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Posts in "House"
May 18, 2013
There is no doubt that the three major controversies on which President Barack Obama finds his administration on the defensive — Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives and the seizure of AP phone records — have changed the political narrative of the day. Instead of mobilizing all of his resources to promote his agenda, the president and administration officials are having to spend time and energy answering and rebutting Republican charges.
But it isn’t clear how much of an impact, if any, the controversies will have on the 2014 midterms. Even if (when) those controversies fade, however, there could be short-term consequences for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the area of recruitment.
Are potential 2014 candidates now looking at the environment and concluding that next year won’t be as good a Democratic year as they had hoped? Are they reassessing their intentions, concluding that the IRS scandal, in particular, will produce an energized and united GOP? Full story
May 8, 2013
Mark Sanford’s victory in the special election in South Carolina’s 1st District tell us little new about the 2014 elections. But it does serve as a reminder about one important factor in American politics that shouldn’t be ignored when the midterms roll around: partisanship.
At the end of the day, most Republican voters in the district decided to vote Republican, even though their nominee had more than his share of warts.
Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch might well have won in a more competitive district, but she could not convince Republican voters — conservative Republican voters — that she was a safe choice or that Sanford was unacceptable. Full story
May 3, 2013
Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics.com joins the growing chorus of political handicappers who have been arguing that we aren’t likely to see a partisan wave next cycle. Trende’s analysis, which also addresses the “six-year itch,” is spot on (as it usually is).
There is no evidence right now that Republicans are headed for large gains in 2014, and midterm House waves for the president’s party are not merely rare. There has never been one in the modern era (describe that however you’d like).
No, that doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be a midterm wave for the president’s party, but given the number of cases — there have been 17 midterm elections since the end of World War II and 28 midterm elections since the beginning of the 20th century — it’s very reasonable to start off with the premise that the president’s party won’t benefit from a midterm wave in 2014.
If events and polls show something different happening, then assessments can change. Full story
May 2, 2013
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the party’s super PAC, the House Majority PAC, have spent well over half a million dollars in an effort to win a special election in South Carolina’s 1st District, a reliably Republican seat that is competitive only because Republicans nominated controversial former Gov. Mark Sanford.
But even if Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch wins the special election and gains Democrats another House seat, the party will likely have to spend millions of dollars to have any chance of holding the seat in the 2014 midterm elections. In the meantime, the additional seat will not affect the fate of legislation that the House is likely to deal with during the next year and a half.
Given that, why would Democrats invest that much money in the special election?
“The competitiveness of this race proves that when Republicans nominate fundamentally flawed candidates, Democrats can put even overwhelmingly Republican seats in play,” said Jesse Ferguson, the deputy executive director of the DCCC, who notes that the same thing might happen in other districts in 2014. Full story
April 26, 2013
Daylin Leach, who is running for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s open 13th Congressional District (currently held by gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz), doesn’t run from the liberal label.
In fact, he proudly calls himself “the most progressive member of the Pennsylvania Legislature.” (See Roll Call Politics editor Shira Toeplitz’s “The Candidate” interview with him here.)
His campaign literature describes him as “the first legislator in Pennsylvania history to introduce a marriage-equality bill,” and it asserts that he “has led the charge to protect public education, the environment and civil rights” in the Legislature.
He promises that in Congress he will “lead the fight for women’s rights, access to reproductive services, LGBT equal rights, workers’ rights, access to justice, environmental protection and voters’ rights.” Shortly before he announced his bid for Congress, he introduced a marijuana legalization bill.
But if this makes you think the Keystone State Democrat would be another Alan Grayson, you might want to think again. Full story
April 24, 2013
Republicans are on quite a streak when it comes to throwing away elections.
In 2010, it was Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, Ken Buck of Colorado and Sharron Angle of Nevada. Then, in 2012, it was Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.
And now? And now it might be Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
Apparently uncomfortable that they might win an election, GOP voters in South Carolina’s 1st District decided to nominate the disgraced former governor in the special election to fill the seat of Republican Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.
