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April 17, 2014

Posts in "States"

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

Ratings Update: Wisconsin’s 6th District

petri 064 071012 445x296 Ratings Update: Wisconsin’s 6th District

Petri is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., is the latest member to announce his retirement, opening up another potentially competitive congressional district.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel reveled in Petri’s exit, but there is no initial indication that his seat is falling into Democratic hands in 2014. Full story

Ratings Change: Massachusetts’ 6th District

tierney027 1019121 445x298 Ratings Change: Massachusetts’ 6th District

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

Massachusetts voters haven’t sent a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives from any district in nearly 20 years. Republican Richard Tisei nearly broke that streak in 2012 and is challenging Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., once again in 2014.

Tierney’s vulnerability is specific. Massachusetts’ 6th District voted for Barack Obama with 55 percent in 2012 and 57 percent in 2008. But Tierney nearly lost to Tisei last cycle, 48 percent to 47 percent, with the help from a Libertarian candidate who received 4.5 percent. Full story

April 15, 2014

Ratings Change: Minnesota’s 2nd District

kline 155 022713 445x296 Ratings Change: Minnesota’s 2nd District

Kline is a Republican from Minnesota. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was re-elected in 2012 with less than 55 percent in a district that Barack Obama won twice, making him an initial Democratic target.

But it’s safe to say that the race in Minnesota’s 2nd District hasn’t developed as quickly as some Democratic strategists would have liked. Full story

Ratings Change: New York’s 18th District

doma reaction006 062613 445x298 Ratings Change: New York’s 18th District

Maloney is a Democrat from New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By the numbers, New York’s 18th District isn’t solid-blue Democratic territory. But at this stage of the cycle, GOP optimism about defeating Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is very low. And that lack of enthusiasm could indicate that former Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican, won’t get much financial support from outside groups for the stretch run this fall.

President Barack Obama won the district twice, but with just 52 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2012. Last cycle, Maloney defeated Hayworth by a narrow margin, 52 percent to 48 percent. Full story

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 8, 2014

Meet 3 Divergent House Candidates Worth Watching

While some observers of politics apparently are only interested in statistical models that predict electoral outcomes, I have always thought that candidates matter — both during campaigns and, particularly, when the victorious arrive in Washington, D.C.

In fact I have found interviewing congressional candidates one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Last week, I interviewed three credible hopefuls in three interesting races: California Republicans Steve Knight and Jeff Gorell, and Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh.

Full story

April 7, 2014

GOP Congressman Skips Incumbent Label on California Ballot

Valadao002 0515121 445x296 GOP Congressman Skips Incumbent Label on California Ballot

David Valadao is a House Republican from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican David Valadao is running for re-election to the 21st District — but you wouldn’t know he’s the incumbent from his ballot designation.

In the Golden State, candidates can choose a short description to accompany their name on the primary and general election ballots. The ballot designation is generally three words, unless it is an official title, and it’s considered an important opportunity to leave a lasting impression on voters before they make their final selection. [Here is a brief explainer from the Riverside Press Enterprise from last year.] 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 31, 2014

Ratings Change: Ohio’s 6th District

Mandel 008 101912 445x295 Ratings Change: Ohio’s 6th District

Johnson is a Republican from Ohio. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ohio Republican Bill Johnson is an unassuming House Member who was elected in the GOP wave of 2010. His 53 percent re-election total has Democrats believing that a conservative Democrat would have a fighting chance against Johnson in the Republican-leaning 6th District.

While Jennifer Garrison’s profile as a moderate Democrat might be a good fit for the district, some of her stances on social issues have put her at odds with liberal Democrats across the state, and that could make fundraising more difficult for her. Full story

By Nathan L. Gonzales Posted at 12:50 p.m.
House, Ohio

Ratings Change: West Virginia’s 3rd District

rahall 097 091113 445x278 Ratings Change: West Virginia’s 3rd District

Rahall is vulnerable in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., has been elected and re-elected to Congress 19 times to his southern West Virginia seat.

But this November could be different, and his political future is very much in doubt. Full story

March 28, 2014

Ratings Change: Michigan’s 8th District

These Republican retirements must be driving Democratic strategists crazy. Some tantalizing districts have come open as formidable Republican incumbents have announced their retirements, but the midterm election environment is turning out to be very tough terrain for Democrats. And that makes it difficult for Democrats to take over those districts, which they certainly would have won in 2006 and 2008 (and possibly in 2012, as well), had they been open seats at that time.

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers is the latest Republican to announce his retirement. He leaves behind an 8th District that Mitt Romney carried with just 51 percent in the 2012 presidential election and Barack Obama won with 52 percent four years earlier. In 2004, President George W. Bush won the 8th with 54 percent.

Rogers is the 22nd member of the House to retire this cycle without seeking another office. From 1976 to 2012, the average and median number of House retirements was 22.

Full story

March 19, 2014

Memo to Democrats: Running Toward Barack Obama Might Work

ireland005 031414 445x300 Memo to Democrats: Running Toward Barack Obama Might Work

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Should vulnerable Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning districts run from President Barack Obama? The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza did a good job of explaining the futility of the strategy in his Tuesday post, “Memo to Democrats: Running from Barack Obama Won’t Work.”

There is an alternative, though in all likelihood few Democrats running in swing states or districts have considered it seriously: Run toward the president. And even though it may sound like political suicide, the strategy has been deployed with success in the past.

In 2004, Republican Dave Reichert was elected to Washington’s 8th District with 52 percent in what was then one of the most competitive seats in the country. He immediately became a Democratic target for the following midterm elections, particularly as President George W. Bush’s job ratings began to slide.

But instead of running as far away from President Bush as possible, Reichert invited him to the district for a fundraiser in mid-June 2006. 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

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