Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 2, 2015

July 1, 2015

Top Races to Watch in 2016: The Southwest

kirkpatrick003_050714 (1)

Kirkpatrick’s Senate run sets up a competitive race for her House district. (File Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)


Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Southwest Region includes Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. 

Arizona’s 1st District: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s Senate bid creates an open-seat headache for Democrats. Kirkpatrick managed to win re-election in a terrible Democratic year in 2014, but she has a unique appeal in that district that could be difficult for another Democrat to replicate (and faced an underwhelming GOP nominee). Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain won the district with 51 percent in the 2008 presidential race and Mitt Romney carried it with 50 percent in 2012.

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Top Races to Watch in 2016: Mid-Atlantic States

Sen. Pat Toomey

The Senate race in Pennsylvania will likely be a rematch of the 2010 race between Toomey, above, and Sestak. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch in 2016. The Mid-Atlantic region includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Pennsylvania Senate: Democrats are on a quest to gain five seats and the Senate majority, and the Keystone State looks like one of the key contests. Republican Patrick J. Toomey defeated Democrat Joe Sestak in 2010, 51 percent to 49 percent. Even though some Democrats are unconvinced Sestak is the best candidate for 2016, no credible alternative has emerged, and the former congressman looks likely to be the nominee once again. Skepticism about Sestak doesn’t mean he can’t win. The Democrat will be a credible nominee and gets the chance to run in a presidential year this time, when Democratic turnout should be better. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rate the race as Tossup/Tilts Republican.

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June 30, 2015

Top Congressional Races in 2016: The West

Rep. Joe Heck

Heck is poised to jump into the race for Senate seat in Nevada that Reid is giving up. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch in 2016. The West Region includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Nevada Senate: Democrats have only a pair of vulnerable Senate seats, but retiring Sen. Harry Reid’s is one of them. GOP Rep. Joe Heck looks poised to enter the race at any moment, while Democrats are likely to nominate former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. The last Senate race in a presidential year was in 2012 when appointed-Sen. Dean Heller defeated Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley by a single point. Democrats are far more confident in Cortez Masto as a candidate, but she is relatively untested for a statewide office holder. Heck has been in tough races, but never statewide. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race is Tossup/Tilts Democratic but is creeping close to Pure Tossup.

Nevada’s 4th District: GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy is the most vulnerable incumbent in the House. He won a late-breaking race in 2014, 49-46 percent, over Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a cycle in which Democrats completely collapsed in the state. But President Barack Obama won the 4th by 10 points in 2012 and 15 points in 2008 and Democrats are clamoring for the nomination. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, and wealthy philanthropist Susie Lee are in the race and may be joined by former state Speaker John Oceguera. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates the race as Tossup/Tilts Democratic.

Nevada’s 3rd District: If Heck runs for the Senate, his open House seat will be a top Democratic takeover target. Obama won the district narrowly in 2012 and by a wider 9 points in 2008. Heck’s previous victories scared aspiring Democrats over to the 4th District race, but his absence might prompt some of them to make the switch. State Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson and Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers look likely to run on the Republican side. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating is Favored Republican with Heck but Pure Tossup without him.

California’s 24th District: Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ retirement creates an open-seat opportunity. Last year, the congresswoman’s re-election race tightened and she won 52-48 percent. But Democrats believe presidential-year turnout will be significantly better. All candidates will run together in the June primary and the top two will move on to the general election. For Republicans, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and young businessman Justin Fareed (who finished third in the 2014 primary) will likely battle for one position while Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider will likely battle for the other. Republicans came close in the midterm last year but a presidential election year should pose a different challenge. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rate the race as Safe Democrat.

California Senate: The race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is worth watching, even though the seat is not at risk of a Republican takeover. With the Golden State’s top two primary on June 3, there is a chance that state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, both move on to the general election next November. Either way, Democrats are likely to add at least one minority woman to their Senate caucus in the next Congress. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rate the race as Safe Democrat.

What races would you add to the list?


Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016

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Top Races to Watch in 2016: The South

The Faith & Freedom Coalition

Rubio’s decision not to run for re-election while he runs for president creates a hot race for a pivotal Senate seat.


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of looks at the most competitive House and Senate races in the 2016 election cycle. The South region includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Florida Senate: From competitive primaries to the general election, the race to replace GOP Sen. Marco Rubio should have it all. Rubio left his party a competitive open seat to defend in the wake of his White House bid. The Republican field is still taking shape but a competitive primary looks likely. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller, and  Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera are running. Rep. Patrick Murphy is running on the Democratic side, but could be joined by colorful Rep. Alan Grayson in what would be an entertaining primary. Even though there is uncertainty about the nominees, the general election is likely to be one of the most competitive in the country, and a virtual must-win for Democrats to get back to the majority. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rate the race as a Pure Toss-Up.

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When the Second Time Isn’t the Charm

Santorum speaks during the Faith & Freedom Coalition'’s Road to Majority Conference. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Santorum speaks during the Faith & Freedom Coalition’’s Road to Majority Conference. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I feel bad for Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry. They are presidential retreads at a moment when anything that is more than an hour or two old is passé.

