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July 29, 2014

Posts in "Column"

July 23, 2014

Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

 

walsh 107 021114 445x303 Montana Senate: A Real Race or Simply Manufactured Buzz?

Walsh, left, was appointed to the Senate earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe you believe in coincidences. I usually do — but not four months from an election.

Almost simultaneously, two different memos appeared from Democratic pollsters insisting the Montana Senate race has closed and the outcome of the contest is very much in doubt.

One memo, by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, meets existing standards of transparency and while I have issues with the firm’s conclusions, I was happy with the way the data were presented.

The other memo, by widely respected, Colorado-based Harstad Strategic Research, was dreadful and little more than spin. It fails to meet the minimum standards of disclosure about polls, and devoted more time to promoting the firm’s candidate, appointed Sen. John Walsh, and vilifying Republicans (and the media), than discussing data. Full story

July 22, 2014

‘Simple’ Doesn’t Equal ‘Easy’ in N.H. Senate Race

brown rally172 102112 445x296 Simple Doesn’t Equal Easy in N.H. Senate Race

Brown is running for Senate in New Hampshire. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having written about House and Senate races for the past 30 years, I’ve seen plenty of press releases, polling memos and campaign strategy emails. But rarely have I received anything as silly as a July 9 press release from New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott P. Brown’s campaign, which presented the challenger’s alleged “Path To Victory.”

First, let me note that Brown is virtually certain to be the Republican nominee against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If the Republican wave is large enough in the fall, or if Shaheen makes enough errors between now and Election Day, Brown could win. It isn’t impossible, just unlikely at this point. (The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call currently rates the contest as Democrat Favored.)

That said, the press release from Colin Reed, Brown’s campaign manager, screams to be picked apart. Full story

July 15, 2014

Fight for the Senate Still Very Much Up in the Air

hagan 271 042914 1 445x328 Fight for the Senate Still Very Much Up in the Air

Hagan is a Democrat from North Carolina. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The bottom line looks about the same in the fight for control of the Senate in November — but some of the pieces of the puzzle have moved around dramatically over the past few months.

Republicans need a 6-seat gain to take over the Senate next year. Three Democratic-held Senate seats continue to be headed to the GOP: Montana and open seats in South Dakota and West Virginia.

Most Democrats are pessimistic about all three, though some party insiders continue to hold out hope that appointed Montana Sen. John Walsh can close his early deficit against his Republican challenger, Rep. Steve Daines. If that should happen, of course, national Democratic money could flow into the race. But for now, Daines appears to have a clear advantage.

From that point on, things get a bit dicier for Republicans. Full story

July 7, 2014

Could Upbeat Economic News Help Obama, Democrats?

Last week’s news that the U.S. economy gained 288,000 jobs in June seems to confirm the upbeat economic assessments coming from many of the nation’s economists and Wall Street analysts.

The question is whether the data and increased optimism one might hear on CNBC will have an effect on the American electorate and alter the current trajectory of the midterm elections.

On a fundamental level, anything that improves overall sentiment about the direction of the nation is good news for President Barack Obama, and anything that is good news for Obama is good news for Democratic candidates around the country.

Good news could generate enthusiasm among base Democratic voters and, possibly, increase the chances that swing and independent voters won’t see the midterm balloting only as an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and the president’s performance.

Full story

June 24, 2014

Beware ‘Anti-Incumbent’ Election Hysteria

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Stu Rothenberg writes about anti-incumbency in the wake of Eric Cantor’s defeat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia is sure to lead to another round of speculation that the 2014 midterms might not produce a partisan-wave election, but rather one where large numbers of incumbents from both parties are sent packing by voters.

In fact, I recently heard one of the best political observers around suggesting that 2014 “might be like 1992, 1978,” election years when incumbents “from both parties went down in surprising fashion.”

I have written about anti-incumbent warnings before, but I hope to try to nip the anti-incumbent narrative in the bud this cycle — right now, in fact, before it spreads. I admit: I’m not optimistic. Full story

June 2, 2014

Thad Cochran’s Mississippi

cochran060214 445x305 Thad Cochran’s Mississippi

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CLEVELAND, Miss. — The rain pounded the Mississippi Delta for the better part of three days late last week, but the nasty weather and a hard-fought primary contest didn’t stop Sen. Thad Cochran from attending the Delta Council’s annual event on May 30 on the Delta State University campus. The council is an economic development organization, started in 1935, that includes eighteen Delta and part-Delta counties in the state.

