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July 26, 2014

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January 31, 2014

The Return of ‘Inside Politics’ on CNN, Sort Of

It was eight and a half years ago that I wrote a Roll Call column saying goodbye to “Inside Politics,” the five-days-a-week CNN program that not only helped launch my career as a political analyst and handicapper, but, more importantly, constituted the gold standard for in-depth political coverage on weekday TV.

I believed then, and still believe now, that the decision to kill that show, made by Jonathan Klein, then the president of CNN/U.S., was stupid. There was a considerable appetite for a news and analysis program like “Inside Politics” back then, and that appetite has only grown.

I hope that John King, who knows politics, succeeds with the new “IP.” But a half-hour program early Sunday morning will have a hard time rebuilding the brand or matching the importance that the daily program had under the helm of Bernie Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

You can read my 2005 column bidding farewell to Inside Politics here.

September 18, 2013

Democrats Ready to Land Recruit in Elusive California District

renteria001 100208 445x294 Democrats Ready to Land Recruit in Elusive California District

Renteria was Stabenow’s chief of staff in 2008. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s no secret Democrats whiffed at a huge opportunity in California’s 21st District last cycle. And while it’s taken them awhile to get their footing, it looks like they have found a candidate that could run a competitive race that matches the competitive district.

In 2012, Republican David Valadao won the Northern California seat with 58 percent over a flawed Democratic nominee who national Democratic strategists tried to defeat in the primary. Because President Barack Obama simultaneously carried the seat with 55 percent and the district is about 70 percent Hispanics, Democrats desperately searched for a credible contender this cycle.

Now it looks as if Central Valley native and former Capitol Hill aide Amanda Renteria is poised to enter the race for the Democrats, according to operatives tracking the race.

Roll Call profiled Renteria in 2008 as she ascended to become chief of staff to Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow. She was 33 and the only Latina to head a Senate office at the time. Full story

September 11, 2013

Is Dan Benishek Waffling on Term Limits?

benishek002 0218111 445x288 Is Dan Benishek Waffling on Term Limits?

Benishek is a two-term Republican from Michigan. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call File Photo)

When Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., first ran for office, he was a strong proponent of term limits. But now, the two-term Republican congressman’s stance is much less clear.

“Career-consumed politicians in Washington got us into the mess we are in today by voting for bills they haven’t read, for the deficits America can’t sustain, and for the unrestrained increase in federal power,” Benishek said in a press release on Sept. 29, 2010. “That is why I am happy to tell voters I strongly favor term limits. Three terms and you’re retired seems about right to me.”

At the time, Benishek was a doctor and a political outsider running in Michigan’s open 1st District against Democrat Gary McDowell, who spent nearly three decades in office at the state and county levels. Benishek won that race and was re-elected in 2012 in one of the closest House races in the country.

As he approaches his re-election for a third term, it’s unclear whether it will be Benishek’s last. Full story

September 3, 2013

Are There Really Fewer Competitive House Districts Than Ever Before?

According to conventional wisdom, there are fewer competitive House races than ever before thanks to partisan gerrymandering. But a closer look at the past 10 elections shows that the 2014 batch of races isn’t far from other non-wave cycles.

There are currently 49 House seats rated as competitive by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. That is down from the 68 seats rated as competitive prior to the 2012 elections and less than half of the 109 competitive seats in 2010.

But it is closer to the three elections that began the previous decade, when there wasn’t a national wave. In 2000 and 2002, 54 races were rated as competitive. In 2004, at the same point in the redistricting cycle as this year’s races, there were just 38 competitive seats. Full story

August 22, 2013

4 More Things Losing Candidates Say (Readers’ Edition)

The response to “6 Things Losing Candidates Say” has been unexpectedly overwhelming.

Republican and Democratic campaign veterans who don’t agree on anything have come together behind the list of losing candidate mantras. A reader at Daily Kos Elections even composed a poem based on the post.

There are plenty of things that candidates do on their way to losing a race, including blaming media coverage, blaming polls and blaming party committees for not spending money on their race.

But here are a four more phrases, offered by Roll Call and Rothenberg Political Report readers, that can be added to the list to give us a clean Top 10:

7. “Money doesn’t win elections, ideas do.” This is another sign that the candidate doesn’t want to raise money, won’t be able to raise money or doesn’t understand the importance of money in campaigns. The truth is that you can be the best candidate in the world with the best story and the best message, but if you don’t have money to communicate, no one will have any idea who you are or what you stand for — except for what your opponent says about you. Full story

6 Things Losing Candidates Say

It’s August of an odd-numbered year, but the 2014 cycle is heating up. That means dozens of candidates are visiting us at The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call in anticipation of the midterm elections.

Some of them will win, but most will lose. So we’ve started taking notes on some sure-fire ways that candidates end up in the latter camp. Here’s a working set of six buzz phrases that almost always guarantee that the candidates uttering them are headed toward defeat.

  1. “I’m running a grass-roots campaign.” This translates to: “I’m not going to raise any money.” Running an effective grass-roots and get-out-the-vote operation is important for a campaign, but winning a competitive House or Senate race requires multiple millions of dollars to make your case in paid advertising.
  2. “The only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day.” This doesn’t guarantee defeat in the upcoming election, but it means you are losing the race at the time and have no empirical evidence to the contrary. It’s up to the candidate to change the dynamic of the race. Full story

August 16, 2013

3 Key Factors Each Party Is Banking On for a Senate Majority

The Senate playing field is starting to solidify, and the fight for the majority looks like it will be decided in about a dozen states. But even though the fields of candidates are still taking shape in some of those contests, both Republicans and Democrats are banking on some macro-factors that will affect races at the micro-level.

