Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 21, 2014

Posts in "Republicans"

August 6, 2014

New Poll Numbers Reinforce Bush-Obama Comparisons

My last column, which argued President Barack Obama’s situation going into his second midterm closely resembled President George W. Bush’s standing going into his second midterm, is reinforced in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

When I filed the column on Monday, I used the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll results from June, since it was the most recent poll available at that time. It showed Obama’s job ratings at 41 percent approve/53 percent disapprove. The new survey, conducted July 30-August 3, showed Obama’s approval at 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of his performance.

Since Bush’s late July 2006 job ratings stood at 39 percent approve/56 percent disapprove, the new Obama numbers bear an even more uncomfortably close resemblance to Bush’s. Full story

August 5, 2014

President George W. Obama Meets the Midterms

I certainly didn’t know foreign policy would be front and center in the final months before the midterm elections when I wrote in late April that these issues “could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections.”

But now, it looks increasingly as if foreign policy — particularly problems in the Middle East and relations with Russia — will add to the president’s woes.

While international issues are a low priority to most Americans, the daily dose of bad news from the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine makes it difficult for the public to appreciate any good economic data and will likely depress the public mood. That’s important given that Election Day is just three months away (and voting starts even earlier in some states).

Obama’s problems certainly are not identical to those of President George W. Bush in 2006, when opposition to the Iraq War mobilized Democrats and independents against the White House, sinking the GOP and turning both chambers of Congress to the Democrats. And yet, it’s difficult to miss parallels between the two men and their situations. Full story

July 28, 2014

So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper? 2014 Edition

The thought of three candidate interviews over a four-hour period invariably fills me with dread.

The chance of all three congressional hopefuls being thoughtful, reasonable and personable — and having a good chance of winning in the fall — is relatively small.

But sometimes the unexpected happens. And on July 16, I had the pleasure of interviewing three quality candidates. 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 7, 2014

Could Upbeat Economic News Help Obama, Democrats?

Last week’s news that the U.S. economy gained 288,000 jobs in June seems to confirm the upbeat economic assessments coming from many of the nation’s economists and Wall Street analysts.

The question is whether the data and increased optimism one might hear on CNBC will have an effect on the American electorate and alter the current trajectory of the midterm elections.

On a fundamental level, anything that improves overall sentiment about the direction of the nation is good news for President Barack Obama, and anything that is good news for Obama is good news for Democratic candidates around the country.

Good news could generate enthusiasm among base Democratic voters and, possibly, increase the chances that swing and independent voters won’t see the midterm balloting only as an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and the president’s performance.

Full story

June 2, 2014

Thad Cochran’s Mississippi

cochran060214 445x305 Thad Cochran’s Mississippi

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CLEVELAND, Miss. — The rain pounded the Mississippi Delta for the better part of three days late last week, but the nasty weather and a hard-fought primary contest didn’t stop Sen. Thad Cochran from attending the Delta Council’s annual event on May 30 on the Delta State University campus. The council is an economic development organization, started in 1935, that includes eighteen Delta and part-Delta counties in the state.

A year earlier, the Mississippi Republican (and the state’s other senator, Republican Roger Wicker) had accompanied the 2013 event’s featured speaker, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, to the Delta. That was just before the Senate — and then, in July, the House — passed the farm bill, which has always been of great importance to the region’s farmers.

But this year, Cochran found himself in a nasty fight for re-nomination against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a self-described “constitutional conservative” who is all about cutting spending and government, and who charges that Cochran has helped grow government and empower the Washington establishment.

If you assumed Cochran would use this year’s Delta Council event to defend his record, criticize McDaniel or ask for support from those hundreds of people in attendance, you’d be mistaken. In fact, he didn’t address the assembly. He didn’t need to. Most of those in attendance had already decided whom they will support in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Full story

May 20, 2014

Can an Endorsement Hurt the Endorsed Candidate?

Longtime readers of my column know I have often been skeptical about endorsements in highly visible contests, whether for the White House or the Senate. But what about an endorsement in a U.S. House race or a House primary? And could an endorsement actually hurt the candidate endorsed?

We may well get an answer to these questions soon. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director Monte Shaw, one of the contenders in the crowded race for the GOP nomination in Iowa’s 3rd district, was just endorsed by the Des Moines Register.

