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November 6, 2014

Script Will Be Flipped in 2016 Senate Majority Battle

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Johnson is one of several Republicans running in competitive states in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After securing control of the Senate Tuesday, Republicans are already staring down a daunting map for 2016.

The majority of the Senate battleground in the next election cycle will be fought on Republican turf, with the GOP defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10. There is more trouble for the party beneath those raw numbers; only two Democratic seats are in competitive states, while more than half a dozen Republican incumbents face re-election in states President Barack Obama carried at least once.

Republicans appear to have put themselves in as strong a position as possible, coming out of the midterms with potentially a 54-seat majority. But the next electoral fight for the Senate fundamentally looks nothing like 2014: Democrats are on offense, the playing field is packed with pricey media markets and every race is positioned down-ballot from a presidential contest.

“I think attention will turn to it as soon as the dust settles from this cycle,” Republican pollster Dan Judy said of 2016. “The environment will certainly be tougher for us with a lot of competitive seats to defend in swing states, but I’m hopeful that a Republican majority for two years will allow us to advance a constructive agenda that our incumbents can run on in 2016.”

Full story

November 5, 2014

Wicker, Heller Both in for NRSC Chairman

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Wicker in interested in the NRSC chairmanship. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is joining Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in the race to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2016 cycle.

Wicker confirmed his interest late last night at a GOP election night watch party in Union Station, as Republicans secured the majority for the first time in eight years.

“I’d like to try,” Wicker told CQ Roll Call. “It’s going to be a tough cycle.” Full story

A Day in the Life of Rob Collins, on the Brink of the Majority

A Day in the Life of Rob Collins, on the Brink of the Majority

Collins served as executive director of the NRSC during the 2014 midterms. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At the tail end of an hour-long press briefing at the National Republican Senatorial Committee less than three weeks before the elections, Executive Director Rob Collins threw out a prediction: The GOP would win the majority on election night.

Republicans were favored to pick up at least a handful of seats, but with a couple possible runoffs and some tight races, forecasting clear control of the chamber by the end of Election Day was a ballsy declaration.

In his office a little while later, Collins laughed as he noticed his quote popping up in stories online. He wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t think it was possible, but Collins went out on a limb mainly because he didn’t want his customary level-headed analysis of the Senate playing field misinterpreted as pessimism about his party’s chances.

“I think people like that I don’t bullshit them,” Collins said. But, he added, “I felt like, boy, I better end this on a note of confidence, or they’ll say, ‘Collins was a little iffy on that whole thing.’ So yeah, we’ll win on election night — it’s totally possible.” Full story

November 4, 2014

Why Senate Control May Not Be Known by Wednesday

Why Senate Control May Not Be Known by Wednesday

Landrieu rallies supporters Nov. 2 in Shreveport, La. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There are enough Democratic seats in play for Republicans to secure the Senate majority Tuesday, but there is also a chance the outcome won’t be known for days, weeks or even a couple months.

Needing to net six seats to win back control for the first time since George W. Bush’s second midterm in 2006, Republicans have taken advantage of a Democratic president in a similarly weak political position and have carved a path through 10 states. That means Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may be celebrating more than his own re-election in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday night.

Still, with runoffs likely in two competitive states, potentially razor-thin margins in a few races and vote-counting complications in Alaska, there are several hurdles to one party having clear control of the Senate by the time the sun rises Wednesday on the East Coast. Full story

November 2, 2014

Roll Call Event With Top Senate Campaign Aides Thursday

Roll Call Event With Top Senate Campaign Aides Thursday

Collins is the executive director of the NRSC. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Photo)

The cycle’s top campaign operatives will delve inside the races that decided the Senate majority in a special post-election briefing at CQ Roll Call’s Election Impact Conference.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will discuss the top Senate contests of 2014 — their first joint appearance after Election Day.

The duo will be interviewed by Roll Call’s Editor-in-Chief, Christina Bellantoni, at the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill. It’s part of our larger look into what the election’s results signal for the 114th Congress (Register here!).

I’ll moderate a discussion later that morning a panel of reporters and pollsters who will take a deep dive into the election results, including Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor, Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call Contributor; Perry Bacon, NBC News Senior Political Reporter; Mark Blumenthal, Huffington Post Senior Polling Editor; and Abby Livingston of our Roll Call Politics team.

The Election Impact Conference also features: Full story

November 1, 2014

Final Rankings: The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Final Rankings: The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Pryor, right, canvasses Saturday with an aide in the Little Rock, Arkansas, suburbs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

Roll Call’s final ranking of the most vulnerable senators doesn’t vary much from previous versions — the result of an unfavorable national climate for Democrats that has failed to improve.

On the eve of the midterm elections, Senate Democrats are staring down a hole dug by President Barack Obama’s disapproval ratings and an unforgiving map packed with red states. Retirements by a quartet of senators in Republican-leaning or swing states didn’t help, but the seats of at least four incumbents seeking re-election aren’t on much stronger ground.

It’s the reality of what could end up being a dreadful cycle for Democrats. Still, party strategists remain cautiously optimistic they can hold on to a few endangered seats, possibly even pick up a GOP open seat in Georgia and save the majority. Republicans need a net gain of six seats. Full story

October 27, 2014

10 Moments That Won or Lost Senate Control

10 Moments That Won or Lost Senate Control

The 2014 battle for the Senate has featured a few candidate bumbles and some colorful characters.

So far, it’s lacked any cycle-defining gaffes — “Todd Akin moments” — but there is still a week to go until Election Day and potentially two runoffs extending things into early next year.

