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Another End-of-the-Year Winners & Losers Column
From Trump to Beto to the Red Sox, it has been, well, another year

President Donald Trump provided much fodder for Stu Rothenberg's annual end of the year winners and losers column. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Well, it’s time for another of my end-of-the-year winners and losers columns. I’ve titled it “Another End-of-the-Year Winners & Losers Column” just so you don’t miss the point.

As I have often done in the past, I’ll offer up a category with some nominees. Then I’ll give you my winner. If you disagree, please send your complaints to Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections or Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report. Just don’t send them to me.

Maybe Stu Rothenberg Isn’t So Bad at This After All
2016 was a disaster, 2018 not so much

From left, Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., talk during a photo-op in Schumer’s office in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boy, I stunk up the joint in 2016. I was sure that Donald Trump wouldn’t — couldn’t — win the presidency, and I said so without any “ifs” or “buts.” I didn’t pay enough attention to the possibility that Trump could lose the popular vote badly but still win an Electoral College majority. I tried to explain my mistakes as completely as I could in an end-of-the-year Washington Post column.

But this year, watching the midterms from 10,000 feet instead of being in the weeds, I feel pretty good about my analysis throughout the cycle. Maybe it was dumb luck. Maybe it was years of watching campaigns and candidates. Maybe it was some of each.

Two Elections: Democrats’ Chance of Taking the Senate Fading, House Likely to Flip
Senate results in midterms crucial for GOP and Democratic prospects in 2020

The North Dakota Senate race looks all but over for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Rothenberg writes.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — The Democrats’ chances of netting at least two Senate seats always seemed like a long shot. But a month ago, the stars looked to be aligning for them. Today, those stars tell a different story.

With the Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, opening up a clear lead over Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, the North Dakota Senate race looks all but over now, according to multiple insiders. That means Democrats will need to swipe at least three GOP seats to take back the Senate — an outcome that currently appears somewhere between unlikely and impossible.

How Will Kavanaugh Shape the Midterms?
Debacle over his Supreme Court nomination likely to yield mixed results

Barring something unforeseen, Judge Brett Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. The effect on the midterms is likely to amount to a split decision. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Assuming the FBI investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t uncover some startling new information, the Senate is likely to confirm him to the Supreme Court and the political effects on the midterms could go in two different directions. 

Democratic lawmakers will complain, of course, that the inquiry wasn’t thorough enough, that Kavanaugh lacks a judicial temperament, that he is too partisan to sit on the land’s highest court, and that he wasn’t completely honest with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his drinking.

Why It’s NOT the Economy, Stupid
With growth up, unemployment down, voters are focusing on other issues

National Republicans are hoping the strong economy will boost candidates like Jim Hagedorn, their nominee in Minnesota’s 1st District, seen here campaigning Sunday at the Applefest parade in La Crescent, Minn. However, public polling shows the economy is not at the top of voters’ concerns. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — Last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a web video entitled “Better Off Now.” According to NRCC communications director Matt Gorman, who was quoted in the accompanying press release, “November comes down to one question: Are Americans better off now than they were two years ago?” That might be what Republicans want, but it is not likely to be voters’ sole motivation as they cast their ballots. 

According to Gorman, voters will “keep Republicans in the majority.” The economy certainly is good, and there is no reason to believe that will change before November.

A Back-of-the-Envelope Look at How the House Could Flip
Electoral waves, ranging in size, are the norm for midterms going back decades

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., is running for Senate, leaving behind a House seat that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. It’s a prime takeover target for Democrats this fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Count the House races, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of whether the House will flip in the fall. No, you can’t be entirely certain how an individual toss-up contest is going to turn out in November. But you can arrive at a ballpark assessment of House changes right now by looking at three baskets of districts and how similar ones behaved in previous midterms.

There are 25 Republican House members representing districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 (up from 23 before Pennsylvania drew a new congressional map). Almost one-third of those members, eight, are retiring. Given the current political polarization, the normal midterm dynamic (which punishes the president’s party) and the added risk of losing open seats, it’s likely that most of those 25 GOP districts will flip party control.

Opinion: Where Do We Go From Here?
Wholesale change in the political environment seems far off

President Donald Trump makes remarks to the media upon arriving in the Capitol for a meeting on immigration with House Republicans on June 19. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On Monday evening, Judy Woodruff asked me and USA Today’s Susan Page on the “PBS NewsHour” how the country moves forward from its current state of division. I didn’t have a good answer.

I said what I have been saying for years: I don’t see an obvious solution.

Analysis: The Wrong Fight at the Wrong Time for the GOP
The more quality of life issues dominate the election cycle, the worse it will be for Republicans

The political consequences of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies could be bad news for his party in November, Rothenberg writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

You need to hand it to President Donald Trump, his entire administration and his party. It takes more than a little chutzpah to act in a way that seems callous to the concerns of children. First, it was gun control. Now it is immigration in general, and separating children from their parents in particular. If this is the way to winning the midterms, it’s hard to see how.

Republicans have talked for decades about crime, drugs, national security, traditional values, the dangers associated with big government and helping businesses produce economic growth.

Analysis: The House Blue Wave Is Alive and Well
In the generic ballot and presidential approval numbers, fundamentals remain unchanged

Reports of the receding of a blue wave have been exaggerated, Rothenberg writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For the last couple of months, I’ve heard from many quarters that the “blue wave” has dissipated. Meh. 

Advocates of that view usually point to the RealClearPolitics generic ballot average or Donald Trump’s job approval ratings, which suggest the president’s popularity has risen and the Democratic House advantage fallen.

Analysis: Steve Bannon Is Right About the Midterms — Until He Isn’t
Midterms are rarely about choices, mostly about the incumbent party

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon, here with senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, has a strategy for the midterms that is all about placing the president up front. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Trump campaign chief executive and White House strategist Steve Bannon recently told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the midterm elections will be “an up or down vote” on the president. He also asserted that it’s imperative that Donald Trump nationalize the midterm elections.

“Trump’s second presidential race will be on Nov. 6 of this year. He’s on the ballot, and we’re going to have an up or down vote. Do you back Trump’s program, OK, with all that’s good and all that’s bad? Do you back Trump’s program, or do you back removing him?” Bannon told Zakaria.