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April 17, 2014

Posts in "Senate"

April 16, 2014

Sebelius to the Senate? Maybe in the Land of Oz, But Not in Kansas

sebelius041614 445x295 Sebelius to the Senate? Maybe in the Land of Oz, But Not in Kansas

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When I read today’s New York Times piece, “Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat,” I had two very different reactions.

First, I figured that national Democrats had to be encouraged that former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a once-popular two-term governor of Kansas, would be considering a Senate run this year.

After all, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has been in the race for a mere six weeks, and there is little reason to believe that he can throw much of a scare into Sen. Pat Roberts in the fall, assuming, of course, that Roberts wins re-nomination on August 5.

Sebelius has name recognition, demonstrated electoral appeal and fundraising potential, so her candidacy would give Democrats a shot in the arm.

After that, I quickly came to my senses. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 3:28 p.m.
Kansas, Senate

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

April 11, 2014

Democratic Senate Prospects and the New Black Voter

Democrats plan to turn out thousands of African-American voters this fall, in an effort to hold the Senate majority. The challenge is that some of them aren’t yet registered to vote.

Which begs the question, after opportunities to elect and re-elect the first black president, why would an African-American choose this year’s midterm elections to finally jump from the sidelines and into the game?

This question especially matters given that contests in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana will help determine control of the Senate.

Democratic strategists believe there is low-hanging fruit in the black populations in Arkansas and Louisiana, where Democrats are defending seats, because those states never saw a well-financed and organized get-out-the-vote effort from President Barack Obama’s campaign. After all, neither state was regarded as competitive in the past two presidential races.

This cycle, Democrats on the House and Senate sides are investing unprecedented amounts of money into their party’s ground game for the midterm elections. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to spend $60 million on 4,000 staff in top states through the Bannock Street Project to get out the vote.

Part of that effort is focused on boosting black turnout from traditional midterm levels to something closer to presidential levels in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in Georgia, and potentially Michigan and North Carolina — both of which saw plenty of attention in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats are encouraged by the Obama campaign’s ability to boost the black percentage of the vote in Ohio from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. (Interestingly, the 2010 exit poll in Ohio found blacks constituting 15 percent of the state electorate in that midterm, two years before the Democrats’ major effort in the Buckeye State.)

But it’s one thing to boost African-American turnout in a year when the first black president is seeking re-election, and it is something very different to boost that same turnout during a midterm.

One of the biggest challenges facing Democrats this cycle is enthusiasm. Dan Balz had a good piece on this in The Washington Post after the special election in Florida’s 13th District.

And the African-American community is not immune from the enthusiasm challenge. Democratic strategists aren’t eager to reveal the specific messages they will use to mobilize black voters, but they are likely to try to rally those potential voters around the president and his legislative agenda, including issues of equality and fairness, such as a minimum wage increase, equal pay for women and an immigration overhaul.

Complicating the task is that Democratic strategists will be asking these new black voters to support vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mary L. Landrieu, Mark Pryor and candidates such as Michelle Nunn, each of who must demonstrate a level of independence from Obama’s agenda in order to remain competitive with white voters.

Even if Democrats succeed in registering and turning out more black voters, they will only affect total turnout in those contests at the margins. Of course, in razor thin margins, that could be enough to matter.

In Arkansas, Democrats estimate that there are 121,000 unregistered African-Americans by using census data. By registering a fraction of that population (even somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent), Democratic strategists believe it could tilt the outcome of the race between Pryor and GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.

The black population of Arkansas is 15 percent. In the 2008 presidential election, black voters made up 12 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls. In the 2010 midterms, black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate. Because the media consortium chose to cut back its exit polling operation, there is no exit poll data for Arkansas for 2012.

Of the top 14 Senate races, Arkansas is one of seven states where the black population cracks double digits. The other states include Louisiana (32 percent), North Carolina (21 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Virginia (19 percent) and Georgia (30 percent).

The other half of the Senate playing field includes states with miniscule black populations. Those states include Alaska (3 percent), Colorado (4 percent), Iowa (3 percent), New Hampshire (1 percent), West Virginia (3 percent), South Dakota (1 percent) and Montana (less than 1 percent).

