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November 10, 2014

Review: 6 Races Both Parties Viewed Completely Differently

Collin C. Peterson

Peterson will continue to represent Minnesota’s 7th District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A month ago, I wrote about “6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently.” These were a half-dozen contests where strategists generally disagreed on the shape and trajectory of the race.

Instead of averaging out the differing opinions and declaring the races too close to call, it was more likely that one party would be very right and the other very wrong. Now, with results in hand, we can see who had the better analysis. Unfortunately, the parties split the races on Election Night.

Democrats were victorious in three races. Full story

October 24, 2014

Ratings Changes in Seven House Races, All Toward GOP

Steve Southerland

Gibson looks an even safer bet in New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, we’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in seven House races.

You can read more explanation in the Oct. 24 update for Rothenberg Political Report subscribers ($).

Here are the races:

Full story

October 8, 2014

6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently

Mary Landrieu

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 26, 2014

GOP Opportunities Expand in the House

Regardless of whether you want to call it a wave, the fight for the House continues to creep into Democratic territory.

Many of the Republican incumbents who were expected to have challenging races this cycle, including New York Rep. Chris Gibson, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, are starting the general-election sprint in stronger-than-expected position. Also, some Democratic incumbents, such as New York’s Dan Maffei, are in much closer races than anticipated. And now some hot spots, such as Hawaii’s 1st District, are popping up as potential Democratic headaches and look vulnerable.

We changed the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating in nine House races this week, one in favor of the Democrats and eight in favor of Republicans.

Once race moved in the Democrats’ direction:

  • Nebraska’s 2nd District – From Tossup/Tilts Republican to Pure Tossup

Eight races moved in the Republicans’ direction: Full story

August 26, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the West

Mark Begich

Begich will face Sullivan in a high-stakes election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The West has been difficult territory for Republicans over the last decade or so, but small GOP gains in the region could be a sign of larger gains elsewhere around the country.

If Republicans can win the Alaska Senate race, they would be in strong position to win that chamber’s majority. And picking up a House seat or two in California would likely be the icing on a very good night for Republicans.

Three races dropped from our Top 5 list since last summer. Nevada’s 3rd District is barely regarded as competitive at this point. The Hawaii Senate race isn’t worth watching anymore after Sen. Brian Schatz survived the Democratic primary. And GOP Rep. David Valadao is looking stronger and stronger in California’s 21st District, at least in this midterm election.

Here are the top five races to watch in the West this year: Full story

August 4, 2014

Rating Change: Hawaii Governor

Neil Abercrombie’s days as governor of Hawaii may be numbered.

The Democratic incumbent is at considerable risk of losing renomination Saturday to state Sen. David Ige. And the primary is throwing a considerable amount of uncertainty into the general election. Full story

May 21, 2014

Rating Change: Hawaii Governor

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Abercrombie, left, could lose votes to Hannemann. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s only been eight years since Republican Linda Lingle was elected to her second term as governor of Hawaii. But her success in that race overestimates the GOP’s chances in future statewide elections, including this year’s gubernatorial race.

Lingle was Republicans’ best possible candidate for Senate last cycle, and she was crushed, 63 percent to 37 percent, by Democratic Rep. Mazie K. Hirono. That should give anyone pause when handicapping former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona’s challenge to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the fall.

But former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s decision to run for governor as an independent changes the math of the race. The Honolulu mayor should be a credible enough candidate to raise the possibility of splitting the Democratic vote with Abercrombie, allowing the Republican, Aiona, to win the race with less than 50 percent of the vote. Full story

May 15, 2014

Democrats Wield Abortion Rights as Campaign Weapon in Primaries, Too

One party is using abortion as wedge issue in races all across the country — and it’s not the Republicans.

Abortion rights is a critical part of Democrats’ pitch to women in swing districts and states in general elections. But now some Democratic candidates from Maine to Hawaii are using choice as a key issue in primaries as well.

Last week, EMILY’s List and NARAL-Pro Choice America celebrated their coordinated attack on state Rep. Brendan Boyle in Pennsylvania’s 13th District. The week before, state Sen. Daylin Leach released a television ad against Boyle featuring a handful of women taking Boyle to task. Full story

August 5, 2013

Incumbent Primary Challengers: Some Promising, Others Premature

The 2014 primary season has begun with high-profile Democratic Senate primaries in Massachusetts and New Jersey. But they’re the tip of the iceberg in what promises to be a cycle of competitive, and possibly nasty, primaries in both parties.

Republicans face plenty of intraparty fights, including one in Kentucky where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a challenge on his right flank. Conservatives aiming to knock off establishment GOP incumbents are most excited, however, about their prospects against Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, whom they see as fundamentally weak with a record they can pick apart.

Simpson, a dentist who served as speaker of the Idaho House before winning election to Congress in 1998, hasn’t had a serious primary or general-election challenge since his first race, when he defeated former Democratic Rep. Richard Stallings in an open-seat contest.

The Club for Growth has already endorsed attorney Bryan Smith in the primary. “Simpson has been in Congress forever, he’s an appropriator and prolific earmarker, and he voted for the [Troubled Asset Relief Program] bailout and for the 527 reform act,” said Andy Roth, the group’s vice president of government affairs.

Smith calls himself a “real conservative.” His website says he won’t support “ANY tax increase as a member of Congress and would not have supported the debt limit deal passed by Congress this year.” He also criticizes Simpson for opposing a libertarian amendment to end certain National Security Agency surveillance programs.

By most broad measures, Simpson is a conservative Republican. He has a lifetime AFL-CIO rating of 15 and lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of 92. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association in 2012 and a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life that same year.

