Gingrich, Gephardt and the Day They Exchanged Power
Making sure the dance of democracy continued

It takes a lot for Donald Trump to shock a political audience at this point, but that’s what happened during last week’s debate when he said he’d let us all know whether he’d accept the election results once Election Day gets here. That followed weeks of claiming that the election is rigged against him and of warnings to his followers that the whole thing might be stolen at the ballot box.

The display was enough to make a person hate politics. But I have a surprising cure for you if you’re looking for a more inspiring example of American statesmanship — the moment in 1995 when House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt gave the speaker’s gavel to Newt Gingrich after the GOP won control of the chamber for the first time in 40 years.

Chris Wallace, for the Win
Moderator posed direct questions on heavy policy topics at final debate

He wasn’t the flashiest debate moderator this cycle or the most aggressive. But Fox News’ Chris Wallace showed the rest of us how it’s done Wednesday night when he hosted the third and final debate of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle. As Wallace served one direct question after another, he gave voters more insights by the end of the night than they began with and achieved the ultimate measure of success for any political journalist.

Wallace began the night approaching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with unfailing politeness, referring to them as “Mr. Trump” and “Secretary Clinton” in his questions and thanking them for their answers when they provided them. But it would have been wrong for anyone to mistake Wallace’s civility for a lack of seriousness.

Time for Democrats to Build a Bigger Tent
2016 election presents a rare opportunity to broaden the party's appeal

It feels good, doesn’t it, Democrats? Donald Trump is imploding. Republicans are in an open, bloody revolt. And the polls look so good for Hillary Clinton, you’re starting to believe that this might really happen.

It’s probably tempting right now to start to wonder what you’ll push through first when you’re in charge — climate change or immigration reform? Card check or the public option? With the White House and maybe even the House and Senate in Democratic control, you just might have the numbers to do it all.

Trump's 5 Most Offensive Debate Moments for Women
GOP nominee did himself few favors with voters he really needed to reach

The cable news consensus Sunday night seemed to be that Donald Trump won the debate. He was strong, he knew his stuff. He didn’t physically light himself on fire or reach over and scratch Hillary Clinton’s face off. He was so much better than expected! Clinton, on the other hand, was defensive. She wasn’t animated. She was too wonkish and distant from the crowd.

But every debate has multiple audiences, and the audience Trump really needed to reach Sunday night were the voters who are not yet supporting him, especially college-educated female voters who voted by a 6-point margin for Mitt Romney in 2012, but are now supporting Clinton over Trump by 25 points.

Time for Mike Pence to Take a Stand
Trump's running mate is being used to endorse the indefensible

It’s a good thing Mike Pence has a conscience because he’s going to need it as he struggles with what to do next as Donald Trump’s running mate, including whether he should stay on as Trump’s running mate at all.

If Republicans succeed in convincing Trump to drop out of the race, Pence is the obvious choice to replace him and, according to at least one poll, could defeat Hillary Clinton. But if Trump refuses to get out, the Indiana governor should save himself and his reputation and let Trump clean up the mess he's made.

Mike Pence Just Won the Iowa Caucuses
Mark your calendars for 2020

Mike Pence went into the Farmville, Virginia, vice presidential debate as a lame-duck, one-term governor and left two hours later as the favorite for conservative Republicans to win the GOP presidential nomination for 2020.  Of course, that would require Donald Trump losing in November, but we'll get to that later.

The Indiana governor managed his 90-minute career comeback with a combination of a broadcast-quality performance (thanks to a past career as a radio host) and a shrewd political strategy of not even trying to defend much of the record of his own ticket mate.

Mike Pence Has More to Lose Than an Election
Can he defend Trump but not sacrifice his own credibility in the process?

If Donald Trump spends even 90 minutes of time preparing for his next debate against Hillary Clinton, let’s hope he spends it watching Mike Pence debate Tim Kaine Tuesday night.

