Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

Posts in "Arkansas"

October 17, 2014

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings Changes

 Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings Changes

Nunn is challenging Perdue for Georgia Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While national polls show a stable landscape, polls in individual races continue to show some movement. That movement leads us to make a number of changes to our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings.

Most of the House changes benefit the GOP, while the Senate and governor changes are far more mixed.

Senate Changes:

  • Georgia (GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring) from Republican Favored to Leans Republican.
  • Louisiana Senate (Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu) from Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican.

(Read more about the Senate changes in the Oct. 17 Rothenberg Political Report ($))

House Changes: Full story

October 16, 2014

Not His Father’s Arkansas

farm 03 042513 Not His Father’s Arkansas

Pryor is seeking re-election. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I have been thinking for months about how politics has changed over the past decade, but those changes struck home in a very obvious way while I was reading a recent Washington Post article written by the very able Philip Rucker.

“Senator’s parents hit trail to preserve Ark. dynasty” was a front page piece that noted the efforts of former governor and former senator David Pryor and his wife, Barbara, to help their son, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, win re-election next month.

David Pryor won three races for Congress, two elections for governor and three Senate contests (losing only a Senate primary in 1972) between 1966 and 1990. He rarely had a tough race, and he was held in high regard by many Arkansans, even those who didn’t vote for him.

Full story

October 13, 2014

Ratings Change: Arkansas Senate

Arkansas Senate polls conducted by Democrats and one media outlet suggest Sen. Mark Pryor leads GOP challenger Rep. Tom Cotton by a couple of percentage points. But most surveys — both public and unreleased — suggest Cotton holds a modest but stable mid-single digit lead in the contest.

Someone is off base here, and a cautious approach would lead us to leaving the race in one of our Tossup categories. But given the national dynamics, Pryor’s recent stumble in answering a question on President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis, and the weight of the polling data that we have seen, we remain deeply skeptical about Pryor’s prospects — so skeptical that we are moving the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race to Leans Republican. Full story

October 8, 2014

6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently

 6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently

Peterson was targeted from the beginning. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While Democratic and Republican operatives have their own analysis on each race, they often agree on how close a race is and which candidate has the edge.

Sometimes, however, they have wildly different views on where races stand.

In California’s 52nd and Florida’s 2nd, for example, both parties agree the race is close and they have resigned themselves to slogging it out until the end with expensive television ad campaigns. In West Virginia’s 3rd District, the parties disagreed for months which candidate is better-positioned to win — and now they agree Rep. Nick J. Rahall II’s re-election will be a close contest.

But when the parties disagree, their views can be fundamentally different. In at least six contests this cycle, party operatives disagree on where the races stand and where they are headed.

Here is a look at a half-dozen seats where strategists aren’t on the same page — and sometimes seem to be reading out of totally different books. Full story

September 30, 2014

Family Ties May Not Be Enough to Save Vulnerable Senators

 Family Ties May Not Be Enough to Save Vulnerable Senators

Landrieu may not be laughing come November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It seems like everyone wrote the story: Family political dynasties were supposed to save Mark Begich, Mark Pryor and Mary L. Landrieu, the trio of vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election in Republican-leaning states.

But as the sports adage says, “That’s why they play the games.”

The three Democrats’ strong family connections to voters in Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana respectively has been one of the most popular narratives of the 2014 cycle. Roll Call, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek and National Journal all wrote similar stories, just to mention a few.

But with five weeks to go before Election Day, Pryor, Begich and Landrieu are even more vulnerable than they were when the cycle started. And their Democratic colleague, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, is arguably in better position for re-election, even though she lacks a similar political pedigree. Full story

September 23, 2014

Fight for Senate Control Down to Five States

With six weeks to go, the fight for control of the Senate is down to five states, four of them currently held by Democrats.

Republicans must win only two of those contests to guarantee the 51 seats they need to control the Senate for the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. And they need to win only one of the Democratic states if they hold the only GOP seat at serious risk.

While things could still change — and national polls continue to show an environment that may produce a substantial GOP wave in the House and Senate — the Senate battle has boiled down to two reliably red states and three swing states.

Full story

September 8, 2014

Rothenberg: Senate GOP Gains At Least 7 Seats

 Rothenberg: Senate GOP Gains At Least 7 Seats

Pryor is one incumbent in perilous position. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now 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.

Rothenberg Political Report ratings reflect both where a race stands and, more importantly, where it is likely headed on Election Day. Since early polls rarely reflect the eventual November environment, either in terms of the candidates’ name recognition and resources or of the election’s dynamic, there is often a gap between how I categorize each race (my ratings) and what I privately assume will happen in November.

That gap closes as Election Day approaches, of course, since polling should reflect changes in name identification, candidate and party spending, and voter attitudes as November approaches.

Full story

August 28, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

 Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

Landrieu’s race could decide the majority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The South continues to be dominated by big Senate races, with a couple of interesting House races sprinkled in for fun.

There have been two changes to the 5 races to watch list since last summer. North Carolina’s 7th District dropped off after Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre chose retirement instead of another competitive race against Republican David Rouzer. The Kentucky Senate race is still competitive between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but everyone will be watching that race regardless of whether I include it on the list.

Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year: Full story

June 9, 2014

Mark Pryor: Still This Cycle’s Most Vulnerable Senator

pryor 140 031114 445x302 Mark Pryor: Still This Cycles Most Vulnerable Senator

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

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.

February 5, 2014

Liberal County Commissioner Supports Conservative Challenger to Roberts

wolf 087 012714 445x291 Liberal County Commissioner Supports Conservative Challenger to Roberts

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Milton Wolf, a diagnostic radiologist, is running as the conservative alternative to Sen. Pat Roberts in the Republican primary in Kansas. But Wolf was just endorsed by Liberal county commissioner Jim Rice.