But National Journal rates him as only the 201st most conservative member of the House (fellow Idaho Republican Raúl R. Labrador rates as the 189th), making him comparable to Ohio’s Steve Stivers and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger. In Idaho, that may not be conservative enough for Republican primary voters — especially for those who regard even one “wrong” vote a violation of principle.

After the Idaho race, the prospects for the other high-profile GOP primary challengers seem less certain.


Businessman Matt Bevin is challenging McConnell in the Kentucky GOP primary. But conservatives who are less than enthusiastic about McConnell don’t yet know whether Bevin, who has some personal resources to put into the race if he chooses, will run a strong enough campaign to threaten the minority leader’s renomination.

Even conservative critics of McConnell say he’s not unpopular among Republicans. And the senator had almost $9.6 million in the bank on June 30. In addition, the president and CEO of American Crossroads, Steven Law, is a former McConnell chief of staff.

Seeing how Rand Paul easily vanquished then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the GOP Senate primary last cycle, McConnell has worked to protect his right flank. He’s hired Jesse Benton, who ran campaigns for both Paul and his father, Ron Paul, to run his campaign. Rand Paul has already endorsed McConnell.

South Carolina

The initial reaction in some circles to a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham can only be described as premature.

Nancy Mace, a public relations company owner and one of the first women to graduate from the Citadel, got plenty of attention over the past week both in South Carolina and Washington when she announced her entry into the GOP primary. She becomes the second Republican hoping to deny renomination to Graham, but some insiders believe the field could grow and that a runoff could present Graham with problems.

Graham, who had $6.3 million in cash on hand on June 30, has been preparing for possible primary opponents. His reputation as a conservative who seeks compromise to get things done certainly assures that some Palmetto State Republicans will want to see him retired.

But political insiders who have already met Mace (I have not) have come away less than impressed.

“She is kind of JV,” one conservative told me, adding, “If she gets a good team around her, maybe she can elevate her game. But a debate with Lindsey Graham would be really tough for her.”

Other GOP Seats

There are other primaries already in the works, of course — Liz Cheney’s challenge to Sen. Michael B. Enzi in Wyoming is probably the most obvious — and others could develop, particularly in the House. But it’s equally noteworthy that two pragmatists, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Maine’s Susan Collins, have avoided serious primary challenges.


Democrats don’t have as many interesting primaries yet, but their Hawaii Senate nomination fight already looks like quite a battle. Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz has drawn a primary from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a former president of the Hawaii Senate. Polls suggest that the race starts off as very competitive, though they differ as to who has the upper hand.

Schatz, who served in the state legislature and as Democratic Party state chairman, was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill Daniel K. Inouye’s vacant seat after the nine-term Democrat died in December. Inouye made it clear that he wanted Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to fill the vacancy, and Inouye’s widow has endorsed the congresswoman.

Hanabusa has had a tough few weeks after the Washington Post reported that her campaign may have violated campaign finance laws prohibiting “coordination” between an independent expenditure effort and a candidate’s campaign.

Schatz’s financial advantage — $1.6 million in the bank on June 30 to Hanabusa’s $650,000 — comes primarily from his huge haul in political action committee money. But the congresswoman has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, and she should raise enough money to be competitive.

The only elected senator from Hawaii of European ancestry was Oren Long, who won a 1959 special election after Hawaii became a state. He did not seek re-election in 1962.

Correction 11:15 am |  An earlier version of this column mistakenly said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is up for re-election this cycle. His colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is up for re-election in 2014.

July 14, 2013

Presented by Proctor and Gamble

Top 5 Races to Watch in the West

Even in good Republican years, the West has proved to be something of a Democratic firewall. But in 2014, Republicans will likely need to win a big Senate race in Alaska to have any chance of flipping the chamber. And if the GOP were to suffer a three- or four-seat loss in California House seats, it might well put its control of the U.S. House in jeopardy.

Here are the top five races to watch in the West next year:

Alaska Senate. Defeating Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is crucial for Republicans if they plan on being in the majority in the Senate. The GOP will have a primary, but as long as the party does not nominate Joe Miller again, the party should be in the ballgame on Election Day. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilt Democrat. Get the full Rothenberg Political Report analysis here ($).

California’s 52nd District. Democratic Rep. Scott Peters defeated GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray last year in a San Diego-area district, but he is already a Republican target. Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio is running close to Peters, and the race has hardly started. DeMaio, who is openly gay, is running as a new kind of Republican, but Democrats plan to tell another story. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Lean Democrat. Full story

June 19, 2013

I Would Fly 5,000 Miles Just to Help You Get Elected (Updated)

Tulsi, above, is helping Markey. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Gabbard, above, is helping Markey. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated June 20, 10:40 a.m. | Rep. Edward J. Markey is getting widespread support from Massachusetts to Hawaii in his special-election bid for Senate in the Bay State. Wait, what? Hawaii?

Last weekend, freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, took to the campaign trail along with a large collection of state, local and federal officeholders from Massachusetts, to help push the Democratic congressman across the finish line June 25.

But why is a young congresswoman helping a longtime politician whose race is 5,000 miles away from her tropical district? Full story

June 14, 2013

Whither the Competitive Open-Seat Race?

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (left) of Oregon might have to contend with fewer open seats this cycle. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, left, of Oregon might have to contend with fewer open seats this cycle. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Open seats are supposed to be opportunities. Without longtime incumbents on the ballot, these districts should be easier to takeover. But six months into the 2014 cycle, that just isn’t the case on the House side.

So far, there are 10 districts slated to be open seats because the member is running for higher office or retiring in 2014.  Either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney won all of them with at least 55 percent last year.

Full story

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