Stuart Rothenberg

Will Trump go negative? Just kidding …
2016 playbook is president’s only path to victory

OPINION — There is no need to speculate about President Donald Trump’s strategy for reelection. He plans to — and needs to — destroy his general election opponent.

That’s the only way an incumbent president with a job approval rating in the low 40s and sitting at 40 percent in hypothetical ballot tests can possibly win.

What happened to Kamala Harris?
The California Democrat seemed poised to take off as a candidate

OPINION | When this year began, I expected California Sen. Kamala Harris to be in the middle of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. But now, after months of campaigning and three nationally televised debates, Harris finds herself sitting in the second tier as she reorganizes her campaign and revamps her strategy.

Harris’s failure to launch has caused me to think about what went wrong and whether she will have a second chance to make a first impression.

Beware confirmation bias with the 2020 presidential race
What’s the rush to declare the Democratic race a three-person contest?

OPINION — “The next debate is do or die for many Democratic hopefuls.”

Andrew Yang “is on fire.”

Why working-class whites aren’t giving up on Trump
Key voting bloc found a champion in the president

OPINION — “In some countries working-class groups have proved to be the most nationalistic and jingoistic sector of the population,” wrote the highly esteemed sociologist and political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset — 60 years ago last month.

In his seminal article “Democracy and Working-Class Authoritarianism,” which appeared in the August 1959 issue of the American Sociological Review, Lipset observed that many in the working class were “in the forefront of the struggle against equal rights for minority groups, and have sought to limit immigration or to impose racial standards in countries with open immigration.”

The fight for the Senate grows more interesting
Small changes in 2020 landscape for chamber control benefits Democrats

ANALYSIS — Increased concern about the likelihood of an economic slowdown, new questions about President Donald Trump’s standing with voters, and a special election in Georgia certainly give Democrats some reason for optimism about next year’s fight for the Senate.

But while the Senate map surely is better for Democrats in 2020 than it was last cycle, the party will need an upset or two to win control of the chamber next November.

Do Democrats need a backup plan?
If Biden’s stumbles continue, a certain former first lady might be well-positioned to step in

ANALYSIS — With many surveys showing multiple Democratic hopefuls leading President Donald Trump in hypothetical 2020 ballot tests, Democrats should feel confident they can deny the incumbent president a second term. But many don’t.

In spite of the huge field, the Democratic race is muddled because of questions about Joe Biden’s campaign skills, the progressive agendas of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the difficulty in finding a nominee who can appeal to a variety of constituencies, from the party’s base to suburban swing voters to possibly even working-class white women.

Democrats still at square one
In wake of debates, party is largely status quo in its presidential contest

ANALYSIS — With two debates down and too many more still to go, Democrats are pretty much where they were before the June debates in Miami and the July debates in Detroit.

That shouldn’t surprise you. The Iowa caucuses are still almost six months away, and voters are just starting to tune into the campaign. They know full well they don’t have to embrace one hopeful now.

How third-party votes sunk Clinton, what they mean for Trump
Libertarians and Greens may try to convince you that higher turnout reflects growing support for their parties. It doesn’t

For all the talk about why Donald Trump was elected president while losing the popular vote and how he could win again, one of the least discussed results of the 2016 election offers valuable lessons for Democrats.

An astounding 7.8 million voters cast their presidential ballots for someone other than Trump or Hillary Clinton. The two biggest third-party vote-getters were Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (almost 4.5 million votes) and the Green Party’s Jill Stein (1.5 million voters). But others received almost another 1.9 million votes as well.

Republicans want an election about socialism. They likely won’t get one
2020 election will be about Trump and his Democratic opponent. Not ‘the squad’

OPINION — If there was any doubt congressional Republicans want to make the 2020 election about something other than President Donald Trump, look no further than the House GOP’s campaign chairman. 

“Republicans will make 2020 race a choice between socialism and freedom, NRCC Chair Emmer says, w starring role for AOC & Squad as ‘Speaker in fact,’ & rest of Democrats as the ‘new Red Army,’” New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis tweeted last week about National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer.

When Trump attacks, the base turns out — for both parties
President inserts himself into national conversation that gives advantage to Democrats

OPINION — President Donald Trump’s attacks on the four Democratic congresswomen, known collectively as “the squad,” appear to be a strange way to try to win reelection.

There is no doubt that Trump needs to motivate his base to win a second term, and his tweets and comments about immigrants and “socialism” are, at least in part, intended to energize his loyal supporters and demonize the entire Democratic Party. On one level, that certainly makes sense.

Kentucky Senate: Seriously, are we doing this again?
Amy McGrath is giving Democrats hope. They should know better

OPINION — I understand Democrats’ frustration with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as their desire to send him into retirement in the 2020 elections. But once again Democrats have gotten ahead of themselves in their optimism that they can defeat the Kentucky Republican.

