Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 2, 2014

October 1, 2014

Could a Four-Second Mistake Cost a Candidate Thousands of Dollars?

 Could a Four Second Mistake Cost a Candidate Thousands of Dollars?

Democrats took issue with Schilling’s disclaimer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A disclaimer may seem like a rote few seconds in a campaign ad, but failing to follow the specific guidelines could have costly consequences for a candidate.

On Sept. 16, former Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., aired a 30-second ad titled, “How Could You?” that accused Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of cutting benefits for military veterans. Democrats promptly sent a letter to television stations in Illinois’ 17th District, taking issue with the disclaimer on Schilling’s ad and arguing the Republican forfeited his right to the lowest unit charge for the remainder of the race.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a potential disclaimer problem in an ad by Rep. Brad Schneider’s campaign. But the Illinois Democrat’s ad appeared to toe Federal Election Commission guidelines while Schilling’s ad may have violated Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

There are some differences. Full story

September 30, 2014

Family Ties May Not Be Enough to Save Vulnerable Senators

 Family Ties May Not Be Enough to Save Vulnerable Senators

Landrieu may not be laughing come November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It seems like everyone wrote the story: Family political dynasties were supposed to save Mark Begich, Mark Pryor and Mary L. Landrieu, the trio of vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election in Republican-leaning states.

But as the sports adage says, “That’s why they play the games.”

The three Democrats’ strong family connections to voters in Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana respectively has been one of the most popular narratives of the 2014 cycle. Roll Call, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek and National Journal all wrote similar stories, just to mention a few.

But with five weeks to go before Election Day, Pryor, Begich and Landrieu are even more vulnerable than they were when the cycle started. And their Democratic colleague, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, is arguably in better position for re-election, even though she lacks a similar political pedigree. Full story

September 29, 2014

Shift in Landscape Makes Bigger GOP House Gains Possible

 Shift in Landscape Makes Bigger GOP House Gains Possible

Davis attends Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair in August. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Only three times since the Civil War, as any political junkie knows, has the president’s party gained House seats in midterm elections — in 1934, 1998 and 2002. It now seems quite clear 2014 won’t be another exception to that rule.

But a year and a half ago, that wasn’t a sure thing. In fact, while everyone understood the House playing field would be narrow once again in 2014, questions about the GOP’s political dexterity raised the possibility of small net Democratic gains this cycle. Full story

September 26, 2014

GOP Opportunities Expand in the House

Regardless of whether you want to call it a wave, the fight for the House continues to creep into Democratic territory.

Many of the Republican incumbents who were expected to have challenging races this cycle, including New York Rep. Chris Gibson, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, are starting the general-election sprint in stronger-than-expected position. Also, some Democratic incumbents, such as New York’s Dan Maffei, are in much closer races than anticipated. And now some hot spots, such as Hawaii’s 1st District, are popping up as potential Democratic headaches and look vulnerable.

We changed the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating in nine House races this week, one in favor of the Democrats and eight in favor of Republicans.

Once race moved in the Democrats’ direction:

  • Nebraska’s 2nd District – From Tossup/Tilts Republican to Pure Tossup

Eight races moved in the Republicans’ direction: Full story

September 24, 2014

Senate Chairmen Try to Avoid Historic Home-State Losses

 Senate Chairmen Try to Avoid Historic Home State Losses

Moran is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With just weeks to go before Election Day, the fight for the Senate is coming down to a handful of states, and two of them are very familiar to the chairmen of the two Senate campaign committees.

Kansas Republican Jerry Moran and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet are trying to avoid becoming the first senate campaign committee chairmen to have a home state colleague defeated in the last four decades.

At the beginning of the cycle, both Colorado and Kansas were rated as Safe for their respective parties. Even as recently as seven months ago, the two states were not mentioned in any serious conversation about the fight for the Senate. NRSC Chairman Moran was focused on expanding GOP opportunities across the country while Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bennet was focused on bringing back the Democrats’ majority by shoring up a trail of incumbents in the South and Alaska.

