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September 16, 2014

Posts in "Florida"

August 28, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the South

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

July 21, 2014

Rating Change: Florida’s 18th District

murphy 156 052014 445x296 Rating Change: Florida’s 18th District

Murphy is a Florida Democrat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a narrow victory in 2012 in a GOP-tilting district, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., looked like a prime target for Republicans in 2014. But the congressman’s fundraising, endorsements and campaign have him in progressively better position for a second term.

Murphy has proven to be one of Democrats’ top fundraisers in the House. He had $2.7 million in the bank on June 30 compared to $289,000 on hand for his likely GOP opponent, Republican Carl Domino. Murphy is starting to exercise that financial advantage when his campaign announced $1.4 million in television reservations for ads this fall. Full story

Rating Change: Florida’s 2nd District

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Southerland is a Florida Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The competitive nature of Florida’s 2nd District is not in dispute, but the ability of a Democrat to get over the top is a much larger question.

Stu Rothenberg has written consistently about the Democrats’ ability to draw between 46 and 48 percent of the vote. You can read his Oct. 2012 analysis here and March 2014 analysis here. I also wrote about a poll in the district in Sept. 2013.

We have been consistent in our view that a close race doesn’t necessarily mean that GOP Rep. Steve Southerland is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. But Democrat Gwen Graham may be the nominee to change that. Full story

May 13, 2014

Rating Change: Florida’s 13th District

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Jolly was sworn in in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Apparently Democrats are determined to challenge the old political axiom, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody” in Florida’s 13th District.

Just a couple weeks ago, Democratic strategists tried to pull off some ballot jiujitsu by keeping the Democratic field clear until after the filing deadline so they could run former Republican Ed Jany as a “No Party Affiliation” candidate in the general election.

Keeping the Democratic field clear looked like a good idea until Jany dropped out of the race Tuesday, leaving Democrats with no candidate at all in a very competitive district that Republican David Jolly won just two months ago.

Jany cited work conflicts as a reason for dropping out. But the Tampa Bay Times wrote a blistering story over the weekend poking significant holes in his resume.

In the small world of House races, this is a pretty major mistake. While Democrats didn’t have a clear path to a majority before Jany’s exit, now another competitive Republican seat is completely off the table.

Since Democrats don’t have a candidate, I think we’re pretty secure in changing our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Lean Republican to Safe Republican.

Jolly will face Libertarian Lucas Overby in the November general election.

The Most Influential Losing Congressional Candidate in the Country

University of Illinois professor George Gollin forced one of Democrats’ top recruits to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to win the primary. Now Gollin is popping up in other House races hundreds of miles away and potentially causing problems for more top recruits.

Earlier this year, Gollin spent nearly $500,000 in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 13th District, running from the left, including a blistering attack ad against former Madison County Judge Ann Callis, the preferred candidate of strategists in Washington. Full story

May 5, 2014

Beware of the Surprise House Primary Losers

hearing008 040714 445x300 Beware of the Surprise House Primary Losers

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Mike Simpson looks like he’ll survive the epic establishment vs. anti-establishment struggle in the GOP primary in Idaho’s 2nd District. But if last cycle is any indication, the incumbents that lose primaries this year will be in low-profile races rather than high profile battles between outside groups.

In 2012, Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt was caught off-guard in her March primary. The Republican congresswoman was in Washington, D.C., the night she lost to now-Rep. Brad Wenstrup back home in the 2nd District.

“Her unexpected loss serves as a warning for many members seeking re-election on new turf after redistricting or facing even the smallest political challenge,” wrote Roll Call’s Shira T. Center and Amanda Becker in a post-primary piece. “More importantly, Schmidt’s loss signals a still-unsettled electorate looking for a reason — any reason — to boot an incumbent from office.”

Apparently not every member reads Roll Call. But they should.

Three months later, Oklahoma Republican John Sullivan lost his primary to Jim Bridenstine in the 1st District. Sullivan wasn’t completely shocked on Election Night, but he admitted to the Associated Press that he ignored the race for too long. Even though the race engaged in the final days, it wasn’t a national race by any stretch of the matter.

Then, two more months later, Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns lost the Republican primary to large animal veterinarian Ted Yoho. It was a legitimate surprise to national race watchers and to the congressman, who had $2 million sitting in his campaign account when he lost.

Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes also lost his primary to Beto O’Rourke. But that race received some national attention because former President Bill Clinton came to west Texas for an event for the congressman. And The Campaign for Primary Accountability, which received a disproportionate amount of national media attention, made Reyes a top target.

Pennsylvania Democrat Tim Holden’s primary loss wasn’t a surprise either, particularly if you read Shira’s piece the week before. Republican mapmakers had redrawn his district, giving him new, heavily Democratic territory in Northeast Pennsylvania, far from his Schuylkill County (Pottsville) base. He was unknown in much of the new district, which no longer resembled the politically competitive district he had represented.

I should note that I did not include a group of eight members who lost in primaries because they lost to fellow incumbents because of redistricting. Each of those races was well-covered and it was inevitable that one incumbent was going to lose.

