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December 21, 2014

Posts in "Senate"

December 18, 2014

Will Russ Feingold Be Haunted by Campaign Problems Past?

 Will Russ Feingold Be Haunted by Campaign Problems Past?

Can Feingold put together a credible challenge? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., isn’t ruling out trying to get his former seat back this cycle. But it’s unclear how good of a campaign he will run.

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore told Roll Call’s Alexis Levinson last week she expects Feingold to wage a rematch against GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in 2016 and to clear the primary along the way. But in the wake of his loss in 2010, it became clear Feingold’s campaign suffered from some internal campaign strife, which factored into his failure to re-create the maverick magic of his previous victories.

Full story

December 9, 2014

Democrats Abandoned Mary Landrieu in the Runoff. Does it Matter?

 Democrats Abandoned Mary Landrieu in the Runoff. Does it Matter?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Party campaign committees are incumbent led and incumbent driven, so how important is it for the committees to support incumbents to the bitter end?

Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu lost re-election in Louisiana, 56 percent to 44 percent, to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. But in the days running up to the race on Saturday, there was some criticism that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn’t do enough to help the senator.

After Landrieu finished first, but with just 42 percent, in the November jungle primary, the DSCC cancelled its television ad reservations for the runoff and never replaced them.

“I wish she had more air cover,” Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., told The Hill before the runoff. “I was there because she’s my friend, but more importantly she’s done an extraordinary job for the people of Louisiana, and you don’t abandon your friends when times get tough.” Full story

Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

 Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s defeat in the Dec. 6 runoff certainly was no surprise. If anything, it seemed inevitable since the evening of Nov. 4, when it became clear a Republican rout was underway and Democrats would lose control of the Senate.

But the veteran Democrat’s defeat is another reminder we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.

In the end, the “Landrieu brand” in Louisiana did not matter any more than the Pryor brand mattered in Arkansas or the Begich brand mattered in Alaska. Party labels mattered far more than the individual names of the candidates. Voters in all three states saw the incumbents’ Democratic label, and that made their decisions easy. Full story

December 2, 2014

Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

 Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2014

Braley is a nominee for most over-rated campaign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, we’ve made it through another strange political year — and let’s face it, they are all strange — so it’s time for me to devote another column to picking the best, the worst and the weirdest candidates, campaigns and outcomes of the year.

As always, I will select a few nominees and offer my own winner. If you don’t agree, feel free to send an email complaining to someone else. Just not me.
Full story

November 24, 2014

What Did — and Didn’t — Surprise Me This Cycle

Every election cycle is filled with twists and turns, upsets and surprises. And every cycle is filled with goofy arguments, warnings about things that never happen and unsurprising outcomes that surprise only the politically uneducated.

For me, the biggest surprises included Dave Brat’s primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Thad Cochran’s win in the Mississippi Republican Senate runoff and Larry Hogan Jr.’s victory and margin in Maryland’s gubernatorial race.

Primary upsets happen, in part because reliable polling is so scarce. Without it, local observers have to rely on anecdotal evidence, which often is unreliable. But the idea that some underfunded college professor might deny renomination to Cantor, whatever his flaws and vulnerabilities, struck me as somewhere between silly and delusional.

Apparently, I was the one who was delusional.

Full story

November 17, 2014

Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

 Lessons for Democratic Strategists From 2014

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

You could feel it from Day One of this cycle. Senate Democratic strategists knew they were smarter than their Republican adversaries. They’d out-think them and out-work them.

Incumbent Democratic senators who run good campaigns rarely lose, I was reminded. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who had been appointed to his seat, won a tough race in 2010. So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. And Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill did the same in 2012.

This cycle, vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states such as Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana had great political names and deep connections to the voters. They knew how to win, just like Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana did two years ago. (Of course, Heitkamp and Donnelly won in a presidential year, with its different dynamic.)

How many times did I hear or read that Sen. Mark Pryor was no Blanche Lincoln? That comment was meant to highlight Pryor’s political strengths, but also to throw Lincoln (who lost re-election in 2010) under the bus so party strategists didn’t have to look at why she lost and how hostile the Arkansas terrain has become for any Democrat.

“They have their own brands,” I heard repeatedly about Pryor and Sens. Mark Begich in Alaska and Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana from Democratic operatives and journalists.

But, Bennet, Reid and McCaskill were victorious because the GOP nominated horrible candidates against them, not because the Democratic candidates had such untouchable brands, Democratic strategists had unique insights or party operatives knew how to win tough races. Full story

The Stunningly Static White Evangelical Vote

 The Stunningly Static White Evangelical Vote

Reed, right, speaks with Rep. Pete Sessions at the 2010 CPAC Conference held by the American Conservative Union in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s plenty of discussion about the difference between midterm and presidential electorates, but there is one emerging constant: the white evangelical vote.

At least one interest group, Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, claimed that conservative Christians played a “decisive role” in the recent midterm elections. But according to the exit polls, white evangelicals made up the same percentage of the electorate and voted nearly the exact same way this year as they did in the two previous elections. Full story

November 12, 2014

No Guarantee Democrats Rebound in 2016

 No Guarantee Democrats Rebound in 2016

Pelosi and her party may have a difficult time rebounding from this year’s GOP wave. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After suffering heavy losses in the House and the Senate in the recent midterm elections, some congressional Democrats may breathe a sigh of relief now that President Barack Obama is entering his final two years in office.

