Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 25, 2014

October 24, 2014

Race Ratings Changes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts

 Race Ratings Changes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts

Is the race slipping away from Shaheen? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, we’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in one Senate and one gubernatorial race.

You can read more explanation in the Oct. 24 update for Rothenberg Political Report subscribers ($).

Here are the races: Full story

Ratings Changes in Seven House Races, All Toward GOP

gibson006 071114 Ratings Changes in Seven House Races, All Toward GOP

Gibson looks an even safer bet in New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, we’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in seven House races.

You can read more explanation in the Oct. 24 update for Rothenberg Political Report subscribers ($).

Here are the races:

Full story

October 23, 2014

What Counts As a GOP Wave in 2014?

 What Counts As a GOP Wave in 2014?

Will Roberts hold on in Kansas? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Most neutral observers expect Republicans to take the Senate and make at least small gains in the House, but talk about a possible GOP political wave has all but disappeared.

However, ten days to go until Election Day, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a “wave” election just yet.

I know of no formal, widely accepted definition of the term “wave.” On the other hand, as United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said when referring to obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

Clearly, a wave requires one party to make sizable net gains in the House and/or the Senate. In the past, I’ve often used a net change of 20 House seats as the minimum for a wave, but that number is arbitrary and not set in stone. In fact, in the past, I’ve talked about small waves, big waves and tsunamis, suggesting that there are different levels of waves. Full story

October 22, 2014

Will Obama Leave the Democratic Party Better Than He Found It?

 Will Obama Leave the Democratic Party Better Than He Found It?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Barack Obama was elected on a swell of energy and enthusiasm, but he might leave the Democratic Party worse off than when he took office.

The disconnect between the Obama political operation and Democratic strategists focused on Congress is nothing new. Congressional Democrats have always been a bit skeptical of the Obama White House, which has looked out for No. 1 and no one else. And now that Republicans continue their midterm march into democratic territory, the blame game has begun in earnest.

“The ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing,” one senior Senate Democratic aide told Josh Kraushaar in a recent National Journal article, in wake of more seemingly unhelpful comments from the president about the midterms and the handling of Senate campaign appearances for Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley. Full story

South Dakota Senate Race Returns to Form

 South Dakota Senate Race Returns to Form

Attacks on Pressler appear to have worked. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images File Photo)

Republican attacks on Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler appear to have worked, making it more likely that the GOP will pick up the seat of retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, as long expected.

Republican Mike Rounds, a former two-term GOP governor, found himself in shockingly uncomfortable position earlier this month, but his standing has improved in the eyes of both strong and weak Republican voters, as well as among Independents. Full story

October 21, 2014

A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

 A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

Southerland has disappointed in his bid for re-election, Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In his recent column, “Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year,” Stu Rothenberg pointed out how a handful of under-performing Senate candidates could cost Republicans the majority. Similarly, though the House of Representatives is not in play, a trio of GOP incumbents could cost their party larger gains in the House.

Even as the House landscape continues to shift in Republicans’ favor, Reps. Lee Terry of Nebraska, Steve Southerland II of Florida and Michael G. Grimm of New York are perched atop the list of most vulnerable incumbents. And it’s not hard to see why.

Terry, Southerland and Grimm are all vulnerable because of self-inflicted wounds, and a great Republican year might not be enough to save them. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues, such as Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, David Valadao of California and Chris Gibson of New York, are facing much brighter re-election prospects — despite being early targets and representing more Democratic districts than Terry or Southerland. Full story

Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year

 Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year

Tillis hopes to unseat Hagan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans have the wind at their backs this year. But not every GOP nominee is taking advantage of that dynamic. As usual, some candidates are under-performing, proving once again that candidates and the campaigns they choose to run actually matter.

That should come as no surprise to anyone who watched Republican Senate nominees Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana implode in 2012 or Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell and Colorado Republican Ken Buck lose in 2010.

But this year, the problem children are not candidates foisted on the party by the Club for Growth or tea party groups. This cycle, the problem is a handful of candidates favored by most in the Republican “establishment.” They looked like strong nominees (some even like slam dunks) a year before Election Day, but they haven’t acted that way.

Full story

October 17, 2014

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings Changes

 Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings Changes

Nunn is challenging Perdue for Georgia Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While national polls show a stable landscape, polls in individual races continue to show some movement. That movement leads us to make a number of changes to our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings.

Most of the House changes benefit the GOP, while the Senate and governor changes are far more mixed.

Senate Changes:

  • Georgia (GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring) from Republican Favored to Leans Republican.
  • Louisiana Senate (Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu) from Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican.

