Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 19, 2014

Posts by Stuart Rothenberg

160 Posts

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

August 19, 2014

Not Your Typical Southern Democrat in South Carolina

 Not Your Typical Southern Democrat in South Carolina

(John Rieger/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Brad Hutto, wants you to know two things: He has a path to victory against the two-term Republican, and it doesn’t require him to run from traditional Democratic positions.

“I’m not a Blue Dog,” Hutto said proudly during a recent interview with me and my colleague Nathan Gonzales. “I’m a Democrat.”

Hutto doesn’t hide his views, which are right in sync with those of Democrats nationally. He figures that the four-way race for the Senate this year — against Graham, Libertarian Victor Kocher and independent Thomas Ravenel, a former Republican state treasurer of South Carolina — gives him a chance to win the contest with far less than half the total votes cast. Full story

August 12, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Might Be Why Americans Hate Congress

reid mcconnell 161 091114 Self Fulfilling Prophecy Might Be Why Americans Hate Congress

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The media’s narrative about Congress is clear: It is unproductive, members care only about getting re-elected and they have failed to do their jobs.

So it should come as no surprise that Americans believe Congress has been unproductive, that members don’t care about doing the right thing, but only about re-election and Congress is a mess.

The average voter isn’t watching Congress closely enough to know how productive it is or how and why members make the decisions they do, but voters seem to have strong opinions about the legislative branch of government. Where do you think voters get their views about Congress’ productivity? How do they understand how members of Congress make decisions on legislation?

I have met the enemy and it is us.

Full story

August 6, 2014

New Poll Numbers Reinforce Bush-Obama Comparisons

My last column, which argued President Barack Obama’s situation going into his second midterm closely resembled President George W. Bush’s standing going into his second midterm, is reinforced in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

When I filed the column on Monday, I used the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll results from June, since it was the most recent poll available at that time. It showed Obama’s job ratings at 41 percent approve/53 percent disapprove. The new survey, conducted July 30-August 3, showed Obama’s approval at 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of his performance.

Since Bush’s late July 2006 job ratings stood at 39 percent approve/56 percent disapprove, the new Obama numbers bear an even more uncomfortably close resemblance to Bush’s. Full story

August 5, 2014

President George W. Obama Meets the Midterms

I certainly didn’t know foreign policy would be front and center in the final months before the midterm elections when I wrote in late April that these issues “could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections.”

But now, it looks increasingly as if foreign policy — particularly problems in the Middle East and relations with Russia — will add to the president’s woes.

While international issues are a low priority to most Americans, the daily dose of bad news from the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine makes it difficult for the public to appreciate any good economic data and will likely depress the public mood. That’s important given that Election Day is just three months away (and voting starts even earlier in some states).

Obama’s problems certainly are not identical to those of President George W. Bush in 2006, when opposition to the Iraq War mobilized Democrats and independents against the White House, sinking the GOP and turning both chambers of Congress to the Democrats. And yet, it’s difficult to miss parallels between the two men and their situations. Full story

July 28, 2014

So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper? 2014 Edition

The thought of three candidate interviews over a four-hour period invariably fills me with dread.

The chance of all three congressional hopefuls being thoughtful, reasonable and personable — and having a good chance of winning in the fall — is relatively small.

But sometimes the unexpected happens. And on July 16, I had the pleasure of interviewing three quality candidates. Full story

July 24, 2014

Ratings Change: Montana Senate

walsh062 072314 445x302 Ratings Change: Montana Senate

John Walsh was appointed to the Senate earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As Roll Call was preparing to post my column yesterday on the Montana Senate race and recent Democratic polls showing the contest “closing,” a report surfaced in the New York Times about appointed Senator John Walsh’s plagiarism in his master’s thesis.

The Walsh story is a huge one and undoubtedly affects the Democrat’s already uphill bid. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 12:44 p.m.
Montana, Senate

July 23, 2014

Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

 

walsh 107 021114 445x303 Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

Walsh, left, was appointed to the Senate earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe you believe in coincidences. I usually do — but not four months from an election.

