Stuart Rothenberg

Opinion: The Grand Old Patsies
Few Republicans dare to criticize Trump over his behavior toward Putin

Commenting after President Donald Trump’s performance in Helsinki, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell observed, “I have said a number of times, I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a release, “There is no doubt that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election.”

Analysis: Brett Kavanaugh and the Midterm Effect
Three scenarios provide mixed bag on effect of tight Senate races

The selection of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court will have less of an impact on November’s midterms than you think. Sure, depending how the confirmation process develops, it’s possible the nomination could affect a handful of races, but the most likely scenario will not change the overall trajectory of the November elections.

The most likely outcome of the Kavanaugh nomination involves all 50 Republican senators voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court (with John McCain not voting).

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

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

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 GOP Civil War Continues Without Even a Pause
Battle for Trey Gowdy’s open seat in South Carolina a bitter affair

While many dissected Corey Stewart’s recent Virginia Republican Senate primary victory and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford’s defeat in his bid for renomination, an even more interesting runoff race is underway in the Palmetto State.

The June 12 Republican primary in Trey Gowdy’s open 4th District seat produced a runoff pitting first-place finisher Lee Bright, a former state senator, against William Timmons, a first-term state senator.

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

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 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.

Analysis: Why You Should Focus on Independents
Their attitudes could provide insight into the midterm elections

I don’t trust anyone who tells me they already know the makeup of the midterm electorate. We can’t possibly know who will vote in the fall, let alone how they will cast their ballots.

If I were going to focus on a handful of variables to understand how the cycle is unfolding, I’d certainly pay close attention to partisanship. But instead of focusing primarily on the percentage of Republicans and Democrats among voters, I’d pay more attention to the attitudes (and then the behavior) of self-identified independents.

Analysis: The Trump Agenda’s Unintentional International Consequences
Signs of fraying relationships among close allies starting to show up

President Donald Trump, who preaches pro-business policies at home and more favorable terms for the United States in trade deals, may well help elect more anti-American leaders around the world and leave the United States more isolated and embattled.

We could see the first manifestation of this in Trump’s confrontational approach with Mexico. His positions on trade (particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement) and immigration, and his characterization of the people of Mexico, have boosted the prospects of presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico’s July 1 election.

Analysis: Famous Names on the Ballot? Sure, We Got ’Em
Celebrities, semi-celebrities and their families vie for a ticket to Congress

Every election cycle, at least a few “semi-celebrities” (or those with connections to semi-celebrities) run for office. This cycle is no exception.

Actress Cynthia Nixon of “Sex in the City” fame is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York, while Greg Pence, the vice president’s brother, won the Republican nomination in Indiana’s 6th District.

Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats
Republicans find themselves more on the defensive as November looms

Yes, it’s time for another of my “dangerous dozen open House seats” columns, which I have been writing since shortly after the establishment of the Jamestown Settlement (or so it seems).

This cycle’s version has a plethora of seats to choose from, given the 38 Republican and 19 Democratic seats where an incumbent is not seeking re-election, either because he or she is retiring or running for a different office. (The number does not include those districts where a special election has already filled a vacancy or will be held before November.)

Analysis: GOP Senate Targets Fade From View
Matchups fizzle in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio

When this election cycle began, handicappers repeatedly pointed out that 10 Democratic Senate incumbents from states carried by Donald Trump would be on the ballot in 2018. That count was accurate, and the point behind it obvious — Republicans had a long list of opportunities.

But now even the most partisan Republicans are acknowledging that the list of serious targets is shrinking to five or six states. Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota and Florida are certainly in play, but how are the other competitive Senate races holding up?

Analysis: Why I’m Cautious About Phil Bredesen’s Prospects in Tennessee
Former governor is running a good race, but federal campaign dynamics could turn against him

Two early surveys show former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, holding a lead over Republican Rep. Marcia Blackburn in hypothetical ballot tests of this year’s Senate race.

Those polls, along with kind words about Bredesen from retiring Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker, have raised the contest’s profile and heightened the buzz. But it’s best to be cautious about the former governor’s prospects as you watch the race play out.

Analysis: Trump Numbers Are Up. And Down. But Really Unchanged.
It’s still too early to read too much into recent polling shifts

New national polls show voters are more upbeat about President Donald Trump’s performance and more pessimistic about the Democrats’ chances of taking back the House. Or not.

An April 8-11 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Trump’s job approval rating at 40 percent, while 56 percent disapproved of his performance.

Analysis: Can a President Preaching Change Lead a Party of Incumbents?
Trump ran as a disrupter, but that may not be enough to save House GOP this fall

I have long argued that on the most fundamental level, all elections are choices between continuity and change.

The “in” party needs voters to believe that things are going well — or at least improving — while the “out” party needs to sell its message of change.

Analysis: When History Overtakes a Campaign Promise
Nearly 20 years ago, the DCCC and NRCC pledged to play nice

The press release from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was groundbreaking, if difficult to believe.

The chairman of the DCCC said his committee “will not fund any Democratic candidate who initiates attacks against their Republican opponents of an ‘intimate’ personal nature.”

Analysis: How Can the GOP Turn Out Trump Voters?
“We need to run against the Democrats for stopping the Trump agenda”

In my column last week, I noted that current public opinion data and recent election results point to a likely Democratic takeover of the House in the fall.

Some argue President Donald Trump’s unpopularity is already baked into the election cake, leaving Republicans little room to maneuver. But if you are a GOP strategist or ally of the president, you still need to formulate a plan to improve your party’s prospects and even look toward 2020.

Podcast: What Defines a Political Wave in the House?
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 6

With President Donald Trump’s mediocre job ratings, Democrats’ advantage on the national generic ballot and success in special elections in Pennsylvania, Alabama and elsewhere, there’s plenty of talk about a political wave. In this week’s Decoder, Roll Call elections analyst Nathan Gonzales, sitting in for David Hawkings, talks with Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg about how many seats it takes to make a wave and which Republicans might survive.

Show Notes:

Insiders See Democratic House Gains of 30-45 seats
Polling, election results, fundraising tend to point in one direction

Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.

Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed. The attitudinal evidence begins with national polling.

Pennsylvania 18: A Red Flag for the GOP
The margins in a strong GOP district signal November worries for Republicans

The results in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District confirm problems for Republicans.

The size of the Democratic general election wave is still unclear, but something is happening. Districts won comfortably by President Donald Trump in 2016 are more competitive now, which suggests that districts won by Hillary Clinton are likely to go Democratic in the midterms.