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October 24, 2014

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October 21, 2014

A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

 A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

Southerland has disappointed in his bid for re-election, Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In his recent column, “Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year,” Stu Rothenberg pointed out how a handful of under-performing Senate candidates could cost Republicans the majority. Similarly, though the House of Representatives is not in play, a trio of GOP incumbents could cost their party larger gains in the House.

Even as the House landscape continues to shift in Republicans’ favor, Reps. Lee Terry of Nebraska, Steve Southerland II of Florida and Michael G. Grimm of New York are perched atop the list of most vulnerable incumbents. And it’s not hard to see why.

Terry, Southerland and Grimm are all vulnerable because of self-inflicted wounds, and a great Republican year might not be enough to save them. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues, such as Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, David Valadao of California and Chris Gibson of New York, are facing much brighter re-election prospects — despite being early targets and representing more Democratic districts than Terry or Southerland. Full story

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 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 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

September 17, 2014

The Amazingly Static House Playing Field

 The Amazingly Static House Playing Field

Shea-Porter’s race is now rated Tossup. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a year of campaigning, television ads, a government shutdown, and a botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, the House playing field is virtually unchanged from where it was 12 months ago.

We recently updated the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in seven House districts. Arizona’s 1st District, Maine’s 2nd District, New Hampshire’s 1st District, and New York’s 21st District all moved incrementally toward Republicans. Ohio’s 6th and 14th districts and Pennsylvania’s 8th District also moved toward the GOP but to currently Safe.

By dropping the trio of races from the list of most competitive races, the total number of competitive seats (seats that have a chance of changing partisan hands) dips to 48 seats. That is remarkably similar to last September, when we listed 49 seats on our competitive race chart. Full story

August 20, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Mid-Atlantic

wvpol14 069 070514 Top 5 Races to Watch in the Mid Atlantic

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s a bad sign for Democrats when they have more Mid-Atlantic congressional opportunities in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.

But that’s symbolic of the 2014 midterm election cycle in which numerous Democratic opportunities that look good on paper just haven’t materialized. Four out of five races have dropped off the regional Top 5 Races to Watch list since last summer.

GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick is running strong in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and his race with Democrat Kevin Strouse should barely be considered competitive at this point. The West Virginia Senate race is competitive, but it doesn’t look like Natalie Tennant has the independent profile necessary to overcome President Barack Obama’s abysmal job rating in the state.

In New York’s 23rd District, GOP Rep. Tom Reed finds ways to make races closer than they need to be, but he is polling well heading into the general-election sprint. And in New York’s 11th District, GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm is still in the game, despite his numerous indictments. But as Democrats remind voters about his legal troubles, it seems unlikely Grimm will be able to survive and that this will be a hot race come November.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Mid-Atlantic region this fall: Full story

July 21, 2014

Rating Change: New York’s 18th District

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 Hayworth is a Republican from New York. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republican Nan Hayworth isn’t the only former member of Congress looking to come back to the Hill. But she spent much of the cycle looking like such a long shot that she didn’t get the same attention as former Reps. Bob Dold of Illinois, Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, or even Doug Ose of California.

Up until recently, multiple GOP observers were less than enthusiastic about Hayworth’s chances of defeating Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., in the 18th District. They lacked confidence in her campaign infrastructure and doubted that the former congresswoman could keep pace in fundraising. Full story

July 16, 2014

‘Would You Rather?’ House Race Edition

grimm 130 071114 445x297 Would You Rather? House Race Edition

If running in the 11th District, would you rather be Grimm or from Brooklyn? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the game “Would You Rather?” one is usually faced with a choice between two difficult and undesirable options.

“If you had a machete, would you rather amputate the feet of two friends or amputate one of your own feet?” asks the site YouRather.com. Or, “Would you rather spend a day with Justin Bieber or spend a day with Miley Cyrus?”

It’s some of the same anxiety facing voters at the polls in the next election. But the contrast in a trio of House races stand out as particularly difficult choices for voters this year. Remember, your first reaction may not be the best choice.

Question 1: Would you rather be an indicted congressman from Staten Island or a candidate from Brooklyn in New York’s 11th District?

Don’t laugh. The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

When a 20-count indictment came out against GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm in April, there was a widespread assumption the congressman could not win his re-election bid in New York’s competitive 11th District.

But the charges against Grimm may not be as toxic as being from Brooklyn in a district dominated by Staten Island. That’s one of the biggest challenges facing former Democratic New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., who is challenging Grimm.

There is qualitative and quantitative data that suggest this race is far from over. Grimm has withstood the barrage of negative headlines and is still standing. But the question is whether the congressman can withstand paid Democratic attacks headed his way later this year, particularly when is fundraising has been poor.

The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call continues to rate the race as Leans Democrat, but Democrats still have some work to do to put it away. And as I wrote this spring, legal action does not guarantee electoral loss.

Question 2: In a congressional race in West Virginia, would you rather be a former state senator from Maryland or a former Obama advocate?

