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October 31, 2014

Posts in "Recruiting"

October 6, 2014

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

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

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

tennis004 050813 445x300 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)

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

bilbray kohn003 101013 212x335 6 Democratic House Candidates With Plenty of Potential

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

Mandel 008 1019121 445x295 RATINGS CHANGE: Ohio’s 6th District

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.

Kentucky

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.

Hawaii

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

mcconnell002 0621131 445x300 Rating Alison Lundergan Grimes’ Chances in Kentucky

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

DemsCandidates 012 092112 445x295 RATINGS CHANGE: Connecticuts 5th District

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

RATINGS CHANGE: Illinois’ 10th District

Brad Schneider 4 030512 445x295 RATINGS CHANGE: Illinois 10th District

Schneider is a freshman (Douglas Graham/CQ-Roll Call File Photo)

For years, Democrats couldn’t crack the electoral code to  win the 10th District in Chicago’s northern suburbs. But now that they hold the seat, can Republicans get it back?

On one hand, Democrat Brad Schneider narrowly defeated GOP incumbent Robert Dold, 51 percent to 49 percent, by just 3,326 votes. Full story

June 20, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Minnesota’s 6th District

teaparty009 061913 445x297 RATINGS CHANGE: Minnesotas 6th District

Bachmann’s seat is now safer for Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s rare that an open seat race decreases a party’s chances of taking over a seat, but that is the story of Minnesota’s 6th District.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is so uniquely polarizing that she managed to make a district that Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush won by at least a dozen points look like a congressional battleground.

Full story

RATINGS CHANGE: Pennsylvania’s 7th District

meehan 296 0920121 445x296 RATINGS CHANGE: Pennsylvanias 7th District

Meehan’s district is competitive for presidential candidates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Philadelphia suburbs played a critical role in giving Democrats the majority in the 2006 elections. They are also part of the reason Democrats are still in the minority today.

Instead of controlling or targeting multiple seats in eastern Pennsylvania, Democratic efforts appear to be narrowing there. Democrats believe they have a top-tier recruit against Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick in the 8th District. But they are hardly talking up their chances against Reps. Jim Gerlach, Tom Marino, Lou Barletta and Charlie Dent.

Democrats would like to find a top-tier recruit against Rep. Patrick Meehan in the 7th District, but no one has materialized yet. Full story

June 19, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Virginia’s 2nd District

rigell 15 081910 445x284 RATINGS CHANGE: Virginias 2nd District

Democrats want to target Rigell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you’re 17 seats short of a majority in the House, it’s easy to say that every competitive district is a “must win” for Democrats. But Virginia’s 2nd District is a microcosm of Democratic difficulties.

The 2nd District is anchored in the politically competitive Hampton Roads region. President Barack Obama won the seat twice (albeit narrowly), in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Meanwhile Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., was elected to the House in 2010, 53 percent to 42 percent, over one-term Democratic Rep. Glenn Nye. Full story

RATINGS CHANGE: West Virginia’s 3rd District

rahall 021 0202121 445x304 RATINGS CHANGE: West Virginias 3rd District

Rahall’s seat should be competitive. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By the numbers, West Virginia’s 3rd District looks like a prime Republican takeover opportunity. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the district with 65 percent in 2012. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won it with 56 percent in 2008. And President George W. Bush took 53 percent in 2004.

But winning the southern West Virginia seat — and defeating Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II — has been impossible so far for the GOP. Full story

June 18, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: California’s 52nd District

Last year, Rep. Brian P. Bilbray lost re-election in California’s redrawn 52nd District, but GOP strategists are upbeat about their chances of taking it back just two years later.

It’s not because the San Diego-based seat is a Republican bastion — Barack Obama won it with 52 percent and 55 percent in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

But Democrat Scott Peters only squeaked by Bilbray, 51 percent to 49 percent, last fall, and Republicans believe the midterm turnout could be better for their party. Full story

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