Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Senate Ratings Changes: The Political Environment Turns on Democrats

While national polls haven’t shown a shift in the public’s opinion of President Barack Obama’s performance, recent controversies have, in my view, significantly changed the political landscape.

And changes in the landscape have led the Rothenberg Political Report to change its Senate ratings.

For the past few years, the public’s focus has been on Republicans’ opposition to the president’s agenda, their desire to shrink (even cripple) government and their conservatism. But the IRS scandal, along with controversies involving the attack in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s collecting of journalists’ telephone records, has change the political narrative.

While the Oklahoma tornado tragedy will dominate media coverage for the next few days, the new political narrative that will re-emerge when journalists return to politics involves questions about what the administration knew, said and did.

The new focus on the Obama administration puts it on the defensive and should boost enthusiasm on the political right throughout this year.

While we don’t know how long the focus will stay on the administration — or whether Republicans will stumble over the investigations or matters of public policy — between now and the November midterms, it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.

Given the different natures of midterm electorates, the new political narrative increases the risk for Democratic candidates in red states, where Democrats must win independent and, in many cases, Republican voters to be successful.

As Nathan Gonzales wrote this week, Republicans can get a Senate majority in next year’s elections by winning races in states Mitt Romney carried. Because that now seems more difficult than it did just a month ago, we are moving a number of Senate contests to the GOP.

Our moves are as follows:

  • West Virginia (Open seat; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.
  • South Dakota (Open seat; Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.
  • Arkansas (Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.
  • Louisiana (Sen. Mary L. Landreiu, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.
  • Alaska (Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.
  • North Carolina (Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.
  • voltaic

    Democrats are wimpish fools who do little except take constant beatings from GOP. While GOP is a bunch of hypocritical bombasts, they at least know how to twist people into believing their bizarre nonsense. Democrats think people are intelligent enough to read between the lines or have some sense of historical reference, but they are generally mistaken on that count. The GOP is the party of secrets, sweetheart tax breaks for corporations, Guantanamo, unjust wars, wars for life, shredding the social safety net, bashing women’s reproductive rights, monster deficits, and the 2008 financial crisis, but Democrats are helpless sheep that aren’t capable of fighting back.

    • KLT

      Voltaic, speaking for Independent voters, your party, SUCKS.

    • Catty in Lansing

      as a Democrat I agree we (the Dems) have been the party of “everyone has a right to their own opinion” Then came Carl Rove and his directive to Congress and any member of the GOP. We let them get away with it until we realized we were being trounced. I have learned. I am now more vocal and challenge any statements of fact by any person. Now, we the Democrats are cautioning our colleagues to make sure they vote in Primary Elections (the REAL elections).

    • restoreliberty

      Thank you for once again demonstrating the utter stupidity that exists on the left.

    • backatcha1

      You are a joke…. place the name Obama in front of your “laundry list” non sense you blame on Republicans and you get the same answer you are looking for. Hypocrisy with democrats knows no bounds.

  • Mark A Abramson

    The list is pretty much in order of likelihood of flipping. The GOP is almost sure to pick up the seats in SD and WV. AR and LA also look very good because those states are so red now. Winning AK will depend on the GOP not nominating a lousy candidate. NC is more difficult for the GOP because of the demographics of the state — it’s only slightly red, but if the GOP gets the same electorate that passed a very strongly anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment by a 60-40 margin, they should take this seat. That’s 6 seats needed for control, and it does not include the open seat in MT, which could very well flip as well.

    • jasonm1980

      NC isn’t slightly red. It was with respect to Obama last fall but down ticket NC was VERY red. It flipped governor D for R by a landslide, Heath Shuler’s (D) house seat for Mark Meadows (R) by a landslide and also solidified Republican control of both the state house and senate. Add that to a dismal approval rating for Kay Hagan (40%). If the GOP puts up even a weak candidate against Hagan next year, she’s toast. Her voting record was and is far to the left of the state. She can’t win in NC, w/o Obama on the ticket this time, with a meek 40% approval rating.

    • restoreliberty

      North Carlonia voters realized the Democrat Party left them long ago and have been doing a major house cleaning binge ever since. First the legislature and now the governor and an even larger rebublican majority in the legislature. People are fed up with the insanity of the left and the only reason they win at the national level is because of out-dated winner take all electroal delegate structures.

      • Kenfolk

        No, the reason Democrats win at the national level, is that they get more votes than the opposition. They also did it at the congressional level in 2012 but thanks to GOP gerrymandering they still control the House, making democracy a demokery!

  • ojfl

    Interesting how quickly the conversation changes. Two weeks ago we were hearing about Republicans in disarray, a party on the verge of extinction, a party whose ideas belong in the history books. Then all of a sudden we have people like Mr. Rothenberg talking about the possibility of Republicans making significant gains in the Senate. Politics is a strange beast. Things change too fast.

    • Joe M

      The Republicans-in-disarray angle was a bunch of hot air. Party loyalists trying to maximize the advantage of winning a presidential election.

