The Democratic field is trying to win over black voters. Cory Booker already knows how
But there are only so many barber shops a bald man can visit in South Carolina before the voting begins

OPINION — Any presidential candidate who wants half a chance of winning the South Carolina primary in 2020 knew to show up to Rep. James E. Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry in Columbia last month. In fact, 22 of them did. But only one — Sen. Cory Booker — also knew to go see Clyburn’s barber, Herbert Toliver, the next morning.

At Toliver’s Mane Event on Columbia’s North Main Street, Booker showed up with a broad smile and a dad joke — the best way, it turns out, for a bald New Jersey politician to break the ice in a South Carolina hair cuttery. “Do you have anything to GROW hair?” he asked, to the roar of 20 or so men already at Toliver’s for their Saturday cut. And with that, the senator dove into an hourlong give-and-take with a collection of dads, police deputies, postal workers and Toliver’s regulars, executing his campaign’s early state strategy to win over voters over one by one.

Working with the enemy? Biden was just doing his job
Give Joe Biden a break. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez finds common ground with Ted Cruz

OPINION — There’s a name for working with someone you can’t stand. It’s called “legislating.”

It used to happen all the time in Washington, and it still does, occasionally. But former Vice President Joe Biden became engulfed by progressive rage this week when he pointed to the late Sens. James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, two avowed segregationists, to describe the civility that Biden said he used to see on Capitol Hill.

Want a more diverse Congress? Bite the bullet and raise the pay
Paying your congressperson more than your plumber makes sense

OPINION — If there’s one thing less popular than Congress right now, it’s giving Congress a pay raise. Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy found that out the hard way last week when, despite a bipartisan agreement to quietly give a 2.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment to House members, the entire agreement blew up when House freshmen from both parties balked at voting to raise their own salaries.

Complaining about Congress and the money they make is a tradition as old as the country itself, especially in times of recession or government debts. A 1955 political cartoon in the Richmond Times Leader once showed a bag of money labeled “Pay Raise for Congress” running like a thief down a dark alley, and the sentiment in America hasn’t changed much since then.

Democrats running for president should run for the Senate. The state Senate.
State legislatures have taken over the issues that Washington can’t or won’t deal with

OPINION — Maybe it’s the book sales. Maybe it’s the national press. Maybe they really do think they’re just “born for it.” Whatever the allure of running for president is this year, about two dozen Democrats are giving it a shot.

The fact that only about five of them have a legitimate chance of winning the nomination has left several hopefuls from purple states getting criticized for wasting a perfectly good chance to knock off an incumbent Republican senator and flip the Senate to the Democrats in the process.

5 reasons Nancy Pelosi is absolutely right about impeachment
She’s deliberate, even cautious. Democrats are lucky to have her

OPINION — If anyone understands how badly a perfectly good impeachment can go, it’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi was in the House chamber on Dec. 19, 1998, when the House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. Less remembered is the moment earlier in the day when speaker-designate Bob Livingston, Republicans’ choice to succeed Newt Gingrich after a disastrous midterm election performance, shocked his caucus and announced on the floor that he, too, would resign from the House after Hustler magazine threatened it would go public with his numerous extramarital affairs.

The politics of abortion surge to forefront of 2020 debate
Georgia, other states move polarizing topic to front burner with new laws

OPINION — It’s the worst day of your life. You’ve been told that your unborn baby is dying inside of you and you are presented with two horrible options: medically induce labor to deliver her early or carry the dangerous pregnancy to term, when your baby will suffocate outside of your womb.

At that gruesome moment, your state representative, a 63-year-old part-time farmer, walks into the exam room and tells you what he thinks you should do. If you choose anything else, you and your doctor could both be prosecuted for murder.

‘Grimmer by the day’ — Farmers’ love for Trump in peril
President’s trade actions are testing farmers in ways they never imagined

OPINION — The love affair between President Donald Trump and rural America has always made sense to me.

When I covered the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump often went to remote farm communities where Democrats, and even other Republican candidates, never bothered.

