Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 3, 2015

March 2, 2015

Russ Feingold, Joe Sestak and the Improbable Senate Race Rematch

Elections 2016

Feingold isn’t running yet, but all signs point to a rematch against his 2010 opponent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is filled with members who lost previous races. But Democrats Joe Sestak and Russ Feingold are trying to pull off a rare electoral feat: defeating the people who defeated them six years prior.

In 2010, Republican businessman Ron Johnson defeated Feingold, the incumbent Democrat, 52 percent to 47 percent, in Wisconsin. Feingold’s 2016 candidacy isn’t a guarantee, but all signs point to a rematch, particularly now that he has left his post at the State Department.

But in order to get back to the Senate, Feingold will have to do something that hasn’t happened in nearly a century. Full story

February 25, 2015

Remembrance of Shutdowns Past

Elections 2016

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans scored big gains in the 2010 and 2014 elections because both of those midterms were about President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Democrats had successful elections in 2006, 2008 and 2012 primarily because they made those elections about the GOP and George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

You might think politicians from both sides of the aisle would understand that a political party does best when it makes the national political discussion about the weaknesses, failings and shortcomings of the other party. Full story

February 23, 2015

Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton Face Foreign Policy Challenges in 2016

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the economy is a decisive topic in many presidential elections, national security looks increasingly likely to become a top issue in next year’s contest. And if that happens, it could dramatically affect both the direction of the race for the Republican nomination and the party’s prospects in November.

While the economy’s slow recovery hasn’t yet produced solid wage growth or the sort of good, full-time jobs that many had hoped for, President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers on handling the economy have started to climb. Full story

February 19, 2015

Jason Kander and the Secretary of State Curse

Elections 2016

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, announced his challenge to GOP Sen. Roy Blunt Thursday. But he’ll have to overcome the Republican lean of the Show-Me State and history in order to win.

There are many paths to the Senate, but being a secretary of state is usually not one of them. The losing trend for the state officeholders is nothing new, but 2014 was supposed to be the cycle when at least one of the four current or former secretaries of state broke the Senate curse. It wasn’t. Full story

February 17, 2015

Past and Precedent: What Makes This Mississippi Special Election Interesting

You might think the best way to understand Mississippi’s upcoming 1st District special election to fill the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s seat is to examine the 2008 special election in the same district. After all, that previous special election to fill the seat left open by Roger Wicker’s appointment to the Senate happened less than seven years ago.

If you think that, you are wrong. Full story

February 13, 2015

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Run

This is prime time for candidate recruitment, but aspiring politicos might pause to make sure they know what they’re in for before jumping into a competitive congressional race.

In the same vein as the timeless book for new parents, a bipartisan collection of campaign strategists and consultants offered some essential advice before starting along the campaign path. Keep in mind, this advice comes from authentic operatives, not the people who play consultants on cable television. Full story

February 12, 2015

Why Early Senate Polling Is Usually Useless

Elections 2016

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I never pay too much attention to early polls, since snapshots of a race more than 18 months before Election Day can be misleading.

And political parties ought to be careful about crowing too loudly about early polls for fear someone will look too closely into them. Full story

February 10, 2015

Is Ben Carson Really a Viable Presidential Candidate?

Elections 2016

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just because something has not happened before doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.

Barack Obama and Barry Goldwater proved that point, and Hillary Rodham Clinton could soon be added to the list. Could Ben Carson, as well? Full story

Why Special Elections Really Matter

Elections 2016

Pelosi and Hoyer both came to Congress thanks to special elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Special elections matter, but not for the reasons you might think.

It’s an annual sport in politics: arguing whether special elections serve as bellwethers. But while special elections often poorly portend results around the country, they can produce potential leaders. They’re also excellent predictors of voter behavior inside that particular district.

Full story

February 5, 2015

Democrats Might Need to Lose the White House to Win the House Majority

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“It’s going to be awhile,” wrote The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza recently, summarizing Democrats’ chances of obtaining a majority in the House.

But Democrats may not need years to dig out from their minority hole … if they are willing to surrender the White House in 2016.

Cillizza, a former Roll Call politics reporter, lays out a plausible, multi-cycle path to the majority for Democrats:

“[D]emocrats would do well to see their fight to retake the House as a three-election mission. Narrow the Republican majority in 2016. Go absolutely all out at the state legislative and gubernatorial level in 2018 to win in the places where the lines will be drawn in 2021. Try to further narrow the margin in 2020. And hope 2022 is a midterm election that goes your way in terms of national dynamics.”

But that road will be complicated if Democrats hold the White House in 2016. Full story

February 4, 2015

When Activists Run for Office

Elections 2016

If Lee decides to retire, there’s a high-profile activist who could run for the seat. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Spending time, energy and money on campaigns is one thing. But some political activists go a step further, contemplating whether to become a candidate themselves.

California could see two such cases in the next few years, with environmentalist Tom Steyer and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas potentially finding themselves in position to run for office. Full story

February 3, 2015

Not Your Father’s (or Grandfather’s) GOP Field

Elections 2016

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

None of the top-tier GOP contenders for the party’s presidential nomination have formally entered the race yet, but it’s already clear the field will be unique in the party’s modern campaign history.

Most Republican fields since 1952 have begun with between two and five serious contenders for the nomination. This cycle’s field is almost certain to be both larger and better credentialed, creating a very different race that will end in Cleveland at the party’s national convention in July 2016. Full story

January 29, 2015

Why Even Democrats Love Talking About Joni Ernst

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything these days, but strategists on both sides of the aisle love to talk about Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s victory.

Two years ago, Ernst was a little-known GOP state senator from Southwest Iowa. She entered the national spotlight with a memorable television ad about castrating pigs and eventually won the seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. Ernst continued her ascent by giving the Republicans’ State of the Union response, and she is poised to play a key role in the GOP presidential primary through the Iowa caucuses. Full story

January 27, 2015

First Look: Can Democrats Win the Senate in 2016?

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Republicans, the fight for control of the Senate in 2016 is all about playing defense.

Unlike 2014 (and 2018), the Senate races of 2016 offer few, if any, opportunities for the GOP as the election cycle begins. The map strongly favors Democrats and suggests the possibility of considerable Democratic gains. Full story

January 26, 2015

Democrats Lose Candidate and Hope in New York Special Election

The date hasn’t even been set, but Republicans have all but won the special election in New York’s 11th District.

The Staten Island-based district has swung from being a top Democratic target in the midterms all the way across the competitive spectrum to Democrats punting the opportunity to win the seat in a special election. Full story

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