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December 18, 2014

Posts by Stuart Rothenberg

186 Posts

December 15, 2014

Jury Duty in Today’s America

While most of America was still talking about what happened in Ferguson, Mo., and turning to law enforcement issues in Cleveland and Staten Island, New York, I spent the better part of the week of Dec. 1 in a courthouse in Rockville, Md.

I never expected to be selected to sit on a jury, let alone one where the defendant was charged with first degree rape. I also didn’t expect to hear some shocking information after the case ended.

No, my case did not involve a racially-charged act that tore apart a community. Though the rape was extremely violent, no lives were lost. There were no videos of the rape or of the police response, no national media attention to the case.

Still, as a member of a jury charged with determining guilt or innocence, I, like most members of juries and grand juries, felt an important responsibility to evaluate the evidence dispassionately and come to the correct conclusion. 

Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 7:37 p.m.
Column

December 9, 2014

Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

 Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s defeat in the Dec. 6 runoff certainly was no surprise. If anything, it seemed inevitable since the evening of Nov. 4, when it became clear a Republican rout was underway and Democrats would lose control of the Senate.

But the veteran Democrat’s defeat is another reminder we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.

In the end, the “Landrieu brand” in Louisiana did not matter any more than the Pryor brand mattered in Arkansas or the Begich brand mattered in Alaska. Party labels mattered far more than the individual names of the candidates. Voters in all three states saw the incumbents’ Democratic label, and that made their decisions easy. Full story

December 2, 2014

Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

 Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

Braley is a nominee for most over-rated campaign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, we’ve made it through another strange political year — and let’s face it, they are all strange — so it’s time for me to devote another column to picking the best, the worst and the weirdest candidates, campaigns and outcomes of the year.

As always, I will select a few nominees and offer my own winner. If you don’t agree, feel free to send an email complaining to someone else. Just not me.
Full story

November 24, 2014

What Did — and Didn’t — Surprise Me This Cycle

Every election cycle is filled with twists and turns, upsets and surprises. And every cycle is filled with goofy arguments, warnings about things that never happen and unsurprising outcomes that surprise only the politically uneducated.

For me, the biggest surprises included Dave Brat’s primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Thad Cochran’s win in the Mississippi Republican Senate runoff and Larry Hogan Jr.’s victory and margin in Maryland’s gubernatorial race.

Primary upsets happen, in part because reliable polling is so scarce. Without it, local observers have to rely on anecdotal evidence, which often is unreliable. But the idea that some underfunded college professor might deny renomination to Cantor, whatever his flaws and vulnerabilities, struck me as somewhere between silly and delusional.

Apparently, I was the one who was delusional.

Full story

November 17, 2014

Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

 Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

You could feel it from Day One of this cycle. Senate Democratic strategists knew they were smarter than their Republican adversaries. They’d out-think them and out-work them.

Incumbent Democratic senators who run good campaigns rarely lose, I was reminded. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who had been appointed to his seat, won a tough race in 2010. So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. And Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill did the same in 2012.

This cycle, vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states such as Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana had great political names and deep connections to the voters. They knew how to win, just like Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana did two years ago. (Of course, Heitkamp and Donnelly won in a presidential year, with its different dynamic.)

How many times did I hear or read that Sen. Mark Pryor was no Blanche Lincoln? That comment was meant to highlight Pryor’s political strengths, but also to throw Lincoln (who lost re-election in 2010) under the bus so party strategists didn’t have to look at why she lost and how hostile the Arkansas terrain has become for any Democrat.

“They have their own brands,” I heard repeatedly about Pryor and Sens. Mark Begich in Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana from Democratic operatives and journalists.

But, Bennet, Reid and McCaskill were victorious because the GOP nominated horrible candidates against them, not because the Democratic candidates had such untouchable brands, Democratic strategists had unique insights or party operatives knew how to win tough races. Full story

November 11, 2014

Mary Landrieu’s Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

 Mary Landrieus Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

Landrieu is in a tough spot heading into her runoff election with Cassidy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has already made it quite clear that she isn’t going to go quietly in her bid to win a fourth term in next month’s Dec. 6 runoff.

Her effort to brand Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy as “nearly incoherent” ranks up there with Kentucky Democrat Dan Mongiardo’s effort to label Republican Sen. Jim Bunning as not entirely in control of his senses during that state’s 2004 Senate race. (Bunning, who started the race as an overwhelming favorite, was re-elected by only 22,000 votes, a margin of fewer than 2 points.)

