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September 1, 2014

Posts in "NRSC"

August 11, 2014

Democratic Retirements Put the Senate in Play

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 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 1, 2014

Senate GOP Bets on Jeff Larson to Help Ride to Majority in 2014

jeff larson002 050514 445x299 Senate GOP Bets on Jeff Larson to Help Ride to Majority in 2014

Jeff Larson is the executive director of the NRSC’s independent expenditures in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of the times Jeff Larson offered to help the Republican Party, he ended up with a $130,000 credit card bill for Sarah Palin’s wardrobe.

This year, Larson will be writing the checks for the Republican effort to retake the majority in the Senate.

Larson, who has been chosen to be the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s Independent Expenditure operation this cycle, has nearly three decades of experience helping Republicans get elected to office, from volunteering for his hometown mayor in Grand Forks, N.D., to being part of the largest telemarketing firm on the Republican side.

But Larson certainly isn’t a creature of the Beltway. 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

April 21, 2014

Why TV Airtime Reservations Are More Important Than Ever

Israel031513 445x295 Why TV Airtime Reservations Are More Important Than Ever

Steve Israel of New York is the DCCC’s chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

It’s time to pay more attention to television ad reservations; they have become another critical way party strategists communicate without coordinating under campaign finance laws.

Not too many cycles ago, political reporters rightly handled television ad reservations loosely and delicately as strategists from both parties used them to play games. Strategists would make some reservations with little or no intent to fulfill them in order to fake out the other party, the media or both.

But that was also a time when the party campaign committees (through their independent expenditure arms) dominated outside spending in races. Now, outside spending from non-party groups has increased, and party strategists can’t afford to pull in and out of competitive races or abruptly shift advertising plans because television spending strategies are more integrated.

“You can’t over-reserve anymore because once you’ve laid down that time, people are counting on you,” explained one Democratic strategist. Full story

April 14, 2014

The War of Obamacare Anecdotes in the 2014 Elections

A couple months ago on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, I said that I thought the 2014 elections would be driven by anecdotes related to the Affordable Care Act. I think a pair of ads in two of the most competitive Senate races in the country could be a pretty accurate roadmap for the debate that is coming over the next six months.

Last week in Alaska, an outside group called Put Alaska First went on the air with a new, 30-second television ad, “Beat,” featuring cancer survivor Lisa Keller talking about her struggle to gain insurance coverage and thanking  Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for his fight against the insurance companies.

Full story

February 20, 2014

How Jamestown Associates Adapted and Prospered

You probably think the recent spat between the National Republican Senatorial Committee (and really the entire GOP establishment) and Jamestown Associates, a GOP consulting firm, is interesting because it reflects the fissure in the Republican Party. But after covering campaigns for decades, I think it’s also a fascinating story of how a media firm has evolved and adapted to a changing political environment.

In late January, the Club for Growth announced that it was adding Jamestown to its media team and planned to use the firm in Mississippi, where the club is supporting state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s challenge to veteran Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, and in Nebraska, where the group is backing Ben Sasse’s bid for the GOP Senate nomination.

The club’s statement wasn’t shocking, of course, since Jamestown had already done work for the Senate Conservatives Fund in Kentucky (supporting the primary challenge of Matt Bevin to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), and been blacklisted by the NRSC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

For years, certainly throughout the 1990s, I viewed the New Jersey-based Jamestown as a regional consulting firm that worked mostly with moderate or even liberal Republicans running in the Northeast. Now it has become a national firm (with offices around the country) that will be one of a handful of firms promoting anti-establishment libertarian and tea party hopefuls this cycle. Full story

February 10, 2014

DCCC Is 2013 Fundraising Winner, but DNC Drops the Ball

A look at the end-of-the-year financial reports of the two House campaign committees, two Senate campaign committees and two national party committees makes it pretty clear which ones have something to crow about and which have some explaining to do.

The big winner is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC, chaired by New York Rep. Steve Israel, brought in almost $76 million last year, ending December with more than $29 million in the bank.

It was a remarkable showing, given that Democrats are in the minority and there was only a brief chance, in October, that they could regain control of the House in 2014.

Full story

November 26, 2013

Open Your Mind to the Possibility of Another Midterm Mess for Democrats

Democrats might want to consider opening their minds to the potential of another midterm nightmare.

I remember dozens of conversations with GOP candidates and strategists prior to the 2012 elections. Republicans simply couldn’t wrap their minds around the possibility that 2008 could ever be repeated. That failure in comprehension contributed to inaccurate polling and wrong assumptions as the two electorates ended up being remarkably similar.

Now, I’m starting to feel a sense of deja vu when talking with Democrats. Anytime 2010 comes up in a conversation, it is quickly dismissed as an aberration. Most Democrats can’t even imagine another election cycle where President Barack Obama is as unpopular and as much of a drag on Democrats as he was in his first midterm.

