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Updated 4:40 p.m. | Political reporters have a fever and the only prescription appears to be fundraising numbers.
It’s a time-honored tradition: Every month, the House and Senate campaign committees release fundraising totals in a regular effort to claim momentum and financial supremacy, and political reporters can’t resist the temptation to report them.
In spite of the recent rush of retirement announcements, this Congress is still below the historical average of exits each cycle, which means more House retirements are likely to come.
Wyoming Republican Cynthia M. Lummis, California Democrat Sam Farr and Texas Democrat Rubén Hinojosa capped off the week by announcing they will not seek re-election next year. The trio makes 14 members who are leaving the House without seeking another office in 2016, according to Roll Call’s Casualty List.
Blame the earmark ban or Republican leaders. Blame Ted Cruz or even Justin Bieber. But don’t blame gerrymandering for the fighting in the House.
As Republicans labor through replacing Speaker John A. Boehner, bemoaning redistricting has become a common refrain in explaining the GOP civil war.
House Democrats don’t need to find themselves a cheerleader. They already have Nancy Pelosi.
“I think the Democrats could have the gavel in 18 months,” she told Texas Tribune reporter/Roll Call alum Abby Livingston recently. “Here’s the thing: I’m always optimistic. You have to be.”
Ethics problems can be serious trouble for any politician, but party strategists often use Federal Election Committee complaints to play games with the opposition, because the allegation has a slim chance of being ruled on before Election Day.
“Everyone knows both sides file complaints to get press hits,” one campaign strategist said anonymously in order to speak candidly.
More than 90 percent of House incumbents routinely get re-elected, so open seats are a hot commodity. Five months into the 114th Congress, 14 House members have announced their departure, but just four of the seats they are leaving behind can be considered competitive.
At this stage in the cycle, Republicans have two vulnerable open seats: Chris Gibson’s 19th District in New York and Michael G. Fitzpatrick’s 8th District in Pennsylvania. President Barack Obama carried Gibson’s district twice and Fitzpatrick’s district once, in 2008, but both incumbents locked down their turf to the point where Democrats didn’t put up much of a fight last cycle.
Having more than $50 million to spend on House races in the final months of the campaign may sound like fun, but both campaign committees have figured out it’s not a one-person job.
Each election cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee designate a trusted operative who will eventually be walled off from the official committee to direct the independent expenditure effort. Full story
With a year and a half to go before the 2016 elections, the House playing field is too small for Democrats to retake the majority. But there is time for the cycle to develop in favor of down-ballot Democratic candidates and for the number of competitive seats to grow. Full story
In the wake of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján declared the House majority would be up for grabs in 2016.
But the initial political reality isn’t quite so simple. Full story
If you’re a member of Congress thinking about retiring, you might want to spend some time listening to Kenny Rogers.
“You gotta know when to hold’em. Know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run,” sang the country music legend in his 1978 song, “The Gambler.” Full story
Democrats have a better chance of winning control of the House next year than they did at any time in 2014. That’s true even though they now need to gain 30 seats, almost twice what they needed last year.
No, I’m not suggesting Democrats will win the House in 2016. Far from it. Right now, you’d need a magnifying glass, probably even a microscope, to find the party’s chances of taking control. Full story
The lede almost writes itself: One year ago, Jesse Ferguson never would have thought beating cancer would be easier than defeating Republicans in the House. But that’s just not how the Democratic operative does business.
As director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure arm, Ferguson is responsible for the more than $60 million in television ads attacking Republicans this cycle, but he doesn’t want to it to be personal.
“I disagree with Republicans a lot — on a lot of things — and I don’t think I’ve been shy about saying that,” Ferguson told CQ Roll Call. “That said, I’d really be hesitant to compare them to cancer.”
“He’s a throwback,” said Jennifer Crider, the former deputy executive director of the DCCC who hired Ferguson during the 2010 cycle. “He probably has as many Republicans friends as Democratic friends.”
In the face of a challenging midterm environment, Democrats are relying on money and an expanding get-out-the-vote effort to avoid losing any more ground in the House. But what does that souped-up ground game look like?
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s fundraising advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee is well-documented by this point. And DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said his party plans to out-organize Republicans in the fall.
The DCCC has 444 field staff on the ground in 48 districts, according to an official spokesperson, with another 219 scheduled to start later this month. The committee started August with at least 20 field staff in 11 districts.
The field effort is starting earlier than in previous cycles. The first permanent staffer started in early January in a competitive California district, which is about six months earlier than before. Full story
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
New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer laid out his dream for a less partisan Washington recently. But the Democrat’s New York Times op-ed is giving some strategists in his own party nightmares.
“Polarization and partisanship are a plague on American politics,” Schumer wrote in the piece — titled, “End Partisan Primaries, Save America” — in which he identified the party primary system as one of the main causes of dysfunction on Capitol Hill.
The senator uses House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss as a curious first example. “The partisan primary system, which favors more ideologically pure candidates, has contributed to the election of more extreme officeholders and increased political polarization,” according to Schumer, who also blamed “ideologically driven voters” in the Virginia race.
But Virginia has an open primary, in which voters of all stripes could pick up a ballot. And some of Cantor’s supporters blame his loss on Democrats voting for college professor Dave Brat, not just “ideologically driven” Republicans.
Schumer goes on to prescribe a “national movement to adopt the ‘top-two’ primary,” similar to California’s current system. But even though the senator declared “the move has had a moderating influence on both parties and a salutary effect on the political system and its ability to govern,” his prescription may not be a solution at all.