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September 15, 2014

Democrats Have a Plan to Overcome Obama in Red States

senate races

Hagan is a North Carolina Democrat seeking re-election this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As national analysts say the odds are increasingly against them, Democratic senators and senior operatives remain optimistic the party’s most vulnerable incumbents can survive stiff re-election challenges, even in red states where the president’s popularity is sunk.

With his national approval ratings mired in the low 40s seven weeks out from the Nov. 4 elections, Senate Democrats are well aware of the anchor President Barack Obama is proving to be in the midterms. It’s clear party strategists have had to tailor their red-state strategies around that reality on a map already tilted against them, with three principles at the crux of Democrats’ path to defend seats in GOP-leaning and solidly Republican states where the majority will be won or lost.

As Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil outlined in an interview last week with CQ Roll Call, it’s imperative for Democrats in these states to remind voters why they supported the incumbent in the first place, to over-perform generic Democratic numbers and continue to fund persuasion efforts — along with getting out the vote — through Election Day.

“The president’s ratings are a factor in our elections, but they are not the only factor in our elections,” Cecil said, noting the tens of millions of dollars being spent on advertising and the DSCC’s field campaign efforts. Full story

September 10, 2014

DSCC Blasts Ernst on Social Security Comments in New Ad

Ernst is in one of the cycle's tightest races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going up with a new ad in Iowa attacking Republican Joni Ernst for talking about privatizing social security and tying her to the Koch Brothers.

Ernst faces Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in one of the most competitive races this cycle. The two are vying for the open seat currently held by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

In the ad, provided first to CQ Roll Call, a male narrator attacks Ernst as “too extreme.”

Joni Ernst is talking about privatizing Social Security. Risking it on the stock market,” the narrator says. Full story

August 28, 2014

National Democrats Hit Tom Cotton on Social Security

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The DSCC is helping Pryor with another ad in Arkansas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a new TV ad in Arkansas Thursday that continues a theme of portraying Republican Rep. Tom Cotton as someone voters can’t trust.

The DSCC’s latest spot is part of a total $3.6 million investment to support Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, whose brand has helped make him competitive for re-election in this Republican-leaning state and in a challenging national environment for his party.

The ad targets the freshman congressman on Social Security. It features Brett Smith of Helena, Ark., vocalizing his concern for his retirement.

“I can see my retirement from here, but every time I see Tom Cotton I feel it slipping away,” Smith says in the ad. Full story

August 5, 2014

Senate Democrats Launch First IE Ad of 2014 (Video)

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Senate 2014: Cotton is the target of the DSCC's first IE ad of the cycle. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched its first independent expenditure ad of the cycle Tuesday, the premiere installment in a $3.6 million buy in Arkansas on behalf of Sen. Mark Pryor.

The ad pushes a theme Democrats have worked for months to sew into the race — that Republican Rep. Tom Cotton can’t be trusted. Full story

August 4, 2014

Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

elections 2014

In 2014 Senate races, Pryor is one of the most vulnerable Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three months before Election Day, it’s clear some senators may not return to Congress after the midterms — and that’s mostly good news for Republicans.

The GOP’s path to the Senate majority includes a mix of open seats and targeted Democratic incumbents. The two most vulnerable seats are in South Dakota and West Virginia, where Democratic senators are retiring. Republicans also have opportunities in open seats in Iowa and, to a lesser degree, Michigan.

But even if they are victorious in those states, the GOP must defeat at least two incumbents to reach the net six seats needed for control.

Luckily for Republicans, Democrats make up the vast majority of endangered senators seeking re-election. The GOP has a lengthy catalog of states where it has an opportunity to win, though there is a wide gap betweenthe  No. 1 and No. 10 most vulnerable senators — who are ordered by most likely to lose.

Roll Call’s “10 Most Vulnerable Senators” list will be updated monthly ahead of the Nov. 4 elections. For now, here is where the incumbents stand: Full story

July 27, 2014

6 Reasons Senate Republicans Should Be Optimistic — and Concerned About Election Day

senate races 2014

In 2014 Senate races, Republicans are optimistic they can defeat Braley, above, and pick up a seat in Iowa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With 100 days to go until Election Day, Senate Republicans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about winning the majority — but they also have grounds for concern.

