Stuart Rothenberg

After Iowa, a boost for Buttigieg and concerns for Biden and Warren
Partial results put the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor in enviable position

ANALYSIS — One state down, and many states to go. In one respect, Pete Buttigieg “won” the Iowa caucuses Monday evening regardless whether he finishes first in delegates or in the popular vote.

One year ago, Buttigieg was a mere asterisk in the Democratic contest. Then 37 years old and the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg seemed unlikely to raise the necessary money or excite Democratic voters, who were likely to gravitate to better-known officeholders like former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Even former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, fresh off an unsuccessful but enthusiasm-generating Senate campaign, seemed like a potentially more significant hopeful in the Democratic field.

With Iowa and New Hampshire still up in the air, Democratic race has 2016 echoes
Once impeachment is done, Democrats will have to deal with their divisions

ANALYSIS — Sometime soon, the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump will likely end and the Senate, notwithstanding who might get called as a witness, will acquit him.

The president, of course, will claim victory and, having escaped punishment, will presumably return to doing what he has been doing for months — looking for ways to discredit Democrats, even if it involves help from foreign governments. The rest of us will also jump quickly from impeachment and back to the presidential race, hardly missing a beat.

It’s still difficult to see Trump losing Iowa in November
He may not get as big a win as 2016, but he remains the favorite

ANALYSIS — Iowa gave Barack Obama a resounding 9.5-point victory over John McCain in 2008. Four years later, Obama’s margin shrunk to 5.8 points against Mitt Romney. But in 2016, something odd happened.

Donald Trump carried Iowa by 9.4 points — a dramatic change in the state’s recent voting behavior and close to the same winning margin as Obama’s eight years earlier.

The Steyer boomlet
Billionaire hedge fund owner has not faced tough scrutiny, but that could change soon

OPINION — Once again, there’s a new “hot” candidate. This time it’s billionaire Tom Steyer, who hit double digits in new Fox News polls in Nevada and South Carolina, thereby qualifying him for Tuesday’s CNN/Des Moines Register presidential debate — the last debate before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Of course, other surveys show Steyer in the low-to-middle single digits in the first two states with Democratic contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, and weak showings in those two states could affect his standing in the subsequent state contests.

Lessons for today from the fight over Prohibition
Trump loyalists find themselves in a similar boat as temperance proponents a century ago

OPINION — It’s hard not to see the obvious parallels with today’s political situation after only a few moments watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s terrific 2011 documentary “Prohibition.”

The three-part series, which initially aired on PBS and is now available on Netflix, traces the growth of the temperance and Prohibition movements in the United States, noting the people and organizations that laid the groundwork for — and ultimately brought about — the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act.

Impeachment? Yawn. Next.
Attitudes about President Donald Trump are already baked in

OPINION — Brad Parscale, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, staked out his position on the impact of impeachment when he tweeted in early December, “Nancy Pelosi is marching members of her caucus off the plank and into the abyss,” adding, “Impeachment is killing her freshman members and polling proves it.”

Yawn. 

Rothenberg’s Best & Worst of 2019 Year-End Awards
This year is more than represented by the worst

OPINION — It’s December, and that means it’s time for another of my “Best & Worst of the Year” columns. And since it has been a pretty awful year, there should be a lot of worsts.

As always, I’ll offer a set of nominees for each category. Then I’ll pick my winner. But you too can play along at home by selecting your choices. If you disagree with me, I really don’t care. Amuse yourselves, and send any complaints about my categories or my “winners” to Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia.

Why do so many people believe Trump will win?
Presidential challengers never look strong, until they do

ANALYSIS — I often hear people predicting President Donald Trump’s reelection. Some are conservatives and Trump supporters who echo the president’s unfailing optimism. But others are Democrats who can’t resist embracing a gloom-and-doom scenario.

I usually ask those people why they think Trump will win a second term.

Progressives are going to have to pick: Sanders or Warren?
Warren‘s a front-runner, but Sanders is a man on a mission

ANALYSIS — Only a few months from now, populist Democratic progressives around the country hoping to elect one of their own to the White House will need to choose between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Do they back the angry Democratic socialist, or the feisty, anti-corporate populist who wants to break up the banks and big tech companies? One says he is trying to lead a revolution. The other calls for dramatic change, often dismissing critics in her own party for regurgitating Republican talking points.