But the approaching end of the Obama Administration doesn’t mean  Obama won’t be a factor in 2016 and, figuratively, on the ballot, again.

In 2006, Republicans lost 31 House seats and six Senate seats, as well as majorities in both chambers. GOP strategists understood voters were sending their party a message. But they also took some solace that unpopular President George W. Bush was in the twilight of his tenure and wouldn’t be on the ballot again.

They were wrong. Full story

November 11, 2014

Mary Landrieu’s Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

 Mary Landrieus Tall Task in the Louisiana Runoff

Landrieu is in a tough spot heading into her runoff election with Cassidy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has already made it quite clear that she isn’t going to go quietly in her bid to win a fourth term in next month’s Dec. 6 runoff.

Her effort to brand Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy as “nearly incoherent” ranks up there with Kentucky Democrat Dan Mongiardo’s effort to label Republican Sen. Jim Bunning as not entirely in control of his senses during that state’s 2004 Senate race. (Bunning, who started the race as an overwhelming favorite, was re-elected by only 22,000 votes, a margin of fewer than 2 points.)

This is the ultimate example of trying to “localize” a race, of trying to get voters to focus on the two candidates and forget everything else.

Landrieu doesn’t explain the source of her opponent’s alleged incoherence. But to her campaign, it doesn’t matter whether voters think that Cassidy might have an alcohol or pharmacological problem, or whether they think that he is merely “not quite right.” Full story

November 6, 2014

Ratings Change: Louisiana Senate

There was a chance the entire country would be spending the month of November focused on Louisiana, as the Senate majority hinged on the fate of Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in a December runoff. That scenario has evaporated, but is the race still worth watching?

Landrieu finished first in the Nov. 4 jungle primary, but with just 42 percent. GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy finished second with 41 percent, followed by Republican Rob Maness at 14 percent. For some perspective, Landrieu won re-election in 2008 with 52 percent.

In 2002, Landrieu received 46 percent in the initial primary and 52 percent in the runoff. My colleague, Stu Rothenberg, will have a deeper analysis about that race and this year’s contest early next week. Full story

November 5, 2014

2014: Plenty of Surprises, but None Totally Unexpected

Yes, that was a wave. A big one. In many respects, it was a wave that was larger and more damaging to Democrats than in 2010.

Republicans now have more House seats, more Senate seats and more governorships than they did after the humongous GOP wave of 2010. They now have the governors of Maryland and Massachusetts, a post-Great Depression record of House seats and, finally, control of the Senate.

I didn’t expect these congressional Democrats to have close races: Maryland’s John Delaney, California’s Jim Costa, Connecticut’s Jim Himes and New York’s Louise M. Slaughter. The same goes for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

And then there were the margins. Full story

It Was Definitively a Wave

 It Was Definitively a Wave

Senator-elect Cotton speaks with New Jersey Gov. Christie during a rally in Arkansas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A week before the election, Stu waded into the discussion about what constitutes an electoral wave. One of his main points: “I know it when I see it.”

Well, we saw it on Tuesday.

Republicans gained more House and Senate seats than the most likely pre-election projections. But it was the margins in individual races that were so stunning.

For political junkies, handicappers, and reporters, Election Day is the Super Bowl. And as the midterm elections unfolded, it started to feel like the last big game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. Full story

November 4, 2014

GOP Candidates More Popular Than Democrats in Top Senate Races

 GOP Candidates More Popular Than Democrats in Top Senate Races

Landrieu arrives at a rally with supporters in Shreveport. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Here is an emerging surprise of the midterm elections: Republican candidates are more popular than Democratic candidates in top Senate contests.

It’s no secret the path to victory for Democrats in the Senate was to demonize GOP candidates in the eyes of voters who are dissatisfied with President Barack Obama. For much of the cycle, Democrats were banking on their incumbents’ personal popularity and connection to each of their states being enough to carry them to victory.

But after millions of dollars worth of attack ads, Republican candidates appear to have weathered the Democratic storm and are held in higher standing with voters coming into Election Day in a handful of key contests.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Republicans (Still) Poised to Pick Up 6 to 8 Senate Seats

 Republicans (Still) Poised to Pick Up 6 to 8 Senate Seats

Cotton chats with supporters during a campaign rally in Mountain View, Ark. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Almost two months ago, on September 8th, I wrote that while the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings projected Republican Senate gains in the five to eight seat range, I was “expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.”

“But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain,” I added.

Now, eight weeks later, it certainly looks as if Republicans will win the Senate.

Though I had not at all expected it, that September column ended up burning bridges to two Democrats on whom I had long relied for their political savvy and expertise. Their reactions, however, told me that I was more likely to be right than wrong. Full story

Election Eve Updates from The Rothenberg Political Report

With just hours before Election Day, the only question is how good of a night it will be for Republicans.

In the Senate, the following states have been updated: Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky and West Virginia.

In the House, we’ve updated the state of play in the following districts: Arkansas’ 2nd, California’s 52nd, Georgia’s 12th, Michigan’s 6th, Nebraska’s 2nd, New York’s 1st and Utah’s 4th.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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