Six years ago, Democrats and many in the national media gushed about the prospects of Alison Lundergan Grimes against McConnell. Grimes was young, articulate and personable, and she was the state’s sitting secretary of state.

What we can learn from the 2004 presidential race
At this point 16 years ago, John Kerry was nowhere near the top tier of Democratic primary hopefuls

ANALYSIS — Beware of reading too much into presidential polls. Take, for example, the 2004 race.

An August 2003 CNN/USA Today/Gallup national survey found Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president, leading the party’s presidential field with 23 percent. He was trailed by former House Majority (and Minority) Leader Richard A. Gephardt (13 percent), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (12 percent) and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (10 percent).

For the 2020 Democratic field, ‘electability’ doesn’t mean much — for now
Candidate deemed most likely to defeat Trump today may be different in three months time

Most discussions about “electability” boil down to what path Democrats need to take to win the White House.

Do they need a presidential nominee who mobilizes the base (including nonwhites, younger voters and those on the left) or one who attracts white, suburban swing voters and maybe even a 2016 Trump voter or two?

How many ways is Michigan in play in 2020?
Gary Peters’ re-election bid, presidential race make it a battleground

Michigan is surprisingly relevant in 2020.

The Democratic presidential nominee almost certainly has to carry the state next year to have any chance of denying President Donald Trump a second term. And Republicans are eyeing the seat of first-term Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

The 2020 Race: Still tilting Democratic
Economy, demographics, abortion and more keep dynamics as is

ANALYSIS — There has been plenty of attention recently on economic models that show President Donald Trump holding a huge advantage in the 2020 presidential contest. But it’s not that simple. 

Like alchemists hunting for the secret recipe that transmutes lead into gold, media personalities, political junkies and veteran analysts seem bewitched by the idea that they can divine the political future. I’m always skeptical of such claims.

The 8 Senate races likely to determine control of the chamber
Two in states won by Clinton and six in states that backed Trump

ANALYSIS — The fight for the Senate starts off with only a handful of seats at risk. And that’s being generous.

A few other states are worth your attention because of their competitiveness or questions about President Donald Trump’s impact, but almost two-thirds of Senate contests this cycle start as “safe” for the incumbent party and are likely to remain that way.

Will the Supreme Court save the GOP from itself on abortion?
Republicans may come to rue making abortion a 2020 election issue

OPINION — Social conservatives cheering the rash of state laws limiting legal abortion might want to be careful what they wish for.

That’s because Democratic prospects for 2020 are likely to improve as uncertainty about the future of Roe v. Wade grows. And uncertainty will grow as more and more states impose restrictions on legal abortion.

Oval Office obsessions from a crew with little experience, much ambition
Large Democratic field sends a message that only the presidency matters

OPINION — In the 1960 Democratic presidential race, there were a handful of contenders, including Sens. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Stuart Symington of Missouri. Others, including Florida Sen. George Smathers and California Gov. Pat Brown, ran as “favorite sons.”

The 1968 Republican presidential field included former Vice President Richard Nixon, and Govs. George Romney of Michigan, Ronald Reagan of California and Nelson Rockefeller of New York. The GOP contest also featured favorite sons, including Govs. Jim Rhodes of Ohio and John Volpe of Massachusetts.

Biden, unions and the politics of 2020
Democrats will run into trouble if they spend their time chasing the coalition they relied on before Trump

ANALYSIS — Shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he received his first union endorsement. “I couldn’t be more proud to have the International Association of Fire Fighters on my team,” Biden tweeted in response. “Unions built the middle class in this country — and as President, I’ll fight to strengthen them and grow the backbone of this country.”

As CNN noted, “Biden has long enjoyed close ties to labor groups and often attributes his political ascent to unions, referring to them as the ones who ‘brung me to the dance.’” But while Biden’s strength among working-class voters is one reason some observers see him as potentially able to win back Democrats who defected to Donald Trump in 2016, his initial comments about the IAFF endorsement at least raise a question about priorities and strategy.

Arthur Finkelstein reprised with GOP’s ‘socialists’ cries
The ‘s’ word is a reworking of the ‘liberal’ label from decades ago

OPINION — If you’re on any Republican list, you’ve undoubtedly received emails from one of the GOP campaign committees or a Capitol Hill communications staffer calling the Democrats “socialists.” To those of us who were around in the 1980s and 1990s, that’s nothing new. We remember the late GOP campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein’s strategy: Call your opponent a liberal again and again until voters believe it.

Finkelstein’s style was “unmistakable,” wrote Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post in 1996, “an avalanche of attack ads painting Democrats as ‘liberal,’ ‘ultraliberal,’ ‘embarrassingly liberal’ and ‘unbelievably liberal.’”