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

Despite extensive coverage of the presidential slate, including Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr., the dynamics of the 2020 presidential race have not changed dramatically in the last few months and still marginally favor Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

How Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, deals with questions about her support for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will likely influence her re-election prospects, and, by extension, control of the Senate, Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Abortion has emerged as a major issue heading into the 2020 election, which will likely benefit Democrats politically if people see abortions rights as under credible threat, Rothenberg writes. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

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

Former Vice President Joe Biden has made appealing to unions a big part of his campaign, but that strategy might have its limitations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Republicans have used the “socialist” label on New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the Democratic Party, reprising the tactics of the late campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein, Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.’”

Nancy Pelosi: the Democratic Party’s undisputed leader
Speaker keeps her party together and Trump back on his heels

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leaves her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday March 14, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — For most of the last campaign cycle, Republican ad-makers treated then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi like a piñata.

They used her name and image in thousands of GOP television spots around the country, trying to turn the midterm election into a referendum on her liberalism and “San Francisco values.” That effort failed, of course, because midterms are never about the minority party’s congressional leadership, at least not when the president is someone as controversial and polarizing as Donald Trump.

Democrats try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
So far, they’re off to a fast start in alienating swing voters

The more the Democratic Party embraces the policies of presidential nominees like Sen. Bernie Sanders, the less swing voters will be thinking of the 2020 election as a referendum on President Donald Trump, Rothenberg writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Democrats are off to a fast start in their efforts to blow the 2020 presidential election.

Sure, Donald Trump’s job approval ratings from reputable polling firms still sit in the low- to mid-40s, and congressional investigations are likely to keep the president, his family and his administration on the defensive.

GOP rebranding operation is underway – with Democratic help
With Donald Trump, GOP is aware of unfavorables, so they are busy working on opposition

Republican strategists are aware of the shortcomings President Donald Trump takes into a 2020 re-election contest, and they are busy focusing on the shortcomings of Democrats to counter that, Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — I have told this story before, but it is well worth repeating — that of favorables and unfavorables, and who more often wins an election. 

Shortly after the Democratic sweep of 2006, I spoke to two Democratic leaders in Congress who told me the same thing. It was all well and good that their party had taken control of both chambers of Congress, they said, but what would matter for 2008 — and the next presidential contest — would be how Democrats behaved over the subsequent two years.

Presidential questions for the Democrats, Part II
Likability, electability and the Trump factor will weigh on voters’ minds

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have both launched exploratory committees as they consider bids for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — In my last column, I raised three questions Democrats need to answer about the kind of nominee they want in 2020. Do they want an insurgent outsider, do they need someone with experience and must they have a woman and/or African-American on the ticket? In this column, I look at three other questions Democrats need to address.

One person’s idea of “likable” undoubtedly is very different from another’s, so it’s wise to be cautious when trying to generalize about likability in politics.

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.