Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

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

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

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.

Grimes’ likely general-election opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 72, has been in Congress for 30 years. He’s part of his party’s leadership and his personal poll numbers are mediocre, at best.

Grimes offers an obvious contrast on many levels to McConnell, and she has the resources to mount a formidable campaign. Of course, there are many hurdles ahead of her, but they don’t negate her assets and opportunity.

Nunn has a terrific name in the Peach State and in Washington, D.C. Her father was (and is) a highly regarded pragmatic Democrat, and her association with the Bush family through her connection with the Points of Light Foundation is an asset.

To have a serious chance of victory, Nunn probably needs to run against a Republican who would have problems within his or her own party. Rep. Paul Broun, a libertarian-leaning Republican member of Congress with a penchant for saying stupid things — for example, that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell” — obviously would give Nunn her best chance for success, but he may not be the only Republican unable to hold the seat in the fall.

Interestingly, while the Club for Growth has endorsed four Senate candidates this cycle (in Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi and Nebraska), it has not endorsed Broun’s Senate bid, even though the Georgia congressman has a 99 percent lifetime rating from the group. The conservative group knows his tendency for saying the outlandish could come back to haunt him — and the club.

So, while I continue to rate Grimes and Nunn as underdogs in the Kentucky and Georgia Senate races, I certainly see paths, albeit narrow ones, for victory for the two Democratic women in those races.

I can’t say the same thing about Tennant in West Virginia.

Yes, Grimes, Nunn and Tennant are all younger (under the age of 50) women. Grimes and Tennant are sitting secretaries of State. None of the three has held legislative office, meaning not one has a lengthy voting record that her opponents can exploit.

And all three have “political connections.” Grimes’ parents are both active politically, while Nunn’s father is a former senator. Tennant’s husband is in the West Virginia state Senate and has run for Congress — against his wife’s 2014 opponent, no less.

And yes, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, 58, overcame long odds in 2012 to win a Senate seat in North Dakota, so underdogs can and do win from time to time.

But these three women running this cycle are simply not all in similar situations, and Heitkamp’s path doesn’t offer Tennant much reason for optimism (the senator has campaigned for Tennant). Heitkamp’s opponent, then-Rep. Rick Berg, had just come off a very bitter, very negative race for Congress and began his Senate run with high negatives.

Tennant’s biggest problem is that she isn’t running against a 72-year-old fixture of Washington, D.C., or a member of Congress with a crackpot reputation or high negatives.

She is running against Shelley Moore Capito, 60, a woman with a reputation as a pragmatic conservative — and with formidable political skills and excellent early positioning.

After serving two terms in the West Virginia House, Capito won a House seat in 2000. She has been re-elected since then, and she represents a sprawling district that stretches from Charleston to the state’s Eastern Panhandle (in the expensive Washington, D.C., media market).

Capito is less well-known in southern West Virginia, but she will benefit there from President Barack Obama’s “anti-coal” reputation — the same reputation that has put long-time Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II on the defensive.

The president’s standing in both Kentucky and West Virginia is horrible. He couldn’t get even 40 percent of the vote last time in either state, so Democrats in those states (and other Romney states) know that they must “localize” their races if they have any chance of winning in November.

But Grimes has a much better opportunity to localize successfully than Tennant does, since McConnell’s personal standing in Kentucky is much worse than Capito’s is in West Virginia.

All of the polling that I have seen suggests that Capito starts off with excellent personal numbers and a double-digit lead over Tennant. So Democrats will need to tear down the GOP congresswoman to put the race into play. Unfortunately for Tennant, she had about $1 million on hand at the end of March, about one-fourth of the almost $4.2 million that Capito had in the bank.

There is still plenty of time for front-runners to stumble and underdogs to catch fire. But for now, Tennant’s situation isn’t comparable to Grimes’, Nunn’s or Heitkamp’s.

Grimes and Nunn need some breaks to win. Tennant needs divine intervention.

  • wdb

    If Tennant needs divine intervention to win (a view I basically agree with, although WV is more friendly to Democrats at the state level), then why do you have the race rated as Leans Rep instead of Favored Rep?