After coming up short in 2010 and 2012, the GOP is unquestionably well positioned to finish the job this time. Republicans need to match their November 2010 score of six seats to take the majority, and the party has multiple paths to the finish line.

That’s thanks to a successful recruitment push that didn’t conclude until late February, and a playing field naturally tilted in the GOP’s direction — seven Democrat-held seats are in states President Barack Obama lost in 2012, six of those by double digits.

But, as optimistic as Republican operatives are heading into the final stretch, the GOP has reasons to restrain its confidence. With tens of millions of dollars of advertising already spent by outside groups on both sides, just one Democratic incumbent is, at this point, a solid underdog for re-election.

Reasons for Republicans to Be Optimistic Full story

July 24, 2014

Quirky Ex-Senator Stomps on Democrats’ S.D. Hopes

senate 2014

Johnson is retiring. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

South Dakota Democrats are playing a tough hand in the Senate race, but they thought they could count on a wild card — former Sen. Larry Pressler — to help the contest break their way.

Pressler seems to have other plans.

Democrats already faced long odds to hold retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s seat. Obama lost South Dakota by 18 points last cycle, and the state marks the GOP’s best pick-up opportunity in its 6-seat quest to win the majority.

The front-runner, popular former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds, faces several foes: Democrat Rick Weiland; state Sen. Gordon Howie, a conservative Republican running as an independent; and Pressler, who served three terms as a Republican but is running as an independent.

Democrats held out hope the race would become competitive if Pressler splintered GOP votes from Rounds. But so far, Pressler is doing the opposite — splitting Democrats and extinguishing the party’s remaining hopes of keeping the seat.

“He seems to be veering to the left,” said Ben Nesselhuf, former South Dakota Democratic Party chairman, in an interview with Roll Call. “I like this Larry Pressler a lot more than I liked the one in the mid 1990s. … His message and Rick Weiland’s message seem to kind of overlap.”

Full story

July 23, 2014

Senate Democrats Count on Bulging War Chests for Final Months

senate races 2014

Fundraising plays a factor in who will serve as Senate majority leader in the next Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Senate Democrats lose the majority, it won’t be for lack of cash-flush campaigns. Facing a daunting map, Democrats turned in solid — sometimes eye-popping — second-quarter fundraising totals for the midterms.

Even with incumbents such as Sens. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska already spending significantly on the airwaves, Democrats running for the party’s most endangered seats also continued to sit on significant war chests primed for a post-Labor Day advertising assault.

With President Barack Obama’s approval ratings in the low 40s, an unreliable base turnout in midterms, outside groups unleashing seemingly unlimited resources and Republican challengers staying competitive financially, it will take every penny to ensure Democrats’ losses don’t reach six seats. That threshold would hand the GOP control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.

The fundraising reports filed last week by the dozen or so most competitive campaigns offer the last publicly available insight into their financial viability until mid-October, just before the general elections. With a few months to go, this was the first fundraising period that saw numerous candidates eclipse $2 million raised, with several topping $3 million and one even reaching $4 million. Full story

July 22, 2014

Democratic Poll: The Issues That Resonate With Single Women Voters

A new poll of likely voters in 12 Senate battleground states suggests a populist economic message and focus on women’s health issues could help Democrats improve their standing with unmarried women voters in advance of the midterm elections.

The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps in collaboration with Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which focuses on increasing participation among unmarried women voters.

It found that Democratic candidates are currently underperforming with unmarried women voters, beating Republicans among the crucial demographic by just 11 points, compared to a 20-point gap in the 2010 midterms. But the poll also gave Democrats suggestions for messages that are most likely to resonate with this voting bloc.

“The movement in the races and in the states is really about the movement of unmarried women … based on hearing an economic agenda that resonates with their lives,” said Page Gardner, the founder of Women’s Voices Women Vote. Full story

July 18, 2014

DSCC Raised More Than NRSC in June

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced raising $7.2 million in June — just about a million dollars more than its Republican counterpart.

