes it’s difficult to discern the strength of a particular candidate running for election, especially when political pundits bandy data and metrics back and forth. 

Luckily, we have a metric for that. 

House ratings changes: A dozen races shift toward Democrats
Combination of self-inflicted wounds, slow recruiting and suburbs continuing to shift against Trump diminish GOP chances

Most Republicans believe their party has weathered the 2018 storm and brighter days are ahead in 2020. But that perspective doesn’t mean the GOP’s chances of retaking the House are particularly good.

Even if the national political environment isn’t as bad for the GOP as the midterms when they suffered a net loss of 40 House seats, there’s little evidence that President Donald Trump will dramatically improve his 2016 performance in key competitive districts next year.

Moneyball, meet politics: Could VAR settle arguments about candidate strength?
Vote Above Replacement puts Klobuchar atop presidential field, Collins way above other senators

In the era of data and metrics and models in political analysis, at least one question still remains: How do we quantify the strength of individual candidates?

Arguing over whether a candidate or incumbent is good or bad is an age-old tradition in the political media and among party operatives. Typically, candidate strength is measured by fundraising or the margin of a win or loss. But that can fail to account for the particular election cycle or the possibility that any candidate running on a particular party’s line in a particular year or state would do just as well.

Rating change: King retirement weakens GOP hold on New York seat
Long Island district is suburban, but differs from places that swung to Democrats in 2018

Years of predictions finally came true Monday as New York Republican Peter T. King announced he will not seek reelection in the 2nd District. His decision leaves behind another competitive open seat in the suburbs for the GOP to defend.

In 2016, President Donald Trump carried the southern Long Island district by a significant margin, 53 percent to 44 percent, but the longtime congressman’s narrow 6-point margin of victory last fall is fueling Democratic optimism, particularly now that he is not running.

Lessons from Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia elections may not be what you think
Results from 2019 offer some clues about what may work and not work in 2020

ANALYSIS — Voters in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia were gracious enough to go to the polls on Tuesday and give us some tangible results to chew over with 12 months to go before the 2020 elections. Here are some thoughts.

Kentucky was not an upset. Inside Elections changed its rating on the governor’s race from Lean Republican to Toss-up in mid July after finding Gov. Matt Bevin very vulnerable. So those who were surprised by Democrat Andy Beshear’s declared victory weren’t paying close enough attention.

The four most likely scenarios for 2020 elections, explained
Political Theater, Episode 100

The 2020 elections are shaping up as the most significant in memory, but predicting them is a handicapper's nightmare. Nevertheless, CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gave it a whirl, offering these four scenarios: 1) Eviction at 1600 2) Blue Washington  3) Status Quo 4) Red Revival.

A year out, here's four scenarios for 2020 elections
How voters feel about economy, impeachment will decide which party rules in 2021

After Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, there’s a saturating fear of projecting elections. Nearly three years into his presidency, and with one year left in his first term, there are multiple potential outcomes for the 2020 elections. But the scenarios aren’t created equal and don’t have the same chance of taking place, and they will have a profound impact on policy in the future.

Even though predicting anything to do with Trump might seem like a risk because of how typically damaging stories don’t seem to impact his standing, the president is a historically unpopular figure whose job approval rating has been static for months. More voters have disapproved than approved of his job performance since about a week after he was inaugurated, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, and his approval rating has been between 41 and 44 percent for most of the past year and a half.

Ratings update: No change for California seat Katie Hill is giving up
Little indication the GOP can win a district that backed Hillary Clinton by 7 points

A Democratic House member resigns, but is it really at risk of a Republican takeover?

Less than a year after getting elected to Congress, Rep. Katie Hill announced her resignation from California’s 25th District amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with staffers. On one hand, it’s easy to see why Republicans might be excited about the special election, considering they held the seat for a quarter of a century not that long ago. But there’s little indication that it’s currently a serious GOP opportunity.