Today I’m getting boring. Please, Congress, join me
You know what I’m about to do? Write about infrastructure

OPINION — Let me tell you what is probably not going to make this column go viral: Me writing about infrastructure. But you know what I’m about to do? Write about infrastructure. That’s because, even though a journalist’s livelihood has come to depend on generating traffic, tweets and sticky, sharable content, somebody somewhere in America has got to do the boring stuff. Today I’m that person. Hopefully soon, Congress will join me in doing boring too.

Boring stuff, by definition, is so much a part of our everyday lives that nobody pays much attention to it. It’s turning on your water faucet and seeing clear water flow from the spigot. It’s going to the store for groceries and driving on a road that’s so smooth you never worry if you’ll complete the entire journey. It’s crossing a bridge and never thinking twice whether you’ll get to the other side, or plugging in your phone to charge it overnight and assuming you’ve got enough power for the job, because you want to have enough power for it.

Joe Biden’s Washington is vanishing. Does America want it back?
Former vice president’s friends a force to be reckoned with

One by one, Joe Biden is losing his friends from the Senate. 

On Sunday, longtime Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar died. For years, Lugar had been the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was the top Democrat.  Three weeks ago, Sen. Fritz Hollings, one of Biden’s best friends from his more than three decades in the chamber, also passed away. Last month, another longtime Indiana senator, Birch Bayh died. 

Trump’s warning you: The socialists are coming!
Expect to see the ‘S’ word a lot in the 2020 campaign

OPINION — Meet “socialist,” the hardest-working word in politics in 2019. The single word has helped upstart Democrats attract young and social-curious potential voters, given the paddles of life to desperate-for-a-cause conservatives, and led President Donald Trump to an early and effective way to frame the re-election battle he wants to have with Democrats.

“Socialist” even made a usually ho-hum op-ed from a member of Congress, in this case Rep. Tom Emmer, one of Roll Call’s most read articles this week. “In their first 100 days, socialist Democrats have shown they are unable to lead.” You would read that, wouldn’t you? 

She miscarried 8 times. Today she’s telling Lindsey Graham why abortion should remain legal
‘Yes, I am talking about stuff I don’t want to talk about,’ Jen Jordan said in a viral speech last month

OPINION — Jen Jordan went to the well of the Georgia Senate two weeks ago to tell Republican lawmakers that she wasn’t looking for a fight on abortion rights, but that she and other women in the state were willing to have it as the legislature prepared to pass one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. The “heartbeat bill,” which the governor is expected to sign, bans abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, typically around the sixth week of pregnancy.

In her dissent, the Democrat from Atlanta detailed for her fellow senators all kinds of impolite facts that most men in the chamber had probably never discussed publicly — a woman’s uterus, transvaginal ultrasounds, fertilized eggs, and why some women might not even know they are pregnant at six weeks, just one or two weeks past their menstrual period.

Joe Biden can change. Will Democrats let him try?
It’s a quality Democrats should be celebrating, not punishing

OPINION — If I had to guess, we’ve seen the last time Joe Biden smells a woman’s hair and plants a kiss on her head before a campaign event. Same goes for his somewhat notorious habit of close-talking the female relatives of new members of Congress as a way to put them at ease during the first-day-of-session photo shoots. (Maybe just a “You’ve got this, girl!” fist-bump next time, Mr. Vice President?)

I say this with absolute certainty because Joe Biden, unlike so many in Washington today, has shown an immense capacity to learn from his mistakes, if not avoid them altogether, over the course of his four-decade career in public service. It’s a quality Democrats should be celebrating, not punishing, as they look for a candidate who can both defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 and, not incidentally, run the country after that.

Mueller and Barr just did Democrats a gigantic favor
Zealous congressional Dems were in danger of overreaching. Now they’ve been dealt a reality check

OPINION — There’s a slippery slope in Washington between oversight and overreach. It’s a path that’s been worn so smooth by politicians in D.C., you could practically pour water on it and charge admission for rides in the summer. Given a yellow light by voters in any given election to proceed cautiously, the winning party will almost always hit the gas to get where they want to go faster and farther than voters ever wanted to go in the first place.

As we learned in the 2018 midterms, voters want congressional oversight of the Trump White House. In fact, they demanded it. Nobody thinks a president should be allowed to run the government alone or without the other two branches of government checking his work.