John McCain was a retread in 2008 (having lost a bid for the GOP nomination in 2000), as was Mitt Romney four years later. Ronald Reagan was a retread in 1980, and Richard M. Nixon was one in 1968. But they’re ancient history. Times have changed. Full story

June 24, 2015

Yarmuth Retirement Rumor Offers Window Into Future

Rep. John Yarmuth

Before Monday’s news conference, there were rumors Yarmuth would announce he was retiring or even resigning. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rumors that Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth was poised to retire or resign were hot and heavy right up until the moment the Democratic congressman announced his re-election bid on Monday. But the public uncertainty provided a brief glimpse into what the race to replace him might look like when he decides to call it quits.

The exit rumors weren’t just wishful thinking by a Republican Party that hasn’t been able to seriously challenge for the Louisville-based 3rd District since Yarmuth knocked off popular GOP Rep. Anne Northup in 2006. Local Democrats were buzzing about the congressman’s plans and some were even preparing bids for an open seat.

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June 23, 2015

Does Scott Walker Have What It Takes to Win in 2016?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is widely viewed as a top-tier hopeful for the GOP presidential nomination. But it’s less clear he has the right profile to knock off the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Walker’s strength in the nomination race comes from his positioning in the Republican Party.

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June 16, 2015

The Iowa Straw Poll: Put a Stake Through Its Heart

iowa straw poll

Bachmann addresses supporters and media in Ames, Iowa, after winning the 2011 straw poll. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Iowa Straw Poll is dead for 2015. Let’s hope it doesn’t resurrect its ugly head for the 2020 cycle and beyond.

Almost four years ago I wrote a column, “The Nothingness of the Iowa Straw Poll,” in which I disclosed that I had canceled my trip to cover the 2011 straw poll. Full story

Roll Call at the Big 6-0

Roll Call's softball team from the early 2000s.

Roll Call’s softball team from the early 2000s.

During my 23 years at Roll Call (my first column was published on June 11, 1992), I’ve seen many changes at the newspaper. It has been forced to evolve because journalism has changed more radically than any of us could have imagined.

Politics, too, has changed. In the summer of 1992, we still talked about the GOP’s “lock” in the Electoral College and the Democrats’ unassailable stranglehold on the House of Representatives, and we had no idea that two decades later we would witness the election of an African-American president, the birth of something called the tea party or the White House candidacy of a former first lady — twice. Full story

June 11, 2015

Race Plays Out on Congressional Baseball Game Field

If Murphy loses his Senate bid, he would no longer play in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Murphy loses his Senate bid in Florida, he would no longer play in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Next year’s Florida Senate race is a high-stakes contest that could impact Roll Call Congressional Baseball Games for years to come. It may also decide the Senate majority in the next Congress.

Both parties are at risk of losing one of their youngest and most experienced players, since Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis are giving up their Florida House seats in order to run for Republican Marco Rubio’s open Senate seat. At least one member will lose and won’t be available for the 56th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game in 2017.

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June 8, 2015

Can Marco Rubio Save the GOP in 2016? (Video)

Rubio does not fit the typical Republican presidential candidate demographic. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rubio, of Cuban descent, doesn’t fit the typical GOP presidential candidate demographic. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican presidential field looks unusually diverse this cycle — an African-American (Ben Carson), an Indian-American (Bobby Jindal), a woman (Carly Fiorina) and a Hispanic, or, if you prefer, a Cuban (Marco Rubio). One candidate is married to a Hispanic originally from Mexico (Jeb Bush).

There is even a Canadian in the field.

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June 3, 2015

Let Voters Judge Early Ads


It’s way too early to know if television ads will influence voters one way or another next fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk is the most vulnerable senator in the country up for re-election this cycle. He kicked off his campaign in May with his first television ad, nearly a year and a half from Election Day, and it was promptly treated like a game-changer by some reporters. Of course it’s healthy to digest that kind of analysis with a healthy bite of skepticism.

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June 2, 2015

Party’s History of Establishment Picks Could Be Over (Video)


Was Romney the last establishment pick for the Republicans? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Battles for the Republican presidential nomination almost always come down to two alternatives — an establishment-backed candidate with pragmatic instincts and an insurgent (often significantly more conservative) who tries to appeal to constituencies that feel ignored.

And except for 1964, when an insurgent Barry Goldwater defeated a slew of establishment opponents, and, possibly, 1980, the establishment has won these fights to select the party’s presidential nominees.

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May 29, 2015

Ratings Change: Kirk’s Race Now Tilts to Democrats

Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi

Duckworth can probably afford a couple of mistakes as a Democrat running in a Democratic state in a presidential year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

At least a handful of GOP senators are vulnerable this election cycle, but none more than Mark S. Kirk of Illinois.

While Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are headed for competitive re-election fights, Kirk looks to be facing the most difficult race of all.

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May 27, 2015

14 Open House Seats, Few Takeover Opportunities

The retiring Fitzpatrick leaves behind one of the few competitive open seats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The retiring Fitzpatrick leaves behind one of the few competitive open seats in Pennsylvania’s 8th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

More than 90 percent of House incumbents routinely get re-elected, so open seats are a hot commodity. Five months into the 114th Congress, 14 House members have announced their departure, but just four of the seats they are leaving behind can be considered competitive.

At this stage in the cycle, Republicans have two vulnerable open seats: Chris Gibson’s 19th District in New York and Michael G. Fitzpatrick’s 8th District in Pennsylvania. President Barack Obama carried Gibson’s district twice and Fitzpatrick’s district once, in 2008, but both incumbents locked down their turf to the point where Democrats didn’t put up much of a fight last cycle.

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