But a lot has changed, and the fight for the Senate has hit home for both chairmen. Full story

September 23, 2014

Fight for Senate Control Down to Five States

With six weeks to go, the fight for control of the Senate is down to five states, four of them currently held by Democrats.

Republicans must win only two of those contests to guarantee the 51 seats they need to control the Senate for the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. And they need to win only one of the Democratic states if they hold the only GOP seat at serious risk.

While things could still change — and national polls continue to show an environment that may produce a substantial GOP wave in the House and Senate — the Senate battle has boiled down to two reliably red states and three swing states.

Full story

September 17, 2014

The Amazingly Static House Playing Field

 The Amazingly Static House Playing Field

Shea-Porter’s race is now rated Tossup. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a year of campaigning, television ads, a government shutdown, and a botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, the House playing field is virtually unchanged from where it was 12 months ago.

We recently updated the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in seven House districts. Arizona’s 1st District, Maine’s 2nd District, New Hampshire’s 1st District, and New York’s 21st District all moved incrementally toward Republicans. Ohio’s 6th and 14th districts and Pennsylvania’s 8th District also moved toward the GOP but to currently Safe.

By dropping the trio of races from the list of most competitive races, the total number of competitive seats (seats that have a chance of changing partisan hands) dips to 48 seats. That is remarkably similar to last September, when we listed 49 seats on our competitive race chart. Full story

September 15, 2014

The Republican Brand’s Recovery Tour — Sort Of

 The Republican Brands Recovery Tour — Sort Of

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There was a time, a little less than a year ago, when Democrats salivated at the thought of running against the GOP brand and demonizing Republican candidates by attacking them and their party for “shutting down the government.”

But the Republican brand has largely recovered from its low point in late October, and even former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis might now have to revise and extend his one-time comment that if the Republican Party “were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

The turnaround in the Republican Party brand — and changes in the brands of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama — is another reason why Democrats find themselves on the defensive in this year’s elections. Full story

Will Women Lose Ground in the House GOP After 2014?

 Will Women Lose Ground in the House GOP After 2014?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are at virtually no risk of losing their House majority in November, but there is a little extra pressure to win a handful of key districts in order to avoid taking a step back in the number of women in the Republican conference.

Republicans have been on the defensive about their appeal to women voters and the lack of female candidates. Some previous studies and news reports have put some unreasonable expectations on how many women Republicans “should” be electing. (You can read my April 2014 piece, “Why Republicans Have Trouble Electing Women to Congress,” for background information.)

Most GOP strategists would agree that starting the 114th Congress with more Republican women than the 113th Congress is a bare minimum goal. But achieving that goal is not guaranteed. Full story

By Nathan L. Gonzales Posted at 5 a.m.
House

September 8, 2014

Rothenberg: Senate GOP Gains At Least 7 Seats

 Rothenberg: Senate GOP Gains At Least 7 Seats

Pryor is one incumbent in perilous position. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.

But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain.

Rothenberg Political Report ratings reflect both where a race stands and, more importantly, where it is likely headed on Election Day. Since early polls rarely reflect the eventual November environment, either in terms of the candidates’ name recognition and resources or of the election’s dynamic, there is often a gap between how I categorize each race (my ratings) and what I privately assume will happen in November.

That gap closes as Election Day approaches, of course, since polling should reflect changes in name identification, candidate and party spending, and voter attitudes as November approaches.

Full story

September 4, 2014

Republicans Use Birth Control as Campaign Wedge

 Republicans Use Birth Control as Campaign Wedge

Tillis has softened his stance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Politics is mostly about both parties regurgitating well-established positions (on taxes, the environment, abortion and spending, for example) to appeal to base voters and demonize their opponents. But every so often, candidates from one party try a dramatically new message.

That’s what is happening now in a number of swing districts and states, as a handful of Republicans have come out in favor of allowing contraceptives to be sold over the counter.

