Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 22, 2014

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.

Ratings Change: Georgia Governor

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia is in a competitive race for re-election against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. But the limited public, automated polls — some of which showed Carter with a significant lead — appear to be driving a narrative of the race that doesn’t match reality.

Deal endured some negative headlines for his handling of a severe ice storm in the Atlanta area, and his state ethics commission director alleges the governor’s office pressured her to make ethics complaints against Deal’s 2010 campaign go away. Some GOP strategists also admit the governor isn’t particularly well-defined for an incumbent about to finish his first term.

But that doesn’t mean Deal is on the verge of defeat. Full story

August 7, 2014

Rating Change: Montana Senate

The Senate race in Montana continues to slip away from the Democrats. Burdened by plagiarism allegations, appointed Democratic Sen. John Walsh announced Thursday he will not seek election to a full term in November.

Full story

Rating Change: Wisconsin Governor

Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin isn’t your typical governor running for re-election. He initially won in 2010, then two years later became the first governor to survive a recall attempt.

But with nearly a full term under his belt, voters may not be as willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in his bid for a second term. Full story

Rating Change: Pennsylvania Governor

Time is running out for Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania.

The incumbent’s ballot-test poll numbers have been mired in the 30s for months. The latest public poll, an automated survey by Magellan Strategies BR for Keystone Report, showed the governor trailing Democrat Tom Wolf 50 percent to 38 percent.

In fact, it appears the last public survey that showed Corbett above 40 percent was almost exactly a year ago. An August 6-8, 2013, poll for Democratic Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz showed her leading Corbett 49 percent to 41 percent.

The worst part about Corbett’s standing is that it doesn’t appear things are headed in the right direction. Full story

August 6, 2014

Rating Change: Kansas Governor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is vulnerable, but how close is he to losing re-election?

Democrats reveled in the governor’s underwhelming performance in Tuesday’s GOP primary, when the incumbent received 63 percent against a candidate who wasn’t running much of a campaign. But we knew Brownback was in trouble before last night.

During his first term, Brownback has fanned the flames of the intraparty battle between conservatives and moderates going on for at least a couple of decades. And his economic plan has gone over like a set of rock-climbing gear in Topeka.

But it remains to be seen how vulnerable Brownback will end up being. Full story

New Poll Numbers Reinforce Bush-Obama Comparisons

My last column, which argued President Barack Obama’s situation going into his second midterm closely resembled President George W. Bush’s standing going into his second midterm, is reinforced in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

When I filed the column on Monday, I used the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll results from June, since it was the most recent poll available at that time. It showed Obama’s job ratings at 41 percent approve/53 percent disapprove. The new survey, conducted July 30-August 3, showed Obama’s approval at 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of his performance.

Since Bush’s late July 2006 job ratings stood at 39 percent approve/56 percent disapprove, the new Obama numbers bear an even more uncomfortably close resemblance to Bush’s. Full story

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