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July 31, 2014

Posts in "West Virginia"

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.

July 1, 2014

How Parties Communicate Without Coordinating

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Israel is the DCCC’s chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Party campaign committees and outside groups aren’t allowed to coordinate, but as they outline their fall television ad strategies, interested groups are doing a very public dance to ensure they don’t step on each others’ toes and waste money duplicating efforts.

Now we have some specific examples of districts where this collaboration is taking place. Full story

April 29, 2014

Warning: Senate Races Aren’t as Close as They Appear

GAPOL14 156 041614 445x296 Warning: Senate Races Arent as Close as They Appear

Nunn is running for the open Senate seat in Georgia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I’ve noticed with some alarm how many people fail to make reasonable distinctions among races that admittedly have some factors in common.

So let me make an important distinction: While Democratic Senate candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes, 35, and Michelle Nunn, 47, have difficult races ahead of them in Kentucky and Georgia, each has a path to victory.

Conversely, I don’t currently see a path for West Virginia Democrat Natalie Tennant, 46. Full story

April 23, 2014

Charleston Gazette Endorsements Need a Little Perspective

WVPOL14 042 041514 445x290 Charleston Gazette Endorsements Need a Little Perspective

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, left,  is running for the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Stop the presses!

The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s largest newspaper, has endorsed both Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant and Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat in the 3rd District.

Tennant will face Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in November in an open-seat contest, while Rahall will face Evan Jenkins, a former Democrat who switched parties to run against the 19-term congressman.

Tennant’s campaign was ecstatic about the endorsement, quoting from it extensively in a recent press release.

But I’ve written before (here and here) about how little value endorsements have in high-profile contests (Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama couldn’t help him carry the state in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary) and the Gazette endorsement is particularly irrelevant.

Why? Because the Charleston Gazette is increasingly out of step with West Virginia’s politics. Full story

March 31, 2014

Ratings Change: West Virginia’s 3rd District

rahall 097 091113 445x278 Ratings Change: West Virginia’s 3rd District

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

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., has been elected and re-elected to Congress 19 times to his southern West Virginia seat.

But this November could be different, and his political future is very much in doubt. Full story

February 20, 2014

Obamacare Can Be Complicated for Republicans Beyond the Beltway

For Republicans in D.C., the Affordable Care Act is a black and white issue — you are either for it or against it. And they are all against it. But for many GOP legislators and candidates outside the Beltway, the politics of Obamacare is much more complicated.

In Oregon, state Rep. Jason Conger has been on the defensive for his votes to set up a state insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, as he seeks the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race.

According to The Oregonian, at least one of Conger’s opponents has attacked him for voting in favor of Cover Oregon, which had some well-publicized website difficulties. Of course, Conger didn’t let the charges go unanswered.

“Legislators don’t get to vote on federal law,” Conger responded in the article, saying that it wasn’t true his votes were the “equivalent of Obamacare.”

Conger isn’t the only candidate wrestling with the issue. Full story

January 24, 2014

Ratings Change: West Virginia’s 3rd District

Everybody knows “Nicky Joe,” but that doesn’t mean the Democratic congressman is immune to election defeat.

It’s true that Rep. Nick J. Rahall II is somewhat of an institution in southern West Virginia. He’s been in Congress since Jimmy Carter was president, and Republicans have never been able to defeat him. But these are different times.

Mitt Romney carried West Virginia’s 3rd District with 65 percent in 2012, and John McCain won it with 56 percent in 2008. But the presidential numbers dramatically understate Rahall’s appeal in the district. This cycle will put him to the test.

Republicans believe they finally have a top contender in party-switching state Sen. Evan Jenkins. The Republican had nearly $200,000 in campaign funds at the end of September, but more importantly, he should be a candidate worthy of a heavy investment from Republican outside groups later in the year.

Rahall won a nineteenth term in 2012, 54 percent to 46 percent, against Republican Rick Snuffer. The congressman outspent his challenger $1.6 million to $590,000. At least one thing seems certain: Rahall will not voluntarily retire this year. He raised more than $400,000 in the fourth quarter of last year — a large sum for a traditionally slow-starting fundraiser — and the filing deadline is Saturday.

Similar to Minnesota’s 7th District, the Republican lean of the district and a credible GOP challenger makes this a race to watch. We’re moving West Virginia’s 3rd to Lean Democrat from Democrat Favored in the Rothenberg Political Report/CQ Roll Call ratings.

