Rank #1: Beto O’Rourke: Not Just Another Bassist From El Paso
Rep. Beto O’Rourke has gained rock star status as an insurgent liberal candidate running against the established Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but, but, but, says Nathan L. Gonzales, Roll Call’s elections analyst and the publisher of Inside Elections, O’Rourke’s rise to national prominence did not happen overnight or come out of nowhere.
Rank #2: The Political Football That is Washington Redskins Football
There might be no better example of “political football” than what the Washington Redskins are doing by working with Congress, the White House and the D.C. City Council to secure a new stadium in the capital. And that’s just one of the political issues facing professional football, says Brandon Wetherbee, managing editor of the culture website Brightest Young Things and host of the podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody.
Rank #3: Frequent 'Poison Pills' Are Grinding Congress to a Halt
CQ Roll Call's Managing Editor Adriel Bettelheim and CQ Magazine Deputy Editor Jason Dick break down how so-called ''poison pill'' amendments get the majority party in Congress to sink its own legislation. Yes, your read right. Though it's a time-honored tactic, such make-or-break amendments are flying with greater frequency in an election year with few viable pieces of legislation in either the House or Senate. And they are disrupting Republicans’ hopes of restoring regular order and transparency to the budgeting process.
Rank #4: Harry Reid in winter: still grappling, and dabbling, in politics
Harry Reid might have retired from the Senate in 2017 and started battling cancer in 2018, but the former Democratic leader doesn’t seem to be the retiring type, especially when it comes to Nevada politics. “I’m a political junkie to say the least,” he tells CQ Roll Call's Niels Lesniewski in a wide-ranging interview in Las Vegas that we've excerpted for this edition of the Political Theater Podcast.
Rank #5: High Court, High Political Drama — Probably for Years to Come
In the middle of a singularly rough Supreme Court nomination fight, the business of the high court goes on. The fate of Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the court, is still up in the air. But the direction of the court, regardless of what happens with Kavanaugh, seems to be moving inexorably negative, at least politically, say CQ legal affairs writer Todd Ruger and senior writer Kate Ackley.
Rank #6: Why a crowded 2020 ‘knife fight’ is good for Democrats
Rank #7: Donald Trump and the Chamber of 2020 Rivals
Rank #8: Congress for Newbies: Practical Advice From a Pro
“Decide what kind of member of Congress you want to be,” says Tom Davis, the former congressman from Virginia. “Voters see through phoniness pretty quickly.”
Davis, who chaired the Republican campaign committee and House Oversight panel and currently plies his trade at Holland & Knight, has a reputation as one of most principled and savvy politicians around. He has a few pointers for new members of Congress. After all, there are rookie mistakes, and there are rookie mistakes on the national stage, with consequences for constituents — and maybe your next election.
Rank #9: All the President's Potential Opponents
Take one congresswoman from Hawaii, one tech entrepreneur and one South Bend mayor, add in 7 percent of the U.S. Senate and you still don’t have even half of the potential Democratic field of presidential candidates. Why is everyone running for president? And what kind of effect will that have on down-ballot races for Congress, state houses, and governor’s mansions, not to mention the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill? Inside Elections Reporter/Analyst Leah Askarinam helps us sort through the expanding field on the latest Political Theater Podcast.
Rank #10: Why the Grim Reaper thing works for Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a successful politician without being a typical one. He's proudly uncharismatic, relatively unpopular in his home state of Kentucky and embraces his self-styled role as the Grim Reaper of legislation. So why does he keep winning? In this episode, senior Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski explains how McConnell uses his negatives to win.
Rank #11: 'The Great Hack,' Cambridge Analytica and our blurred reality
How do you make a story about data interesting? That was the challenge of documentary The Great Hack. Filmmaker Karim Amer discusses the challenges and human tragedies behind chronicling the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Rank #12: Why we should care that the Senate will debate less
The Senate has changed its rules again and it will result in less debate on many judicial and executive nominations. Who cares? The public should, if it wants a responsive government at least. James Wallner of the R Street Institute and CQ Roll Call's Niels Lesniewski discuss the ramifications. "No one can be bothered to care about the rules, '' Wallner laments.
Rank #13: The State of Lobbying is, Well, Pretty Darn Good
Last year, Julian Ha of Heidrick & Struggles said the swamp was “constipated,” as the lobbying world continued adjusting to the Trump administration and Congress. And now? Things are starting to flow again. Ha and CQ Roll Call lobbying reporter Kate Ackley discuss the state of lobbying, 2019 edition.
Rank #14: Get used to it: Trumpism with or without Trump
Why does President Donald Trump attack his opponents so viciously, sometimes using racist tropes? Because it’s effective. And Republicans know that. Our conversation with Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution is about Trumpism, norms and how it all fits into a political strategy.
“I think you’ll have Trumpism without Trump to some extent at least, even if Trump is voted out of office in 2020," Hamid tells host Jason Dick. “Why? Because Trumpism is effective. And Republicans see that. And that’s why they’re so afraid, I think, to really stand up against Trump because they feel something intuitively and instinctively that the Republican base is changing. And this is what in part the Republican base wants and what they respond to."
Rank #15: Will Mueller matter in 2020?
CQ Roll Call senior political reporters Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé explain the political ramifications, if any, on the conclusion of the Russia election interference report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Rank #16: When Fritz Hollings ‘made the turn’ as a Southern politician
Before the late Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings was elected to what would become a distinguished congressional career, the South Carolina Democrat reversed himself on the defining issue in Southern politics: segregation.
Running for governor in 1958, Hollings opposed integration of public schools, a keystone battle in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools. But by the end of his term, he said it was time for the South to change, taking a step out of line with many of his Democratic colleagues in the region.
“He had made the turn, and to his credit, [in] 1962 in the South,” Kirk Victor, co-author of Hollings’ book “Making Government Work,” says in the latest Political Theater podcast. “The Legislature would’ve followed him either way. Any which way he went.”
Hollings, who died on April 6, was laid to rest in his native South Carolina on April 16.
Rank #17: Wall Street Takes Priority Over Zika Concerns in Senate
Despite dire warnings that the mosquito-borne Zika virus is poised to become a public health threat, the Senate was unable to overcome partisan bickering to allocate money toward prevention efforts. Lawmakers, however, voted to help Puerto Rico avoid defaulting on its $72 billion debt. CQ Roll Call’s Adriel Bettelheim and Jane Norman explain what happened and why.
Rank #18: The Iowa State Fair: Our hits, misses and lessons learned
For all its quaintness and fun, the Iowa State Fair does a pretty good job of approximating politics at the national level, be it questions about electability and charisma or trade and agricultural policy. Political Theater also gives our hits and misses, surprises and letdowns, of our time in Iowa.
Rank #19: Chaos in Congress Over Guns
Lawmakers in the House and Senate remain divided over gun control in the aftermath of the June 12 Orlando attack. But, as CQ Roll Call's Adriel Bettelheim and Niels Lesniewski explain, that isn't hurting either side's political campaigns.
Rank #20: As Minnesota Goes in the Midterms, So Goes the Nation?
Minnesota is suddenly the center of the political universe and voters there are more focused on health care and the economy than the latest scandal in Washington. And they'll have a lot to say in the midterms because the Land of 10,000 Lakes is hosting a governor's race, two Senate races and four competitive House races that will go a long way to determine the congressional majority next year. Roll Call Senior Political Reporter Simone Pathé spent six days covering six races and 12 candidates there and explains on this week’s Political Theater podcast why both Republicans and Democrats consider Minnesota a bellwether state.