8 things I wish I’d known when I worked on Capitol Hill
‘My home life was a toxic mix of reheated pizza and C-SPAN,’ one former staffer admits

OPINION — Working on Capitol Hill is the best of jobs and the worst of jobs, all rolled into one. The pay is low, the hours are long, and angry constituents aren’t wrong when they remind you that they pay your salary. But working on the Hill can also give staffers the chance, often at a young age, to build a résumé, make a positive difference in people’s lives, and literally change the world.

The intense experience can come and go in a flash, so I reached out to current and former Capitol Hill staffers to ask them what they’d tell their younger selves about the job that many remember as the hardest, most fun, and most rewarding of their professional lives.

Democrats get their very own tea party after all
Tea parties are messy, loud, awkward and definitely not ‘meh,’ as it turns out

OPINION — In the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, you could already see a tea party redux setting itself up for the Democrats in the same the way the original tea party movement had swept the Republicans into power in 2011.

There was the grassroots anger fueling the insurrection. The out-of-nowhere political superstars already gaining traction. And the out-of-power party establishment in Washington looking at the energy coming into their party as their ticket to rise to the majority. But once the tea partiers got to D.C., Republicans’ visions of power didn’t go as planned.

Jamie Dupree is still telling stories, even without his voice
If you don’t know Jamie yet, do yourself a favor and change that

OPINION — On June 18, 1965, when copies of Roll Call sold for 10 cents apiece, the front page featured an item on the Congressional Secretaries Picnic, including a photo of a skeptical red-headed toddler eyeballing a nearby pal’s lunch plate.

That toddler was Jamie Dupree, the son of two Capitol Hill staffers, who grew up in the shadow of the Capitol, went to college in Florida, and just as quickly made his way back to D.C. and became Cox News Radio’s Washington correspondent.

The perils of investigating a complete buffoon
Democrats are probing a mess. If they’re not careful, they’ll join it

OPINION — Only President Donald Trump could announce the parameters of his relationship with the newly Democratic House with a bite-sized limerick in his State of the Union address. “If there is going to be peace and legislation ... there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said with a did-you-see-what-I-did-there smile on his face. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Was it a threat? Was it a poem? Is there a war happening that we don’t know about? Whatever Trump meant with his rhyme, it illustrated the very real challenge Democrats have on their hands, with a fleet of committee chairmen eager to investigate the president, a progressive base hungry for results, and a president who has never played by (and has often broken) the rules in his personal life, in his business affairs, and as president — right down to that little ditty in the State of the Union.

There was just one thing missing from this voter reform hearing — a Republican
In a state like Georgia, the GOP will have to both acknowledge voter suppression and lead the effort to end it

OPINION — What are the chances that Republican lawmakers will work with Democrats to make changes to restrictive voting systems in the United States that have benefited Republicans in recent elections, either deliberately or accidentally?

That’s going to be the question going forward for the House Administration Elections Subcommittee, which is holding a series of field hearings around the country to examine the 2018 elections and the fundamental question of whether all U.S. citizens have equal and unfettered access to the right to vote, no matter their income or ethnicity.

Hillary Clinton is running again, sort of
Another double bind for women in 2020? The more of them there are, the less they’ll stand out

OPINION — Democrats have four qualified, tough, smart, female senators running for president. And that might be a problem, because they just tried that against Donald Trump and it didn’t work in 2016.

It’s not that Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand wouldn’t each make an excellent president. Like Hillary Clinton, it’s clear that they have all put a great deal of thought into how they’ll run and how they would lead.

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. State of the Union
Trump will speak of unity and togetherness. So nice, right?

OPINION — I love a tradition more than anybody, but the modern State of the Union address, which President Trump will deliver again Tuesday night, has descended into the most ridiculous annual hour and a half of nonsense that the country has to endure other than the Super Bowl. Can somebody please put America out of this misery?

The idea of an American president briefing Congress was originally such a practical necessity that it was codified in the Constitution. Without modern communications and with travel into and out of the capital difficult, the Founding Fathers correctly decided that the president should communicate regularly with the representatives of the states about the government they were all a part of.