Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 23, 2014

April 22, 2014

Obama’s Foreign Policy Impacts 2014 Elections — Really

No, I am not going to try to make the case that foreign policy will be at the forefront of this year’s elections, or that international issues are a high priority for most Americans. They aren’t.

But foreign policy could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections, making the issue more relevant than you otherwise might assume.

The growing perception that President Barack Obama over-promised and has under-delivered on international issues could add to the already hardening perception that his presidency has not been an unadulterated success. And that’s not good for vulnerable Democrats as the elections approach. Full story

April 21, 2014

Why TV Airtime Reservations Are More Important Than Ever

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Steve Israel of New York is the DCCC’s chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

It’s time to pay more attention to television ad reservations; they have become another critical way party strategists communicate without coordinating under campaign finance laws.

Not too many cycles ago, political reporters rightly handled television ad reservations loosely and delicately as strategists from both parties used them to play games. Strategists would make some reservations with little or no intent to fulfill them in order to fake out the other party, the media or both.

But that was also a time when the party campaign committees (through their independent expenditure arms) dominated outside spending in races. Now, outside spending from non-party groups has increased, and party strategists can’t afford to pull in and out of competitive races or abruptly shift advertising plans because television spending strategies are more integrated.

“You can’t over-reserve anymore because once you’ve laid down that time, people are counting on you,” explained one Democratic strategist. Full story

April 18, 2014

8 House Race Ratings Changes Boost GOP, Democrats

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

This week Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call made ratings changes in eight congressional districts and confirmed our rating in a ninth — Wisconsin’s 6th District — after GOP Rep. Tom Petri announced his retirement.

Here is a link to the Ratings map and a quick rundown of the moves we made, with links to the corresponding analysis. Full story

Ratings Change: California’s 26th District

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Brownley is a Democrat from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the Republican wave hit in 2010, it lost virtually all of its strength before it got to the West Coast. Most Democrats in competitive races west of the Rocky Mountains held on.

So Democrats are in a precarious electoral position this cycle, and it’s unclear whether some districts that look Democratic on paper could be a struggle to hold in November. Full story

Ratings Change: California’s 36th District

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Ruiz is a freshman from California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After Democrat Raul Ruiz defeated GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in California’s 36th District in 2012, Republican insiders immediately put this district toward the top of their target list.

After all, though Ruiz won the race by 6 points, 53 percent to 47 percent, he was buoyed by a presidential year and took advantage of the perception that Mack was distracted by her then-husband’s Florida Senate bid.

But things haven’t developed as Republicans expected. Ruiz reported a strong $1.5 million on hand on March 31, and he continues to be regarded as a hard-working Member of Congress who won’t be caught off-guard in his first re-election bid. (On a side note, on April 7 I wrote about what California candidates chose as their ballot designations.) Full story

April 17, 2014

Republican Whacks Harry Reid in New North Carolina Senate Ad

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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

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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

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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

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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

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 5 a.m.
Column

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