So before Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio, it’s possible that an incumbent such as Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones could succumb to his challenger. [Read Emily Cahn’s Roll Call story and Peter Hamby’s CNN story for a primer.] But it seems more likely that a member will lose in a race that no one is talking about yet.

April 18, 2014

8 House Race Ratings Changes Boost GOP, Democrats

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Dold is waging a comeback bid in Illinois. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This week Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call made ratings changes in eight congressional districts and confirmed our rating in a ninth — Wisconsin’s 6th District — after GOP Rep. Tom Petri announced his retirement.

Here is a link to the Ratings map and a quick rundown of the moves we made, with links to the corresponding analysis. Full story

April 17, 2014

Ratings Change: Florida’s 18th District

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Murphy is a first-term Democrat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The way things are going this cycle, Democrats could use a piece of good news — and Rep. Patrick Murphy’s re-election might be just that for party strategists.

The Democratic congressman was initially elected last cycle in a very close race, 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent, over polarizing GOP Rep. Allen West in Florida’s 18th District. Mitt Romney carried that district with with 52 percent.

That close margin of victory and Romney’s win in the district virtually guaranteed Murphy a slot near the top Republican takeover lists for 2014.

But Murphy has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the entire House. The congressman raised more than $675,000 in the first quarter and had more than $2.2 million in the bank at the end of March. Full story

March 17, 2014

Another Cycle, Another Poll Memo About Florida’s 2nd District

Democratic memos about the party’s optimistic prospects in Florida’s 2nd district never die. They simply fade away until the next election cycle, when a new one miraculously surfaces.

This cycle, the memo is from Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, and it insists that the Democratic nominee for Congress, Gwen Graham, is “uniquely positioned” to oust Republican Rep. Steve Southerland in November. (A September 2013 poll for EMILY’s List showed much the same thing, according to a blog post written by my colleague, Nathan Gonzales, here.)

The purpose of the March 10 edition is no different from similar memos in 2012 from pollsters Lester & Associates and Hamilton Campaigns, which suggested that Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson was poised for a possible upset of Southerland.

I wrote a very detailed analysis of the Southerland-Lawson race in this space on Oct. 9, 2012 — “Can a Race Be Tight and Yet Not Competitive?” — arguing that although the race looked close and Southerland would win only narrowly, there was almost no chance of a Lawson victory.

After looking at the district’s makeup and considering its very consistent performance in 2004 and 2008, I argued: “Voters in this district are incredibly polarized. It’s unlikely that 51 percent of the voters in this district would vote for any liberal Democrat, while close to 47 percent of district voters will always vote for the Democrat, no matter who he or she is.”

I ended the column with a rare (and almost always unwise) bit of certainty by writing “while some observers look at Lester’s poll and see a possible Lawson victory, all I see is a candidate getting his base vote — a vote that, because of the district’s makeup, will fall a few points short of what he needs.”

In fact, Lawson came in at 47.2 percent of the vote, while Barack Obama drew 46.5 percent in the district.  Interestingly, the president (158,753 votes) and Lawson (157,634) drew almost the same vote.

I was not surprised given the sharply polarized vote of a nearly evenly divided district. African Americans, college students and white liberals voted for Obama and Lawson, while conservative whites voted for Mitt Romney and Southerland. That’s the way it works in this district, where relatively few voters are up for grabs in federal races.

Democrats can win non-federal races in this district. Alex Sink beat Republican Rick Scott by more than 6 points in the district in the 2010 gubernatorial contest, and the Democratic nominee for the state’s chief financial officer also eked out a narrow win in the district.

But the Republican nominees for state attorney general and state agriculture commissioner carried the district narrowly in 2010, as did Republican Senate nominee Marco Rubio. But Rubio drew only 49.1 percent of the vote in his three-way race.

Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and former Sen. Bob Graham, looks to be a stronger challenger than Lawson. She has plenty of cash and contacts. Graham showed just more than $1 million in the bank at the end of December, an impressive war chest and slightly more than Southerland’s $840,000 on hand.

But 2014 could be worse for Democrats than 2012 was, and it certainly isn’t yet clear that Graham can beat Southerland.

To win, she needs to thread the needle, attracting the same generally conservative white voters who couldn’t stomach Scott in his initial bid for governor, but also getting a strong turnout from African Americans and younger voters who supported Obama. That’s an uphill challenge, especially considering historical turnout patterns among 18- to 29-year-olds. Their participation drops off in non-presidential years.

Lawson, who is black, was never going to be able to separate himself from Obama when the two of them were on the ballot together. Graham has at least an opportunity to do so, but the midterm’s dynamics work against her.

By the time Election Day rolls around, voters in Florida’s 2nd district are likely to see the House contest as a referendum on the president, which would undermine Graham’s prospects. And although the daughter of the former governor and senator does not have a voting record that Republicans can use against her, she is not a blank slate.

Gwen Graham was a national surrogate and Southern regional adviser for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential effort, and later that cycle she was the Florida Democratic Party’s national campaign liaison with John Kerry’s presidential campaign. She has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, the group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, and received contributions from labor unions and Democratic House members, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Unfortunately for Graham, federal races lead toward more partisan and ideological voting (undoubtedly driven by massive amounts of money from “outside” groups), not less. And the more ideological and partisan the election, the better things are for Southerland.