Unlike Trump, who was reportedly too distracted to bother getting ready for his own face-off with Clinton, Pence has prepared for Tuesday night’s debate like a Boy Scout looking for a badge.

What if Senate Republicans Save Trump From Himself?
Ticket-splitting may not be dead, it might just be sleeping

To hear Donald Trump tell it for the last year, Senate Republicans were weak, dumb losers, and not just the ones he ran against for president. He infamously called Sen. John McCain “not a war hero” and tweeted that Sen. Jeff Flake was “a very weak and ineffective senator … Sad!” He lambasted Sen. Mark Kirk as “dishonest” and a “loser,” and told an Atlanta rally that he wished Republican leaders in Washington would “just please be quiet” so he could win the race by himself.

He tagged Sen. Lindsey Graham “a disgrace” and “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen.” Sen. “Little Marco” Rubio was “just another Washington, D.C., politician” with “the biggest ears I’ve ever seen.” Sen. Rand Paul was “truly weird” and Sen. “Lyin'” Ted Cruz was not only dishonest, but by Trump’s suggestion, his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Partisan Lines on Gun Safety Shift ... Subtly
Could some Republicans keep their jobs by embracing new controls?

For anyone following gun control (or gun safety) as a political issue, it would be easy to dismiss 2016 as just another year when a whole lot happened, but nothing changed. 

There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, including the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the July attack on Dallas police officers. After every major incident, Washington followed the now-familiar script of outrage, calls from Democrats for gun restrictions, denial from Republicans that guns are the problem, and then, as usual, gridlock.

Decoding the Suburban Women's Vote so You Don't Have to
Most seem ready to settle for someone who won't lie to them

It’s fall, people, and you know what that means, right? Kids are back in school, Congress is back in session, and since it’s an election year, the political industrial complex of America has just remembered the oft-forgotten fact that women make up more than half of the electorate and, therefore, probably should have been more than half of what politicians and campaigns were thinking about and talking about for the last three and a half years.

What’s done is done. So, let’s not harp on the fact that most elected officials are men, most political consultants are men, and most political pollsters are men. Or the fact that many men have a habit of forgetting anything they don’t really want to remember. They’re going to know when the Redskins are playing on Monday Night Football, but will they remember parent-teacher night? My sources are skeptical.

Forget About Great People, Where Are the Good Ones?
Two seriously flawed candidates are on the cusp of becoming president

I saw a documentary last weekend about John F. Kennedy Jr. and the primary goal that he began to pursue in his adult life. He told a close friend that he knew he was expected to be a “great person,” someone who would do important things and maybe even lead the country. But, he added, he believed the harder challenge in life might be trying to be a good person, someone who treated other people with kindness and was faithful to his family.  

What struck me about JFK Jr.’s hope was how foreign the concept seems to be in either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton’s thinking, but how common the sentiment is among everyone else I know or meet covering politics. We try to teach our kids to be good people. We aspire to it ourselves, too, even if we often fail. At some point, we used to also expect the same thing of our leaders.

Gay Marriage Stand Won't Cost Ohio GOP Senator His Seat
Portman begins to pull away in battleground state

When Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced his decision to support marriage equality in March of 2013, he explained that his change of heart on the issue came after learning that his college-age son, Will, is gay. “It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have," Portman told local reporters.

The immediate question at the time was how the Ohio freshman senator’s reversal on gay marriage would affect his re-election chances in 2016. Running in the battleground state of Ohio would guarantee a close race no matter what. Going it alone as the first Republican senator ever to support marriage equality meant Portman could be risking his seat, if not his career.

No Family Favors for Senator's Daughter and EpiPen CEO
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia

Is there anything members of Congress love more than the chance to haul a wayward CEO to Capitol Hill to lecture them about their companies’ un-American transgressions? The CEOs of the Wall Street banks got the indignant Hill treatment in 2008 after the mortgage meltdown. The CEOs of the Big Three car companies did too, only to be scolded at a later hearing for flying private jets to Washington for the first one.