(Read more about the Senate changes in the Oct. 17 Rothenberg Political Report ($))

House Changes: Full story

October 16, 2014

Not His Father’s Arkansas

farm 03 042513 Not His Father’s Arkansas

Pryor is seeking re-election. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I have been thinking for months about how politics has changed over the past decade, but those changes struck home in a very obvious way while I was reading a recent Washington Post article written by the very able Philip Rucker.

“Senator’s parents hit trail to preserve Ark. dynasty” was a front page piece that noted the efforts of former governor and former senator David Pryor and his wife, Barbara, to help their son, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, win re-election next month.

David Pryor won three races for Congress, two elections for governor and three Senate contests (losing only a Senate primary in 1972) between 1966 and 1990. He rarely had a tough race, and he was held in high regard by many Arkansans, even those who didn’t vote for him.

Full story

October 14, 2014

Why Republicans Must Win the Senate in 2014

 Why Republicans Must Win the Senate in 2014

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If next month produces a big Republican year, with the GOP gaining control of the Senate and expanding its majority in the House, it will say little or nothing about 2016, when a presidential electorate and a very different Senate class combine to create the makings of a substantially good Democratic year.

But if the GOP fails to capture the Senate this year, 2016 could turn into an unmitigated disaster for the party. And for that reason, Republicans are under extremely heavy pressure to take back the Senate in November. Full story

October 13, 2014

Ratings Change: Arkansas Senate

Arkansas Senate polls conducted by Democrats and one media outlet suggest Sen. Mark Pryor leads GOP challenger Rep. Tom Cotton by a couple of percentage points. But most surveys — both public and unreleased — suggest Cotton holds a modest but stable mid-single digit lead in the contest.

Someone is off base here, and a cautious approach would lead us to leaving the race in one of our Tossup categories. But given the national dynamics, Pryor’s recent stumble in answering a question on President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis, and the weight of the polling data that we have seen, we remain deeply skeptical about Pryor’s prospects — so skeptical that we are moving the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race to Leans Republican. Full story

Ratings Change: South Dakota Senate

Republican Mike Rounds continues to underperform in what has become a wacky three-way fight (four-way, if you count the Libertarian on the ballot). While the state’s Republican bent could well bail him out in November, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has allocated money for the race, we can no longer rule out the possibility of a strange outcome.

Former Gov. Rounds holds a narrow lead over former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, with Democrat Rick Weiland running third but not out of the race. Republican insiders groan about Rounds’ poor campaign and weak fundraising, as well as the candidate’s underwhelming performance on the stump. Full story

Ratings Change: Alaska Senate

The Alaska Senate race remains quite close, with incumbent Democrat Mark Begich continuing to run a quality campaign. But the contest has started to better reflect the state’s partisan bent and its attitudes about the president, and GOP challenger Dan Sullivan has moved to a small but significant advantage in the most recent surveys.

Begich continues to try to localize the contest in the hope that he can defeat Sullivan in spite of President Barack Obama’s poor standing in the state. But that is proving to be difficult, and the incumbent will need a huge turnout of Democrats (including those who usually don’t vote) and a large percentage of late deciders to fashion a come-from-behind victory.

We are changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 8:22 a.m.
Alaska, Senate

October 10, 2014

Race Ratings Changes: House Democrats Decidedly on Defense

The House playing field continues to shift in favor of Republicans as President Barack Obama’s slumping job approval numbers cast a shadow over the landscape and Democrats shift their financial resources from offensive opportunities to defensive positions.

At the beginning of the cycle, Republicans David Valadao of California, Rodney Davis of Illinois, and Dan Benishek of Michigan were three of the top House Democratic targets anywhere in the country. Now all three are on the fringes of the conversation about competitive races.

California’s 21st District. Democrats are about to fall short of winning this Northern California district for the second straight cycle. Valadao has been consistently strong this year, even though Obama won the district in the last two presidential cycles. Democrat Amanda Renteria’s challenge has never really materialized, even though national Democrats were ecstatic about her successful recruitment. She may well try again in 2016, but 2014 doesn’t look like her year. We’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Leans Republican to Republican Favored. Full story

October 9, 2014

Race Ratings Change: Michigan Senate

While the campaign of Michigan GOP Senate nominee Terri Lynn Land crows about a new Wenzel Research poll showing her tailing the Democratic nominee, Rep. Gary Peters, by less than three percentage points, it’s increasingly difficult to see this contest as highly competitive.

A year and a half ago, we noted the retirement of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., gave Republicans at least an opportunity in the open seat contest but emphasized that “the burden is on the GOP to prove that it can make this race into a competitive contest.” Initially, we maintained our “Safe” rating for Democrats.

Full story

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