      They don’t realize that Democrats don’t need Republican criticism/obstruction to combust. Their own moral relativism and destructive policy beliefs do a better job of making Democrats look bad than anything Republicans could ever dream up.

  • Gregory Stroud

    wait, did Stu just say, “screw Nate Silver, I’m going with the gut”?

    • docb

      Lot of wishful thinking from Stu and his groupies! I’ll go with Nate!

    • Jennifer Jia

      He went with his gut on the “scandals”, which he now backtracked and called “controversies”, so… Sure, why not, double-down on gut again.

  • ChrissyinNV

    All I can say is I ain’t voting for a Democrat again EVER. This is from a girl who actually voted for Gore and Obama in 2008 as a Republican. I truly thought some Democrats were ‘moderate’.
    Here in Nevada one of my favorite governors was a very moderate Democrat that was pro-life, he even got booed at the DNC for it.
    The gun-grabbing, big government and big brother revelations plus the DNC being nothing, but abortion worship has woken me up. Never again.

    • vamum

      I agree with you Chrissy. I was a democrat then drifted independent, but still trusted dems more. That is OVER. They are total poison and their supporters are dishonest and lying as well. What I particularly dislike is that democratic grassroots always make excuses for crooked politicians, and never hold them accountable at any level.

      • ChrissyinNV

        That is a very valid point, vamum. Republicans will go after their own, but Democrats seem to cheer on corruption in their party. Horrible.

      • Joe M

        It’s encouraging to read your comments. The support Obama has continued to enjoy despite the lying and deception has been a discouraging sign for our society.

    • Joe M

      Life experience leading people from being Democrat to Republican is a path many take. Good for you!

      • searcher0

        to quote Ronald Reagan, ” i didn’t leave the democrat party, it left me”.

        • Kenfolk

          Actually, the reverse (Repugnant-Ones to Democrats) is what Governor Chaffee is doing in Rhode Island.

  • jaimeshawn

    I hope the Democrats pay for these scandals, but the Dem base does not care about any of them, so I expect the impact to be… nothing. I am more concerned with the amnesty bill moving through Congress that will complete the USA’s transition to a one-party state, and the lack of any action to rein-in a rabidly out-of-control EPA.

    • jesse brink

      The EPA isn’t ” rabidly out of control” and needs to toughen up it’s enforcement much more than it needs “reined in.”
      This is just more whining by one of the mouthpieces of the pollution lobby.

      • jasonm1980

        In certain areas, the EPA is very much out-of-control. Why haven’t they banned MTBE when they MANDATED the petroleum industry to use it in gasoline? In case you don’t know, MTBE is highly carcinogenic. Big oil is being sued by states (New Hampshire being the most recent) to clean up MTBE when it was the EPA that forced it upon them and us resulting in untold cancer deaths. In addition, the organization under Lisa Jackson was pushing for Al Gore’s carbon trading scheme while she was trying to enact crippling greenhouse emissions regulations on business, all while we’ve had the highest sustained unemployment rates since the Great Depression. I’m not for getting rid of the EPA but it’s been turned into a monster almost as awful as the IRS.

        • David Ross Brittelli

          MTBE is highly carcinogenic? Hogwash. Not according to the American Cancer Society or the EPA. What reputable source can you cite establishing that MTBE is “highly carcinogenic” in humans? If it were, there would be an absolute epidemic of MTBE-related cancers that we would all have contracted from exposure at gasoline pumps.

          • searcher0

            come on now, you know if you dig deep enough you can find a hack scientist with a degree from a second rate college doing his research in a third world country who will supply you with the necessary junk science to ‘prove’ anything.

          • Kenfolk

            Like the 3% of Scientists, mostly on the payroll of Big Oil, who try to raise “doubts” about Climate Change, just as they did the same thing about the relationship of cigarettes to lung cancer. These “scientists” should be called “prostitutes’.

          • jasonm1980

            Wow your ignorance is astounding. Do you have Google, David, or do you consult your personal crystal ball which always reinforces your moronic views?

            A little research will bring you to the FACT that MTBE is believed to be a carcinogen.

            Why the hell did the state of New Hampshire just sue Exxon Mobile (wrongly) to get it out of their drinking water? Go read the case and you might learn something.

            EVEN THE EPA, as reported by the Harvard Environmental Law Review, has suggested that it is a potential carcinogen:

            “EPA has concluded that MTBE is a “possible”

            human carcinogen and has suggested that MTBE “be regarded as posing

            a potential carcinogenic hazard and risk to humans.”38
            Check mate!
            The bottom line is that the EPA refuses to accept responsibility for the mistake they made by forcing the petroleum industry to use it as a fuel oxygenate, ultimately resulting in the tainting of thousands (ultimately maybe millions?) of drinking water wells.
            Would you use well water that had MTBE in it?
            Wake up!

      • jaimeshawn

        @Jesse If you were not a troll, I would recommend that you Google “EPA official admits” and read about how out of control the EPA is. Thousands of manufacturing companies are located in Mexico, even though it costs more, because the US government is lawless. You would be shocked that MSNBC and Huffpo ignore this story, if you were not a troll.

