Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2014

August 29, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Southwest

The battle for the Southwest really boils down to just one state: Arizona.

There is a lone congressional district in South Texas worth watching, but the majority of the action in the region is in the Grand Canyon State.

Two races dropped off the the list since last summer. The Texas Senate race is no longer worth watching after incumbent Republican John Cornyn dominated Rep. Steve Stockman in the GOP primary. And the race in Texas’ 16th District never materialized when no Hispanic candidate stepped up to challenge freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic primary.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Southwest this fall: Full story

August 28, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

The South continues to be dominated by big Senate races, with a couple of interesting House races sprinkled in for fun.

There have been two changes to the 5 races to watch list since last summer. North Carolina’s 7th District dropped off after Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre chose retirement instead of another competitive race against Republican David Rouzer. The Kentucky Senate race is still competitive between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but everyone will be watching that race regardless of whether I include it on the list.

Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year: Full story

August 27, 2014

And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is…Part II

Three and a half months ago, I wrote about the state of the fight between the Republican establishment’s pragmatic conservative candidates and tea party/libertarian/anti-establishment conservatives.

I concluded the results were mixed and it was too early to call a winner, though I also noted, “it’s already clear that the pragmatist conservatives have stopped the anti-establishment’s electoral momentum.”

Now that this cycle’s version of the fight is almost over, it’s time for a final assessment. Full story

Top 4 Races to Watch in the Mountain Region

There are a lot of wide open spaces in the Rocky Mountain West — but few competitive races.

Despite a dearth of important contests, the races to watch here could be good indicators of which party has the upper hand in the fall.

Three races dropped from our Top 5 list since last summer. Idaho’s 2nd District is no longer worth watching after Rep. Mike Simpson defeated attorney Bryan Smith in the Republican primary. The Montana Senate race is now a likely GOP takeover after appointed Sen. John Walsh faced plagiarism charges and dropped out of the race. And Utah’s 4th District is all-but-over since Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson chose retirement over another competitive race with Republican Mia Love. Full story

August 26, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the West

The West has been difficult territory for Republicans over the last decade or so, but small GOP gains in the region could be a sign of larger gains elsewhere around the country.

If Republicans can win the Alaska Senate race, they would be in strong position to win that chamber’s majority. And picking up a House seat or two in California would likely be the icing on a very good night for Republicans.

Three races dropped from our Top 5 list since last summer. Nevada’s 3rd District is barely regarded as competitive at this point. The Hawaii Senate race isn’t worth watching anymore after Sen. Brian Schatz survived the Democratic primary. And GOP Rep. David Valadao is looking stronger and stronger in California’s 21st District, at least in this midterm election.

Here are the top five races to watch in the West this year: Full story

August 25, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Plains States

There aren’t many competitive races in the Plains States, but the region features some critical contests that could signal how well Republicans and Democrats are faring across the country.

A trio of races dropped off the regional top five list since last summer. The South Dakota Senate race is a likely Republican takeover and not worth watching at this point. Neither is the Nebraska Senate race after former Bush administration official Ben Sasse won the Republican primary. And Iowa’s 1st District is a long shot for Republicans.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Plains States: Full story

August 22, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Midwest

The Midwest continues to be the land of competitive House races.

The open-seat Senate race in Michigan and Republicans’ challenge to Sen. Al Franken continue to be third-tier GOP opportunities. But a quartet of House races provide a glimpse into the broader political landscape in 2014.

A couple of races dropped off the regional top five watch list since last summer. Democrat Mike Obermueller’s second race against GOP Rep. John Kline just isn’t coming together in Minnesota’s 2nd District. And Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski starts the general-election sprint in surprisingly solid position against Democrat Joe Bock.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Midwest this fall: Full story

August 21, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in New England

New England hasn’t been fertile territory for Republican candidates of late, but the party has an opportunity to gain House seats in the region this November.

Surprisingly, even though the races have evolved, there is no change to the regional Top 5 Races to Watch list from last summer.

Here are the top five races to continue watching this cycle in New England: Full story

August 20, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Mid-Atlantic

It’s a bad sign for Democrats when they have more Mid-Atlantic congressional opportunities in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.

But that’s symbolic of the 2014 midterm election cycle in which numerous Democratic opportunities that look good on paper just haven’t materialized. Four out of five races have dropped off the regional Top 5 Races to Watch list since last summer.

GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick is running strong in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and his race with Democrat Kevin Strouse should barely be considered competitive at this point. The West Virginia Senate race is competitive, but it doesn’t look like Natalie Tennant has the independent profile necessary to overcome President Barack Obama’s abysmal job rating in the state.

In New York’s 23rd District, GOP Rep. Tom Reed finds ways to make races closer than they need to be, but he is polling well heading into the general-election sprint. And in New York’s 11th District, GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm is still in the game, despite his numerous indictments. But as Democrats remind voters about his legal troubles, it seems unlikely Grimm will be able to survive and that this will be a hot race come November.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Mid-Atlantic region this fall: Full story

August 19, 2014

Not Your Typical Southern Democrat in South Carolina

 Not Your Typical Southern Democrat in South Carolina

(John Rieger/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Brad Hutto, wants you to know two things: He has a path to victory against the two-term Republican, and it doesn’t require him to run from traditional Democratic positions.

“I’m not a Blue Dog,” Hutto said proudly during a recent interview with me and my colleague Nathan Gonzales. “I’m a Democrat.”

Hutto doesn’t hide his views, which are right in sync with those of Democrats nationally. He figures that the four-way race for the Senate this year — against Graham, Libertarian Victor Kocher and independent Thomas Ravenel, a former Republican state treasurer of South Carolina — gives him a chance to win the contest with far less than half the total votes cast. Full story

August 18, 2014

Republicans Gain Steam in House Races

While political reporters and party strategists argue over whether there is an electoral wave ahead, district-level data demonstrates a difficult landscape for Democratic candidates in House races.

Democrats believe, as competitive races become more engaged and the party exercises some of its financial advantage to get its message out, that some contests will turn in their favor. That scenario is possible, but in many cases Democratic challenges aren’t developing as quickly as expected and some Democratic incumbents are struggling to gain their footing.

We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates: Full story

August 12, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Might Be Why Americans Hate Congress

The media’s narrative about Congress is clear: It is unproductive, members care only about getting re-elected and they have failed to do their jobs.

So it should come as no surprise that Americans believe Congress has been unproductive, that members don’t care about doing the right thing, but only about re-election and Congress is a mess.

The average voter isn’t watching Congress closely enough to know how productive it is or how and why members make the decisions they do, but voters seem to have strong opinions about the legislative branch of government. Where do you think voters get their views about Congress’ productivity? How do they understand how members of Congress make decisions on legislation?

I have met the enemy and it is us.

Full story

August 11, 2014

Democratic Retirements Put the Senate in Play

President Barack Obama’s slumping job approval rating isn’t doing Democrats any favors in the party’s quest to hold a majority in the Senate. But without a handful of Democratic retirements, the Senate likely wouldn’t be in play at all.

Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats to get to 51 and control the Senate in the 114th Congress. To make that happen, Republicans will likely need to defeat at least two incumbents, if not three or four. That’s a difficult — but not insurmountable — task, considering Republicans defeated just two Democratic incumbents (both in 2010) in the past four election cycles combined.

But if a handful of Democratic senators had not chosen to retire this cycle, Republicans would have had a significantly more difficult path to a majority. The retirements of Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Carl Levin of Michigan created good — some even great — GOP opportunities.

Full story

August 8, 2014

Rating Change: Connecticut Governor

Dannel P. Malloy is a Democratic governor of a Democratic state, but he is far from a sure thing for re-election in November.

Malloy won a close race in 2010 and will likely face former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, a Republican, once again. The governor’s polling numbers have been consistently mediocre and this is looking increasingly like another close and competitive race.

We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Leans Democratic to Tossup/Tilts Democratic.

Rating Change: Colorado Governor

Republicans appear to have avoided disaster by not nominating polarizing former Rep. Tom Tancredo in their effort to knock off Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez gives Republicans a credible nominee and polls have shown him within striking distance of the governor. But he has also been underfunded, and this looks like a race the Republican Governors Association is going to have to carry across the finish line if the GOP wants to win it.

The overlap with the very competitive U.S. Senate race between Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Cory Gardner and the competitive 6th District race between Democrat Andrew Romanoff and incumbent Republican Mike Coffman makes Colorado a top state to watch on election night.

We’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Democrat Favored to Leans Democratic.

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