Stuart Rothenberg

Podcast: It’s the Economy Stupid? Maybe Not​
Political Theater, Episode 6

Roll Call Political analyst Stu Rothenberg explains why GOP gains in a generic ballot represent just a part of the overall political picture and political reporter Bridget Bowman previews Arizona's upcoming special election.

Show Notes:

Analysis: The Generic Is Falling! The Generic Is Falling!
A deeper look at polling shows a fairly consistent Democratic advantage

I hear it all the time these days. The Democratic electoral wave is petering out. The generic ballot shows the Democrats’ advantage is cratering. President Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are up. Voters are giving the president more and more credit for the economy’s strength. Lighten up, political junkies, the election is not until November. Today’s generic may not be tomorrow’s.

Moreover, the Democrats remain well-positioned to benefit from an electoral wave. This column focuses on the generic ballot, as reported and averaged by RealClearPolitics.

Analysis: The GOP Catch-22 — Donald Trump
Republicans in Congress are in a no-win situation with the president

Even if you think Republican leaders in Congress have shown no spine in responding to President Donald Trump’s more outrageous and inappropriate comments, you ought to be willing to acknowledge that GOP legislators are caught in a no-win situation.

It’s always tempting to tell incumbents of an unpopular president’s party to criticize their own party leader as a way to survive a midterm wave. But that strategy rarely works in competitive congressional districts when the political environment is as bad as it is for Republicans today.

Analysis: The Stunning ‘Role of Government’ Numbers
Trump years have been marked by more preference for government action

While most people seem fascinated by shifts in presidential job approval and national ballot tests, I’ve always thought that the “role of government” question asked in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The responses to that question offer interesting insights into how voters see government, which, in turn, affects how they view the two parties and how they behave when the next election rolls around.

Analysis: Watch the Polls, Ignore the Post-Shutdown Chatter
Shutdown was more about hype than a political realignment

Over the past few weeks, members of Congress, journalists and television hosts agreed on one thing: The looming government shutdown was a huge deal. Then, after the shutdown ended, those same people pontificated about who won and who lost, as well as about liberal dissatisfaction with the deal to open the government. Here is my advice: ignore most or all of this chatter.

Instead, focus on two new national polls, one from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, and the other from The Washington Post and ABC News.

Analysis: It’s a Blue House Wave, but Not Yet a Senate One
Rural, Trump-friendly states make for a formidable map for Democrats

“The odds are greater than half we will take back the Senate.” — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Monday night 

Democrats ought to temper their optimism about the fight for the Senate this year.

The Democrats’ Savior
Donald Trump gave Democrats what they could not give themselves: unity

One year ago, as Donald Trump was preparing to take the oath of office, Democrats were in disarray. Supporters of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were pointing fingers at each other, the Democratic National Committee was in disgrace, and Democratic voters were demoralized.

Now, Trump has succeeded in doing something extraordinary, something neither Clinton nor House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could do — he has united and energized Democrats.

House Seats You Think Can’t Flip but Might
Political wave elections create their own race dynamics

Responses to the “generic ballot” poll question suggest a partisan electoral wave is building. But the fight for control of the House isn’t a single national election. It will be fought district by district, and national Democrats face challenges on the ground even with the generic ballot favoring them.

In Michigan, according to America Votes 2007-2008, the statewide congressional vote shifted noticeably from 2004 to 2006 — from 49 percent Republican and 48 percent Democratic to 53 percent Democratic and 44 percent Republican — but that popular vote surge for the Democrats didn’t translate to a shift of even a single House seat.

Clinton Starts with a Decisive Advantage
Working-class whites aren't enough to carry Trump to victory

The warnings about jumping to conclusions about November are widespread.

I’ve heard that it’s early in the presidential race and that we underestimated Donald Trump last time so we should be careful now. I’ve also heard that Trump’s strength with working-class whites could change the electoral map, giving him a path to an Electoral College win.

Ryan Rides to the Rescue — But Not Until 2020
If GOP loses big in November, House speaker becomes de facto party leader

I recently asked a veteran Republican strategist how his party picks up the pieces after what now looks to be a very difficult 2016 election. His answer was quick and decisive: Paul Ryan.

If November’s elections are as messy for the GOP as they now appear, with Republicans failing once again to win the White House and also losing their Senate majority, Ryan would almost certainly become his party’s de facto leader – and that would offer him both opportunities and challenges after the election.