A year earlier, the Mississippi Republican (and the state’s other senator, Republican Roger Wicker) had accompanied the 2013 event’s featured speaker, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, to the Delta. That was just before the Senate — and then, in July, the House — passed the farm bill, which has always been of great importance to the region’s farmers.

But this year, Cochran found himself in a nasty fight for re-nomination against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a self-described “constitutional conservative” who is all about cutting spending and government, and who charges that Cochran has helped grow government and empower the Washington establishment.

If you assumed Cochran would use this year’s Delta Council event to defend his record, criticize McDaniel or ask for support from those hundreds of people in attendance, you’d be mistaken. In fact, he didn’t address the assembly. He didn’t need to. Most of those in attendance had already decided whom they will support in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Full story

May 19, 2014

The Long Lost Tale of Phil Maloof

Wilson Maloof 06 22 98 445x299 The Long Lost Tale of Phil Maloof

Maloof, left, battled Wilson in the 1998 special election. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Most readers know that Nathan Gonzales and I, along with our friends from Roll Call, interview at least 150 candidates for Congress every election cycle. I have been doing it for many years.

Not every hopeful passes through our offices, of course, and many candidates have won elections without ever subjecting themselves to an interview. There is no ring that needs kissing here.

But many candidates seem to think that it’s something they should, or even want to, do. A young Illinois legislator named Barack Obama came by twice. House candidates Paul D. Ryan and Kirsten Gillibrand came in for interviews, as did Senate hopefuls John Edwards, Ted Cruz and Erskine Bowles. I have interviewed both long shots and prohibitive favorites, candidates who looked like winners and those who didn’t.

I have interviewed so many hopefuls that when a candidate doesn’t come by, especially if there has been some buzz about the him or her being sheltered and not doing many interviews with seasoned political reporters, I invariably think of Phil Maloof.

Full story

May 14, 2014

Ben Sasse, Mystery Man

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I am not at all certain who or what Ben Sasse is. I interviewed him in February, and heard him speak to a large, sympathetic group not long after that. And, of course, I’ve seen him interviewed by others. But I still don’t have a handle on what kind of senator he will be.

In that regard, at least, the Nebraska GOP Senate nominee is very different from Sen. Ted Cruz. After talking with Cruz a couple of times when he was still seeking the GOP nomination last cycle, I understood the Texan’s philosophy and his approach to politics in general and the legislative process in particular.

“Cruz is not willing to compromise even if it means being irrelevant to the legislative process,” I wrote in a July 31, 2012, Roll Call column, adding, “If elected, Cruz certainly will join the GOP’s ‘Uncompromising Caucus,’ which includes [then-South Carolina Sen. Jim] DeMint, [Utah Sen. Mike] Lee, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a handful of others, making it more difficult for his party’s leadership …”

But Sasse (pronounced “sass”) seems to have been able to be all things to all people during his Senate bid this year. That means he’s a skilled politician, but it could also mean that some Republicans will feel terribly misled after seeing him in action in the Senate. Full story

May 12, 2014

The New World of Election Coverage and Analysis: A Case Study

My new statistical model of the open Wisconsin Senate seat suggests that Democrats now have only a 54.496 percent chance of holding the seat. That’s a dramatic change from just three weeks ago, when my model showed them with a 55.501 percent chance.

The change results from three main developments: (1) changes in the national generic ballot that are likely to filter down the ballot, (2) changes in my turnout model, specifically among voters with Scandinavian surnames, and (3) the unexpected development that Pisces has entered the House of Scorpio, indicating an increasing sexual energy that should benefit Republicans, who have had a long-term advantage with macho male voters.

In addition, multiple public polls conducted by high school students now suggest that the state, which went for Republicans Dwight Eisenhower (in 1952 and 1956) and Richard M. Nixon (in 1960), but flipped in 1964 to support Democrat Lyndon Johnson, could possibly be poised to either flip again or not flip again, depending on the meaning of the word flip. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 2:11 p.m.
Column

May 6, 2014

And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is …

NCPOL14 035 050514 445x282 And the Winner of the GOP’s Civil War Primary Is ...