As the party fights to maintain its majority in the Senate, the DSCC has brought in about $25 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee to date this cycle. It raised about $21.7 million total from April through June and had $30.5 million in cash on hand as of June 30. Full story

July 7, 2014

Déjà Vu in Minnesota Senate Race?

Franken is seeking re-election in Minnesota. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Al Franken knows the story — just not from this side.

In 2008, a first-time candidate dogged by his career history faced a formidable incumbent dragged down by an unpopular second-term president. The result: now-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., defeated then-Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, in a shockingly close race that only ended after a months-long contentious recount and legal battle.

Now Coleman’s hand-picked candidate wants to return the favor in 2014. Franken will face a wealthy investment banker and first-time candidate, Mike McFadden, in November — and this time, he’s the senator battling an unpopular president’s drag on the ballot.

Full story

June 30, 2014

3 Ways Hobby Lobby Ruling Could Impact 2014 (Video)

The Supreme Court’s narrow Monday decision allowing some companies to not offer contraceptive coverage for employees could have an impact on the November midterms.

The ruling is a polarizing one for Democrats and Republicans — and both sides have already tried to use it to their political advantage.

Republicans mostly support the court’s decision, calling it a win for religious freedom and a major defeat for the president’s health care overhaul law that required company health care plans to cover birth control. Democrats are using the decision to emphasize what they see as the GOP’s unfriendly policies toward women.

That contrast could play out in three key ways in 2014 elections:

Full story

June 23, 2014

Travis Childers Awaits Cochran, McDaniel Primary Finale

Childers is awaiting the Cochran runoff results. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As his two potential Republican opponents duked it out over the past three weeks, former Rep. Travis Childers has been traveling Mississippi and working the phones in preparation for an uphill Senate race.

If state Sen. Chris McDaniel is able to topple longtime Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP runoff Tuesday, Childers would suddenly be the Democratic nominee in a race that could invite outside spending from both sides and give his party a third possible pickup opportunity as it defends the majority in a lopsided landscape.

But his Tuesday night plans do not involve any sort of watch party as Republican votes roll in.

“I don’t want to be sitting around waiting on their results,” Childers told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. “I will probably be on the road.”

Full story

Pick Your Clinton: Democrats Want Duo on Trail

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton are exciting Democrats who hope for their help in the midterm elections. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democrats are gearing up to unleash the Clinton Dynasty.

They hope deploying the popular former White House occupants could help drum up money and hype in what could be a tough election year for the party. Democrats see the power couple as an asset, especially because Republicans have no singular unifying figure who can hit the trail.

But good thing there’s two of them.

Democratic operatives say each half of the Clinton duo appeals to different segments of the electorate — so assignments to races must be deliberate and strategic.

North of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton territory — replete with voters who have already warmed to electing women to Congress. Former President Bill Clinton, party officials say, plays better in the South and Midwest, where he performed well with traditional Yellow Dog Democrats who relate to the party’s economic message but tend to be more conservative on social issues.

Together, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say there are few areas where the Clinton duo wouldn’t have a positive impact.

“Both Clintons can go into any competitive district in the country and be enormously helpful to Democratic candidates,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said. “The second Secretary Clinton is ready, we’d love to have her campaigning for House Democrats.”

Full story

May 19, 2014

DSCC, NRSC Top $6 Million Raised in April

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee narrowly outraised its GOP counterpart in April, with both bringing in more than $6 million.

The DSCC announced Monday raising $6.3 million and ending last month with $25 million in cash on hand. The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Friday it just eclipsed $6 million for the month and ended April with $19.2 million on hand.

The committees’ monthly reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

The DSCC has now raised more than $80 million for the cycle, about $21 million more than the NRSC. The DSCC is investing heavily in field operations to motivate its base in this challenging midterm cycle, and this month it began its fall airtime reservations in Alaska, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich faces a competitive race.

Since Senate Republican hopes of winning the majority increased at the start of 2014, the NRSC said it is outpacing its own election-year fundraising from 2010 and 2012 by about $3 million. Republicans must net six seats to win the majority.

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