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October 8, 2015

Posts in "Recruiting"

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

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 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 13, 2015

Can Democrats Win the House in 2016?

Rothenberg Political Report

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

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

January 14, 2014

Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

McIntyre is retiring, giving Republicans a strong opportunity to pick up his House seat in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McIntyre is retiring, giving Republicans a strong opportunity to pick up his House seat in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I wrote my first Dangerous Dozen open House seats column in this space 14 years ago, so I figured I might as well keep the streak going, though it isn’t nearly as impressive as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

As in my Jan. 17, 2000, column, the districts are listed in order of vulnerability. “All of the races on the list currently are worth watching, but I’ve concluded that the races at the top of the list are more likely to change party control than those at the bottom,” I wrote back then. The same applies now.

Utah’s 4th District (Jim Matheson, a Democrat, is retiring.)

Barack Obama received 41 percent of the vote in this district in 2008, but only 30 percent in his bid for re-election. No Democrat will begin with Matheson’s goodwill or moderate record, making the district impossible to hold for his party. After November, Republicans will control all four of the state’s House districts and both Senate seats. Full story

October 28, 2013

6 Democratic House Candidates With Plenty of Potential

Erin Bilbray

Bilbray will try to unseat Heck in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In this political environment, not having an extensive legislative record can be an asset. Not surprisingly then, three of six Democratic House candidates I interviewed recently have never before sought elective office, and a fourth was elected as a judge, not a legislator. (I will discuss a seventh Democratic hopeful, Martha Robertson, in a separate column.)

Considered as a group, the half-dozen hopefuls deserve to be mentioned in any discussion of Democratic House takeover opportunities in 2014. The only question is how many of them will continue to be in the conversation one year from today. Full story

October 1, 2013

Republican Senate Hopefuls Vary in Quality, Approach

I recently interviewed four Republican Senate candidates in the space of one week, and if I had to draw a single assessment from those meetings it would be that there is plenty of diversity in the GOP’s class of Senate hopefuls.The four differed in stature, style and background, and they dealt with the party’s internal debate of style and strategies in a variety of ways.

Republicans must hold South Carolina and win at least one — maybe more — of the other three races to have any chance of taking back the Senate next year. And that makes these contests in South Carolina, North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska all worth watching.

On one end of the continuum was state Sen. Lee Bright, one of three conservatives who hopes to deny South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham renomination and win the GOP nod himself.

Bright, whose professional career started with selling televisions at Circuit City, has experienced a series of business setbacks. In fact, I’m not entirely clear how he makes a living, though he said something about truck brokerage and credit card processing. He seems affable, but he lacks gravitas. Full story

August 6, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Ohio’s 6th District

Johnson has a new challenger. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Johnson has a new challenger. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ohio may not be a wasteland for competitive congressional races after all.

Prior to the 2012 elections, Republicans did a masterful job redrawing the Buckeye State’s congressional lines in order to minimize takeover opportunities for either party.

But in Ohio’s 6th District, former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison looks like the likely Democratic nominee after state Sen. Lou Gentile declined to run. Harrison would face Republican Rep. Bill Johnson in the general election. Full story

August 5, 2013

Incumbent Primary Challengers: Some Promising, Others Premature

The 2014 primary season has begun with high-profile Democratic Senate primaries in Massachusetts and New Jersey. But they’re the tip of the iceberg in what promises to be a cycle of competitive, and possibly nasty, primaries in both parties.

Republicans face plenty of intraparty fights, including one in Kentucky where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a challenge on his right flank. Conservatives aiming to knock off establishment GOP incumbents are most excited, however, about their prospects against Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, whom they see as fundamentally weak with a record they can pick apart.

Simpson, a dentist who served as speaker of the Idaho House before winning election to Congress in 1998, hasn’t had a serious primary or general-election challenge since his first race, when he defeated former Democratic Rep. Richard Stallings in an open-seat contest.

The Club for Growth has already endorsed attorney Bryan Smith in the primary. “Simpson has been in Congress forever, he’s an appropriator and prolific earmarker, and he voted for the [Troubled Asset Relief Program] bailout and for the 527 reform act,” said Andy Roth, the group’s vice president of government affairs.

Smith calls himself a “real conservative.” His website says he won’t support “ANY tax increase as a member of Congress and would not have supported the debt limit deal passed by Congress this year.” He also criticizes Simpson for opposing a libertarian amendment to end certain National Security Agency surveillance programs.

By most broad measures, Simpson is a conservative Republican. He has a lifetime AFL-CIO rating of 15 and lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of 92. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association in 2012 and a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life that same year.

But National Journal rates him as only the 201st most conservative member of the House (fellow Idaho Republican Raúl R. Labrador rates as the 189th), making him comparable to Ohio’s Steve Stivers and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger. In Idaho, that may not be conservative enough for Republican primary voters — especially for those who regard even one “wrong” vote a violation of principle.

After the Idaho race, the prospects for the other high-profile GOP primary challengers seem less certain.