Democrats are counting on three trends to boost their effort next year:

1. History will repeat itself in GOP primaries. This isn’t all that big of a stretch considering Republicans handed five Senate seats to the Democrats over the past two election cycles because weak GOP nominees have thrown races away. This cycle, GOP primaries in Kentucky, Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina could affect the party’s prospects next November.

Of course, just because it has happened in the past, doesn’t mean it will happen again. And some of this cycle’s GOP primaries are in states that Republicans probably won’t need to win to get to the majority, including Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.

2. Democrats will be able to boost turnout to presidential levels or beyond. This is a big question mark. Democrats are looking to mobilize young voters and minority voters next year to lessen the impact of a traditional midterm electorate that is older and white and usually benefits Republicans. Full story

August 9, 2013

4 Lessons From Amelia Bedelia’s Failed Run for Mayor

 4 Lessons From Amelia Bedelia’s Failed Run for Mayor

(CQ Roll Call Photo)

Amelia Bedelia could hardly hold down a housekeeping job, but that didn’t stop her from running for mayor.

Anybody with small kids or grandchildren is familiar with Amelia Bedelia — the well-intentioned nanny whose literal take on life gets her into plenty of trouble. But after her pun-filled adventures in the eponymous children’s classic, she ran for mayor in a subsequent book.

“Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor,” written by Herman Parish and illustrated by Lynn Sweat, chronicles one outsider’s journey to become chief executive of a small town. But even though Amelia Bedelia lives in a fictional world filled with forgiveness, there are plenty of real-life candidates who could learn from her experience. Full story

August 6, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Ohio’s 6th District

Mandel 008 1019121 445x295 RATINGS CHANGE: Ohio’s 6th District

Johnson has a new challenger. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ohio may not be a wasteland for competitive congressional races after all.

Prior to the 2012 elections, Republicans did a masterful job redrawing the Buckeye State’s congressional lines in order to minimize takeover opportunities for either party.

But in Ohio’s 6th District, former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison looks like the likely Democratic nominee after state Sen. Lou Gentile declined to run. Harrison would face Republican Rep. Bill Johnson in the general election. Full story

July 30, 2013

Oy Vey. The Summer of Jews Behaving Badly

174489943 445x296 Oy Vey. The Summer of Jews Behaving Badly

Weiner’s mayoral bid took a tumble in the polls recently. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It has been a bad couple of weeks for my people.

No, I don’t mean journalists. I mean the Jews.

First, it was Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger who was suspended for 65 games for violating Major League Baseball’s drug program. As the New Republic’s Marc Tracy put it, “Braun used banned performance-enhancing drugs, and then lied about it and impugned the character of his urine collector, and then lied about it some more and in ever more flamboyant manners.”

Technically, according to Jewish law, Braun, who grew up in Los Angeles, isn’t Jewish. His father is Jewish but his mother is Catholic, and the home run hitting outfielder has said that he did not have a bar mitzvah, didn’t observe Jewish holidays and didn’t attend religious services. Full story

July 25, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Maine’s 2nd District

Ten years ago, the open-seat race in Maine’s 2nd District was one of the most competitive in the country. The seat is open again, but it may be further out of reach for Republicans this time.

Rep. Michael H. Michaud delighted some Democratic strategists by announcing his gubernatorial bid. He also left the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with an open seat to defend. Full story

July 14, 2013

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

July 9, 2013

Gay Couples Could Face Different Campaign Money Rules Across States

Gay Marriage 11 062613 445x295 Gay Couples Could Face Different Campaign Money Rules Across States

The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, creating a conundrum for campaign finance rules for gay couples. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, gay candidates and their spouses could face different campaign finance guidelines depending on their state.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent an advisory opinion request to the Federal Election Commission asking that married same-sex couples and candidates be given the same rights as married opposite-sex couples.

“Now that DOMA has been invalidated, the Commission must look to state law to provide the meaning of the term ‘spouse,’” wrote Marc Elias, one of the top campaign finance attorneys in country, in the request on behalf of the DSCC.

But if the FEC agrees, as at least one expert expects, the situation could get complicated.

“The FEC is likely to conclude that it’s governed by state law,” said former FEC Chairman Michael Toner. “Then you will have different fundraising rules for different states.” Full story

RATINGS CHANGE: Michigan Governor

schauer001 121609 209x335 RATINGS CHANGE: Michigan Governor

Schauer is running for governor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Mark Schauer announced his gubernatorial campaign in late May, rejuvenating Democratic hopes of defeating GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in Michigan next year.

Schauer defeated GOP Rep. Tim Walberg, 49 percent to 46 percent, in 2008. He then lost to Walberg, 50 percent to 45 percent in a 2010 rematch. In spite of his loss, Schauer should give Democrats a credible candidate to take on the governor. Full story

RATINGS CHANGE: Colorado Governor

Not long ago, Democratic Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado looked like a sure bet for a second term in 2014 — and a place on the list of dark-horse candidates for the 2016 presidential contest.

But his last few months have been rocky, and a couple of public polls have poked a hole in his political armor. Along with his widely criticized handling of a death penalty case, Hickenlooper enacted a decidedly left-of-center agenda in recent months. Full story

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