Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 30, 2014

Posts in "Senate"

July 24, 2014

Ratings Change: Montana Senate

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John Walsh was appointed to the Senate earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As Roll Call was preparing to post my column yesterday on the Montana Senate race and recent Democratic polls showing the contest “closing,” a report surfaced in the New York Times about appointed Senator John Walsh’s plagiarism in his master’s thesis.

The Walsh story is a huge one and undoubtedly affects the Democrat’s already uphill bid. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 12:44 p.m.
Montana, Senate

July 23, 2014

Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

 

walsh 107 021114 445x303 Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

Walsh, left, was appointed to the Senate earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe you believe in coincidences. I usually do — but not four months from an election.

Almost simultaneously, two different memos appeared from Democratic pollsters insisting the Montana Senate race has closed and the outcome of the contest is very much in doubt.

One memo, by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, meets existing standards of transparency and while I have issues with the firm’s conclusions, I was happy with the way the data were presented.

The other memo, by widely respected, Colorado-based Harstad Strategic Research, was dreadful and little more than spin. It fails to meet the minimum standards of disclosure about polls, and devoted more time to promoting the firm’s candidate, appointed Sen. John Walsh, and vilifying Republicans (and the media), than discussing data. Full story

July 22, 2014

‘Simple’ Doesn’t Equal ‘Easy’ in N.H. Senate Race

brown rally172 102112 445x296 Simple Doesn’t Equal Easy in N.H. Senate Race

Brown is running for Senate in New Hampshire. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having written about House and Senate races for the past 30 years, I’ve seen plenty of press releases, polling memos and campaign strategy emails. But rarely have I received anything as silly as a July 9 press release from New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott P. Brown’s campaign, which presented the challenger’s alleged “Path To Victory.”

First, let me note that Brown is virtually certain to be the Republican nominee against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If the Republican wave is large enough in the fall, or if Shaheen makes enough errors between now and Election Day, Brown could win. It isn’t impossible, just unlikely at this point. (The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call currently rates the contest as Democrat Favored.)

That said, the press release from Colin Reed, Brown’s campaign manager, screams to be picked apart. Full story

July 15, 2014

Fight for the Senate Still Very Much Up in the Air

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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 14, 2014

Minnesota Senate: Still Very Unlikely, But Not Impossible

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Franken remains favored for re-election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

We are moving the Minnesota Senate race from Safe Democrat to Democrat Favored, but readers should not make too much of the changed rating.

The change reflects the broad national environment and Minnesota’s generally competitive nature. A national anti-President Barack Obama wave certainly could threaten incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Franken’s 2008 victory — in a good political environment for Democrats — was razor-close.

The new rating says little about Republican challenger Mike McFadden’s candidacy, other than the fact that the wealthy businessman appears to have considerable personal resources that he can sink into the race if he wishes.

McFadden continues to run cutesy videos (and now a TV ad) that focus on his coaching to introduce himself to voters, while Franken raises money and generally acts as if he has no opponent. Instead, the freshman Democrat has run TV spots focusing on issues and his performance in D.C.

Franken showed  $5 million in the bank at the end of June, while McFadden had about $2 million. But the Republican had not put in personal money at that point.

Polling in the race is spotty and not particularly helpful for McFadden. Franken almost certainly starts with a very comfortable lead.

At this point, I see little reason to believe that McFadden will beat Franken — and I’m skeptical about the prediction made by anonymous observers in a July 7 Roll Call piece that the contest is likely to be “a 2-point race by Labor Day.”  (The race will close, of course, as McFadden spends money.)

But it’s also true that, based entirely on fundamentals, McFadden’s long-shot prospects seem closer to Ed Gillespie’s in Virginia and Scott Brown’s in New Hampshire than to GOP chances in Illinois against Richard J. Durbin or in New Jersey against Cory Booker (both of which we have as Safe for Democrats).

For that reason, and for only that reason, we are moving Minnesota to Democrat Favored.

July 11, 2014

Imperfect People Get Elected to the Senate

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Warren is a Democrat from Massachusetts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the heat of the campaign, it can be easy to disqualify or dismiss candidates based on unsettling, or sometimes unseemly, revelations. But all you have to do is look at the current lineup of senators to realize that imperfect people win elections.

