Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 18, 2014

April 17, 2014

Republican Whacks Harry Reid in New North Carolina Senate Ad

Thom Tillis 8 092413 445x312 Republican Whacks Harry Reid in New North Carolina Senate Ad

Tillis is a Republican running for Senate in North Carolina. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Earlier this week, Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, went up with an ad attacking Republican state Speaker Thom Tillis for his connection to former aides who had inappropriate relationships with lobbyists.

Now, the Tillis campaign is set to go on television with a response ad.

The 30-second spot, titled “Meddling,” accuses Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of “trying to fool Republican voters, meddling in our primary to get a weak opponent for Kay Hagan.”

The North Carolina Senate race is rated Toss-up/Tilt Democrat by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, in part, because of uncertainty in the GOP primary.

According to a source with the Tillis campaign, the ad will be placed in rotation in a previous, ongoing ad buy, including $554,683 placed from April 14 to May 4.

Here is the transcript of the ad, produced by OnMessage, Inc.: Full story

Ratings Change: Florida’s 18th District

america presser015 080113 445x302 Ratings Change: Florida’s 18th District

Murphy is a first-term Democrat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The way things are going this cycle, Democrats could use a piece of good news — and Rep. Patrick Murphy’s re-election might be just that for party strategists.

The Democratic congressman was initially elected last cycle in a very close race, 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent, over polarizing GOP Rep. Allen West in Florida’s 18th District. Mitt Romney carried that district with with 52 percent.

That close margin of victory and Romney’s win in the district virtually guaranteed Murphy a slot near the top Republican takeover lists for 2014.

But Murphy has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the entire House. The congressman raised more than $675,000 in the first quarter and had more than $2.2 million in the bank at the end of March. Full story

Ratings Change: Illinois’ 10th District

fiscal presser013 080212 445x293 Ratings Change: Illinois’ 10th District

Dold is waging a comeback bid in Illinois. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Illinois’ 10th District was drawn by Democrats to elect a Democrat, and it did just that in 2012 when Brad Schneider defeated GOP Rep. Robert Dold.

But Schneider won very narrowly, 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, a margin of a slightly more than 3,000 votes out of 264,000 cast. And he did it with President Barack Obama running at the top of the ballot. This year, Obama is not on the ballot, he’s more unpopular and Dold is running again. Full story

Ratings Change: Texas’ 23rd District

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Canseco is a former member from Texas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco is one of at least a couple former members running in 2014 who isn’t exactly being embraced by all in his party.

Canseco was elected in 2010 but lost re-election two years later to Democrat Pete Gallego, 50 percent to 46 percent. This cycle, Canseco is running again but is locked in a May 27 primary runoff with former CIA officer Will Hurd. Hurd finished first in the 2010 GOP primary, but lost to Canseco in the runoff. Full story

April 16, 2014

Sebelius to the Senate? Maybe in the Land of Oz, But Not in Kansas

sebelius041614 445x295 Sebelius to the Senate? Maybe in the Land of Oz, But Not in Kansas

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When I read today’s New York Times piece, “Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat,” I had two very different reactions.

First, I figured that national Democrats had to be encouraged that former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a once-popular two-term governor of Kansas, would be considering a Senate run this year.

After all, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has been in the race for a mere six weeks, and there is little reason to believe that he can throw much of a scare into Sen. Pat Roberts in the fall, assuming, of course, that Roberts wins re-nomination on August 5.

Sebelius has name recognition, demonstrated electoral appeal and fundraising potential, so her candidacy would give Democrats a shot in the arm.

After that, I quickly came to my senses. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 3:28 p.m.
Kansas, Senate

Ratings Update: Wisconsin’s 6th District

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Petri is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., is the latest member to announce his retirement, opening up another potentially competitive congressional district.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel reveled in Petri’s exit, but there is no initial indication that his seat is falling into Democratic hands in 2014. Full story

Ratings Change: Massachusetts’ 6th District

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Tierney is a Democrat from Massachusetts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Massachusetts voters haven’t sent a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives from any district in nearly 20 years. Republican Richard Tisei nearly broke that streak in 2012 and is challenging Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., once again in 2014.