One year until the most important election in American history
Trump’s path to a second term depends largely on the Democrats

ANALYSIS — While it feels as if we’ve all been watching the 2020 race for years, it’s still 12 months until voters decide whether or not to give President Donald Trump a second term.

Given the president’s performance during his first term and his opportunities to cement and then expand those changes in another four years, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the 2020 election is the most important one in our nation’s history. No wonder there is so much early attention on Trump’s reelection prospects.

Is a Democratic wave building for 2020?
Independents show signs of swinging away from GOP, Trump

ANALYSIS — Like other handicappers, I have noted that there are few signs that the national political divide, so apparent over the last three years, has started to crumble.

Trump voters are sticking with the president, while those who opposed him in 2016 generally have become even more vociferous in their opposition.

Would everyone please shut up for 48 hours?
We could all use a break from the invective, the accusations and, of course, the Latin

OPINION — It’s language I try not to use, but would everyone please shut up for a while?

How about two days? That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Will Trump go negative? Just kidding …
2016 playbook is president’s only path to victory

OPINION — There is no need to speculate about President Donald Trump’s strategy for reelection. He plans to — and needs to — destroy his general election opponent.

That’s the only way an incumbent president with a job approval rating in the low 40s and sitting at 40 percent in hypothetical ballot tests can possibly win.

What happened to Kamala Harris?
The California Democrat seemed poised to take off as a candidate

OPINION | When this year began, I expected California Sen. Kamala Harris to be in the middle of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. But now, after months of campaigning and three nationally televised debates, Harris finds herself sitting in the second tier as she reorganizes her campaign and revamps her strategy.

Harris’s failure to launch has caused me to think about what went wrong and whether she will have a second chance to make a first impression.

Beware confirmation bias with the 2020 presidential race
What’s the rush to declare the Democratic race a three-person contest?

OPINION — “The next debate is do or die for many Democratic hopefuls.”

Andrew Yang “is on fire.”

Why working-class whites aren’t giving up on Trump
Key voting bloc found a champion in the president

OPINION — “In some countries working-class groups have proved to be the most nationalistic and jingoistic sector of the population,” wrote the highly esteemed sociologist and political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset — 60 years ago last month.

In his seminal article “Democracy and Working-Class Authoritarianism,” which appeared in the August 1959 issue of the American Sociological Review, Lipset observed that many in the working class were “in the forefront of the struggle against equal rights for minority groups, and have sought to limit immigration or to impose racial standards in countries with open immigration.”

The fight for the Senate grows more interesting
Small changes in 2020 landscape for chamber control benefits Democrats

ANALYSIS — Increased concern about the likelihood of an economic slowdown, new questions about President Donald Trump’s standing with voters, and a special election in Georgia certainly give Democrats some reason for optimism about next year’s fight for the Senate.

But while the Senate map surely is better for Democrats in 2020 than it was last cycle, the party will need an upset or two to win control of the chamber next November.

Do Democrats need a backup plan?
If Biden’s stumbles continue, a certain former first lady might be well-positioned to step in

ANALYSIS — With many surveys showing multiple Democratic hopefuls leading President Donald Trump in hypothetical 2020 ballot tests, Democrats should feel confident they can deny the incumbent president a second term. But many don’t.

In spite of the huge field, the Democratic race is muddled because of questions about Joe Biden’s campaign skills, the progressive agendas of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the difficulty in finding a nominee who can appeal to a variety of constituencies, from the party’s base to suburban swing voters to possibly even working-class white women.

Democrats still at square one
In wake of debates, party is largely status quo in its presidential contest

ANALYSIS — With two debates down and too many more still to go, Democrats are pretty much where they were before the June debates in Miami and the July debates in Detroit.

That shouldn’t surprise you. The Iowa caucuses are still almost six months away, and voters are just starting to tune into the campaign. They know full well they don’t have to embrace one hopeful now.

How third-party votes sunk Clinton, what they mean for Trump
Libertarians and Greens may try to convince you that higher turnout reflects growing support for their parties. It doesn’t

For all the talk about why Donald Trump was elected president while losing the popular vote and how he could win again, one of the least discussed results of the 2016 election offers valuable lessons for Democrats.

An astounding 7.8 million voters cast their presidential ballots for someone other than Trump or Hillary Clinton. The two biggest third-party vote-getters were Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (almost 4.5 million votes) and the Green Party’s Jill Stein (1.5 million voters). But others received almost another 1.9 million votes as well.