Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 24, 2014

Posts by Nathan L. Gonzales

235 Posts

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

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

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

October 8, 2014

6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently

 6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently

Peterson was targeted from the beginning. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While Democratic and Republican operatives have their own analysis on each race, they often agree on how close a race is and which candidate has the edge.

Sometimes, however, they have wildly different views on where races stand.

In California’s 52nd and Florida’s 2nd, for example, both parties agree the race is close and they have resigned themselves to slogging it out until the end with expensive television ad campaigns. In West Virginia’s 3rd District, the parties disagreed for months which candidate is better-positioned to win — and now they agree Rep. Nick J. Rahall II’s re-election will be a close contest.

But when the parties disagree, their views can be fundamentally different. In at least six contests this cycle, party operatives disagree on where the races stand and where they are headed.

Here is a look at a half-dozen seats where strategists aren’t on the same page — and sometimes seem to be reading out of totally different books. Full story

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 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 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

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 4, 2014

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

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

August 28, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

 Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

Landrieu’s race could decide the majority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The South continues to be dominated by big Senate races, with a couple of interesting House races sprinkled in for fun.

There have been two changes to the 5 races to watch list since last summer. North Carolina’s 7th District dropped off after Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre chose retirement instead of another competitive race against Republican David Rouzer. The Kentucky Senate race is still competitive between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but everyone will be watching that race regardless of whether I include it on the list.

Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year: Full story

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