“Shaw talked about how he would work to represent not just the Republican principles that he believes in but how he would work in a pragmatic way to get things done in Congress for Iowa,” said the editorial.

“An example of pragmatism over absolutism is his position on the recent farm bill, which he said he would have voted for, despite what he sees as shortcomings,” continued the editorial.

The question is whether an endorsement from the Register hurts Shaw, since the newspaper has a generally liberal reputation and Republican primary voters may not value “pragmatism” as much as do the members of the Register’s editorial board. Full story

May 19, 2014

The Long Lost Tale of Phil Maloof

Wilson Maloof 06 22 98 445x299 The Long Lost Tale of Phil Maloof

Maloof, left, battled Wilson in the 1998 special election. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Most readers know that Nathan Gonzales and I, along with our friends from Roll Call, interview at least 150 candidates for Congress every election cycle. I have been doing it for many years.

Not every hopeful passes through our offices, of course, and many candidates have won elections without ever subjecting themselves to an interview. There is no ring that needs kissing here.

But many candidates seem to think that it’s something they should, or even want to, do. A young Illinois legislator named Barack Obama came by twice. House candidates Paul D. Ryan and Kirsten Gillibrand came in for interviews, as did Senate hopefuls John Edwards, Ted Cruz and Erskine Bowles. I have interviewed both long shots and prohibitive favorites, candidates who looked like winners and those who didn’t.

I have interviewed so many hopefuls that when a candidate doesn’t come by, especially if there has been some buzz about the him or her being sheltered and not doing many interviews with seasoned political reporters, I invariably think of Phil Maloof.

Full story

May 14, 2014

Ben Sasse, Mystery Man

sasse001 020714 445x300 Ben Sasse, Mystery Man

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I am not at all certain who or what Ben Sasse is. I interviewed him in February, and heard him speak to a large, sympathetic group not long after that. And, of course, I’ve seen him interviewed by others. But I still don’t have a handle on what kind of senator he will be.

In that regard, at least, the Nebraska GOP Senate nominee is very different from Sen. Ted Cruz. After talking with Cruz a couple of times when he was still seeking the GOP nomination last cycle, I understood the Texan’s philosophy and his approach to politics in general and the legislative process in particular.

“Cruz is not willing to compromise even if it means being irrelevant to the legislative process,” I wrote in a July 31, 2012, Roll Call column, adding, “If elected, Cruz certainly will join the GOP’s ‘Uncompromising Caucus,’ which includes [then-South Carolina Sen. Jim] DeMint, [Utah Sen. Mike] Lee, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a handful of others, making it more difficult for his party’s leadership …”

But Sasse (pronounced “sass”) seems to have been able to be all things to all people during his Senate bid this year. That means he’s a skilled politician, but it could also mean that some Republicans will feel terribly misled after seeing him in action in the Senate. Full story

May 6, 2014

And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is …

NCPOL14 035 050514 445x282 And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is ...

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the Greg Brannon for Senate rally at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte on Monday, the day before North Carolina’s primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who is winning the primary campaign war within the GOP between pragmatic conservatives and the anti-establishment wing of the party?

It’s a simple question, but it isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. Part of the problem is deciding which candidates and races are part of the war.

The anti-establishment wing of the party actually consists of two different elements: economic libertarians, supported most notably by the Club for Growth, and tea party groups such as FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project and the Tea Party Express. (Anti-establishment voices like Sarah Palin and RedState’s Erick Erickson fit in with the tea party groups.)

Some groups and individuals have already proved that their endorsements and independent expenditures matter, while the impact of others remains an open question.

The Club for Growth, for example, is strategic in its approach and considers competitiveness before entering a race. It plays only where it thinks it can win. But FreedomWorks has a long list of endorsements that includes plenty of unthreatened incumbents, and while the Madison Project has endorsed Milton Wolf’s challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., so far the group has helped Wolf raise a mere $150 of its $10,000 goal for the candidate, according to the Madison Project’s website.

In other words, not all of the primaries that pit pragmatic conservatives against anti-establishment hopefuls are serious fights. The primary for Senate in North Carolina on Tuesday, for example, is not one of them — at least not yet — depending on whether state Speaker Thom Tillis is forced to face one of his GOP opponents in a runoff.

