Stuart Rothenberg

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

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

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

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

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.

The most vulnerable Republican senator in 2020
Colorado’s Cory Gardner has a difficult, but doable, roadmap for re-election

Under normal circumstances, Sen. Cory Gardner would be a clear favorite for re-election.

Personable and politically astute, the Colorado Republican ran a terrific campaign in 2014 to oust Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. But President Donald Trump has energized partisan Democrats and alienated suburban swing voters nationally, and that has made Gardner the most vulnerable GOP senator up for re-election in 2020.

Can a senator be nominated and win the White House?
History has not been kind, but times are changing

The abundance of sitting senators running for president seems to confirm the old joke that a senator looking into a mirror sees a future president. But it doesn’t say much about whether the Senate is a good springboard to the White House. Historically, it has not been.

Sitting senators have underperformed in contests for presidential nominations, with only three of them moving directly to the White House — Warren Harding, John Kennedy and Barack Obama.

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

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.

Democrats are right to be wary of Howard Schultz
Coffee mogul’s independent run could complicate Electoral College math

ANALYSIS — The frenzy over businessman Howard Schultz’s announcement that he is considering an independent run for president is understandable.

Democrats think President Donald Trump is headed for defeat in a one-on-one general election contest, and anything that changes that trajectory improves his re-election prospects.

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

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.

What do Democrats want in a president? Part I
A fresh face, diversity, experience — party has a lot to consider

ANALYSIS — Democrats have a hoard of hopefuls aiming for their party’s 2020 nomination, so what qualities and characteristics are Democratic primary voters and caucus attendees likely to value?

Electability is certainly a factor, but what makes a potential nominee electable?

Has the shutdown changed Trump’s political standing?
The president’s political base seems to be staying put, but the danger for him is outside that realm

ANALYSIS — Even Donald Trump knows he is in a disturbingly deep political hole.

That’s why he went on television Saturday to offer his version of a “compromise” to Democrats. He is trying to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party for the partial government shutdown and to paint them as intransigent and extreme.

Susan Collins has a 2020 problem
The Kavanaugh saga damaged her brand — but by how much?

If Sen. Susan Collins runs for a fifth term, she ought to expect a very different race than in the past. Forget coasting to victory, no matter the opponent or even the nature of the election cycle.

Collins will start off as vulnerable — a top Democratic target in a state carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Can Doug Jones win a full term in Alabama?
Democrat faces a very different voter dynamic in 2020 Senate race

ANALYSIS — Alabama’s junior senator, Democrat Doug Jones, has been in office for only 13 months, but he’s already preparing to face voters again in 2020. With the Senate at 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer can’t afford to lose any seats next year if he hopes to win back control of the chamber. Does Jones have any chance of winning, or is the handwriting already on the wall for a GOP pick-up in Alabama?

The top race handicappers are split on Jones’s re-election prospects.

An initial rating of the 2020 presidential race
Campaign fundamentals, polling and events point to close contest

I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win in 2016, and after his election I wrote an entire column in The Washington Post examining my analysis and mistakes. Now older, hopefully a little wiser, and definitely more cautious, I turn to the 2020 presidential contest, which has already started.

My initial rating is based on a combination of Trump’s current standing, his electoral performance in 2016, his party’s performance in 2018, questions about the Democratic Party’s ability to unite behind a broadly appealing nominee next year, and assumptions about the economy and state of the nation a year and a half from now.

Another End-of-the-Year Winners & Losers Column
From Trump to Beto to the Red Sox, it has been, well, another year

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.

Where Republicans, Democrats Stand Heading Into 2019
Both parties both have work to do, but one side has much more

As we enter a two-year presidential cycle, the parties stand at very different places. Republicans appear unified behind President Donald Trump, while Democrats are about to begin a contest for a 2020 nominee that will inevitably degenerate into Democrats attacking Democrats.

But while the GOP is unified, the party just suffered a stunning rebuke and has painted itself into an unenviable demographic corner. Its leader ends 2018 with a trainload of political baggage and is seemingly uninterested in expanding a political coalition that lost 40 House seats and half a dozen governorships.

A Mississippi Senate Flip? Probably Not
Absent reliable data, Democratic chances there should be taken with skepticism

ANALYSIS — Alabama Democrat Doug Jones demonstrated last year that candidates matter and that on the rarest occasions — such as when the majority party’s nominee is accused of sexual misconduct by many women — voters in federal races veer from their partisan loyalties. But Jones’s win was the exception, not the rule, and it shouldn’t obscure the difficulty Mississippi Democratic Senate hopeful Mike Espy faces in a runoff in one of the most Republican and conservative states in the entire country.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Mississippi Senate runoff “has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest.” That’s hard to challenge, since expectations are a matter of opinion, as is competitiveness. But until I see hard evidence that Democrats have a realistic shot at the seat, count me as skeptical that the Mississippi seat is in play.

Goodbye Midterm Dynamic, Hello Presidential Politics
It is tempting to see the 2018 and 2020 elections as linked, but give it some time

Midterm elections and presidential cycles have such different dynamics that the two should almost never be discussed together. That will not prevent people from doing so, but they should resist the temptation. 

Midterms tend to be referendums on the incumbent president, while each presidential election is a choice between nominees.

Maybe Stu Rothenberg Isn’t So Bad at This After All
2016 was a disaster, 2018 not so much

Boy, I stunk up the joint in 2016. I was sure that Donald Trump wouldn’t — couldn’t — win the presidency, and I said so without any “ifs” or “buts.” I didn’t pay enough attention to the possibility that Trump could lose the popular vote badly but still win an Electoral College majority. I tried to explain my mistakes as completely as I could in an end-of-the-year Washington Post column.

But this year, watching the midterms from 10,000 feet instead of being in the weeds, I feel pretty good about my analysis throughout the cycle. Maybe it was dumb luck. Maybe it was years of watching campaigns and candidates. Maybe it was some of each.

Two Electorates, Two Outcomes
Consensus, bipartisanship could be in short supply

It’s rare that both parties can celebrate after an election, but that’s exactly the situation after Republicans gained a handful of Senate seats and Democrats picked up around 30 House seats Tuesday night.

Conservatives, white men (particularly those without a college degree) and pro-Trump voters backed GOP nominees, while women (particularly those with a college degree), minorities and younger voters lined up overwhelmingly behind the Democrats.