Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

October 17, 2014

Iowa Senate Race Becomes Headache for House Democrats

Iowa Senate Race Becomes Headache for House Democrats

Ernst, right, is running for Senate as a Republican in Iowa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A competitive Senate contest in the Hawkeye State is creating a ripple effect down ballot, causing headaches for national Democrats as Election Day nears.

Recent polls show state Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, with a small lead over Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat. But the Republican’s advantage has percolated to three of Iowa’s four House contests, keeping one competitive district in contention for Republicans, plus putting two Democratic seats in play.

In particular, Ernst’s performance is buoying former Capitol Hill aide David Young, the Republican nominee in the competitive 3rd District, which is currently rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. Privately, Iowa Republican operatives said Young is running a lackluster campaign against former state Sen. Staci Appel, a Democrat.

In the end, Ernst might be the one to pull him over the edge.

“I do think it looks to be like a pretty good year for Republicans in Iowa,” said John Stineman, an Iowa Republican operative. “It’s kind of a nail biter, but both Young and Ernst should be able to pull this out if we keep the momentum.”

Full story

Are These 10 Vulnerable Members Lucky or Good?

Are These 10 Vulnerable Members Lucky or Good?

Sinema is running for re-election in a competitive district in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

All’s fair in love and … House races? Not so much.

Less than three weeks before Election Day, would-be safe incumbents such as Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., are scrambling to win in partisan districts — while these 10 members are headed for victory in otherwise competitive districts.

Some are blessed with luck. Others create it for themselves. It’s your call which is which.

Here are the luckiest — er, slickest — incumbents of 2014, in alphabetical order: Full story

NRCC Throws Hail Mary in Nebraska House Race (Video)

NRCC Throws Hail Mary in Nebraska House Race (Video)

Terry, center, faces a tough race in Nebraska this cycle. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s the Willie Horton ad of 2014.

The National Republican Congressional Committee went up with an ad Friday tying the Democratic nominee in a competitive Nebraska House race to Nikko Jenkins, a former inmate convicted of murdering four people after his early release from jail.

It’s an ad reminiscent of the Willie Horton spot former President George H.W. Bush ran in 1988, tying his Democratic opponent to a convicted murderer who raped a woman while on a weekend pass from prison.

Republicans hope the Nikko Jenkins ad in the Omaha-based 2nd District will turn things around for Rep. Lee Terry, one of just two GOP House incumbents in a race rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Full story

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home

Roberts speaks to a reporter in Topeka. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

FORT SCOTT, Kan. — Dozens of cows trumpeted in the pens out back as Sen. Pat Roberts made his pitch to attendees at a livestock market.

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home“When we get a Republican majority, I’ll be chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and we are gonna put the livestock producer first,” Roberts told the crowd from a room behind the then-empty cow pen, where the auctioneer had briefly paused his chant to allow the state’s senior senator to address the crowd.

The lone man in a suit jacket in a crowd of denim, plaid, cowboy hats and baseball caps, Roberts kept it short — framing his election in the terms he used throughout his bus tour of the entire Sunflower State.

In the six campaign events Roll Call attended with Roberts last week, this was as close as he came to making the Senate race personal. Most of the time, Roberts’ pitch to voters was that the name on the ballot was all but irrelevant; it was the “R” next to it that mattered. Full story

October 16, 2014

DCCC Cuts Massachusetts Media Buy (Updated)

Updated 8:37 p.m. | The Democratic House political arm is scrapping plans to spend a substantial sum of money on the Massachusetts 6th District race, but is still investing in the Boston media market on New Hampshire’s two competitive House races, according to a source tracking media buys.

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aide characterized the move as a sign of confidence Democrat Seth Moulton will be able to hold the open seat against Republican Richard Tisei.

The DCCC had more than $1 million reserved in the Boston media market combined between the Massachusetts 6th District and New Hamsphire’s 1st District and 2nd District. Full story

EMILY’s List Endorses Kansas Candidates

EMILYs List Endorses Kansas Candidates
Yoder is a Kansas Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

EMILY’s List, an organization that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, announced Thursday a pair of endorsements in two late-breaking House races in Kansas.