For now, in North Carolina and other races, a tea-party-backed candidate without any resources isn’t a real threat to an incumbent or a well-heeled pragmatic conservative.

In fact, there are only a relative handful of races that qualify as establishment versus anti-establishment campaign fights.

Full story

April 22, 2014

Obama’s Foreign Policy Impacts 2014 Elections — Really

No, I am not going to try to make the case that foreign policy will be at the forefront of this year’s elections, or that international issues are a high priority for most Americans. They aren’t.

But foreign policy could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections, making the issue more relevant than you otherwise might assume.

The growing perception that President Barack Obama over-promised and has under-delivered on international issues could add to the already hardening perception that his presidency has not been an unadulterated success. And that’s not good for vulnerable Democrats as the elections approach. Full story

April 1, 2014

Senator Thad Cochran, Underdog?

Forget about Matt Bevin’s challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Republican primary or Milton Wolf’s bid to knock off Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in that state’s GOP contest. The Senate primary to watch is Mississippi’s.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel has the best chance of any anti-establishment Senate hopeful to knock off an incumbent, and the defeat of six-term Senate veteran Thad Cochran would send shock waves through both the national media and the Republican Party.

Cochran, the first Republican popularly elected to the Senate in the state’s history, is an institution in the Magnolia State and has the support of most Mississippi GOP officeholders, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and former Gov. Haley Barbour. And Barbour’s nephew, Henry Barbour, is running the super PAC established to get the senator re-elected.

Cochran, 76, is in trouble — in deep trouble — primarily because of changes in the Republican Party. But it’s also true that the senator, and his campaign, didn’t start his re-election effort where they needed to be. Full story

March 24, 2014

Democrats’ Growing Problems With Independent Voters on the Senate Map

iowa fair036 081511 445x295 Democrats Growing Problems With Independent Voters on the Senate Map

Democrats expect a smooth ride for Braley, but should they? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the nation’s (and news media’s) focus on Malaysian Airlines flight 370 gave Democrats a couple of weeks to catch their collective breath, the 2014 election cycle continues to look increasingly dangerous for President Barack Obama and his party.

The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal (March 5-9) and CBS News/New York Times (Feb. 19-23) surveys contained little in the way of good news for Democrats — and recent GOP Senate recruiting successes in Colorado and New Hampshire put two more Senate contests into play.

Strategists in both parties agree that Democratic enthusiasm isn’t where it needs to be, especially when compared to GOP voters, who currently look eager to run into a burning building if that is what it takes to express their anger during the midterm elections. Full story

March 10, 2014

Why Polls Still Show Democrats With Higher Marks Than Republicans

pelosi 192 022714 445x310 Why Polls Still Show Democrats With Higher Marks Than Republicans

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Political brands are important. If a candidate or political party has a damaged political brand, it’s harder for them to sell themselves to voters. But sometimes a poll’s top lines can be deceiving, so you need to look a little below the surface to understand what is going on.

Everyone knows that the Republican Party’s brand stinks, and while the Democratic brand is still mediocre, it’s measurably better than the GOP’s.

A Feb. 19-23 CBS News/New York Times poll found that only 33 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while a stunning 61 percent had an unfavorable view. In contrast, 42 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while only 53 percent had an unfavorable view. Full story

February 25, 2014

There’s No Good Time for the GOP on Immigration

boehner 009 020414 445x305 Theres No Good Time for the GOP on Immigration

Boehner has said he’s not inclined to take up immigration in the House this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill apparently have already decided to punt rather than push ahead with their own immigration proposal, but that hasn’t stopped the chatter from the sidelines, especially from those who don’t like the leadership’s decision.

Liberal columnist Greg Sargent and conservative icon George Will both agree that Republicans are crazy to put immigration reform off until after the midterms.

Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza laid out the political argument for Republicans not kicking the can down the road on immigration in his Feb. 9 article, “Why Republicans Shouldn’t Wait to Pass Immigration Reform.”

It’s a reasonable case, based on the timing of the dynamic of the 2016 presidential contest, the nation’s changing demographics and the GOP’s intense dislike of President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act. Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...