Tierney’s vulnerability is specific. Massachusetts’ 6th District voted for Barack Obama with 55 percent in 2012 and 57 percent in 2008. But Tierney nearly lost to Tisei last cycle, 48 percent to 47 percent, with the help from a Libertarian candidate who received 4.5 percent. Full story

April 15, 2014

Ratings Change: Minnesota’s 2nd District

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Kline is a Republican from Minnesota. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was re-elected in 2012 with less than 55 percent in a district that Barack Obama won twice, making him an initial Democratic target.

But it’s safe to say that the race in Minnesota’s 2nd District hasn’t developed as quickly as some Democratic strategists would have liked. Full story

Ratings Change: New York’s 18th District

doma reaction006 062613 445x298 Ratings Change: New York’s 18th District

Maloney is a Democrat from New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By the numbers, New York’s 18th District isn’t solid-blue Democratic territory. But at this stage of the cycle, GOP optimism about defeating Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is very low. And that lack of enthusiasm could indicate that former Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican, won’t get much financial support from outside groups for the stretch run this fall.

President Barack Obama won the district twice, but with just 52 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2012. Last cycle, Maloney defeated Hayworth by a narrow margin, 52 percent to 48 percent. Full story

How to Handicap a Campaign’s Ground Game in 2014

This cycle, Democrats are counting heavily on registering new voters and turning out registered voters who otherwise don’t bother to vote during midterm elections. Republicans are also putting more emphasis on voter contact programs.

In an era of micro-targeting and sophisticated get-out-the-vote operations, how can a handicapper know exactly how an election outcome will be affected by a strong ground game?

For me, the answer has always been pretty obvious: I can’t. Full story

April 14, 2014

The War of Obamacare Anecdotes in the 2014 Elections

A couple months ago on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, I said that I thought the 2014 elections would be driven by anecdotes related to the Affordable Care Act. I think a pair of ads in two of the most competitive Senate races in the country could be a pretty accurate roadmap for the debate that is coming over the next six months.

Last week in Alaska, an outside group called Put Alaska First went on the air with a new, 30-second television ad, “Beat,” featuring cancer survivor Lisa Keller talking about her struggle to gain insurance coverage and thanking  Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for his fight against the insurance companies.

Full story

April 11, 2014

Democratic Senate Prospects and the New Black Voter

Democrats plan to turn out thousands of African-American voters this fall, in an effort to hold the Senate majority. The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote.

Which begs the question, after opportunities to elect and re-elect the first black president, why would an African-American choose this year’s midterm elections to finally jump from the sidelines and into the game?

This question especially matters given that contests in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana will help determine control of the Senate.

Democratic strategists believe there is low-hanging fruit in the black populations in Arkansas and Louisiana, where Democrats are defending seats, because those states never saw a well-financed and organized get-out-the-vote effort from President Barack Obama’s campaign. After all, neither state was regarded as competitive in the past two presidential races.

This cycle, Democrats on the House and Senate sides are investing unprecedented amounts of money into their party’s ground game for the midterm elections. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to spend $60 million on 4,000 staff in top states through the Bannock Street Project to get out the vote.

Part of that effort is focused on boosting black turnout from traditional midterm levels to something closer to presidential levels in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in Georgia, and potentially Michigan and North Carolina — both of which saw plenty of attention in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats are encouraged by the Obama campaign’s ability to boost the black percentage of the vote in Ohio from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. (Interestingly, the 2010 exit poll in Ohio found blacks constituting 15 percent of the state electorate in that midterm, two years before the Democrats’ major effort in the Buckeye State.)

But it’s one thing to boost African-American turnout in a year when the first black president is seeking re-election, and it is something very different to boost that same turnout during a midterm.

One of the biggest challenges facing Democrats this cycle is enthusiasm. Dan Balz had a good piece on this in The Washington Post after the special election in Florida’s 13th District.

And the African-American community is not immune from the enthusiasm challenge. Democratic strategists aren’t eager to reveal the specific messages they will use to mobilize black voters, but they are likely to try to rally those potential voters around the president and his legislative agenda, including issues of equality and fairness, such as a minimum wage increase, equal pay for women and an immigration overhaul.

Complicating the task is that Democratic strategists will be asking these new black voters to support vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mary L. Landrieu, Mark Pryor and candidates such as Michelle Nunn, each of who must demonstrate a level of independence from Obama’s agenda in order to remain competitive with white voters.

