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October 13, 2015

Posts in "DSCC"

September 21, 2015

Young, Ambitious and Wealthy Isn’t Enough in Arkansas

U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge speaks at a Little Rock, Ark., civic club Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Beebe’s wins as a Democrat in Arkansas won’t provide Eldridge with a roadmap to victory in the Senate race. (Danny Johnston/AP File Photo)

Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced on Sept. 9 he will seek the Arkansas Democratic Senate nomination and the right to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman in 2016.

Writing in the Arkansas Times before Eldridge entered the race, veteran political journalist Max Brantley observed the Democrat would be “a sparkling candidate in a long tradition of young, ambitious, smart lawyers — [Dale] Bumpers, [David] Pryor, [Jim Guy] Tucker, [Bill] Clinton, [Vic] Snyder.”

Full story

August 26, 2015

Parties Play Politics With FEC Complaints

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman makes a statement during his first meeting at the Commission's downtown office, as Chair Ellen Weintraub, and Commissioner Ann Ravel, look on. It was the first meeting attended by Ravel and Goodman. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman makes a statement as then-Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, and then-Commissioner Ann Ravel listen. (File Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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.

Full story

July 9, 2015

Key Races in 2016: Politicial Landscape Taking Shape

A few key races across the country next year will determine the balance of power in the Senate. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)


Election Day is more than a year away, but the field of most competitive Senate and House races is already starting to take shape. While the political environment could change over the next 17 months, the landscape is largely set as a handful of races in each region will likely decide the majorities in the next Congress.

The fight for the Senate is likely to be decided in the Midwest, where Democrats have takeover opportunities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and a longer-shot opportunity in Indiana. If Democrats can win three out of those four states, they will be well on their way to gaining enough seats to take control of the Senate.

Full story

April 27, 2015

Tester’s DSCC Pursues Same Strategy That Nearly Nixed Him in 2006

Elections 2016

Tester makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor on Dec. 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had its way a decade ago, its current chairman probably wouldn’t be in the Senate today.

In the 2006 cycle, Democratic strategists in Washington preferred state Auditor John Morrison in the Montana Senate race, hoping to avoid a primary and keep the party focused on defeating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. But state Sen. Jon Tester was undeterred by national Democratic efforts to get him out of the race and even bragged about being opposed by the party establishment. Full story

March 19, 2015

Lopach Leads March Toward Democratic Senate Majority

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Smoke billowed out of Ted Kennedy’s living room fireplace as donors gathered in his D.C. home for a fundraiser, though the legendary senator was still on the Hill for votes.

But that wasn’t too much for Tom Lopach.

“I don’t know anyone, my house is on fire and my husband is gone,” Vicki Kennedy, the senator’s wife, recalled recently. “But Tom was totally unflappable. He just had the caterers serving hors d’oeuvres out front.” Full story

March 18, 2015

Why Primaries Aren’t All Bad

Primaries can be expensive and divisive, but treating them like the plague — as party spokesmen are prone to do early every cycle — distorts electoral reality.

GOP strategists looking to hold the party’s newly attained majority are reveling in the potentially crowded field of Democrats for the open seat in Maryland. Setting aside the state’s strong Democratic lean, Republicans need not look back far to know that a crowded and competitive open-seat race is a poor predictor of future failure. Full story

January 27, 2015

First Look: Can Democrats Win the Senate in 2016?

Elections 2016

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Republicans, the fight for control of the Senate in 2016 is all about playing defense.

Unlike 2014 (and 2018), the Senate races of 2016 offer few, if any, opportunities for the GOP as the election cycle begins. The map strongly favors Democrats and suggests the possibility of considerable Democratic gains. Full story

January 9, 2015

First Senate Race Ratings Revealed

For nearly two decades, The Rothenberg Political Report didn’t break down Senate races into nine detailed ratings categories 22 months out from the next election. That was an era when there was something called an “off-year” — and those days are gone.

For example, former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., began his challenge to GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey nearly two years ago. And some strategists argue Sestak never stopped running after he lost a close race to Toomey in 2010. Full story

November 17, 2014

Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

Ralph Reed

(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

October 6, 2014

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

Mary Landrieu

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

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

August 19, 2014

Not Your Typical Southern Democrat in South Carolina

Brad Hutto

(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 11, 2014

Democratic Retirements Put the Senate in Play

David Valadao

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s slumping job approval rating isn’t doing Democrats any favors in the party’s quest to hold a majority in the Senate. But without a handful of Democratic retirements, the Senate likely wouldn’t be in play at all.

Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats to get to 51 and control the Senate in the 114th Congress. To make that happen, Republicans will likely need to defeat at least two incumbents, if not three or four. That’s a difficult — but not insurmountable — task, considering Republicans defeated just two Democratic incumbents (both in 2010) in the past four election cycles combined.

But if a handful of Democratic senators had not chosen to retire this cycle, Republicans would have had a significantly more difficult path to a majority. The retirements of Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Carl Levin of Michigan created good — some even great — GOP opportunities.

Full story

July 15, 2014

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

June 18, 2014

In Campaign Ads, ‘Week One’ Is Still Months Away

It can feel like the 2014 congressional races have been going on forever, so when a campaign strategist talks about “Week One,” it can be confusing that Week One is still actually four months away.

Obtaining and understanding television ad buys is becoming an increasingly important part of analyzing House and Senate races. And deciphering the language, from gross rating points to designated media areas, is critical as well.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic House Majority PAC recently released another round of television ad reservations for the fall. And the timing of the ads can matter almost as much as the amount of money behind the spots. Full story

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