GOP's Troubles Just Beginning
Issues and demography favor Democrats

Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have glaring weaknesses as presidential nominees, but that’s only the beginning of the GOP's problems. Just as important, the current mix of top issues is simply terrible for Republicans in general and conservatives in particular.

The country moved noticeably to the right starting in the early 1980s with Ronald Reagan and continuing through the presidency of Bill Clinton (“The era of big government is over”) and even the first years of the George W. Bush administration.

How Many Might Defect from Trump or Cruz?
It isn't only about new voters

There has been plenty of talk from the two leading Republican presidential contenders about how they will attract voters who didn’t embrace recent GOP nominees.

For Ted Cruz, his pool of new voters supposedly includes conservatives who didn’t bother to vote because they saw few differences between the parties. Donald Trump, on the other hand, promises to energize working-class voters who've been left behind.

Democrats Are Headed off Their Own Cliff
Instead of trying to control the center, Sanders takes his party to the extreme

Political observers – yes, including myself – have argued for years that the Republican Party has moved too far right, allowing its most ideological elements to limit its legislative options, prevent it from addressing national problems, and damage its appeal to key swing and emerging voter groups.

But instead of Democrats responding by positioning themselves in the political center where they could maximize their appeal, many Democrats are embracing their own version of ideological extremism.

The Beginning of the End for Donald Trump
Convention deadlock increasingly likely for GOP

For months, Donald Trump has led in polls, eventually piling up enough delegates to become a serious threat to win the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July. But now it appears that the wealthy businessman and reality television star’s candidacy is in jeopardy, the result of months of crude and childish comments, narcissistic behavior and contradictory policy pronouncements — as well as a more concerted effort by adversaries to deny him delegates.

No, Trump’s true believers certainly won’t desert him any more than he deserted Corey Lewandowski. They will continue to see Trump as the political messiah who has a clear-eyed view of the country’s problems and is uniquely prepared to solve them.

Maybe It Really Is the Media’s Fault
For Donald Trump, the media has been a willing accomplice

Reporters like to snicker when members of the public — or even better, folks in the political class — blame the media for an unexpected development or unwelcome outcome. Don’t blame us, they respond, acting as if they are mere observers who have little or no responsibility for the political wars.

Well, veteran Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen and analytics expert Luke Thompson don’t buy that, and they offer recent data to support their assessment.

A Party Divided Is a Party Defeated -- Usually
History has bad news for Donald Trump and the fracturing GOP

The question is no longer whether the GOP will be torn apart by the 2016 nominating process but how badly hurt its presidential nominee will be and whether defeat in November will be inevitable.

The answer depends on the nominee and on the ultimate extent of the divide. But there is little reason for Republican optimism at this point, in spite of the fact that history has produced some very different outcomes.

John Kasich’s Utterly Strange, Bizarre Campaign
Can a political insider really run as a political outsider?

If you like John Kasich, it's time to celebrate! The Ohio governor finally won a primary – his home state’s. Of course, he flopped in last week's other contests, ending the evening with almost two dozen fewer delegates than Sen. Marco Rubio, who exited the GOP race.

Kasich’s campaign has bordered on the bizarre. He has survived for two reasons: First, he has refused to get out, no matter how badly he has done. And second, he has been so irrelevant that nobody attacked him, leaving him generally unscathed in a race where there is plenty of blood on the floor.

Trump's Electoral Math Doesn't Add Up
Trump must redraw landscape to win some states where he sees victory in November

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is asked repeatedly about polls showing him trailing Hillary Clinton badly in the general election. He always says the same thing: other polls show him winning, and Clinton will be very easy to defeat.

Is Trump merely blowing smoke, or could he re-draw the partisan landscape and win in November? Could he carry Michigan, or even New York, as he has started to assert?

Dem Senate Takeover Probable, If Cruz or Trump Nominee

With Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly positioned to fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Democrats are now poised to take over the Senate in November.  

The two Republicans still in the race who could help their party’s Senate prospects, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, continue to flounder. While a deadlocked GOP convention in Cleveland could, at least in theory, nominate a candidate with broad appeal and low enough negatives to revive the party’s Senate prospects, that development is both a long way in the future and a long shot.  

Cruz and Kasich Implausible Scenarios Keeping Trump on Top

The early primaries usually winnow presidential fields because each one tests aspects of a candidacy, and because only victories keep the money flowing.

But while this Republican field has winnowed, it hasn’t shrunk as much as some would like. Part of the answer involves the existence of super PAC money, which allows a handful of contributors to keep a candidacy alive. But maybe even more important this time is the shape of the field and the nature of the front-runner.