  • Nicholas Georgianis

    Senator Mitch The Shotgun McConnell aka: X#$!X)

    • Nick10

      This is stupid.

  • Ace DeLightfull

    Israel: Government pays students to fight internet battles

    Students in Israel are to form government-funded “covert units” to defend the country on Facebook and Twitter, it’s reported.

    The Prime Minister’s office is reportedly spending around £540,000 recruiting more than 500 students to respond to social media posts calling for boycotts and sanctions against the country, the Jerusalem Post says. Those with foreign language skills who receive these “scholarships” would not identify themselves as being in the pay of the government. Instead, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper says, the plan is to make the programme appear to be based on the activity of politically-neutral students, with the Prime Minister’s Office also hoping to recruit from pro-Israel student groups from around the world.

    Israel certainly won’t be the first country to pay internet users to defend its interests online. China’ so-called 50 Cent Party comprises people who are paid by the Beijing government to help sway public opinion by posting pro-China messages on internet forums. They’re named after the sum they’re reportedly paid: 50 cents per post, the equivalent of 5p.

    Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.

    • Fred Doe

      I have had no doubt whatsoever for a long while that the obama administration has been doing just that. There is no other explanation for many posts that display nothing but slobbering, mindless obedience and support for that incompetent criminal. They are usually without facts and employ disinformation and character assassination in an attempt to sway the stupid and easily influenced.

      • newageblues

        Yes you seem like a “no doubts” kind of guy. There is no shortage of rightwing OR leftwing loons running around the internet who don’t need to get paid to spew nonsense and hate. Like you, for example.

        • Fred Doe

          Hate the truth much?

  • publius

    Eric Holder needs to crank up the indictment mill to defeat republicans ahead of the election. The path to victory for dems is to create racial tension, spread lies and distortions and offer more handouts. It’s a winning formula. May the mudslinging begin.

    • Nick10

      Senate Races Aren’t as Close as They Appear. Reminds me of my Incumbent Races Are Closer Than They Appear in 1989 on Polling Report.

      • Jon Lester

        Interestingly enough, I was linked from a WSJ blog entry called “The Closing of the Collegiate Mind,” and I couldn’t get into the comments to say that I read “The Closing of the American Mind” 25 years ago.

    • Locutis2112

      More like Congress needs to crank up the indictment mill on Holder

      • Nick10

        U,S, Attorney General Eric Holder of course does not crank up any “indictment mill”.:

        Eric Holder is responsible for over 50 agencies of the Department of Justice. A few examples: Antitrust, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives, Civil Division, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, Drug Enforcement Division, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, INTERPOL Washington, National Institute of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Office of the Solicitor General, Tax Division, U.S. Marshals Service. [The list goes on and on.]

        • JamesBenson

          So, you are saying US Attorneys do not seek indictments?

          Think again. Holder is their boss.

          You are a nitpicking fool.

          • Nick10

            Again above. “Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys” Of course they seek indictments you idiot.

          • Ronald W. Mann

            Holder is as much a criminal as his boss

    • GinAZ

      Only democrats can sling mud, The RINO’s always want to play nice, and lose over and over again. If playing nice has only racked up loses then they should try a different strategy, like growing a back bone and fight.

    • FlPatriot98

      Eric With Holder needs to be indicted himself as he has already broken numerous laws and refuses to uphold the constitution he swore in oath to uphold. He is a liar and traitor and undermines the justice system on a daily basis in support of this regime!!!

  • Melissa Montana

    Since each infant will experience environmental variability as it develops, it is impossible to foresee anyone’s complete future potential.

  • G26

    With today’s technology, the seeds of liberty can be spread faster, repeated more often, and affirmed to a wider audience than ever before.

  • Stephen Barlow

    If we SELL the blanket concept that Republicans SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT FOR REAL in 2013, and have gridlocked Government, EFFECTIVELY Shutting Down the Government YOUR TAX DOLLARS are paying for, we might get a sweep when people realize they are NOT voting to keep a n*gg*r out of the White House, they are voting for a Working Poverty Wage, unemployment benefits, jobs programs, roads and infrastructure instead of oil subsidies and toxic waste transportation.