This is the ultimate example of trying to “localize” a race, of trying to get voters to focus on the two candidates and forget everything else.

Landrieu doesn’t explain the source of her opponent’s alleged incoherence. But to her campaign, it doesn’t matter whether voters think that Cassidy might have an alcohol or pharmacological problem, or whether they think that he is merely “not quite right.” Full story

November 5, 2014

2014: Plenty of Surprises, but None Totally Unexpected

Yes, that was a wave. A big one. In many respects, it was a wave that was larger and more damaging to Democrats than in 2010.

Republicans now have more House seats, more Senate seats and more governorships than they did after the humongous GOP wave of 2010. They now have the governors of Maryland and Massachusetts, a post-Great Depression record of House seats and, finally, control of the Senate.

I didn’t expect these congressional Democrats to have close races: Maryland’s John Delaney, California’s Jim Costa, Connecticut’s Jim Himes and New York’s Louise M. Slaughter. The same goes for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

And then there were the margins. Full story

November 3, 2014

Republicans (Still) Poised to Pick Up 6 to 8 Senate Seats

 Republicans (Still) Poised to Pick Up 6 to 8 Senate Seats

Cotton chats with supporters during a campaign rally in Mountain View, Ark. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Almost two months ago, on September 8th, I wrote that while the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings projected Republican Senate gains in the five to eight seat range, I was “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,” I added.

Now, eight weeks later, it certainly looks as if Republicans will win the Senate.

Though I had not at all expected it, that September column ended up burning bridges to two Democrats on whom I had long relied for their political savvy and expertise. Their reactions, however, told me that I was more likely to be right than wrong. Full story

November 1, 2014

Race Ratings Change: Kentucky Senate

 Race Ratings Change: Kentucky Senate

The Kentucky Senate race is over, Rothenberg writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the most watched Senate races of 2014 is over. Take it off your list of states that could fall either way on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has opened up a comfortable lead over his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, ensuring McConnell will win a sixth term Tuesday. Full story

October 30, 2014

Obama’s Midterm Loss Record Could Make History

President Barack Obama is about to do what no president has done in the past 50 years: Have two horrible, terrible, awful midterm elections in a row.

In fact, Obama is likely to have the worst midterm numbers of any two-term president going back to Democrat Harry S. Truman.

Truman lost a total of 83 House seats during his two midterms (55 seats in 1946 and 28 seats in 1950), while Republican Dwight Eisenhower lost a combined 66 House seats in the 1954 and 1958 midterms.

Obama had one midterm where his party lost 63 House seats, and Democrats are expected to lose another 5 to possibly 12 House seats (or more), taking the sitting president’s total midterm House loses to the 68 seat to 75 seat range.

(Join us on Election Night: Live Stream With Analysis, Results and More at RollCall.com)

Most recent presidents have one disastrous midterm and another midterm that was not terrible. Full story

October 29, 2014

Ratings Changes in Key Senate Contests

 Ratings Changes in Key Senate Contests

Things just got a little tougher for Udall, Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With just days to go before Election Day, we’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating in some key Senate contests.

Colorado (Sen. Mark Udall, Democrat): From Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican

The contest between Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner remains tight, and the state’s first all-mail election adds a dose of uncertainty to the equation. Republican and independent surveys have generally shown Gardner ahead by anywhere from a single point to a larger margin, while a few Democratic polls have shown Udall ahead very narrowly. Given the polls and our view that the GOP ground game has been seriously underestimated, we now believe Gardner has a narrow advantage. Full story

October 28, 2014

A Nerve-Wracking Finish for Democrats

 A Nerve Wracking Finish for Democrats

Gardner seems to hold a slight edge in Colorado. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

How big of a year is this going to be for Republicans? It’s still hard to tell, one week before voters go to the polls for the midterm elections.

But it could be bigger than you think.

Republicans have a plethora of House and Senate opportunities, and given President Barack Obama’s standing in the polls and the generic ballot question — which favors the GOP narrowly — the upcoming midterms could be surprisingly reminiscent of 2010.

But it’s also a little odd that Republican candidates in so many places are struggling to pull away from their Democratic opponents, given Obama’s weakness and the terrible news — Vladimir Putin and Ukraine, the Islamic State terror group and beheadings, Ebola and terrorism in Canada — that has arrived on an almost daily basis for the past few months.

Our outlook for the Senate has changed only modestly since the Rothenberg Political Report issued specific guidance about the fight for the Senate in our newsletter more than a year ago. Full story

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

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

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

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