Being a former state legislator and former chairman of the state party are common credentials for office, except when they are from a different state. Democrats, and even some Republicans, aren’t happy with Alex Mooney’s move from Maryland to West Virginia, where he is the GOP nominee in the 2nd District.

But even though most of Mooney’s résumé comes from across the state line, he is a Republican running in a district where President Barack Obama’s job approval rating can’t be higher than the mid-30s.

Democrat Nick Casey is trying to position himself as a bipartisan accountant, but he is a former state party chairman and top party fundraiser who endorsed Obama in the past presidential elections.

This race will be an excellent test of what West Virginia voters hate more: candidates from Maryland or candidates connected to Obama. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race Leans Republican.

Question 3: In a congressional race in Michigan’s 11th District, would you rather be a Santa Claus-impersonating incumbent or someone whose law firm sent a foreclosure notice on Christmas Eve?

Republican Kerry Bentivolio has been ridiculed for his reindeer farm and hobby of impersonating Santa Claus. He became an accidental congressman when former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was dropped from the 2012 primary ballot because of a lack of valid signatures.

But Bentivolio is a sitting member of Congress at a time when 99 percent of incumbents (273 out of 275 through July 8, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik) have won their primaries thus far this cycle. And the congressman’s primary challenger, attorney Dave Trott, is not perfect.

Trott’s law firm specializes in home foreclosures on behalf of banks and lenders. The Detroit Free Press detailed one eye-popping incident in particular:

But Rozier, like tens of thousands of other Michiganders, lost his home to foreclosure during the housing crisis. After a three-year legal battle with Trott’s law firm and the bank, the notice arrived last Christmas Eve. He was evicted in January and moved his wife, who is on kidney dialysis, his bedridden mother, and his uncle, who has Down syndrome and is in a wheelchair, into a neighbor’s empty duplex across the street.

But Trott is far outpacing Bentivolio in fundraising and is controlling the debate on the television airwaves. Most GOP insiders believe the congressman is at least a slight underdog in the Aug. 5 primary.

June 13, 2014

Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016: Is It Even a Rumor?

SS9 021609 445x292 Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016: Is It Even a Rumor?

First lady Michelle Obama has been the subject of several stories about an Illinois Senate race. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016 stories are classic examples of an out-of-control media narrative that is based on little hard evidence.

But it may also end up being a lesson on why it’s best not to dismiss rampant speculation.

The rumor that the first lady could run for the Senate in Illinois next cycle appears to have started with a blog item by Keith Koffler at Reuters. And even though it doesn’t appear to be based on any sources, the story spread like a Justin Bieber mugshot across the Internet. Full story

June 12, 2014

Obama’s New Nuance on His Student Loans

sotu tw010 012814 445x292 Obamas New Nuance on His Student Loans

Obama made another push for student loan overhaul this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama made a fresh case for student loan overhaul with an executive order this week, but he also relayed a much more nuanced version of his own college debt experience.

Over the last couple of years, Obama used his college debt as a compelling anecdote to connect with younger voters and to restructure the student loan system.

“Check this out, all right. I’m the president of the United States. We only finished paying off our student loans off about eight years ago,” Obama said on the campaign trail at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in April 2012. “That wasn’t that long ago. And that wasn’t easy — especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we’re supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we’re still paying off our college educations.” Full story

April 28, 2014

Grimm Indictment Gives Democrats Best Chance to Defeat an Incumbent

New York Rep. Michael G. Grimm’s arrest reminded me of one of my worst mistakes as a political handicapper.

In May 2006, the FBI raided Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson’s offices and home on suspicion of corruption. I assumed that since agents found $90,000 in cash wrapped in aluminum foil inside the Democrat’s freezer, that the congressman would lose re-election.

On Nov. 29, 2006, I wrote what I thought was a long, compelling and analytical story for The Rothenberg Political Report about how Jefferson would lose in the runoff. The congressman received a paltry 30 percent in the initial November primary. The state party endorsed his Democratic opponent, as did with former Sens. J. Bennett Johnston and John Breaux. Did I mention that the FBI found $90,000 in cash in his freezer? Surely voters would show Jefferson the door.

I was wrong. Full story

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 15, 2014

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

January 24, 2014

Washington Is a Matter of Life and Death to Congressional Candidate

For congressional candidate Lee Zeldin, trips to Washington, D.C., are more than fundraisers and media interviews. They are a reminder of life and death.

In the fall of 2006, Zeldin was deployed in Iraq with the Army when his battalion commander received a Red Cross message: Zeldin’s wife, Diana, had gone into labor at 22 weeks, and the couple’s twin girls were not likely to survive. The commander immediately sent Zeldin to Washington, D.C., where his wife was living with her father while he served overseas.

But Zeldin didn’t arrive for a funeral.

The doctors and nurses delayed the birth and Mikayla and Arianna were born at 25 weeks, weighing a pound and a half each.

LeeZeldinNICU1 Washington Is a Matter of Life and Death to Congressional Candidate

(Courtesy Lee Zeldin)

Full story

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

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