    STOP the Bill Vs Bob attack ads. START the Bob is a Republican and “HIS KIND” crashed the economy, shut down the Government and has filibustered Congress to a stand still. DO YOU think your tax dollars should pay for MORE STAGNATION?

    Or do YOU WANT your Representatives to VOTE for what 60, 75 and 90% of what the CITIZENS want.

    Like Universal Backround Checks, extended Unemployment Benefits, PPACA adjustments, food stamps for the hungry and lunches for kids.

    How many more nonfunctional $391 BILLION fighter/ bombing paperweights does the DOD need? NO jet is gonna defend you against a cyber attack or a small guerilla terror operation and neither will another 1000 tanks.


    The Republican party has done a huge disservice to itself, for taking the position against the unemployment extension bill in the senate. With 2.6 Million angry potential voters having been affected by their refusal to pass the bill; the coming election will prove to be the Republican’s downfall. These families were left hung out to dry since late last December, and they will not forget the anguish that they have suffered because of it. Many of these families have become ruined financially, they have witnessed their credit being destroyed, they have faced evictions, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcy, and homelessness. How can they not forget which party was at fault for this? The Republicans have been using these families for political leverage, and bargaining chips, to further their party’s political agenda. They have shown their party’s true distain for the Average American family, and the suffering that these families have been going through being jobless without benefits to support their children. Senators like John Boehner are what makes the Republican party look bad in the people’s eyes. As a “FORMER” Republican of many years, I can honestly say that I will NEVER vote for another Republican again, and actively persuade my friends and family not to likewise. The Republican party will find itself VOTED OUT in the next election.

  • tpaine1

    “Big Lie” Democrats are, probably, not going to get the kind of Divine Intervention you suggest. There’s only so much the devil can do.

  • Cha5678

    FWIW the NBCNews/Marist poll shows Broun is 4th in the GOP primary and still ahead (+1) in a matchup vs. Nunn. Yeah…

  • gildersleeve

    It is almost impossible to beat the score keeper. Democrats own the voting machines and they answer to their Democrap programmers. The USA elections are as crooked as old Russia. Electronics are great but can be manipulated to what ever the crooks want.

  • Hillarys Damaged Brain

    Dems will lose by 16 in GA, 12 in KY, and 20 in WV.

    • Ronald W. Mann

      None has no chance in Georgia. When her record at her non profit comes to light maybe an indictment there

  • Joseph McLinden

    How about some justice for an American for a change.

  • cesar

    you know what everyone is discounting the latino vote but I bet some folks are going to be very surprised and you know who the latino vote goes to.

    • Khalid Al-Mansour

      they help the republicans in midterms because they dont vote in midterms. also luckily, they are not going to turn out big for hillary. she will be lucky to get in the low ’60s

  • Khalid Al-Mansour

    what an inane and pointless article

    • Citizenright

      Silly? Sounds more like a sober assessment.

  • Keith Fletcher

    interesting, does Mr. Rothenberg not know that in GA either Jack Kingston or David Perdue will be the GOP candidate. With Congressman Kingston as the most likely winner of the runoff in July. Ms. Nunn will be hard pressed to beat Congressman Kingston who has been a great congressman for the 1st district here in GA. he should post an update to his post with this information for his readers

  • huufarted

    Nunn looks like she could deliver a stunning BJ and would look great on her knees…

    • robert gabriel

      and mitch mcconnell looks like the brand of older guys
      that like to meet young guys in restroom stalls

    • Citizenright

      Knock it off

  • georgedixon1

    When you are drowning you do not think about which part of you is ‘local’ and which is ‘total (national)…

    The Democrats are drowning America in Liberal “solutions” which are counter-productive and non-sustainable.

    This Midterm is Way National and only a Democrat (for whom Da Nile is more than a river east of Obama’s Libya) would think that keeping your foot dry would mitigate drowning.

    • Citizenright

      You say that like it’s not a good thing.

      We all know that “liberals” want to be judged by their intentions…like every adolescent.

  • Shemp

    It is Michelle Nunn`s right to inherit her fathers Senate seat. The DC Royalty must be preserved.

  • Citizenright

    While Sam Nunn served honorably, I would suspect his daughter is modern Democrat, meaning a socialist. THAT we don’t need more of.

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