  • Ryan

    When it comes to sending someone to Washington, there are only 2 things that matter: Candidate strength and GOTV. Swing voters look less at the party and more at the people – that’s how we know that WV and SD will flip. Meanwhile, LA and NC have strong candidates who campaign fiercely and have sizable war chests, so the wave would have to be pretty significant to clean them out.

    If Pryor has a reasonable opponent (like Womack), he’s gone – Arkansas Republicans have all the momentum in the world.

    Begich has established a strong voting record and has consistently beaten all prospective opponents in polling. Unless Treadwell can gain momentum very quickly, Alaska doesn’t flip.

    Montana basically depends on Schweitzer. If he runs, he wins. If he doesn’t, the Republicans get the seat.

    Basically, it’d take a wave for Republicans to claim the upper chamber. Now, a wave allowed Republicans to claim the lower chamber, so this is far from undoable, but things really have to go juuuuuust right for them to pull it off again.

    • ChrissyinNV

      I am a ‘swing’ voter who won’t vote for Democrats any longer, sir. If the Democrats do not stand up real quick and start denouncing this brazen attack upon our liberties by their party I am not so sure people will be so open to ‘swinging’ with them. See my post below.

    • Kenfolk

      In 2012 it wasn’t a wave that kept the Repugnant-Ones in control of the House. It was widespread gerrymandering by GOP legislatures and governors. It is a disgrace to the idea of democracy that congressional (and legislative) districts are determined by partisan hacks (of both parties but primarily those of the GOP).

  • Rob

    The Republicans want to “(even cripple) government”? Thanks for reminding me that you can’t be trusted to write about politics.

    • searcher0

      when it comes to o’bama’s government i am all in favor of crippling it.

  • docdave88

    Fear not Democrats.
    The lame stream media will soon be back on their knees before The One.

  • Dave

    Michael Savage said it best: Even in those rare instances when the Democrat and Republican field equally bad candidates, vote for the Republican for the simple reason that the press will at least hold the Republican accountable.

  • Kurt Haslett

    Wow. Stu? You’re a moran.

  • valwayne

    Obama and the democrats were determined just weeks ago to gut the 2nd amendment, ban gun ownership in the U.S., and take away our right, given to us by our founding fathers, to bear arms. They were pushed back, but they are deterimined. We know that because they’ve told us they will come back soon. Of course that is before we found out they were engaged in a massive conspiracy to abuse the power of the IRS to harrass and discriminate against Obama’s political opposition. Its also before we found out that they were also involved in a massive assault against the 1st amendment with the insanity at the AP, and now we find out Fox News, and we still don’t know how many other reporters and news organizations have been spied on. It clearly is a massive attempt by the Obama regime to intimidate what is already a press that acts more like Obama’s poodle than a watchdog for the 1st amendment and our freedom. A vote in 2014 is a vote to allow the corruption and abuse of Government power to continue. A vote for any democrat in 2014 is a vote to gut both the 1st and 2nd amendments, and make the IRS Obama’s pit bull against his political opposition. Remember that the person that headed up the group involved in the criminal conspiracy was promoted to head up the Obamacare implementation at the IRS. She is the same person today that “TOOK THE 5TH AMENDMENT TO AVOID INCRIMINATING HERSELF! Think of the potential to intimidate and punish Obama’s enemies with the trillions in taxes, fines, and penalties the IRS will administer for Obamacare? Obama has taken us onto a very dangerous slippery slope to tyranny. Voting for any democrat in 2014 will tell Obama that the massive abuse of Government power is ok.

  • carolerae

    I’ll just save this………….and let you know how you did. Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg are holding the Torch for a party that no longer exists. The Birchers are in charge now…..

  • Dapandico

    Meanwhile the amnesty bill is flying through the Senate. There will be 11 million new registered Democrats before Nov 2014.

    • searcher0

      that is why we need a national voter id law, you still cannot vote unless you are a citizen.

      • Dapandico

        How many DMV’s will make a “mistake” and register the Amnestos to vote?

  • ChangeHopeInAZ

    I never thought in a million years a black man named Obama would have beat the Clinton machine and get elected to the WH but thanks to the lack of media performance, it happened. Maybe because the media has been impacted by the FBI scandal, they will start performing their job as if a Republican was in the WH but I won’t hold my breath. The end justifies the means in the liberal mindset and in the final analysis, the liberal media won’t jeopardize the liberal agenda.

    • Kenfolk

      The myth of the “Liberal Media” is still alive. You should read Eric Alterman’s “What Liberal Media”, which should have put it to rest!

  • creeper

    What about Harkin’s seat in Iowa?

    • Ryan

      Four top Republicans in the state were recruited, and none of them are running (not unlike Democrats in Georgia). The Democrats immediately found their man and he’s ready to go, well-prepared and well-funded. No party flip in Iowa.


    If the Republicans could lose seats in both the Senate and House in the most recent elections when the economy is so bad, there is little hope they can pick up any seats in the Senate in the next midterm election… barring a National disaster or if any of the current scandals really blows up much bigger than he already is.

  • Kenfolk

    Gee, I hope so!

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...