The group offered its full endorsement of Margie Wakefield and Kelly Kultala, who are challenging GOP Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder, respectively.

For now, both races are rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. But highly competitive races for Senate and governor have roiled the ballot this cycle, causing concern for Kansas Republicans in two House districts. Full story

A Senate Race Where Democrats Neutralized Obamacare Attacks

A Senate Race Where Democrats Neutralized Obamacare Attacks

Franken is seeking a second term in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican critique of the president’s health care overhaul law may have hit a wall in Minnesota, complicating the GOP’s already long chances of picking up a Senate seat in the state.

Though the state’s health care exchange, MNsure, has hit a few snags in recent weeks, local Democrats still claim the program is an overall success — at least relative to other states. A University of Minnesota study credited the Affordable Care Act for dropping the state’s uninsured numbers to roughly 5 percent, making it the one of the lowest in the country. Minnesota also touts the lowest premium rates and generally low health care costs.

Those statistics have made it more difficult for businessman Mike McFadden, the GOP’s nominee, to challenge Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., for supporting the president’s signature health care law. Franken is the front-runner in the race, and independent polls show him with a small double-digit lead.

“The Republicans hope that the toxicity of the moniker Obamacare would lead to this kind of mob running against the Democrats has not happened. Voters are hearing different things,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at University of Minnesota. “It’s turning out that Democrats have found strategies to fight to a draw, which in 2014 is probably the best they could hope for, at least on this issue.” Full story

NRSC Confirms Tightening Race in Georgia

NRSC Confirms Tightening Race in Georgia

Perdue is running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed Thursday they were looking at a tougher race in Georgia, a Republican-held state they were predicted to win fairly easily.

The executive director of the NRSC, Rob Collins, told reporters the race “has tightened up” between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michele Nunn in Georgia.

Recent public polling has shown Nunn gaining traction, and Perdue is struggling to move past his comment that he was “proud” of outsourcing jobs during his business career. Last week, the NRSC announced they were putting another $1.4 million into the state to help Perdue, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee followed by announcing additional spending for the state.

Full story

How ‘Dr. Dan’ Cured His Campaign Woes

How Dr. Dan Cured His Campaign Woes

Republicans say Benishek is one of the "most improved" candidates. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once a top target for Democrats, Rep. Dan Benishek, a former surgeon turned tea party candidate, has turned a corner in his campaign for a second term, and national Republicans have labeled him one of their “most improved” members of the cycle.

What happened? A combination of staff changes, leveraging his slot on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and a favorable cycle for Republicans gave Benishek a clear advantage in the 1st District.

“It looked as if Michigan’s 1st District was going to be one of maybe the top two or three House races here in Michigan,” said Dennis Darnoi, a Michigan Republican consultant. “It hasn’t really reached the competitive level that, I think, was expected.” Full story

New DSCC Ad Attacks Ernst on Abortion Stance

New DSCC Ad Attacks Ernst on Abortion Stance

Joni Ernst is running against Braley for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is launching a new ad in Iowa Thursday targeting Republican Joni Ernst over her stance on abortion and her sponsorship in the state Senate of a “personhood” bill.

Ernst faces Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in one of the most competitive races this cycle. The open seat, currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, could be one of the six seats Republicans need to take control of the Senate.

The ad, provided first to CQ Roll Call, features an Iowa nurse named Kim Tweedy who says she has worked on the sexual assault response team.

“I’ve seen lots of cases, many of them are very brutal. It breaks your heart. I’ll never understand politicians who make it even harder, politicians like Joni Ernst,” Tweedy says. Full story

October 15, 2014

Pelosi Raises $1 Million From Members in a Week

Pelosi Raises $1 Million From Members in a Week

Pelosi has said she is worried about being outspent by Republican aligned outside groups. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raised $1 million from her colleagues during the last week, according to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aide.