The position was initially taken by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a December 13, 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The End of Birth-Control Politics.” In the piece, Jindal said the use of birth control “is a personal matter — the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it.” Full story

Pat Roberts: The Most Vulnerable Republican Senator

senate vote004 010714 Pat Roberts: The Most Vulnerable Republican Senator

Roberts has a problem. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts survived a competitive Republican primary, but it looks like his toughest race is still to come. Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race Wednesday, leaving independent Greg Orman as the senator’s main challenger and completely changing the math of the race.

A spectacular confluence of events has built the credible scenario that a Republican could lose a Senate race in Kansas. Roberts is a longtime incumbent who doesn’t live in or regularly return to his home state. He faces a credible and well-funded independent candidate who is striking all the right tones in his message and doesn’t have a legislative record to be picked apart. And GOP Gov. Sam Brownback has fanned the flames of a longtime civil war in the state that is rallying some Republicans against establishment figures within their own party.

For a little bit of a review, the Republican primary was the senator’s first real race in decades. Roberts needed outside help to ramp up his campaign operation to get to something even close to a 21st century effort. And even though physician Milton Wolf ended up being a flawed challenger and he failed to rally the biggest, anti-establishment outside groups to his cause, Roberts still only won, 48 percent to 41 percent, in the Aug. 5 primary.

But what might have been more stunning than the result was what Roberts’ longtime campaign manager Leroy Towns told The Wichita Eagle after the race was over. “He went back home for two days or three to rest. I think he’s going to come back here the first of next week,” said Towns, referencing Roberts’ home in Virginia. Towns’ comments seemed tone-deaf considering Roberts was dogged by residency questions throughout the race up to that point, and the general election was not completely certain with the threat of a well-funded independent candidate. Full story

The Best Ads of 2014 – Oh Really?

A few weeks ago, I noticed a piece in Time headlined “The Best 6 Political Campaign Ads of the Summer (So Far).”

I’ve written columns about “the best” this or “the worst” that, so I’m certainly not opposed to columns that list personal assessments or even personal preferences. But my reaction to the Time magazine piece was quite different. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the headline and the article.

I should note that the writer of the piece did not write that the six ads cited were the best six ads — as the headline indicated — but only referred to “our take on 2014’s top 6 political ads of the summer.” In addition, the sub-headline teased about “six of this season’s political ads,” language that was also different from the article’s title.

Anyway, the piece listed and described six ads that were either the top ads, the best ads or merely among the best.

The ads were interesting or entertaining or both, I thought. I liked a number of them, but didn’t think all of them were great. But the problem is that even if I did love all six of them, did that make them the best ads of the summer?

I don’t think so. Full story

September 3, 2014

House Candidate May Have Faulty Disclaimer in Campaign Ad

 House Candidate May Have Faulty Disclaimer in Campaign Ad

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider unveiled his first television ad Tuesday in his competitive race for re-election in Illinois’ 10th District. The 30-second spot tries to rally Democratic voters by attacking the tea party — but the ad also might have a faulty disclaimer that runs afoul of campaign finance law.

Twenty-one seconds into “Together,” the congressman begins his disclaimer: “I’m Brad Schneider and I approve this message because we’re all in this together, accountable to each other.” But the voiceover is coupled with two shots: one of part of the side of Schneider’s face in a shadow as he drives a car and a second shot of him quickly entering a building through a revolving door and barely showing his face. Full story

August 29, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Southwest

azpol14 076 080914 Top 5 Races to Watch in the Southwest

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The battle for the Southwest really boils down to just one state: Arizona.

There is a lone congressional district in South Texas worth watching, but the majority of the action in the region is in the Grand Canyon State.

Two races dropped off the the list since last summer. The Texas Senate race is no longer worth watching after incumbent Republican John Cornyn dominated Rep. Steve Stockman in the GOP primary. And the race in Texas’ 16th District never materialized when no Hispanic candidate stepped up to challenge freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic primary.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Southwest this fall: Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...