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

November 21, 2013

The Most Competitive Race in West Virginia?

Democrats recruited West Virginia State Auditor Glen Gainer to run in the 1st District in the aftermath of the government shutdown. But the party’s best opportunity in the state might be in the 2nd District, with a candidate that some national strategists were wary of earlier this year.

Barack Obama received just 44 percent of the vote in the 2nd District in 2008, and 38 percent in 2012. But after a dozen years, GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is leaving the seat to run for Senate, giving Democrats a fresh opportunity. Full story

November 7, 2013

For Some Candidates, Home Is Where the Opportunity Is

187050338 445x296 For Some Candidates, Home Is Where the Opportunity Is

McAuliffe won the gubernatorial race on Tuesday in Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

We all know that candidates and members don’t have to live in a House district in order to run or even represent that area. And I’ve written about a number of top-tier Democratic hopefuls this cycle who don’t live in the district where they are campaigning.

But there is a new category of candidate emerging this cycle: candidates who held office in one state but are running in another.

The most high-profile example is former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown. Brown, who was defeated for re-election in 2012 by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, has not closed the door on running for the Senate in neighboring New Hampshire against incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

Full story

September 26, 2013

Tennant Not a Game Changer Yet for West Virginia Democrats

A few weeks ago, Democrats didn’t even have a warm body in the West Virginia Senate race. So getting Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to run for the Senate was quite a catch.

But even though Tennant is a credible statewide elected official, she starts as a significant underdog in the open-seat contest.

Convincing her to run must have been quite a challenge. After coming up short in her gubernatorial bid in 2011, Tennant had her sights set on running for governor again in 2015. Like Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Tennant must have believed that switching course was her best next move.

There were some nuggets of information that may have encouraged Tennant to make the jump.

Before Tennant’s announcement, an Aug. 15-22 poll conducted by R.L. Repass and Partners for the Charleston Daily Mail showed her trailing Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito narrowly 45 percent to 40 percent. And Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III’s ability to win 60 percent in 2012 while President Barack Obama received 36 percent was also probably an encouragement.

But that understates her challenge. Full story

July 9, 2013

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Mid-Atlantic

A lone competitive Senate race in West Virginia and a few competitive House seats set the stage in the Mid-Atlantic region next year.

The bad news for Democrats is that the early list of top House races contains just one district in Pennsylvania. They would likely need closer to a handful of competitive House seats in the Keystone State, a traditional battleground, to get back to the majority after 2014.

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

June 19, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: West Virginia’s 3rd District

rahall 021 0202121 445x304 RATINGS CHANGE: West Virginias 3rd District

Rahall’s seat should be competitive. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By the numbers, West Virginia’s 3rd District looks like a prime Republican takeover opportunity. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the district with 65 percent in 2012. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won it with 56 percent in 2008. And President George W. Bush took 53 percent in 2004.

But winning the southern West Virginia seat — and defeating Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II — has been impossible so far for the GOP. Full story

June 14, 2013

Whither the Competitive Open-Seat Race?

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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

March 29, 2013

What State Political Trends Portend for the 2014 Midterms

PryorCollins032813 445x267 What State Political Trends Portend for the 2014 Midterms

Neither Pryor, left, or Collins have a party identification that fits with the political bend of their state. But while Collins has a strong brand and is not viewed as particularly vulnerable in 2014, Pryor is a top target for Republicans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Correction, 2:12 p.m. | There probably isn’t a better demonstration of the nation’s partisan political polarization than the makeup of the Senate. Only 17 states have split delegations, while 33 states have either two Republicans or two Democrats (or two senators who caucus with the same party, in the case of independents).

Compare those numbers to the Senate makeup three decades ago, and the change is clear. After the 1982 elections, 24 states had split delegations, while 26 had two members of the same party.

Some of the changes show how state (and national) politics have evolved.

Thirty years ago, Kentucky had two Democratic senators, Walter Huddleston and Wendell Ford. But in 1984, Ronald Reagan carried the state by almost 20 points, running so strongly that he helped drag in an obscure GOP Senate nominee. That upset winner, Mitch McConnell, narrowly defeated Huddleston to begin the state’s transformation into a Republican stronghold in federal races. Full story

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