Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

December 18, 2014

Will Russ Feingold Be Haunted by Campaign Problems Past?

 Will Russ Feingold Be Haunted by Campaign Problems Past?

Can Feingold put together a credible challenge? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., isn’t ruling out trying to get his former seat back this cycle. But it’s unclear how good of a campaign he will run.

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore told Roll Call’s Alexis Levinson last week she expects Feingold to wage a rematch against GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in 2016 and to clear the primary along the way. But in the wake of his loss in 2010, it became clear Feingold’s campaign suffered from some internal campaign strife, which factored into his failure to re-create the maverick magic of his previous victories.

Full story

December 15, 2014

Jury Duty in Today’s America

While most of America was still talking about what happened in Ferguson, Mo., and turning to law enforcement issues in Cleveland and Staten Island, New York, I spent the better part of the week of Dec. 1 in a courthouse in Rockville, Md.

I never expected to be selected to sit on a jury, let alone one where the defendant was charged with first degree rape. I also didn’t expect to hear some shocking information after the case ended.

No, my case did not involve a racially-charged act that tore apart a community. Though the rape was extremely violent, no lives were lost. There were no videos of the rape or of the police response, no national media attention to the case.

Still, as a member of a jury charged with determining guilt or innocence, I, like most members of juries and grand juries, felt an important responsibility to evaluate the evidence dispassionately and come to the correct conclusion. 

Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 7:37 p.m.
Column

December 9, 2014

Democrats Abandoned Mary Landrieu in the Runoff. Does it Matter?

 Democrats Abandoned Mary Landrieu in the Runoff. Does it Matter?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Party campaign committees are incumbent led and incumbent driven, so how important is it for the committees to support incumbents to the bitter end?

Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu lost re-election in Louisiana, 56 percent to 44 percent, to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. But in the days running up to the race on Saturday, there was some criticism that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn’t do enough to help the senator.

After Landrieu finished first, but with just 42 percent, in the November jungle primary, the DSCC cancelled its television ad reservations for the runoff and never replaced them.

“I wish she had more air cover,” Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., told The Hill before the runoff. “I was there because she’s my friend, but more importantly she’s done an extraordinary job for the people of Louisiana, and you don’t abandon your friends when times get tough.” Full story

Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

 Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s defeat in the Dec. 6 runoff certainly was no surprise. If anything, it seemed inevitable since the evening of Nov. 4, when it became clear a Republican rout was underway and Democrats would lose control of the Senate.

But the veteran Democrat’s defeat is another reminder we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.

In the end, the “Landrieu brand” in Louisiana did not matter any more than the Pryor brand mattered in Arkansas or the Begich brand mattered in Alaska. Party labels mattered far more than the individual names of the candidates. Voters in all three states saw the incumbents’ Democratic label, and that made their decisions easy. Full story

December 3, 2014

Draft Ben Carson Group Complicates Potential Presidential Campaign

 Draft Ben Carson Group Complicates Potential Presidential Campaign

Carson is considering a run for president. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ben Carson is openly considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but an unaffiliated Super PAC trying to draft him into the race is making the effort complicated.

Last month, Buzzfeed detailed the fundraising and spending habits of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee (RunBenRun.org). While the group has received attention for raising millions of dollars, those funds are just churned back into the operation, with significant financial benefit for two of its organizers. And the group’s campaign director, Vernon Robinson, has a reputation in North Carolina for being one of the most aggressive and negative campaigners around.

For example, when the Draft Carson group was denied a presence at the state Republican Party’s booth at the state fair in Raleigh at the end of October, Robinson threatened to show up to the event with 10,000 “dead white elephant” stickers, 1,000 T-shirts and 2,000 supporters.

“19 days out I’m sure the media will be interested in a dead white elephant story and why the Ben Carson vols were banned from the GOP state booth …in the interest of unity,” wrote Robinson in an email obtained by The Rothenberg Political Report and CQ Roll Call. Full story

December 2, 2014

Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

 Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

Braley is a nominee for most over-rated campaign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, we’ve made it through another strange political year — and let’s face it, they are all strange — so it’s time for me to devote another column to picking the best, the worst and the weirdest candidates, campaigns and outcomes of the year.

As always, I will select a few nominees and offer my own winner. If you don’t agree, feel free to send an email complaining to someone else. Just not me.
Full story

November 26, 2014

How to Handle a Broken Campaign Promise

Broken campaign promises complicate a politician’s re-election effort, but they don’t have to be fatal.

This cycle, when faced with their own words from a previous campaign, two incumbents utilized different strategies in their quest for another term.

Full story

November 24, 2014

What Did — and Didn’t — Surprise Me This Cycle

Every election cycle is filled with twists and turns, upsets and surprises. And every cycle is filled with goofy arguments, warnings about things that never happen and unsurprising outcomes that surprise only the politically uneducated.

For me, the biggest surprises included Dave Brat’s primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Thad Cochran’s win in the Mississippi Republican Senate runoff and Larry Hogan Jr.’s victory and margin in Maryland’s gubernatorial race.

Primary upsets happen, in part because reliable polling is so scarce. Without it, local observers have to rely on anecdotal evidence, which often is unreliable. But the idea that some underfunded college professor might deny renomination to Cantor, whatever his flaws and vulnerabilities, struck me as somewhere between silly and delusional.

Apparently, I was the one who was delusional.

Full story

November 21, 2014

Freshman Class Filled With Losers

 Freshman Class Filled With Losers

Jenkins and Love are among the incoming freshmen who have previously lost races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is filled with a bunch of losers, but not exactly in the way you’re thinking.