In Georgia, Democrats are excited about the long-term demographic trends in the state, but strategists believe there is a short-term opportunity to increase black turnout this year. There are an estimated 375,000 African-American voters who voted in 2012 but not 2010, and 572,000 African-Americans still unregistered. And in Louisiana, where Landrieu is running for re-election, Democrats estimate 185,000 African-Americans voted in 2012 but not 2010, and another 228,000 African-Americans are unregistered.

The New York Times did a nice piece on the relationship between the Landrieu family and black voters going back to the senator’s father and up to her brother’s recent mayoral election in New Orleans.

In 2008, black voters made up 29 percent of the vote in the senator’s re-election race, according to the exit poll. Landrieu won the black vote, 96 percent to 2 percent but lost the white vote to Republican John Kennedy 65 percent to 33 percent in her 52 percent statewide victory. Two years later in the midterm, the black percentage of the electorate slipped to 24 percent.

Theoretically there is also an opportunity to increase black turnout in Michigan. The Obama campaign was able to increase black turnout from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012, and there are an estimated 304,000 unregistered African-Americans in the state. But in midterms, black voters have made up closer to 10 percent of the electorate, according to pollsters who have worked in the state.

Considering long-term historical trends, increasing African-American turnout in a midterm election looks like a long shot or bank shot for Democrats. But for their strategists and campaigns, having a plan and being proactive sounds much better than simply waiting on the shore to be hit by a wave.

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 18, 2014

Ratings Change: Colorado Senate

gardner 257 092613 445x296 Ratings Change: Colorado Senate

Gardner poses a stiff challenge for Udall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall never had intimidating poll numbers this cycle, but uncertainty about the GOP primary raised questions about the seriousness of the Republican threat to him. But all that changed when Republican Rep. Cory Gardner decided to run for the Senate in Colorado.

His decision instantly gave Republicans a top-tier candidate in the race and quickly forced three other GOP hopefuls out of the contest. Gardner and Republicans now have a legitimate shot in the Centennial State this fall.

Udall led Gardner 45 percent to 44 percent in a March 8-9 automated survey of 689 likely voters by Harper Polling for the GOP-friendly American Action Network, which was released to CQ Roll Call.

The survey also showed Udall with a 39 percent favorable/43 unfavorable ratings compared to 28 percent favorable/28 percent unfavorable for Gardner. Thirty-seven percent said that the senator deserved re-election, while 50 percent said it was time to “give someone else a chance.” Full story

March 5, 2014

Bill Clinton’s Real Impact on the Kentucky Senate Race

clinton 445x296 Bill Clintons Real Impact on the Kentucky Senate Race

Clinton campaigns for Alison Lundergan Grimes’ bid for Senate. (Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

The national media’s reaction to former President Bill Clinton’s recent trip to Kentucky to boost the Senate candidacy of Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was predictable.

Most of my colleagues in the media can’t resist a Clinton (Bill or Hillary) sighting, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s electoral test has become one of the go-to stories of this electoral cycle, even outside the Bluegrass State.

What is less understandable is why many of those who covered the Clinton event in Louisville didn’t address the question of his impact on the race in a serious way. Full story

Why Republican Candidates Will Run From .GOP Address

A Republican group recently boasted about Republicans becoming “the only political party in history to run a Web ending.”

But it would be surprising if many Republican candidates are anxious to put .GOP behind their name.

The Republican State Leadership Committee led the effort to secure the .GOP Web ending and unveiled it at the Beyond the Dot conference late last month. USA Today had a thorough piece examining the process, as well as the potential upsides and downsides for the new Web ending.

Republicans got an initial nod of approval from an unusual source. Full story

March 4, 2014

Ratings Change: Michigan Senate

When it comes to Republican chances of winning the Senate race in Michigan this year, we have been skeptical. While our colleagues at the Cook Political Report have Democratic Sen. Carl Levin’s seat rated as a Toss-Up, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call has had it rated as Democrat Favored.

As we wrote in the Nov. 8 edition of the Report ($), and continue to believe, the fundamentals in Michigan favor a Democratic candidate in a federal race. But this may not be a typical cycle. Full story

March 3, 2014

Why Ken Buck Has the Inside Track in Colorado’s 4th District

For the second time, Republican Ken Buck has failed to become a United States senator from Colorado. But his most recent campaign was not in vain and helped make him the front-runner for a seat in the House.