Every election cycle provides noteworthy events or moments in time that, in hindsight, proved to be pivot points in the outcome. Roll Call has identified 10 such instances that helped define this cycle’s Senate landscape.

In 2012, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe’s, R-Maine, last-minute retirement began to alter the conventional wisdom that Republicans were likely headed for the majority. Months later, comments about rape by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock sealed the deal for Democrats.

Now, once again, the majority is up for grabs: Republicans have pushed the fight into purple states, while Democrats are holding out hope the party can hang on.

Here are 10 moments that helped get us here, in chronological order:

Hollywood Star Declines McConnell Challenge (March 27, 2013) Full story

October 24, 2014

DSCC Raises $6.5 Million in Early October

DSCC Raises $6.5 Million in Early October

Michael Bennet" src="http://atr.rollcall.com/wp-content/uploads/bennet_236_0326141-445x296.jpg" alt="senate races 2014" width="445" height="296" />

In the first two weeks of October, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee edged the National Republican Senatorial Committee in fundraising, taking in $6.5 million to the NRSC’s $6.1 million.

But the NRSC brought in more funds during that time if a $4 million transfer from the Republican National Committee is included in the total. The DSCC received a $1.5 million transfer from the Democratic National Committees.
Full story

October 23, 2014

5 Sleeper House Races

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Keating is a Massachusetts Democrat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the midst of wall-to-wall political coverage before Election Day, this handful of House races have managed to mostly fly under the radar.

These are sleeper races, from Arkansas to West Virginia, where the district’s partisan breakdown does not reflect the competitive nature of the race.

As little as two weeks ago, some of these contests were completely overlooked by national political operatives. But new polling suggests these races — like many more competitive contests — are closing, creating eleventh-hour opportunities for the parties.

To be sure, these seats won’t necessarily flip party control on Nov. 4. But thanks to recent events, they should make any election night watch list.

In alphabetical order, here are five sleeper House races of 2014:

Arkansas’ 2nd District Full story

October 22, 2014

Senate Races 2014: Why Michigan Never Became Iowa

Senate Races 2014: Why Michigan Never Became Iowa

Peters is the Democratic nominee in Michigan. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Earlier this cycle, Republicans viewed the Michigan Senate race as a potential pick-up opportunity, much like the seat in Iowa.

But it didn’t turn out that way — not even close.

Both Iowa and Michigan featured open-seat races. In these states, Democrats had cleared the field to nominate a House member with partisan voting records. Meanwhile, the GOP’s top candidate picks took a pass on these Senate races, forcing the party to settle for second-tier recruits. To be sure, Michigan was a slightly more favorable battleground for Democrats — but Republicans were bullish about it.

Now, with two weeks until Election Day, the Iowa race is a dead heat with both parties spending massively to win the seat. Nearly 500 miles away, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., solidly leads former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in every public poll. Earlier this month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled more than $850,000 out of the state, canceling its final two weeks of television for Land and indicating the race was over.

“I’d rather be on Gary Peters’ campaign than on Terri Lynn Land’s,” said Michigan Republican consultant Dennis Darnoi.

So what happened? Full story

October 20, 2014

Michelle Nunn’s Big Challenge: Breaking 50 Percent

Michelle Nunns Big Challenge: Breaking 50 Percent

Nunn is introduced by state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims at an April campaign event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The competitive open-seat Senate race in Georgia has become an unwanted liability for Republicans’ chances of winning a majority, but Democrat Michelle Nunn still has a perilous path to win a majority of the vote on Nov. 4.

National Republicans, who just spent $1.4 million more to support their nominee, say David Perdue is still ahead. But his comments about his “outsourcing” past have undoubtedly breathed new life into the Nunn campaign — and given national Democrats their best offensive opportunity.

Still, with a third-party candidate expected to take a chunk of votes, an unfavorable national climate and a small margin for error in this Republican-leaning state, Nunn has several hurdles standing in the way of her best chance for victory — winning a majority of the vote on Election Day. Perdue would be favored in a Jan. 6 runoff because turning out the vote then would be an even heavier lift for Democrats.

“The numbers are strong,” said state Rep. Stacey Abrams, who recently led a statewide voter registration drive aimed at young minorities. “It’s certainly all about turnout, which is a generic trope, but real. If we can turn out the voters, she can win in November. But we have to be prepared for any eventuality, and I think the campaign is prepared for that.” Full story

October 16, 2014

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

October 15, 2014

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

October 14, 2014

NRSC Airs First South Dakota Ad (Video)

NRSC Airs First South Dakota Ad (Video)

The race for Johnson's seat is heating up. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched its first TV ad today in the newest hot race on the competitive Senate playing field, one day after national Democrats released an ad of their own.

The spot, part of the committee’s recently-announced $1 million ad buy in the state, takes aim at Democrat Rick Weiland and independent Larry Pressler — the two greatest challengers to Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds.

“In the race for U.S. Senate, Rick Weiland and Larry Pressler have a lot in common,” the ad’s announcer says, noting they both support the president’s health care law, “strict new gun laws” and higher energy costs. Full story

October 13, 2014

DSCC Raised $16 Million in September

DSCC Raised $16 Million in September

Michael Bennet" src="http://atr.rollcall.com/wp-content/uploads/bennet_236_0326141-445x296.jpg" alt="2014 senate races" width="445" height="296" />

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Monday that it raised $16 million in September, leaving it with $14.2 million in cash on hand for the final month before Election Day.

That monthly haul brought the DSCC’s total raised this cycle to $127.1 million. The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced last week raising more than $97 million cycle-to-date after bringing in $15.5 million in September.

With about three weeks to go, both committees are spending heavily in an ever-shifting slate of competitive states. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. Full story

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