Even if Democrats succeed in registering and turning out more black voters, they will only affect total turnout in those contests at the margins. Of course, in razor thin margins, that could be enough to matter.

In Arkansas, Democrats estimate that there are 121,000 unregistered African-Americans by using census data. By registering a fraction of that population (even somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent), Democratic strategists believe it could tilt the outcome of the race between Pryor and GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.

The black population of Arkansas is 15 percent. In the 2008 presidential election, black voters made up 12 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls. In the 2010 midterms, black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate. Because the media consortium chose to cut back its exit polling operation, there is no exit poll data for Arkansas for 2012.

Of the top 14 Senate races, Arkansas is one of seven states where the black population cracks double digits. The other states include Louisiana (32 percent), North Carolina (21 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Virginia (19 percent) and Georgia (30 percent).

The other half of the Senate playing field includes states with miniscule black populations. Those states include Alaska (3 percent), Colorado (4 percent), Iowa (3 percent), New Hampshire (1 percent), West Virginia (3 percent), South Dakota (1 percent) and Montana (less than 1 percent).

In Georgia, Democrats are excited about the long-term demographic trends in the state, but strategists believe there is a short-term opportunity to increase black turnout this year. There are an estimated 375,000 African-American voters who voted in 2012 but not 2010, and 572,000 African-Americans still unregistered. And in Louisiana, where Landrieu is running for re-election, Democrats estimate 185,000 African-Americans voted in 2012 but not 2010, and another 228,000 African-Americans are unregistered.

The New York Times did a nice piece on the relationship between the Landrieu family and black voters going back to the senator’s father and up to her brother’s recent mayoral election in New Orleans.

In 2008, black voters made up 29 percent of the vote in the senator’s re-election race, according to the exit poll. Landrieu won the black vote, 96 percent to 2 percent but lost the white vote to Republican John Kennedy 65 percent to 33 percent in her 52 percent statewide victory. Two years later in the midterm, the black percentage of the electorate slipped to 24 percent.

Theoretically there is also an opportunity to increase black turnout in Michigan. The Obama campaign was able to increase black turnout from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012, and there are an estimated 304,000 unregistered African-Americans in the state. But in midterms, black voters have made up closer to 10 percent of the electorate, according to pollsters who have worked in the state.

Considering long-term historical trends, increasing African-American turnout in a midterm election looks like a long shot or bank shot for Democrats. But for their strategists and campaigns, having a plan and being proactive sounds much better than simply waiting on the shore to be hit by a wave.

April 8, 2014

Meet 3 Divergent House Candidates Worth Watching

While some observers of politics apparently are only interested in statistical models that predict electoral outcomes, I have always thought that candidates matter — both during campaigns and, particularly, when the victorious arrive in Washington, D.C.

In fact I have found interviewing congressional candidates one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Last week, I interviewed three credible hopefuls in three interesting races: California Republicans Steve Knight and Jeff Gorell, and Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh.

Full story

April 7, 2014

GOP Congressman Skips Incumbent Label on California Ballot

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David Valadao is a House Republican from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican David Valadao is running for re-election to the 21st District — but you wouldn’t know he’s the incumbent from his ballot designation.

In the Golden State, candidates can choose a short description to accompany their name on the primary and general election ballots. The ballot designation is generally three words, unless it is an official title, and it’s considered an important opportunity to leave a lasting impression on voters before they make their final selection. [Here is a brief explainer from the Riverside Press Enterprise from last year.] Full story

April 3, 2014

Why Republicans Have Trouble Electing Women to Congress

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Love is a top GOP candidate in 2014. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fewer Republican women are running for Congress in 2014, compared to last cycle. That’s a fact. But what it means — or whether it says anything at all about the GOP — is entirely a different matter.

Unfortunately, not every attempt to explain the development is even-handed and analytic.

“What’s clear is that Republicans are coming up short in their bid to recruit more women to run for office,” according to a Time magazine piece in late February stemming from a study conducted by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The study was the catalyst for two rounds of stories (examples here and here, along with the Time piece), which EMILY’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee redistributed to mock Republicans for the lack of female House candidates. Full story

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