Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

Posts in "North Carolina"

July 18, 2014

GOP Can’t Catch a Break in Congressional Baseball Recruitment

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Democrats won the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game again this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Phil Berger Jr.’s loss in Tuesday’s Republican runoff in North Carolina’s 6th District was about more than an establishment favorite getting knocked off by an anti-establishment challenger.

He could have been a key player for Republicans in future Roll Call Congressional Baseball Games.

According to multiple sources, Berger was expected to infuse the Republican Conference with some talent in next year’s 54th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. He was even talked about as a potential pitcher.

The GOP needed it, considering Democrats are on a six-game winning streak. This year, Democrats defeated Republicans, 15-6. Full story

June 12, 2014

Obama’s New Nuance on His Student Loans

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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

May 7, 2014

Rating Change: North Carolina Senate

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Tillis is the GOP’s nominee in North Carolina. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

State House Speaker Thom Tillis won the GOP nomination outright on Tuesday, setting up a general election match-up against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in one of the top Senate races in the country. Even though Hagan’s polling numbers have been mediocre at best, we gave her a slight edge in the race because of uncertainty in the Republican primary. Full story

Why This Year’s Primaries Won’t End GOP Civil War

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Tillis is the GOP nominee in North Carolina. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call)

The Republican establishment is fighting back, but winning a few primaries this year won’t do much to end the insurgency from party purists. It only takes one general election loss by an establishment candidate to reignite the fire.

Observers see what they want to see in the results, and they can be blinded by their preconceptions and personal preferences.

For example, state Speaker Thom Tillis won the GOP nomination in North Carolina on Tuesday. But if he loses to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November, anti-establishment Republicans will cry, “See, I told you so.” Full story

May 5, 2014

Beware of the Surprise House Primary Losers

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(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 17, 2014

Republican Whacks Harry Reid in New North Carolina Senate Ad

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Tillis is a Republican running for Senate in North Carolina. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Earlier this week, Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, went up with an ad attacking Republican state Speaker Thom Tillis for his connection to former aides who had inappropriate relationships with lobbyists.

Now, the Tillis campaign is set to go on television with a response ad.

The 30-second spot, titled “Meddling,” accuses Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of “trying to fool Republican voters, meddling in our primary to get a weak opponent for Kay Hagan.”

The North Carolina Senate race is rated Toss-up/Tilt Democrat by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, in part, because of uncertainty in the GOP primary.

According to a source with the Tillis campaign, the ad will be placed in rotation in a previous, ongoing ad buy, including $554,683 placed from April 14 to May 4.

Here is the transcript of the ad, produced by OnMessage, Inc.: 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

February 5, 2014

Ratings Update: North Carolina’s 2nd District

Everyone take a deep breath. Thanks to Clay Aiken, North Carolina’s 2nd District just became the most talked-about House race in the country. Unfortunately, the hype doesn’t match up with the reality.

The truth is that Aiken’s challenge to GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers doesn’t even make the list of 50 most competitive House races. Political handicapping might seem like some sort of mysterious and magical formula, but for the vast majority of contests, it’s very simple. And in this case, Aiken is a Democrat running in a very Republican district.

That’s about all you need to know. Running as a Democrat in a Republican district in President Barack Obama’s second midterm election will very likely trump any celebrity appeal gained from “American Idol” or “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Let’s put an Aiken candidacy into context: Ellmers was first elected in 2010 by defeating Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge by less than 1 point in a great Republican year. But that was in a dramatically different district. Obama won that district in 2008 with 52 percent, but Republicans subsequently redrew the congressional lines, and the 2nd became a district that John McCain would have won 56 percent to 43 percent. That’s a dramatic partisan shift, and Ellmers won re-election with 56 percent in 2012.

The bottom line is that, if Aiken were elected, North Carolina’s 2nd District would be the second-most-Republican district represented by a Democrat. (Mitt Romney had 57 percent of the vote there to Obama’s 42 percent in 2012.) If Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II loses re-election in West Virginia’s 3rd District (where Obama had 33 percent), Aiken would be a Democrat representing the most Republican district in the country.

Can Aiken become the next Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, John Barrow, or Collin C. Peterson? It would be very difficult, considering that those Democratic congressmen have been able to hold on to their seats because they were incumbents and demonstrated deep ties to their districts. Aiken is a political neophyte who will be more easily defined as a national Democrat now that he has stepped onto the partisan stage.