But I’m not sure we can rule out the possibility that next November will be a very bad year for Democrats. Full story

September 26, 2013

Tennant Not a Game Changer Yet for West Virginia Democrats

A few weeks ago, Democrats didn’t even have a warm body in the West Virginia Senate race. So getting Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to run for the Senate was quite a catch.

But even though Tennant is a credible statewide elected official, she starts as a significant underdog in the open-seat contest.

Convincing her to run must have been quite a challenge. After coming up short in her gubernatorial bid in 2011, Tennant had her sights set on running for governor again in 2015. Like Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Tennant must have believed that switching course was her best next move.

There were some nuggets of information that may have encouraged Tennant to make the jump.

Before Tennant’s announcement, an Aug. 15-22 poll conducted by R.L. Repass and Partners for the Charleston Daily Mail showed her trailing Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito narrowly 45 percent to 40 percent. And Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III’s ability to win 60 percent in 2012 while President Barack Obama received 36 percent was also probably an encouragement.

But that understates her challenge. Full story

September 24, 2013

5 Things Winning Candidates Say

After the overwhelming response to “6 Things Losing Candidates Say” and its successor, “4 More Things Losing Candidates Say (Readers’ Edition),” I decided to try to turn it around and point out some common themes from winning candidates.

Of course these phrases don’t guarantee success — a candidate’s party and the partisanship of the state or district will be a larger determining factor. But these sayings reflect an attitude and approach that will often set up a candidate for success.

1. “I like to ask people for money on the phone six hours a day.” Everyone wants to give a stump speech. But fundraising is a cold, hard reality for the vast majority of congressional candidates. Unless a candidate is personally wealthy and can ask, “How much should I make the check out for?” he or she will spend hours on the phone every day, asking people for money. And after they finish their call time, they’ll go to a fundraising event that night. Raising a million dollars is the bare minimum for a competitive congressional race these days, and that won’t happen by just shaking hands at the county fair. Full story

August 16, 2013

3 Key Factors Each Party Is Banking On for a Senate Majority

The Senate playing field is starting to solidify, and the fight for the majority looks like it will be decided in about a dozen states. But even though the fields of candidates are still taking shape in some of those contests, both Republicans and Democrats are banking on some macro-factors that will affect races at the micro-level.

Democrats are counting on three trends to boost their effort next year:

1. History will repeat itself in GOP primaries. This isn’t all that big of a stretch considering Republicans handed five Senate seats to the Democrats over the past two election cycles because weak GOP nominees have thrown races away. This cycle, GOP primaries in Kentucky, Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina could affect the party’s prospects next November.

Of course, just because it has happened in the past, doesn’t mean it will happen again. And some of this cycle’s GOP primaries are in states that Republicans probably won’t need to win to get to the majority, including Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.

2. Democrats will be able to boost turnout to presidential levels or beyond. This is a big question mark. Democrats are looking to mobilize young voters and minority voters next year to lessen the impact of a traditional midterm electorate that is older and white and usually benefits Republicans. Full story

August 13, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Montana Senate

daines 011 030513 445x285 RATINGS CHANGE: Montana Senate

Daines is seriously considering a bid for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A month ago, Stuart Rothenberg made the case for why the Montana Senate seat remained a pure tossup. But now that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer is not running on the Democratic side, and Rep. Steve Daines is likely to run on the GOP side, Republicans should start this open seat race with a very narrow advantage.

First, a quick look back at Rothenberg’s description of the political landscape in Big Sky Country: Full story

No, Really: It’s Still Too Early to Judge Senate Races

“The GOP needs to gain three or four seats to win control (depending on which party controls the White House), and already five Democratic-held Senate seats are no better than toss-ups. The Democratic outlook would improve markedly if the party could swipe a couple of Republican seats next year, but with only 10 GOP Senate seats up, there are few opportunities.”

Just a little more than two years ago, that is how I began my assessment of the Senate battlefield in the Aug. 1, 2011, edition of the Rothenberg Political Report ($).

“For now,” I continued, “Republicans are putting enough Democratic seats into play to put control of the Senate in doubt in next year’s elections.”

Of course, the roof ultimately fell in on GOP hopes of taking back the Senate last cycle. Instead of gaining seats, the party suffered a net loss of two seats.

Once again this cycle, the Senate is broadly “in play,” as five Democratic seats are no better than tossups and there are few Democratic takeover opportunities of GOP-held seats. But that is where this year’s political version of Groundhog Day stops. Full story

August 2, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Maine Senate

collins 185 052313 445x296 RATINGS CHANGE: Maine Senate

Collins is a safe bet for re-election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Democrats float the idea of a Republican senator joining President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, it usually means they know they can’t defeat the incumbent in an election.

Democrats appear to have thrown in the towel on defeating Republican Sen. Susan Collins in Maine. When party strategists discuss offensive opportunities, it is usually limited to the open seat in Georgia and challenging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Full story

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