Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 23, 2014

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

105 Posts

November 20, 2014

Josh Holmes, the Mastermind of Team Mitch

Josh Holmes, the Mastermind of Team Mitch

Holmes, right, accompanied McConnell at an election eve campaign stop at an airport in Bowling Green, Ky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Much of the movie “Fargo” takes place in Minnesota, the home state of the aide in charge of the campaign that propelled Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell to the role of Senate majority leader in the next Congress.

It’s fitting that Josh Holmes, the senior adviser whom McConnell commended on stage at his election night gathering in Louisville, would hail from Minnesota, given that another former chief of staff, Billy Piper, once said McConnell was the wood chipper in the movie’s gruesome final scene.

Personality-wise, Holmes does not fit the billing for a Coen Brothers film. The hard-nosed operative behind one of the cycle’s best campaigns is classic “Minnesota nice,” said former Sen. Norm Coleman. Holmes was regional coordinator for the Minnesota Republican’s 2002 Senate campaign and then joined his office on Capitol Hill.

Full story

November 4, 2014

McConnell Warns Senate Control Could Be Unclear Until January

McConnell Warns Senate Control Could Be Unclear Until January

McConnell, right, is the Senate Minority Leader. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Photo)

BOWLING GREEN, Ky., — At the end of a full day of flying around the Bluegrass State, Sen. Mitch McConnell presented the state of play on the national landscape like a prognosticator instead of a pol who holds the title of Senate minority leader.

McConnell Warns Senate Control Could Be Unclear Until January“We think we have a good chance to take the Senate,” McConnell said of the Republicans’ prospects. “The suspense won’t last much longer. Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow night instead of December or January, but there could be additional races beyond tomorrow night.”

“There could be another election in Louisiana, and their could be another election in Georgia,” he said.

In Georgia, a runoff between Republican David Perdue and and Democrat Michelle Nunn would run past the scheduled opening of the new Congress, which could make organizing the chamber nearly impossible if the result could determine which party is in charge.

“I think it’s uncharted territory. Hopefully it will be decided tomorrow night, and we won’t have to worry about it,” McConnell said. Full story

November 1, 2014

Reid: Iowa Loss Would Mean Republican Senate Majority (Updated)

Reid: Iowa Loss Would Mean Republican Senate Majority (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:27 p.m., Nov. 1 | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have just unwittingly given Minority Leader McConnell something to smile about.

“What Joni Ernst would mean, coming to the United States Senate, is that Mitch McConnell would be the leader of the Senate, someone who agrees with her on virtually everything. Think what that would mean to our country,” Reid told progressives Saturday, when asked about Ernst’s chances in the open-seat race in Iowa.

That sure sounds like Reid believes his Republican leadership counterpart is going to win in Kentucky on Tuesday.

Reid then reprised familiar lines about the increase in the number of cloture motions and the history of the filibuster.

(Join us on Election Night: Live Stream With Analysis, Results and More at RollCall.com)

Full story

October 27, 2014

Ed Gillespie Throws ‘Redskins’ Hail Mary

Ed Gillespie Throws Redskins Hail Mary

Gillespie is the Republican nominee for Senate in Virginia. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Photo)

Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie said in an ad airing during “Monday Night Football” that he would oppose legislation forcing the Washington Redskins to change the team name.

“I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill. Let’s focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay and making our nation safer. And let the Redskins handle what to call their team,” said Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Gillespie faces long odds to oust Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., next week, and recent polling shows the Republican trailing by double digits. The race is rated Democrat Favored by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Gillespie recently cut his ad buys in the Washington, D.C., area — an indication of a campaign struggling for cash. Also, it wasn’t immediately clear if the spot would run elsewhere.

Full story

McConnell Brings Back the Bloodhounds for Closing Week in Kentucky (Video)

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is calling out the dogs — but this time there’s some fun involved.

The Senate minority leader’s campaign for re-election in Kentucky launched a new ad Monday evening that features McConnell surrounded by bloodhounds. It harkens back to his very first Senate campaign, when he upset Democrat Walter Dee Huddleston in 1984.

With McConnell facing a competitive race against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the current secretary of state, he’s unveiling a more light-hearted ad for the final week, which was featured on local news in Louisville Monday evening.

“You know, a lot of people try to tell me how to do my commercials,” McConnell says in the ads, which features the Republican leader in a variety of preposterous situations and also features a talking baby.

Full story

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Almost Always Voted With Obama

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Almost Always Voted With Obama

Udall voted with Obama 99 percent of the time in 2014, according to the newly released CQ vote study. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to avoid tough votes this year has backfired in one respect — it gave his vulnerable incumbents few opportunities to show off any independence from President Barack Obama.

A new CQ vote study shows vulnerable Senate Democrats almost always voted to support the president in 2014 — a fact that has been instantly seized upon by Republicans, given that Obama’s approval rating is languishing in the low 40s nationally and lower still in several battleground states.