Man-child and bad boy pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli sat in front of House members for hours during a House Oversight hearing in February while angry committee members unloaded on him for price gouging, spurred on by the fact that Shkreli had taken the Fifth at the start of the hearing and called them “imbeciles” on Twitter before and after he appeared in Washington.

The Canaries in the Collapsing Trump Coal Mine
Pro-Trump down-ballot Republicans find their fortunes sinking

There was a time in the early summer of 2016, after Donald Trump seemed to have locked up the Republican presidential nomination but before he attacked an Indiana judge as “Mexican” and picked a ruthless fight with a Gold Star family, that embracing Trump as a down-ticket candidate seemed like a gamble worth taking.

For newcomers, it would be a way to both get early media attention and surf off the best of the Trump brand to tell voters they were a new kind of candidate, too. For incumbents, going full-Trump was the path of least resistance — a way to stay loyal to the party and its likely nominee, and associate with the man who was, against all odds, clobbering the competition in their states.

Rising Stars in Short Supply at DNC and RNC
Party gatherings featured faces of the past and present

PHILADELPHIA — When Barack Obama spoke at his final Democratic convention as president Wednesday night, it was impossible not to remember the night in 2004 when his first speech to the DNC in Boston launched him onto a lightening-fast path to the White House.  

He was just a state senator then, but convention speeches can do that for a person who is able to match his rhetoric to the moment. It happened for Sen. Marco Rubio after he spoke to the Republican National Convention four years ago, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who can trace his spot on the short list for vice president this year to the speech he delivered as the mayor of San Antonio to the 2012 DNC.  

What If Joe Biden Had Run?
Middle class grit and ability to connect could have made him a formidable candidate

When Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, he delivered an explosive indictment of Donald Trump and a passionate endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  

"Everybody knows she's smart and everybody knows she's tough," he said. "But I know what Hillary is passionate about."  

Bernie Struggling to Contain His Revolution
But it's not clear that he's in control of the movement he began

Bernie Sanders started a political revolution in 2016, but it became immediately obvious on the first day of the Democratic National Convention that Sanders is not entirely in control of the movement he began.  

The first signs of a mutiny in Bernieland came hours before the convention was gaveled to order in Philadelphia, as Sanders addressed a group of supporters eager to get their marching orders. When he signaled that the time had come to move on from battling Hillary Clinton and shift the focus to Republicans, Sanders could not rein in their anger.  

Daddy Issues Blow Up the GOP in Cleveland
Blood ties trump principle and values in dictating critical decisions

As recently as last year, decisions within the Republican Party were largely dominated by conservative principles and traditional values — a checklist of small-government, often religiously inspired, goals that sometimes prevented legislative progress, but at least bound the party together with ideas most Republicans seemed to share.  

But at the GOP convention in Cleveland this week, the driving force behind some of the most consequential developments affecting the party's future were driven by old-fashioned family dynamics. And it turns out nearly everybody at the top of the party has major daddy issues.  

Peter King Unloads on Ted Cruz and his 'Lizard Smirk'
Pair clashed over Cruz's debate line about 'New York values'

New York Republican Rep. Peter King has never been a fan of Sen. Ted Cruz. But in an interview with Roll Call in the hours after Cruz refused to endorse fellow New Yorker, Donald Trump, at the Republican National Convention, King unloaded on the Texas senator as a "liar and a self-centered fraud" who should never be considered again for president of the United States.  

"I was sitting in the front row, dead center, with the New York delegates and they're all shouting at him and yelling at him, "Endorse! Endorse!"" King said, recounting the moment Cruz spoke to the Republican National Convention. "And the guys are shaking their fists. And he has that lizard smirk on his face."  

Ted Cruz Buries the Hatchet — In Donald Trump's Back
Non-endorsement stokes belief senator will run for president again

Months after he started calling him Lyin' Ted, Donald Trump appeared at a May rally in Indiana and suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, had been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  

"What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?" Trump asked. "It’s horrible.”