Businessman Matt Bevin is challenging McConnell in the Kentucky GOP primary. But conservatives who are less than enthusiastic about McConnell don’t yet know whether Bevin, who has some personal resources to put into the race if he chooses, will run a strong enough campaign to threaten the minority leader’s renomination.

Even conservative critics of McConnell say he’s not unpopular among Republicans. And the senator had almost $9.6 million in the bank on June 30. In addition, the president and CEO of American Crossroads, Steven Law, is a former McConnell chief of staff.

Seeing how Rand Paul easily vanquished then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the GOP Senate primary last cycle, McConnell has worked to protect his right flank. He’s hired Jesse Benton, who ran campaigns for both Paul and his father, Ron Paul, to run his campaign. Rand Paul has already endorsed McConnell.

South Carolina

The initial reaction in some circles to a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham can only be described as premature.

Nancy Mace, a public relations company owner and one of the first women to graduate from the Citadel, got plenty of attention over the past week both in South Carolina and Washington when she announced her entry into the GOP primary. She becomes the second Republican hoping to deny renomination to Graham, but some insiders believe the field could grow and that a runoff could present Graham with problems.

Graham, who had $6.3 million in cash on hand on June 30, has been preparing for possible primary opponents. His reputation as a conservative who seeks compromise to get things done certainly assures that some Palmetto State Republicans will want to see him retired.

But political insiders who have already met Mace (I have not) have come away less than impressed.

“She is kind of JV,” one conservative told me, adding, “If she gets a good team around her, maybe she can elevate her game. But a debate with Lindsey Graham would be really tough for her.”

Other GOP Seats

There are other primaries already in the works, of course — Liz Cheney’s challenge to Sen. Michael B. Enzi in Wyoming is probably the most obvious — and others could develop, particularly in the House. But it’s equally noteworthy that two pragmatists, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Maine’s Susan Collins, have avoided serious primary challenges.


Democrats don’t have as many interesting primaries yet, but their Hawaii Senate nomination fight already looks like quite a battle. Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz has drawn a primary from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a former president of the Hawaii Senate. Polls suggest that the race starts off as very competitive, though they differ as to who has the upper hand.

Schatz, who served in the state legislature and as Democratic Party state chairman, was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill Daniel K. Inouye’s vacant seat after the nine-term Democrat died in December. Inouye made it clear that he wanted Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to fill the vacancy, and Inouye’s widow has endorsed the congresswoman.

Hanabusa has had a tough few weeks after the Washington Post reported that her campaign may have violated campaign finance laws prohibiting “coordination” between an independent expenditure effort and a candidate’s campaign.

Schatz’s financial advantage — $1.6 million in the bank on June 30 to Hanabusa’s $650,000 — comes primarily from his huge haul in political action committee money. But the congresswoman has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, and she should raise enough money to be competitive.

The only elected senator from Hawaii of European ancestry was Oren Long, who won a 1959 special election after Hawaii became a state. He did not seek re-election in 1962.

Correction 11:15 am |  An earlier version of this column mistakenly said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is up for re-election this cycle. His colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is up for re-election in 2014.

July 22, 2013

Want to Run for Congress? Prepare to Ask People for Money 8 Hours a Day

As a political analyst, it’s easy to criticize candidates for not raising enough money. But it’s also easy to forget how hard it is to raise money. And it’s no wonder that most potential candidates pause before taking the plunge into a congressional race because of the burden of fundraising.

The dirty secret of campaigns is that unless a candidate is independently wealthy, the vast majority of his or her time will be spent raising money. Those kitchen table meetings with struggling parents and standing up for the Constitution on a street corner soapbox? They’re put on the back burner compared with fundraising for candidates who hope to win. Full story

July 8, 2013

Rating Alison Lundergan Grimes’ Chances in Kentucky

McConnell has a challenger for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell has a challenger for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Does the candidacy of Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, change McConnell’s re-election prospects? The answer depends on whether you think she will be 2014’s version of Linda Lingle or Heidi Heitkamp.

Lingle, a former two-term Republican governor of Hawaii, was unable to overcome her partisan label in a state that President Barack Obama won with more than 70 percent of the vote. While Lingle ran almost 10 points ahead of Mitt Romney in the Aloha State, she got buried in her bid for the Senate in 2012.

On the other hand, Heitkamp, a Democrat and former North Dakota attorney general, ran almost 12 points ahead of Obama in the Peace Garden State, enabling her to squeeze out a very narrow Senate victory. Full story

June 21, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Connecticut’s 5th District

Republicans are having trouble recruiting a candidate to challenge Esty. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are having trouble recruiting a candidate to challenge Esty. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Freshman members who are elected to a first term with less than 50 percent of the vote are often automatic takeover targets the next cycle. But Republicans are having difficulty finding a top-tier challenger to Rep. Elizabeth Esty in Connecticut’s 5th District.

Esty was first elected last fall, 51 percent to 49 percent, over state Sen. Andrew Roraback. A moderate Republican, Roraback would have been a formidable challenger in 2014, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, appointed him as a judge after the election. That boosted Democratic hopes of retaining the seat. Full story

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