As senior writer Shawn Zeller writes in this week’s CQ Weekly cover story, Democrats who have been distancing themselves from Obama on the campaign trail not in votes on the Senate floor — whether it be Mark Udall of Colorado, Mark Pryor of Arkansas or Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana:

Udall disagreed just once, on a Pennsylvania state judge’s nomination to a federal district court. Pryor parted with Obama three times, and Landrieu four, but only one of those votes was on a policy matter. In July, Landrieu voted against Obama’s request for $2.7 billion to deal with the surge of Latin American children entering the U.S. illegally.

Indeed, all of the most vulnerable Democrats voted with President Obama at least 96 percent of the time on the 120 votes on which Obama has urged a “yes” or “no” vote. Full story

October 24, 2014

Angus King Endorses Republican Senate Colleague

Angus King Endorses Republican Senate Colleague

King, left, endorsed a Republican for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, a member of the Democratic caucus, is backing a senior Senate Republican in his bid for re-election.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is not facing a significant challenge on Nov. 4, but the support from King is interesting considering the independent senator’s potential role in a closely divided or tied Senate. King and Alexander are both members of the informal caucus of former governors.

The two senators are personally close, but Alexander also is a former Republican Conference chairman with close ties to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Full story

October 15, 2014

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

October 10, 2014

Independents Could Control Power in Senate

Independents Could Control Power in Senate

Roberts, left, debates Orman during a luncheon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The power in the Senate could increasingly flow not to Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell, but to a few independents who could hold the keys to the majority — and they know it.

The two unexpected GOP trouble spots in the Midwest feature independent candidates who are making noise about not joining either side in a divided Senate. In Kansas it’s Greg Orman, who is challenging long-time GOP incumbent Pat Roberts. Republicans are extremely dubious of Orman, pointing to campaign dollars he’s given to top Democrats, although Orman is fond of pointing to contributions to Republicans as well.

“I think what I’ve said and what I’ve been clear about since the beginning, is if one party or the other is in the majority I will seek to caucus with the party that is in the majority. But that if I get elected, and neither party is in the majority, then what I’m going to do is sit down with both sides, propose a pro-problem solving agenda and ask both sides, whether or not they’re willing to support that agenda. And we’re going to be likely to support the agenda, and the party that’s most likely to embrace a pro-problem-solving agenda,” Orman told reporters gathered after Wednesday’s debate. Full story

October 8, 2014

Why Senate Attendance Attacks Are Usually Bogus (Video)

Why Senate Attendance Attacks Are Usually Bogus (Video)

Hagan serves on the Armed Services Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The worst-kept secret on Capitol Hill? Senators miss committee hearings and meetings. All the time.

Unless the senator wields the gavel, he or she may only show up for five minutes, or when it is their turn to ask questions. The results include guffaw-inducing scenes where even senior lawmakers enter the wrong hearing room, misidentify a witness and question the wrong person on the other side of the dais.

But out on the campaign trail, a less-than-stellar attendance record has become the political ammo in a number of Senate races, with criticism of incumbent lawmakers flying in Alaska, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado and Iowa.

This cycle, much of the fodder has come from committee attendance records, at least compared to floor votes. It might look bad back home, but consistent committee attendance defies a reality on Capitol Hill. Full story

October 3, 2014

Grimes Campaign Used Vehicles Owned By Family Business

Grimes Campaign Used Vehicles Owned By Family Business

(Photo via CQ Roll Call tipster)

A tour bus that roiled Kentucky’s Senate race in August may have been parked after suggestions of impropriety, but smaller vehicles owned by companies associated with Alison Lundergan Grimes’ father have remained on the road for campaign purposes.

Vehicles registered to entities owned by Jerry Lundergan, the former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman, have been spotted at campaign events. The vans sport familiar Grimes logos and signage, like this Black Chevrolet Suburban spotted in a recent parade in Greensburg, Ky.

Full story

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.

Full story

September 29, 2014

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

September 26, 2014

McConnell, Grimes Split on Marijuana Legalization Debate

McConnell, Grimes Split on Marijuana Legalization Debate

Marijuana accessories are pictured in Terrapin Care Station, a marijuana dispensary, in Boulder, Colo. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The national discussion about legalizing marijuana has now surfaced in Kentucky’s Senate race.

A day after Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes encouraged a conversation about it, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his opposition to following Colorado’s lead and legalizing marijuana more broadly in an interview on a local radio station Friday.

“I’m against legalizing marijuana,” the Republican said. “Certainly it’s not in the same category as heroin, but I think to begin … to sort of send the message that we’re giving up, you know, that this is just the way it’s going to be, then one thing leads to another and pretty soon … you completely transform your society in a way that I think certainly most Kentuckians would not agree with.”

Full story

September 16, 2014

Mitch McConnell Rapid Response Ad Features Obama

Mitch McConnell Rapid Response Ad Features Obama

McConnell's campaign is using this official photo of Obama shooting clay targets (Pete Souza/White House)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign has taken rapid response to the airwaves.

The Kentucky Republican is out with a new TV ad Tuesday rebutting a spot Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes released Monday morning to CQ Roll Call.

The Grimes ad featured the Kentucky secretary of state skeet shooting and highlighting differences from President Barack Obama on several policy issues, including guns and the environment. The McConnell response, which the campaign says is backed by a significant six-figure buy, connects Grimes’ past support of the Democratic Party platform. Full story

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