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March 18, 2015

So Long, Curtis

I had not spoken with Curtis Gans for the past couple of years, but his death on Sunday, at age 77, brought back a flood of memories.

Curtis and I had two things in common: We were both born in Manhattan and graduated from the Riverdale Country School, a private school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Full story

January 12, 2015

What Happened to The Rothenberg Political Report?

Rothenberg Political Report

Growing up, I wanted to be a professional baseball player, maybe a sportscaster if that didn’t work out. I didn’t know that being a political analyst was a viable occupation, or even an occupation at all.

In 1989, Stuart Rothenberg took over a small newsletter and built The Rothenberg Political Report into one of the most well-respected, nonpartisan publications in the country. After more than 13 years of working under and alongside Stu, I am excited to continue that legacy as editor and publisher. Full story

January 9, 2015

First Senate Race Ratings Revealed

For nearly two decades, The Rothenberg Political Report didn’t break down Senate races into nine detailed ratings categories 22 months out from the next election. That was an era when there was something called an “off-year” — and those days are gone.

For example, former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., began his challenge to GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey nearly two years ago. And some strategists argue Sestak never stopped running after he lost a close race to Toomey in 2010. Full story

November 10, 2014

Review: 6 Races Both Parties Viewed Completely Differently

Collin C. Peterson

Peterson will continue to represent Minnesota’s 7th District. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A month ago, I wrote about “6 Races Both Parties View Completely Differently.” These were a half-dozen contests where strategists generally disagreed on the shape and trajectory of the race.

Instead of averaging out the differing opinions and declaring the races too close to call, it was more likely that one party would be very right and the other very wrong. Now, with results in hand, we can see who had the better analysis. Unfortunately, the parties split the races on Election Night.

Democrats were victorious in three races. Full story

October 29, 2014

Ratings Changes in Key Senate Contests

Colorado Senate Race

Things just got a little tougher for Udall, Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With just days to go before Election Day, we’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating in some key Senate contests.

Colorado (Sen. Mark Udall, Democrat): From Pure Tossup to Tossup/Tilts Republican

The contest between Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner remains tight, and the state’s first all-mail election adds a dose of uncertainty to the equation. Republican and independent surveys have generally shown Gardner ahead by anywhere from a single point to a larger margin, while a few Democratic polls have shown Udall ahead very narrowly. Given the polls and our view that the GOP ground game has been seriously underestimated, we now believe Gardner has a narrow advantage. Full story

August 12, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Might Be Why Americans Hate Congress

David Valadao

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The media’s narrative about Congress is clear: It is unproductive, members care only about getting re-elected and they have failed to do their jobs.

So it should come as no surprise that Americans believe Congress has been unproductive, that members don’t care about doing the right thing, but only about re-election and Congress is a mess.

The average voter isn’t watching Congress closely enough to know how productive it is or how and why members make the decisions they do, but voters seem to have strong opinions about the legislative branch of government. Where do you think voters get their views about Congress’ productivity? How do they understand how members of Congress make decisions on legislation?

I have met the enemy and it is us.

Full story

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

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

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?

Dan Benishek

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


(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

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

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

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