But Sanford’s ability to win the special didn’t seem all that much at risk until his ex-wife complained that the former governor trespassed at her home, after which Sanford issued an un-persuasive statement explaining his behavior. Full story
April 16, 2013
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is mentioned often as a possible 2014 Senate candidate for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. But if King’s first-quarter 2013 fundraising report is any indication, the conservative Republican isn’t headed for a statewide race.
King raised just $93,000 in total contributions during the first three months of the year, including only $78,000 from individuals. He ended the quarter with $90,000 in the bank. CQ Roll Call labeled him a “loser” among those whose first-quarter reports were worth monitoring.
Last cycle, King raised more than $3.7 million in individual, party and PAC contributions to turn back an aggressive challenge from former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack. The race turned out not to be as close as many had expected. Of course, his 2011 first-quarter report was also unimpressive. He showed receipts for that quarter at just more than $41,000 and ended March with $142,000 on hand.
Bruce Braley, the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic Senate nomination next year, got off to a fast fundraising start this year. His Federal Election Commission report showed more than $856,000 raised during the quarter, ending March with just more than $1 million in the bank after transferring funds from his House committee. Full story
April 12, 2013
Every political reporter, campaign professional and political junkie should read Charlie Cook’s most recent National Journal column on the decline of swing congressional districts and the rise of partisanship. (I am certain some credit for the analysis also goes to David Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report.)
Cook documents how the number of competitive districts has dropped, and how already partisan districts have become even more so.
Many of us have been talking about this for years, but it’s great to have numbers that show the trend so clearly.
This doesn’t mean that Democrats should merely throw in the towel in 2014 (or 2016, 2018 and 2020). But it does mean that they have an awfully steep climb to 218 seats. They’ll need some sort of wave this cycle to net a gain of 17 seats. Of course, changing residential/population patterns could change the math toward the end of this decade.
In any case, Cook’s column should remind all of us about the importance of redistricting — and that means state legislative and gubernatorial elections just before a redistricting cycle.
April 2, 2013
The campaign of Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democratic nominee for the special election in South Carolina’s 1st District, released a poll Monday. As with all polls, context matters, so be careful before jumping to conclusions either way.
Conducted for the campaign by Lake Research Partners, the survey shows Colbert Busch leading in general election ballot tests against both Republicans in the runoff, 47 percent to 44 percent over former Gov. Mark Sanford and 48 percent to 39 percent against Curtis Bostic, a social conservative who served on the Charleston County council.
According to the press release, the poll showed Colbert Busch with “a 2-to-1 favorability rating at 48 percent and 24 percent …”
The release did not include name ID or favorability ratings for either of the Republicans, but it included plenty of campaign propaganda about how great Colbert Busch is and how she will be an “independent voice” for South Carolina.
For Democrats, the poll offers at least some reason for hope. After all, Colbert Busch’s favorable/unfavorable ratings are good, and it’s almost always better to be ahead rather than behind in a ballot test.
But there are also reasons for Democrats — and for Colbert Busch — to worry. Huge reasons. Full story
April 1, 2013
Over the years, I’ve complained about the tone of our political discussions, including some of what supposedly passes for political analysis. Too much of it is merely political advocacy cloaked in pseudo-analysis, and it drives me nuts.
Maybe that’s why I’m pleased to recommend a piece recently posted on Daily Kos, a liberal website that happily produces serious analysis and useful data, even while it often — too often for my taste — reflects a strong ideological bent.
Steve Singiser’s “The real, but unknowable, path to a Democratic House majority,” posted on March 31, is a thoughtful reaction to my March 19 Roll Call column, “Democrats Need to Expand House Playing Field.” I take it as an invitation to start a conversation, not an argument.
