Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

Posts by Stuart Rothenberg

170 Posts

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 6, 2014

What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

 What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

Landrieu (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A few weeks ago I wrote Senate Republicans would gain at least seven seats, even though the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings showed a likely Republican gain of five to eight seats.

That expectation was based on national survey results that showed the president extremely is unpopular and voters are unhappy with the direction of the country, as well as state polling that showed Democratic incumbents well below the critical 50 percent threshold in ballot tests against their GOP opponents.

My prediction shouldn’t have been all that startling. After all, Mitt Romney carried seven states where Democrats are defending Senate seats, and in this era of declining ticket-splitting, it wouldn’t be surprising for anti-President Barack Obama voters to vote against the Senate nominees of the president’s party.

Indeed, midterm electoral history would suggest Democrats have an uphill battle to hold onto the Senate.

But, as I pointed out in the column, with only three Democratic Senate seats in the bag for the GOP — South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana — Republicans can’t yet be certain they will net the six seats they need for a majority in the next Congress.

So what could/would cause me to change my expectations over the next month? How could Democrats alter the election’s trajectory? Full story

October 3, 2014

Three Election Trends That Could End in 2014

 Three Election Trends That Could End in 2014

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

I’m not certain how long a trend has to exist before it earns the status of an immutable political “law,” but three longtime truths are threatened this election cycle. Will all of them fall in November?

Trend #1: One party holds the Pennsylvania governorship for eight years and then loses the office to the other party.

You need to go back to World War II to find a time when Pennsylvania didn’t alternate its top elected office between the two major parties every eight years. 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 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 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

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

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

August 27, 2014

And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is…Part II

simpson 007 061114 And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is…Part II

Simpson was a top target this cycle. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three and a half months ago, I wrote about the state of the fight between the Republican establishment’s pragmatic conservative candidates and tea party/libertarian/anti-establishment conservatives.

I concluded the results were mixed and it was too early to call a winner, though I also noted, “it’s already clear that the pragmatist conservatives have stopped the anti-establishment’s electoral momentum.”

Now that this cycle’s version of the fight is almost over, it’s time for a final assessment. Full story

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