The race certainly is worth watching, but Democrats shouldn’t kid themselves about Graham’s prospects against Southerland.

March 11, 2014

Jolly Wins Special, Florida’s 13th Starts as Lean Republican for Midterm

Republican David Jolly eked out a narrow win over Democrat Alex Sink to keep the late congressman Bill Young’s seat in the GOP column. Polls had shown the race close, but most observers expected Sink, who lost the governor’s race narrowly in 2010, to defeat Jolly by 2 or 3 points.

A former Capitol Hill staffer who became a lobbyist, Jolly had to survive a competitive GOP primary and began the sprint to the special election with little money in the bank. Sink, on the other hand, was handed the Democratic nomination and began the general election with more than $1 million in the bank.

While “outside” Republican and conservative groups poured money into the race, erasing Sink’s financial advantage, Sink seemed to have many advantages in the race. (Outside Democratic groups poured money into the race, as well.) She was an experienced campaigner with a unified party behind her, and Barack Obama carried the district twice. And Jolly had more than enough political baggage to make Sink the favorite.

Democratic strategists argued that Republicans had an advantage in the low turnout special election. But calling Florida’s 13th District a “historically Republican district” is a tough pill to swallow after more than a decade of Democratic strategists practically guaranteeing victory once Young left the seat.

According to one Democratic consultant, there is no need to overreact to a 2-point loss, but there are a couple of potentially important lessons. According to the source, Republicans appeared to have done a better job at pinning down the sample in their polling, compared to Democrats. And Sink was probably a couple weeks late in effectively responding to Obamacare attacks. That’s remarkable considering Democrats should have been more than prepared for those ads.

The Republican special election win doesn’t guarantee anything for November. But it is likely to put Democrats even more on the defensive, undermining grass-roots morale and possibly adding fuel to the argument that more Democratic dollars should go toward saving the Senate than fighting for the House.

We rated the special election as a Toss-Up throughout race, but now that Republicans won heading into the regular midterm, we’re starting Florida’s 13th District as Lean Republican in the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings.

March 10, 2014

Why Florida’s 13th District Special Election Is Still a Tossup

106463599 422x335 Why Floridas 13th District Special Election Is Still a Tossup

Democrats are cautiously optimistic their nominee, Sink, can win. (Tim Boyles/Getty Images)

After almost five months and more than $9 million in campaign spending, neither Democrat Alex Sink nor Republican David Jolly has a clear upper-hand in the final hours before Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s 13th District.

Even though polling continues to show a neck-and-neck race, many Democrats are privately and cautiously confident that Sink will prevail, based on her performance with absentee ballots (compared to Democrats who have won the district in the past) and polling of the outstanding voters.

But there is enough uncertainty to keep the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of race as a Tossup. 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

January 24, 2014

Ratings Change: Florida’s 10th District

Democratic chances of winning Florida’s 10th District took a dramatic hit when their 2012 nominee and top choice decided to run for another office.

Last cycle, GOP Rep. Daniel Webster defeated former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, 52 percent to 48 percent, in a very competitive race. Democratic strategists encouraged Demings to run again, but she recently announced her campaign for mayor of Orange County.

On paper, the district could be competitive. Mitt Romney won it with 54 percent in 2012, and John McCain won it with 53 percent in 2008. But Democrats need to find a strong candidate.

Former Eustis City Commissioner William Ferree, 69, announced his congressional campaign on the Democratic side. But he has a long way to go in terms of fundraising and name identification before this becomes a serious race again.

We’re moving Florida’s 10th District to Safe Republican from Republican Favored in the Rothenberg Political Report/CQ Roll Call ratings.

January 21, 2014

The Real Reasons Recruits Don’t Run

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Recchia is running in New York’s 11th District. He cut his first congressional bid short in 2008 after his wife was the victim of an attack. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I hate candidate recruitment stories.

More specifically, I hate stories that seem to blame the party campaign committees for their inability to coerce candidates to run.

In reality, there are so many factors that the committees cannot control that it’s simply unfair to hold them responsible for every alleged recruiting “failure.” Until party strategists obtain the abilities to heal the sick and cause children to age more rapidly, there is no amount of polling or promises that will get some potential recruits to run for Congress.

Florida state Rep. Kathleen Peters came up short in last week’s Republican primary in Florida’s 13th District, but most people are probably unaware of what she was going through personally during her bid. Full story

January 14, 2014

To Special-Election Victors, a Short Stay in Congress

Rep. Bill Owens’ retirement announcement brought back a flood of special-election memories. But one thing in particular stood out to me. For all the national attention that competitive special elections receive, winning candidates’ time in Washington is often relatively short.

Owens’ tenure, when he completes his term, is long compared to some of his special-election contemporaries. He was elected in a November 2009 special election and will leave office in January 2015. And even though Owens was facing a competitive race this year, he chose to go out on his own terms.

Others weren’t so lucky in their electoral fate or their time in office: Full story

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