GOP Rep. Cory Gardner’s decision last week to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Udall had a domino effect. Buck, the one-time front-runner for the Senate nomination, dropped down to Gardner’s open 4th District instead of challenging the congressman in the primary.

Even though the filing deadline is still nearly a month away, the state party’s process for selecting nominees begins at Tuesday’s precinct caucuses. And since Buck has been working delegates for months in advance of his Senate primary, he starts ahead of any other congressional hopefuls. Full story

February 26, 2014

Gardner Decision Shakes Up Colorado Senate Race

In a surprise decision, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has decided to jump into the Colorado Senate race against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. While there are other Republicans running already, Gardner gives the GOP an upper-tier candidate in a race that has not been considered competitive until now. The news was first reported by the Denver Post.

Gardner is considered a rising star with the Republican ranks, but also a member who is somewhat risk averse. Up to this point, it appeared that Gardner was not willing to give up his safe 4th District seat for a long-shot run against Udall in a very competitive state. 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

February 20, 2014

Obamacare Can Be Complicated for Republicans Beyond the Beltway

For Republicans in D.C., the Affordable Care Act is a black and white issue — you are either for it or against it. And they are all against it. But for many GOP legislators and candidates outside the Beltway, the politics of Obamacare is much more complicated.

In Oregon, state Rep. Jason Conger has been on the defensive for his votes to set up a state insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, as he seeks the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race.

According to The Oregonian, at least one of Conger’s opponents has attacked him for voting in favor of Cover Oregon, which had some well-publicized website difficulties. Of course, Conger didn’t let the charges go unanswered.

“Legislators don’t get to vote on federal law,” Conger responded in the article, saying that it wasn’t true his votes were the “equivalent of Obamacare.”

Conger isn’t the only candidate wrestling with the issue. Full story

February 19, 2014

Please Don’t Call It an Exodus From Congress

holt021814 445x296 Please Don’t Call It an Exodus From Congress

Holt announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of this Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two more members of Congress decided this would be their final term, but their exits don’t change the battle for the majority in the House. And contrary to an all-too-common media narrative, their departures do not signal an exodus from the House of Representatives.

“Two Democrats Join Exodus From U.S. Congress,” according to a recent Reuters headline and accompanying story, which described “44 Members of the House and Senate” leaving Congress after this year. But that is very misleading because it conveys the sense that we are witnessing an atypical, wholesale exit from Washington. But that’s simply not borne out by the data.

This cycle, congressional retirements have come in bunches, with House members announcing their decisions within days (or sometimes hours) of each other.

Reps. Gloria Negrete McLeod and Rush D. Holt are two good examples of the importance of making distinctions when counting retirements. I don’t consider Negrete McLeod, a California Democrat, a retirement since she is running for another office — granted, one that is outside the Beltway. I am counting the New Jersey Democrat as a true retirement since he is not seeking another office this year.

But the only way the Reuters reporter (and others) can come up with a higher number of “retirements” is to include House members who are running for another office, including the dozen representatives who are running for the Senate. It’s not an exodus from Congress if members are trying to stay in Washington and merely move their offices from one side of the Hill to the other. Full story

February 7, 2014

How Candidates Share Without Coordinating With Outside Groups

With each passing election cycle, both parties are figuring out new ways to skirt campaign finance laws.

A couple years ago, I wrote about how the official and independent expenditure wings of the campaign committees share opposition research and message points through less-traveled regions of the Web. That “IE Strategy Borders on Art Form” might be worth a second glance as the cycle heats up.

Some candidates are also conveniently sharing video footage for potential use by independent groups for television ads through links that are sometimes difficult to find unless you know where to look.

For example, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley is running for the open Senate seat in Iowa. BruceBraley.com/video includes a trio of b-roll videos, but the webpage is found only by a small link at the bottom of the main page.

Need video of Braley talking with old people? No problem. There’s “Bruce Braley Stands With Iowa Seniors” — one minute and 23 seconds of gripping b-roll of the congressman with senior citizens layered with smooth elevator music, unencumbered by audio of Braley or a narrator actually talking. Full story

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