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the Greg Brannon for Senate rally at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte on Monday, the day before North Carolina’s primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who is winning the primary campaign war within the GOP between pragmatic conservatives and the anti-establishment wing of the party?

It’s a simple question, but it isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. Part of the problem is deciding which candidates and races are part of the war.

The anti-establishment wing of the party actually consists of two different elements: economic libertarians, supported most notably by the Club for Growth, and tea party groups such as FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project and the Tea Party Express. (Anti-establishment voices like Sarah Palin and RedState’s Erick Erickson fit in with the tea party groups.)

Some groups and individuals have already proved that their endorsements and independent expenditures matter, while the impact of others remains an open question.

The Club for Growth, for example, is strategic in its approach and considers competitiveness before entering a race. It plays only where it thinks it can win. But FreedomWorks has a long list of endorsements that includes plenty of unthreatened incumbents, and while the Madison Project has endorsed Milton Wolf’s challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., so far the group has helped Wolf raise a mere $150 of its $10,000 goal for the candidate, according to the Madison Project’s website.

In other words, not all of the primaries that pit pragmatic conservatives against anti-establishment hopefuls are serious fights. The primary for Senate in North Carolina on Tuesday, for example, is not one of them — at least not yet — depending on whether state Speaker Thom Tillis is forced to face one of his GOP opponents in a runoff.

For now, in North Carolina and other races, a tea-party-backed candidate without any resources isn’t a real threat to an incumbent or a well-heeled pragmatic conservative.

In fact, there are only a relative handful of races that qualify as establishment versus anti-establishment campaign fights.

Full story

April 29, 2014

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

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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 22, 2014

Obama’s Foreign Policy Impacts 2014 Elections — Really

No, I am not going to try to make the case that foreign policy will be at the forefront of this year’s elections, or that international issues are a high priority for most Americans. They aren’t.

But foreign policy could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections, making the issue more relevant than you otherwise might assume.

The growing perception that President Barack Obama over-promised and has under-delivered on international issues could add to the already hardening perception that his presidency has not been an unadulterated success. And that’s not good for vulnerable Democrats as the elections approach. Full story

April 15, 2014

How to Handicap a Campaign’s Ground Game in 2014

This cycle, Democrats are counting heavily on registering new voters and turning out registered voters who otherwise don’t bother to vote during midterm elections. Republicans are also putting more emphasis on voter contact programs.

In an era of micro-targeting and sophisticated get-out-the-vote operations, how can a handicapper know exactly how an election outcome will be affected by a strong ground game?

For me, the answer has always been pretty obvious: I can’t. Full story

By Stuart Rothenberg Posted at 5 a.m.
Column

April 8, 2014

Meet 3 Divergent House Candidates Worth Watching

While some observers of politics apparently are only interested in statistical models that predict electoral outcomes, I have always thought that candidates matter — both during campaigns and, particularly, when the victorious arrive in Washington, D.C.

In fact I have found interviewing congressional candidates one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Last week, I interviewed three credible hopefuls in three interesting races: California Republicans Steve Knight and Jeff Gorell, and Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh.

Full story

April 1, 2014

Senator Thad Cochran, Underdog?

Forget about Matt Bevin’s challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Republican primary or Milton Wolf’s bid to knock off Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in that state’s GOP contest. The Senate primary to watch is Mississippi’s.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel has the best chance of any anti-establishment Senate hopeful to knock off an incumbent, and the defeat of six-term Senate veteran Thad Cochran would send shock waves through both the national media and the Republican Party.

Cochran, the first Republican popularly elected to the Senate in the state’s history, is an institution in the Magnolia State and has the support of most Mississippi GOP officeholders, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and former Gov. Haley Barbour. And Barbour’s nephew, Henry Barbour, is running the super PAC established to get the senator re-elected.

Cochran, 76, is in trouble — in deep trouble — primarily because of changes in the Republican Party. But it’s also true that the senator, and his campaign, didn’t start his re-election effort where they needed to be. Full story

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