Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 2, 2014

October 2, 2014

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

Rahall is one of this cycle's most vulnerable House Democrats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With a month to go until Election Day, House Republicans are poised to add at least a handful of seats to their majority in the midterms.

Need proof? Look no further than this month’s list of Roll Call’s 10 Most Vulnerable House Members, plus the four incumbents who got honorable mentions: The majority of the names are Democrats facing slogs to re-election in tough districts.

What’s more, nearly all of the Republicans on the list made it due to isolated issues — like campaign problems, personal and legal missteps — instead of the national political environment.

The list does not include competitive open-seat contests, where Democrats could stave off major losses.

Since CQ Roll Call last published this feature in September, two incumbents — a Democrat and a Republican — dropped to the honorable mention category. Both are still as vulnerable as they were in September, but a few of their colleagues now face greater political peril than they do.

Roll Call will publish this list one more time, in the week before Election Day. For now, here is the updated list of the 10 Most Vulnerable House Members in alphabetical order:

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October 1, 2014

Bill Clinton Appears in Kentucky Senate Race Ad

Former President Bill Clinton stars in a new ad for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ bid to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The spot marks the former president’s first foray into the 2014 airwaves in a Senate race, the Grimes campaign told WHAS-TV in Louisville, which first reported on the spot. The Kentucky Senate race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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New Kansas Senate Race Poll Shows Roberts Trailing

New Kansas Senate Race Poll Shows Roberts Trailing

Roberts is a Republican from Kansas. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Independent businessman Greg Orman led Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., by 5 points in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday.

The poll showed Orman at 46 percent and Roberts at 41 percent.

The Kansas Senate race is unexpectedly competitive this cycle. The last time Kansans elected a senator who was not a Republican was 1932. Full story

Democratic Super PAC Cuts More Ad Time in House Races

Democratic Super PAC Cuts More Ad Time in House Races

Sinema is a freshman Democrat form Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority PAC, a super PAC that aids House Democrats, has recently canceled around $1 million in ad reservations in races throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

The shifts indicate Democrats are more optimistic about winning some House races — and have given up hope on others.

These changes were spotted by sources who track media buys and confirmed by a House Majority PAC spokesman, who declined to specify the super PAC’s reasons for moving funds to or from particular House races:

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How to Approve That Political Message (Video)

“I approved this message.”

The words comprising the legal disclaimer — “I’m Candidate X, and I approve this message” — are the bane of political ad-makers and congressional campaigns. But they’re required to include it in every political spot, thanks to a decade-old campaign finance law provision intended to discourage nasty campaign advertising.

“The challenge is you’re dealing with such a limited amount of real estate, 30 seconds,” said Eric Adelstein, a media consultant for Democrats. “People try to be creative in how to incorporate mandatory language into that messaging.”

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Asian Republicans Announce 2014 Endorsements

Asian Republicans Announce 2014 Endorsements

Comstock, left, is running against Democrat John Foust, right, in Virginia's 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Asian Republican Coalition announced Wednesday its support for five Republicans in the midterms, including two incumbents, two House hopefuls and a gubernatorial candidate.

“These candidates believe in creating and building upon strong relationships within the comprehensive Asian American community,” ARC Chairman John J. Ying said in a press release. “We are pleased to see that they will constructively engage to push for an agenda based on education, merit, hard work, personal freedom, entrepreneurship and family.”

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Top New Jersey House Race a Dead Heat in Democratic Poll

Top New Jersey House Race a Dead Heat in Democratic Poll

Runyan's, left, decision to step down created a competitive open-seat race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic nominee in one of the party’s targeted House races in New Jersey is running even with her Republican opponent, according to an internal Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard led Republican insurance company owner Tom MacArthur, 43 percent to 42 percent. The automated poll found 15 percent of voters remain undecided with a little more than a month to go until Election Day.

The survey of 603 likely voters was conducted Sept. 27-28 and had a 4-point margin of error.

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Hagan Attacks Tillis on Education — Again

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is up with a new ad hitting her Republican opponent Thom Tillis on education.

“Speaker Thom Tillis cut $500 million from our schools, increasing class sizes, leaving students without textbooks,” a male narrator says in the ad, provided first to CQ Roll Call. “And Tillis opposed a bill to make college loans more affordable.”

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Pat Roberts Ranks Among Most Vulnerable Senators

Pat Roberts Ranks Among Most Vulnerable Senators

Hagan is a North Carolina Democrat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the structure of the competitive Senate map has finally solidified, plenty of uncertainties remain as the two parties enter the final month of the midterm elections.

The most glaring question mark and startling development over the past several weeks is in Kansas, where Republican Sen. Pat Roberts now ranks fourth on Roll Call’s monthly list of the most vulnerable senators (read the September edition here). This is a state that last elected a Democratic senator in 1932, but ballot maneuverings and Roberts’ own missteps have placed him in the company of the cycle’s most endangered incumbents.

The GOP needs six seats to win the majority, and the party can get halfway there by picking up open seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana, where retirements hindered Democrats’ ability to hold their ground. Democrats have better odds in the other open seats, with Iowa still hosting one of the most competitive races in the country and Democrats continuing to hold the edge in Michigan.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., remains a top target for Republicans. But Democrats are pummeling Republican nominee Thom Tillis on the air, and Hagan is the only red-state Democrat whose positioning has clearly improved in recent months.

The competitiveness of the Senate race in Kansas took most people by surprise, including, it seems, Roberts. The senator entered the general election with a limited political apparatus and less motivation to campaign following his contested primary. That all changed last month, when the Democratic nominee withdrew from the race and Republican efforts to reverse the move failed.