Connecticut is a great place to start.

In 2010, The New York Times pointed out inconsistencies between Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s rhetoric and his military service during the Vietnam era. It became a major issue in the campaign, but Blumenthal prevailed, 55 percent to 43 percent, over former wrestling executive Linda McMahon. 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

Why Democrats and Republicans Can’t Be Friends

Baseball04 001970 416x335 Why Democrats and Republicans Can’t Be Friends

This 1970s era archival photo of  Republicans winning the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game illustrates friendships made on the field. But they can’t really last.

Roll Call’s fearless Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni recently recapped the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game and described some of the bipartisan friendships that started to form on the field.

At the end of the post, she pointed to a common reason given to explain the increased polarization in the nation’s capital:

“[W]hen you ask any of the congressional observers or longtime lawmakers what’s changed, the answer is always the same — no one spends any time together anymore. Families don’t move to Washington. Members blow out of town like the last day of school each Thursday afternoon, racing to the airports only to return late Monday.”

That characterization is correct, of course, but it’s also important to understand why members don’t spend more time in Washington: Hanging around D.C. is likely to increase their electoral vulnerability, either in a primary or a general election.

“The truth is that we can never go back to those good ol’ days; there’s just too much coverage now of what we do and access to how we do it,” one Democratic congressman told me in an email during the holiday recess.

Full story

July 1, 2014

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

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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

June 13, 2014

Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016: Is It Even a Rumor?

SS9 021609 445x292 Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016: Is It Even a Rumor?

First lady Michelle Obama has been the subject of several stories about an Illinois Senate race. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016 stories are classic examples of an out-of-control media narrative that is based on little hard evidence.

But it may also end up being a lesson on why it’s best not to dismiss rampant speculation.

The rumor that the first lady could run for the Senate in Illinois next cycle appears to have started with a blog item by Keith Koffler at Reuters. And even though it doesn’t appear to be based on any sources, the story spread like a Justin Bieber mugshot across the Internet. Full story

June 9, 2014

Mark Pryor: Still This Cycle’s Most Vulnerable Senator

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Mark Pryor, a Democratic senator from Arkansas, is seeking re-election in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

More than a year ago, I called Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., this cycle’s most vulnerable senator. That hasn’t changed.

The longer I do this, the more transparent I try to be about my thinking about each race. So, this column sets out my view of the Arkansas Senate race, which has been different from the thinking of many.

The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, rates it as a Tossup/Tilts Republican contest, while many (probably most) others now see the race as a pure tossup, or possibly even view Pryor having a small advantage.

Those who see Pryor in good shape point to two public polls conducted during the spring showing the Democrat holding a significant lead over his challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, the GOP nominee.

Full story

Rating Change: Oregon Senate

With pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby’s Republican nomination in Oregon, national GOP strategists believe they have pulled another state onto the Senate playing field. But she still starts the general election as a considerable underdog against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Wehby, a first-time candidate, does not have a legislative voting record to be dissected, but she faced a series of dramatic headlines about police reports and allegations of harassment from a former husband and boyfriend that came to light in the final days of the primary.

While Wehby is recovering from the Republican race, Merkley is using his financial advantage to hit the airwaves to define himself (in a 30-second ad titled “Fighter”) and to define Wehby as a national Republican (in a 30-second ad titled “Republican Agenda”). Full story

June 5, 2014

Why Do We Suddenly Care About Races for Lt. Governor?

The office of lieutenant governor is so important that five states don’t even have one, yet that hasn’t stopped the national political media from treating some contests for the office as crucial indicators of something.

In the recent primary runoff in Texas, anti-establishment conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick unseated incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by a sizable margin. The result received considerable attention since it fit neatly into the “tea party takeover of the Republican Party” narrative that has been struggling to survive since all but one GOP member of Congress won his or her primary through the end of May.

Maybe it’s the proliferation of political reporters and news outlets or the lack of other serious contests, or a mixture of both, but the conclusion that a race for lieutenant governor has some larger, long-term political impact is still unproved. 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

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