North Carolina’s 2nd District is more Democratic than Utah’s 4th District (30 percent of the vote went to Obama) and North Carolina’s 7th District (40 percent), where the incumbents are retiring, and less Democratic than Georgia’s 12th District and Minnesota’s 7th District, where Obama had 44 percent.

The natural question is whether Aiken’s celebrity profile gives him unique crossover appeal. The answer is probably not. Last fall, I spoke with former Minnesota candidate Patty Wetterling, who started her congressional campaign in 2004 with a reservoir of name identification and goodwill as a child safety advocate after her son was abducted in 1989. But that didn’t translate into electoral success.

“Once I became a candidate, 50 percent automatically didn’t like me,” Wetterling recalled. “I was surprised. I was naive. But I was also altruistic in my reasons for doing it.”

Aiken must quickly prove that he is an independent, conservative Democrat beyond getting appointed to a commission by President George W. Bush. Let’s also not ignore the elephant in the room. Aiken is gay at a time when the seven openly gay members of the House represent districts that Obama carried with an average of 58 percent, and none of them represent a district won by Romney.

Until Democrats demonstrate that this is a serious contest, we’re maintaining the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race as Safe Republican.

January 27, 2014

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up — and It’s Only January

Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a real news story and something from The Onion.

Earlier reports that entertainer Clay Aiken was considering a run for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina’s 2nd District have been overtaken by new stories about the singer “putting together a team” and preparing to run — one post in Roll Call, plus stories in several dozen other news outlets that don’t typically cover the tick-tock of recruitment in third-tier House races.

How exciting. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement. Full story

January 14, 2014

Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

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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 8, 2014

Ratings Change: North Carolina’s 7th District

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McIntyre is retiring. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House handicapping whiplash continues. Just days after Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., announced his retirement and gave Democrats an opportunity to win his 6th District seat, Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., announced his retirement, moving his 7th District from Pure Tossup to Safe Republican.

McIntyre has been a consistent GOP target, particularly after the last round of redistricting, when Republicans mapmakers redrew his district to be much more Republican. Mitt Romney won the 7th District, 59 percent to 40 percent, in 2012. John McCain carried it, 58 percent to 42 percent, in 2008 and President George W. Bush won it, 62 percent to 38 percent, in 2004.

In the face of long odds, McIntyre prevailed last cycle, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent, over Republican David Rouzer. Full story

Pay No Attention to That Title of Speaker in Front of My Name

As speaker of the state House, Thom Tillis is one of the most powerful politicians in North Carolina. But you wouldn’t know it from the Republican’s first ad in the U.S. Senate race.

“In the private sector, businesses are built on accountability,” Tillis says. “But accountability is a foreign language in Washington.” He goes on to couple Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan with President Barack Obama in the ad titled, “Let’s Clean Up Her Mess.”

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

October 1, 2013

Republican Senate Hopefuls Vary in Quality, Approach

I recently interviewed four Republican Senate candidates in the space of one week, and if I had to draw a single assessment from those meetings it would be that there is plenty of diversity in the GOP’s class of Senate hopefuls.The four differed in stature, style and background, and they dealt with the party’s internal debate of style and strategies in a variety of ways.

Republicans must hold South Carolina and win at least one — maybe more — of the other three races to have any chance of taking back the Senate next year. And that makes these contests in South Carolina, North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska all worth watching.

On one end of the continuum was state Sen. Lee Bright, one of three conservatives who hopes to deny South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham renomination and win the GOP nod himself.

Bright, whose professional career started with selling televisions at Circuit City, has experienced a series of business setbacks. In fact, I’m not entirely clear how he makes a living, though he said something about truck brokerage and credit card processing. He seems affable, but he lacks gravitas. Full story

September 23, 2013

Family Politics: When Water Is Thicker Than Blood

The relationship between parents and children can be complicated, particularly when both are politicians.

On Monday, state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced that he wouldn’t challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

In an interview with Reid Wilson of The Washington Post before his decision, Berger mentioned professional commitments to his colleagues at the state level as well as personal commitments to his family.

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. wants to run for Congress when GOP Rep. Howard Coble’s 6th District seat becomes open, and local sources say the elder Berger wasn’t interested in taking a political step this cycle that might hurt his son’s chances.

Berger wouldn’t have to give up his post as one of the most powerful politicians in the state just because his son was running for Congress. But he has been openly supportive of his son’s political aspirations in private conversations and realized that a Senate run could make his son’s life more complicated. Full story

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