Almost simultaneously, two different memos appeared from Democratic pollsters insisting the Montana Senate race has closed and the outcome of the contest is very much in doubt.

One memo, by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, meets existing standards of transparency and while I have issues with the firm’s conclusions, I was happy with the way the data were presented.

The other memo, by widely respected, Colorado-based Harstad Strategic Research, was dreadful and little more than spin. It fails to meet the minimum standards of disclosure about polls, and devoted more time to promoting the firm’s candidate, appointed Sen. John Walsh, and vilifying Republicans (and the media), than discussing data. Full story

July 22, 2014

‘Simple’ Doesn’t Equal ‘Easy’ in N.H. Senate Race

brown rally172 102112 445x296 Simple Doesn’t Equal Easy in N.H. Senate Race

Brown is running for Senate in New Hampshire. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having written about House and Senate races for the past 30 years, I’ve seen plenty of press releases, polling memos and campaign strategy emails. But rarely have I received anything as silly as a July 9 press release from New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott P. Brown’s campaign, which presented the challenger’s alleged “Path To Victory.”

First, let me note that Brown is virtually certain to be the Republican nominee against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If the Republican wave is large enough in the fall, or if Shaheen makes enough errors between now and Election Day, Brown could win. It isn’t impossible, just unlikely at this point. (The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call currently rates the contest as Democrat Favored.)

That said, the press release from Colin Reed, Brown’s campaign manager, screams to be picked apart. Full story

July 15, 2014

Fight for the Senate Still Very Much Up in the Air

hagan 271 042914 1 445x328 Fight for the Senate Still Very Much Up in the Air

Hagan is a Democrat from North Carolina. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The bottom line looks about the same in the fight for control of the Senate in November — but some of the pieces of the puzzle have moved around dramatically over the past few months.

Republicans need a 6-seat gain to take over the Senate next year. Three Democratic-held Senate seats continue to be headed to the GOP: Montana and open seats in South Dakota and West Virginia.

Most Democrats are pessimistic about all three, though some party insiders continue to hold out hope that appointed Montana Sen. John Walsh can close his early deficit against his Republican challenger, Rep. Steve Daines. If that should happen, of course, national Democratic money could flow into the race. But for now, Daines appears to have a clear advantage.

From that point on, things get a bit dicier for Republicans. Full story

July 14, 2014

Minnesota Senate: Still Very Unlikely, But Not Impossible

franken 087 100813 445x296 Minnesota Senate: Still Very Unlikely, But Not Impossible

Franken remains favored for re-election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

We are moving the Minnesota Senate race from Safe Democrat to Democrat Favored, but readers should not make too much of the changed rating.

The change reflects the broad national environment and Minnesota’s generally competitive nature. A national anti-President Barack Obama wave certainly could threaten incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Franken’s 2008 victory — in a good political environment for Democrats — was razor-close.

The new rating says little about Republican challenger Mike McFadden’s candidacy, other than the fact that the wealthy businessman appears to have considerable personal resources that he can sink into the race if he wishes.

McFadden continues to run cutesy videos (and now a TV ad) that focus on his coaching to introduce himself to voters, while Franken raises money and generally acts as if he has no opponent. Instead, the freshman Democrat has run TV spots focusing on issues and his performance in D.C.

Franken showed  $5 million in the bank at the end of June, while McFadden had about $2 million. But the Republican had not put in personal money at that point.

Polling in the race is spotty and not particularly helpful for McFadden. Franken almost certainly starts with a very comfortable lead.

At this point, I see little reason to believe that McFadden will beat Franken — and I’m skeptical about the prediction made by anonymous observers in a July 7 Roll Call piece that the contest is likely to be “a 2-point race by Labor Day.”  (The race will close, of course, as McFadden spends money.)

But it’s also true that, based entirely on fundamentals, McFadden’s long-shot prospects seem closer to Ed Gillespie’s in Virginia and Scott Brown’s in New Hampshire than to GOP chances in Illinois against Richard J. Durbin or in New Jersey against Cory Booker (both of which we have as Safe for Democrats).

For that reason, and for only that reason, we are moving Minnesota to Democrat Favored.

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