That left independent Greg Orman, who is still an unknown quantity. As Orman introduces himself to the electorate, Republicans’ opposition research on him is still just starting to trickle out. Roberts has brought in a new campaign team, a steady stream of GOP heavyweights is filing through the state to help him out, and at least one outside group has started spending for him on the airwaves.

In a state as Republican as Kansas, that could be enough to save the day. But for now, Roberts is firmly among the 10 Most Vulnerable Senators, ranked below in order of vulnerability:  Full story

Florida Family Legacies Clash in Critical House Race

Florida Family Legacies Clash in Critical House Race

Florida's 2nd Congressional District pits two families against each other. (Abby Livingston/CQ Roll Call)

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. — Former Florida first lady Adele Graham does not entertain the word “if” in polite conversation, at least when discussing the political future of her daughter Gwen. It’s only “when.”

The wife of ex-Florida governor and senator Bob Graham treats doubt that Gwen Graham will oust Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II with a gentle arm pat and tone of voice usually reserved for obscenity or wearing white after Labor Day.

The Graham family has summoned the force of its political operation behind its eldest daughter to ensure its 50-year Florida political win streak does not end in November. But while the Grahams spent three decades dominating statewide politics, the Southerland family also has deep ties in the district.

“When Grahams run, Grahams win,” the candidate tells her supporters at a Saturday afternoon meet-and-greet on this north Florida coast barrier island.

Florida Family Legacies Clash in Critical House Race

But this is a tough district and environment for any Democrat, even a political scion. President Barack Obama’s plummeting approval rating make it that much harder this year for House Democratic candidates to gain traction.

Southerland and Mitt Romney each carried Florida’s 2nd District by 6 points in 2012. And geographically, this seat has more in common with Alabama than Miami.

To combat that reality, a Southern Democrat must create an outsized personal brand that will help voters forget any association with the president.

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September 30, 2014

Republican Cavalry Starts Spending on House Races (Finally)

Republican Cavalry Starts Spending on House Races (Finally)

Walden is the chairman of the NRCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For months, Republicans feared outside groups would skip over House races this cycle, saving their cash for the battle over Senate control.

But the conservative cavalry has finally arrived.

Republican groups — which have mostly sat on the sidelines in House contests this cycle until recently — have reserved nearly $12 million on the television airwaves in competitive races through Election Day, according to two sources tracking ad buys in House contests across the country. The reservations, placed over the last two weeks, are a mix of GOP pickup opportunities and defensive ground.

The reservations include:

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Ex-First Lady of Florida Fires Back at Congressman

Ex First Lady of Florida Fires Back at Congressman

It's hard being the parents of a political candidate. Former Sen. Bob Graham and his wife Adele Graham in 2004. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. — Former Florida First Lady Adele Graham is not happy with her daughter’s political rival, Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II.

Graham and her husband, ex-Sen. Bob Graham, have been a pervasive presence on the campaign trail in support of Democratic attorney Gwen Graham’s bid to unseat Southerland in his 2nd District in the Florida panhandle.

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GOP Outside Group Targets Tim Bishop on TV

GOP Outside Group Targets Tim Bishop on TV

Bishop is being targeted on the air by a Republican group. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A Republican-aligned outside group is airing a TV ad slamming New York Rep. Timothy H. Bishop on his support for the Affordable Care Act.

The Democrat is locked in a challenging re-election campaign against Republican Lee Zeldin.

This is American Action Network’s first independent expenditure TV ad of the general election. It’s running on cable and online, and is part of AAN’s $1.2 million IE campaign in New York’s Long Island-based 1st District.

“Tim Bishop thinks Obamacare is a damn good idea?” says a man named John from Setauket, N.Y. “We think it’s a damn bad idea.” Full story

September 29, 2014

Collin Peterson Campaign Responds to GOP Poll

Collin Peterson Campaign Responds to GOP Poll

Peterson's race is rated Leans Democratic. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In response to a poll released last week by Republicans showing a tight race, Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson’s campaign on Monday released a poll of its own from early September that had found the incumbent with a wider lead.

The three-week-old survey, shared first with CQ Roll Call, showed the Democratic incumbent up 53 percent to 29 percent over state Sen. Torrey Westrom. Westrom’s poll, conducted Sept. 21-23 by the Tarrance Group, found Peterson with a 5-point lead.

The Peterson poll also showed the incumbent with a 58 percent favorable rating, with just 19 percent viewing him unfavorably. That survey of 405 likely voters was conducted by Global Strategy Group from Sept. 4-7 with a 4.9-point margin of error. Full story

Ad Highlights Mitch McConnell’s Role in Resolving Case (Video)

Ad Highlights Mitch McConnells Role in Resolving Case (Video)

McConnell's new ad highlights his role in resolving a parent child abduction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign is highlighting his efforts to resolve an overseas parental child abduction case, with the child’s mother sharing with Kentucky voters the story she previously told at a Senate hearing.

The campaign has put the account of Noelle Hunter and her daughter Maayimuna “Muna” N’Diaye in a new TV ad, highlighting the Republican leader’s personal involvement in getting N’Diaye returned to the United States from Mali, where she was taken by her father. The father disregarded an order of a Kentucky judge regarding shared parental rights. N’Diaye returned to the United States in July.

The minute-long campaign spot featuring Hunter will air statewide, and the campaign told CQ Roll Call the ad buy is at least in the six-figure range. That suggests if it gets resonance, the ad could air even more frequently between now and November. Full story

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