OK, seriously: Rice is chairman of the Seward County Commission from Liberal, Kansas (population 21,000). But you can’t make this stuff up.

Wolf was in Washington last week making the rounds. He stopped by the Rothenberg Political Report headquarters and sat down with Roll Call for an on-camera interview.

Roberts will have the vast majority of the establishment support, but Wolf will likely need to peel away a little more local support than a county commissioner from rural southwest Kansas to win the nomination. Wolf has been endorsed by Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project (led by former Kansas Rep. Jim Ryun). Full story

January 14, 2014

Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

tennis004 050813 445x300 Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

McIntyre is retiring, giving Republicans a strong opportunity to pick up his House seat in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I wrote my first Dangerous Dozen open House seats column in this space 14 years ago, so I figured I might as well keep the streak going, though it isn’t nearly as impressive as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

As in my Jan. 17, 2000, column, the districts are listed in order of vulnerability. “All of the races on the list currently are worth watching, but I’ve concluded that the races at the top of the list are more likely to change party control than those at the bottom,” I wrote back then. The same applies now.

Utah’s 4th District (Jim Matheson, a Democrat, is retiring.)

Barack Obama received 41 percent of the vote in this district in 2008, but only 30 percent in his bid for re-election. No Democrat will begin with Matheson’s goodwill or moderate record, making the district impossible to hold for his party. After November, Republicans will control all four of the state’s House districts and both Senate seats. Full story

January 7, 2014

Early TV Ads: Not New and Mostly a Waste of Money

By mid-December, more than $17.5 million had been spent on TV ads in just four Senate contests: in North Carolina ($8.3 million), Kentucky ($3.5 million), Arkansas ($3.4 million) and Louisiana ($2.3 million), according to a recent piece by Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad.

The numbers are interesting and newsworthy. But it’s important to understand the dirty little secret of early TV ads: At the end of the day, most of the ads, and most of the money spent on them, won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in the November results.

I know because I’ve seen this movie before — almost 30 years ago. Full story

December 19, 2013

Race Ratings Change: Arkansas Senate

 The Arkansas Senate race continues to be close and hard-fought. Polling shows the race extremely competitive, and both sides have already spent heavily. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor has spent almost $900,000 on his re-election bid, while Republican challenger Tom Cotton’s campaign has spent more than $300,000. Outside groups have also been heavily involved.

Pryor has run early ads attacking Cotton’s ambition and selected House votes, as well as TV spots that paint the senator’s values in a positive light to crucial Arkansas voters. Republicans have generally tried to demonize Pryor, but Cotton went up recently with a positive, introductory ad featuring the challenger’s mother.

Each side has boosted the other’s negatives, but Democrats have reason to hope that their initial attempts to define the challenger will make it more difficult for him to make headway against Pryor.

Voters in the state currently are able to make the distinction between President Barack Obama’s record and Pryor’s, and the president’s recent job approval dip didn’t seem to hurt him in Arkansas, where he had hit rock bottom earlier. That’s good news for Democrats who hope that in November voters don’t see Pryor as connected at the hip with the president.

But while Pryor’s campaign is off to a good start and seems to have benefited from a strong, aggressive early effort, the last few months have not been kind to Democrats nationally.

Currently, we seem to be headed toward a typical midterm election, with unhappy voters regarding Election Day as an opportunity to make a statement about the president. With Obama’s job rating in the upper 30s and low 40s in national polls — and lower in Arkansas — Pryor may not be able to swim against a strong Republican current.

Democrats like to point out that Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Montana) were able to win close, hard-fought Senate races in states that went comfortably for Mitt Romney in 2012, and they argue that those outcomes demonstrated that voters can make distinctions between candidates.

Voters can and do make distinctions, and that is why Pryor has any chance of winning re-election next year. But the difference between 2012 and 2014 (and 2010) is that voters in 2012 had separate votes to cast for president and the Senate in North Dakota and Montana, but next year they will have only one. Given that, the president’s performance can have more of an impact on House and Senate voting decisions in a midterm than in a presidential year.

We don’t now expect 2014 to be as bad for Democrats as 2010 was, but we also don’t expect the midterm election to be as good for Democrats as 2012 was. The makeup of the electorates will be different, and the president’s standing is likely to be lower.

While we continue to regard the Arkansas Senate race broadly as a tossup and think that Pryor is doing all of the right things, we are increasingly skeptical that he can localize the Senate contest as much as he needs to in a state where Obama is so unpopular.

We now believe that there is a better than even chance that as November approaches Arkansas voters will want to make a statement about the president’s performance, and the only way they will be able to do that is by their vote in the Senate race. Unless Pryor can drive Cotton’s negatives through the roof, and prevent his own from going there as well, it will be difficult for the senator to survive, no matter how good a race he runs.

Move from Tossup to Tossup/Tilt Republican in Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings.

December 16, 2013

Is Arkansas Really the Land of Opportunity for Democrats?

pryor 298 102913 445x290 Is Arkansas Really the Land of Opportunity for Democrats?

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

When we think of political battlegrounds, states like Ohio and Florida come to mind. But every so often, a small state becomes a partisan political battleground.

This cycle, that’s Arkansas — about as unlikely a state as you might imagine.

While Democrats see Arkansas as a place to mount a counterattack after a series of defeats, Republicans believe that it will be the Democrats’ Waterloo. Eleven months from now we will know who is right.

Four races are worth watching, and if Democrats can’t win with the candidates they have, they will have every reason to write off the state in the future. Full story

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