In the wake of the elections, it’s easy to second-guess losing candidates and their campaigns, and to discount their chances of ever winning a seat in Congress. But at least 27 incoming House members have electoral losses on their records — more than 40 percent of the new class — and many of them lost contests for the same seat they will represent in the 114th Congress.

When handicapping future success, the circumstances surrounding each loss and the fresh dynamics of the new race are often more important than the loss itself. In some cases, incumbents retire or the political environment changes to boost a previous loser to victory. Or a candidate moves on to bolster their résumé and returns to the campaign trail with more success.

Here are 27 losers coming into the next Congress: Full story

November 17, 2014

Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

 Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

You could feel it from Day One of this cycle. Senate Democratic strategists knew they were smarter than their Republican adversaries. They’d out-think them and out-work them.

Incumbent Democratic senators who run good campaigns rarely lose, I was reminded. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who had been appointed to his seat, won a tough race in 2010. So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. And Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill did the same in 2012.

This cycle, vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states such as Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana had great political names and deep connections to the voters. They knew how to win, just like Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana did two years ago. (Of course, Heitkamp and Donnelly won in a presidential year, with its different dynamic.)

How many times did I hear or read that Sen. Mark Pryor was no Blanche Lincoln? That comment was meant to highlight Pryor’s political strengths, but also to throw Lincoln (who lost re-election in 2010) under the bus so party strategists didn’t have to look at why she lost and how hostile the Arkansas terrain has become for any Democrat.

“They have their own brands,” I heard repeatedly about Pryor and Sens. Mark Begich in Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana from Democratic operatives and journalists.

But, Bennet, Reid and McCaskill were victorious because the GOP nominated horrible candidates against them, not because the Democratic candidates had such untouchable brands, Democratic strategists had unique insights or party operatives knew how to win tough races. Full story

The Stunningly Static White Evangelical Vote

 The Stunningly Static White Evangelical Vote

Reed, right, speaks with Rep. Pete Sessions at the 2010 CPAC Conference held by the American Conservative Union in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s plenty of discussion about the difference between midterm and presidential electorates, but there is one emerging constant: the white evangelical vote.

At least one interest group, Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, claimed that conservative Christians played a “decisive role” in the recent midterm elections. But according to the exit polls, white evangelicals made up the same percentage of the electorate and voted nearly the exact same way this year as they did in the two previous elections. Full story

November 14, 2014

Unsuccessful House Candidate Already ‘In’ for 2016

The ink is barely dry on the 2014 election results, but one unsuccessful candidate is making it clear that he is running again.

Republican Paul Chabot came up short in California’s 31st District but told the Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call Thursday he wants a re-match.

“It’s now or never,” said Chabot, who conceded this year’s race little more than a week ago. The Republican lost the Southern California district by just 2 points, 51 percent to 49 percent, against Democrat Pete Aguilar. While the seat was left open by retiring GOP Rep. Gary G. Miller, Democrats were widely expected to win it after Aguilar finished in the top two in the primary (a feat that eluded Democrats in 2012). The narrow margin of victory was surprising. Full story

November 12, 2014

No Guarantee Democrats Rebound in 2016

 No Guarantee Democrats Rebound in 2016

Pelosi and her party may have a difficult time rebounding from this year’s GOP wave. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After suffering heavy losses in the House and the Senate in the recent midterm elections, some congressional Democrats may breathe a sigh of relief now that President Barack Obama is entering his final two years in office.

But the approaching end of the Obama Administration doesn’t mean  Obama won’t be a factor in 2016 and, figuratively, on the ballot, again.

In 2006, Republicans lost 31 House seats and six Senate seats, as well as majorities in both chambers. GOP strategists understood voters were sending their party a message. But they also took some solace that unpopular President George W. Bush was in the twilight of his tenure and wouldn’t be on the ballot again.

They were wrong. Full story

November 11, 2014

Mary Landrieu’s Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

 Mary Landrieus Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

Landrieu is in a tough spot heading into her runoff election with Cassidy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has already made it quite clear that she isn’t going to go quietly in her bid to win a fourth term in next month’s Dec. 6 runoff.

Her effort to brand Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy as “nearly incoherent” ranks up there with Kentucky Democrat Dan Mongiardo’s effort to label Republican Sen. Jim Bunning as not entirely in control of his senses during that state’s 2004 Senate race. (Bunning, who started the race as an overwhelming favorite, was re-elected by only 22,000 votes, a margin of fewer than 2 points.)

This is the ultimate example of trying to “localize” a race, of trying to get voters to focus on the two candidates and forget everything else.

Landrieu doesn’t explain the source of her opponent’s alleged incoherence. But to her campaign, it doesn’t matter whether voters think that Cassidy might have an alcohol or pharmacological problem, or whether they think that he is merely “not quite right.” Full story

November 10, 2014

Review: 6 Races Both Parties Viewed Completely Differently

 Review: 6 Races Both Parties Viewed Completely Differently

Peterson will continue to represent Minnesota’s 7th District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A month ago, I wrote about “6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently.” These were a half-dozen contests where strategists generally disagreed on the shape and trajectory of the race.

Instead of averaging out the differing opinions and declaring the races too close to call, it was more likely that one party would be very right and the other very wrong. Now, with results in hand, we can see who had the better analysis. Unfortunately, the parties split the races on Election Night.

Democrats were victorious in three races. Full story

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