Pelosi and other top House Democrats are making the case that members need to open their wallets for the midterms, after the DCCC made a series of airtime cuts in districts the party had previously targeted as pick-up opportunities.

Pelosi and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel held a caucus-wide a conference call Wednesday afternoon pressing members to pony up or exceed their assigned dues. The call garnered roughly $585,000 from members.  Full story

Republicans See Opportunity in Another New York Race

Republicans See Opportunity in Another New York Race

Maffei is a Democrat from central New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A little more than a month ago, New York’s 24th district was a relatively quiet contest. Now, just a few weeks before Election Day, Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., is stuck in yet another close campaign.

After weeks of million-dollar airtime wars put the congressman in political peril, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will make a trip to Syracuse to campaign for Maffei next week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will stop in the central New York district, following Speaker John A. Boehner, who already headlined a fundraiser there.

The district slightly favors Democrats — an advantage that grew after redistricting in 2012. But the district has flipped between parties every cycle, with Maffei losing re-election after a single term in 2010. He won back the seat last cycle, and until recently, it wasn’t clear whether Maffei would be targeted for defeat in the midterms.

But on Sept. 12, the National Republican Congressional Committee swooped into the district to reserve $1.5 million in airtime to help its nominee, John Katko. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed suit four days later, spending $859,000.

The investment has proven potent in this district, which is covered by the inexpensive Syracuse media market. Campaigns can make a huge impact in the district without a lot of money — at least compared to other districts. Full story

DCCC Chief Pleads for Outside Money

DCCC Chief Pleads for Outside Money

Israel is the current chairman of the DCCC. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel told reporters Wednesday he is “frustrated” that his party’s outside groups have not supported House Democrats on television in the final stretch of the midterms.

Many big Democratic players — such as environmental and labor groups — focused their financial firepower on the Senate, which is in play this cycle. This has caused increased anxiety among House Democrats, who also face losses in 2014.

House Democrats must pick up a net of 17 seats to win control of the House, but it’s increasingly likely the party will lose seats in that chamber this cycle. For the first time, Israel made a public plea to outside groups for their financial help. 

Full story

Democratic Poll: Jeanne Shaheen Leads Scott Brown

Democratic Poll: Jeanne Shaheen Leads Scott Brown

A Democratic poll has Shaheen leading her re-election race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen maintained a significant, single-digit lead in a new Democratic tracking poll.

The survey, obtained by CQ Roll Call, found the Democrat ahead 50 percent to 44 percent against former Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass.

Kiley & Company conducted the poll for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. According to a polling memo, it found Shaheen with a 7-point net favorable rating, while Brown’s was 7 points underwater. The senator led by 15 points among women and by 7 points among independents, while Brown led by 4 points among men. The incumbent also led by 33 points on the question of which candidate “is committed to New Hampshire.” Full story

3 Senate Endgame Scenarios

3 Senate Endgame Scenarios

The winner of the race between Roberts, left, and Orman, right, will play a major role in deciding the Senate majority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

So much for a predictable midterm cycle. The past month has left multiple possible outcomes for control of the Senate.

Republican groups are barraging Kansas with resources and advertising to save a three-term incumbent being challenged by an independent in a solidly GOP state. Democrats, lacking much hope for months of holding an open seat in South Dakota, are all of a sudden dropping $1 million in advertising there — and being matched by Republicans — in a last-second Hail Mary that could possibly save its majority.

Just three weeks remain until Election Day, yet control of the Senate remains a dogfight and more than a handful of seats could conceivably go either way. The GOP has at least 10 states to find a path to six Senate seats and the majority, but — while public polling in most states appears to be moving in its direction — at this point the party has only locked up two Democrat-held seats in a favorable national climate.

Making matters more convoluted are the unknowns surrounding independent candidates Greg Orman in Kansas and Larry Pressler in South Dakota, who have yet to say which caucus they would join.

With so many variables and competitive races, plus potential and competitive runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, the outcome of the midterm elections is anyone’s guess.

But as the votes start rolling in, there’s a chance the result will be one of the following three scenarios: Full story

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