Stuart Rothenberg

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

President Donald Trump is looking to fire up his base with attacks on Democrats. It could fire up Democrats' base as well, though. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Amy McGrath is running for Senate in Kentucky, hoping to topple Mitch McConnell. But the fundamentals of the state make it a difficult task for her. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Sen. John Kerry arrives in Boston on July 28, 2004 to accept the Democratic nomination for president. Kerry's candidacy was left for dead before the Iowa caucuses due to his standing in polls. His victory in Iowa changed the dynamics of the race, Rothenberg writes. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Sen. Bernie Sanders leads President Donald Trump in several polls, but not typically by as much as former Vice President Joe Biden. Does that make Sanders, or other candidates, less electable, Rothenberg asks? (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

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

In Michigan, Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is up for re-election in 2020. That race, along with the presidential contest, makes the state a major political battleground. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

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.

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

When John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson ran for the presidency in 1960, the Democratic field was large but consisted of several power brokers. The same goes for the GOP field in 1968. The large Democratic field for 2020, much like the GOP field in 2016, consists of several candidates short on experience but long on ambition, Rothenberg writes. Above, Kennedy and Johnson with Speaker Sam Rayburn in 1961. (CQ Roll Call file photo).

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

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.’”

What if Trump-Haley deadlocks with Buttigieg-Biden in 2020? Anything’s possible
Enough strange things have happened politically that it‘s wise to prepare for them

In the 2020 election, voters should get ready for the the unthinkable. It's happened enough in recent years that almost nothing can be counted out. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Hanging chads and an election decided by the United States Supreme Court (2000). The election of the first black president (2008). Sarah Palin (2008). The 2010 midterm tsunami (Republicans gain 63 House seats). The nomination of the first woman for president by a major party (2016). The election of Donald Trump (2016). Russian bots interfering in the election (2016). The realignment of white men without a college degree (2016). The realignment of white, college-educated women (2018). Lose the popular vote, win the Electoral College — twice (2000, 2016).

The political world has been turned on its head more than once over the last two decades. The uncommon becomes ordinary. The bizarre, commonplace. Why should it stop now?

Age, change and the Democrats’ challenge
2020 presidential race brings up issues of experience and demographics

From left, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., in the Capitol. Harris and Sanders represent two different directions Democrats could go with their nomination process. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Is the Democratic race for president — and possibly even the 2020 general election — going to boil down to a choice of aged front-runners (or incumbent) versus a younger challenger who represents generational change? It’s certainly possible.

President Donald Trump, the oldest person ever to assume the presidency when he was inaugurated in 2017, turns 72 in June. It wouldn’t be without precedent if Democratic voters — and eventually the electorate as a whole — saw the 2020 election as an opportunity to make a statement about the future and generational change.

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.