I looked at individual districts and concluded that Democrats still have a long way to go before they can realistically talk about having a chance to flip control of the House. Full story
March 25, 2013
I certainly agree with pollster Andrew Kohut’s overall assessment of the Republican Party’s image and positioning problems in his March 24 Washington Post piece. I, too, have written about the GOP’s problems.
But in the piece, Kohut compares the GOP’s current position to the Democrats’ “in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” when the Democratic Party became known as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” He argues the Democratic Party’s radicalization back then stood “in the way of its revitalization.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Democrats retained control of the House and Senate throughout the 1960s and 1970s even if the party was significantly to the left of the public and the electorate.
Yes, Democrats lost the presidential race narrowly in 1968 and by a huge margin four years later, but the 1972 defeat had more to do with the party’s nominee than anything else.
I know this next point will shock some, but here it is: Politics is not only about the presidency. Control of Congress matters, too, and Democrats were able to control both chambers of Congress even when the party had an unflattering image — that is, even when the national brand was damaged. Full story
March 19, 2013
Can Democrats win back the House in 2014? Not unless a strong recruiting cycle and national events give them a big boost. My column in Tuesday’s Roll Call looks at the top Democratic opportunities around the country — district by district — and finds the party well short of the three to four dozen serious targets that it needs. (For Rothenberg Political Report House ratings, click here.)
“That makes 17 districts where Democrats start with realistic opportunities to make gains. The list could grow, of course, with GOP retirements, unusually strong Democratic recruits or redrawn districts in Florida and Texas. But 17 districts are not nearly enough opportunities to give Democrats a decent chance of taking back the House.”
Democrats have some opportunities, of course. But not every Republican who had a “close” race last year automatically is vulnerable again in 2014, and not every Democrat who survived a tough challenge or defeated an incumbent Republican last time can figure that he or she will win again in 2014.
So, the one thing to watch over the next six to nine months is how many strong House challengers Democrats can put on the field.
March 15, 2013
My colleague Jessica Taylor notes in a new piece on the Rothenberg Political Report that the House campaign committees are relying more and more on “recruitment programs” and “candidate programs” to woo candidates into races, to make sure that they develop quality campaigns and to generate local and national media attention to enable them to raise money. Her piece, which looks at recent “win-loss” records for the past couple of cycles, is worth reading.
My own view is that the programs aren’t always all that they seem.
The DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program seeks to highlight Democratic takeover opportunities — except that the committee often puts a handful of Democratic open seats on the Red to Blue list, thereby mixing messages.
Both the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program and the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program often put a few marginal races on their lists. After all, it doesn’t cost the committees anything to put another campaign on a list, so why not either try to expand the playing field or, at the very least, give the impression that there are more opportunities than there really are?
March 13, 2013
In what can only be regarded as an interesting gamble, Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan and House Republicans this week are proposing an economic agenda oddly similar to the one they have been offering for the past two years.
Among other things, the Ryan budget plan, which intends to balance the federal budget in 10 years, rolls back the health care legislation passed in 2010, transforms Medicare and creates just two personal income brackets, 10 percent and 25 percent.
Whatever you think of the proposal as a policy document, Republicans are gambling that they will benefit from a comparison between the Ryan budget and a budget that Senate Democrats are offering.
“The whole point of the Ryan budget is to have a fight with the Democrats,” one GOP strategist told me recently. “The alternative is the status quo, and we haven’t done very well with that.” Full story
March 12, 2013
Every election cycle the party campaign committees, and many in the national media, make a big deal about party fundraising.
Coverage of the money chase has been exacerbated by the fact that these committees file monthly reports detailing their fundraising, as opposed to quarterly. To wit:
- “House Democratic campaign raises more than $6 million in January,” a headline on CNN’s website noted in mid-February.
- “DCCC Outraises NRCC in January,” Hotline On Call announced.
- “DSCC Raised Millions More Than NRSC in January,” CQ Roll Call’s At the Races blog reported.
There is nothing wrong with these pieces. But the party committee numbers, while noteworthy, simply aren’t as important as they once were. Full story