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Posts in "Shira Toeplitz"
August 8, 2014
TUCSON, Ariz. — Rep. Ron Barber guides his Ford through the flat, four-lane paved streets, ticking off landmarks on the corners of his desert city surrounded by jagged mountains.
That’s Rincon High School, where he enrolled as a sophomore in 1959. There’s the middle school his grandson attends. As he makes a left turn, Barber points to St. Cyril of Alexandria Church, where he married his wife, Nancy, 47 years ago.
On the opposite corner of the church is another Barber landmark, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office, where he worked as her district director for several years. One memory sticks out: On the night of the Affordable Care Act vote, he put out a press release and left around midnight. A couple of hours later, someone shattered the office door and window. He said they later discovered bullets inside.
It’s not the most notorious time Barber risked gunfire — not even close. At the main gate of the University of Arizona campus, the former state bureaucrat gestures up the road toward the trauma center where he was treated after a gunman killed six and injured a dozen more, including Barber and Giffords, in January 2011. Full story
May 6, 2013
Keep an eye on Roll Call and this blog for ongoing coverage of former Gov. Mark Sanford’s bid to come back to Congress via the 1st District special election. It could really happen on Tuesday.
Until then, here’s what you might have missed “At the Races” on Monday …
- #GASEN: GOP Rep. Jack Kingston raised more than a quarter-million dollars at a fundraiser for his Senate campaign to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
- #IASEN: Since Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, declined to run for Senate, Republicans are on the prowl for a new candidate.
- #CA31: Two of former Rep. Joe Baca’s, D-Calif., Democratic House colleagues are not backing his congressional comeback bid. The blood feud continues!
- #SC01: Polls close at 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday for the special election between Sanford and the Democratic nominee, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
What we’re mulling on Monday …
November 1, 2012
Some Hoosier voters will hear state Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s voice in their mailbox this week.
American Bridge strikes again with a talking mail piece, and this time it features the GOP Senate nominee’s controversial comment from last week’s debate that pregnancy from rape is “something God intended to happen.”
The Indiana Senate race between Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) is one of the most competitive in the country. Roll Call rates it as a Tossup.
The $30,000 mail buy will target independent voters, according to an aide from the Democratic group. Here’s a demonstration from American Bridge:
American Bridge issued a similar talking mailer in the Missouri Senate race that quoted Rep. Todd Akin’s (R) “legitimate rape” comment.
Congressional candidates don’t get out as much as they used to.
Blame it on the increased pressure to raise more money or video trackers or the way the Internet has transformed voter outreach. Or all three.
There’s no question the flood of spending by outside groups and the overall level of money being spent on elections up and down the ballot has led to a decrease in retail politicking for Members of Congress and House and Senate hopefuls. More and more candidates are ditching the campaign trail to spend more time dialing for dollars.
“Today, because of the staggering amount of money that federal candidates have to raise, the amount of retail campaigning they could do is markedly less than it was four or six years ago,” said David Heller, a Democratic media consultant for two decades.
There is no numeric evidence revealing the drop-off in retail political events, but campaign operatives on both sides of the aisle have noticed the obvious trend.
There are several reasons beyond fundraising that Congressional candidates eschewed the person-to-person contact this cycle. While the pressure to fundraise increased, tightly controlled campaigns avoid putting their candidates in the path of video trackers — or anyone with a cellphone camera — until they must.
The result? More voters meet their Members of Congress through the lens of a negative television advertisement. It’s an ominous circumstance for a Congress with already record-low approval ratings.
In the competitive race for Pennsylvania’s 12th district, aides said the campaigns announced one to two events a day this week. In the mid-October days leading up to Senate debates in Indiana and Ohio, campaigns ceased announced public campaigning for two to three days to prepare.
“Media advisories are a thing of the past,” said Chris LaCivita, a GOP consultant based in Virginia. “There has been a decline, if you will, in the number of retail political events, mostly because the methods of reaching out to voters, specifically through the Internet, have changed the dynamics of campaigning so much.”
Traditionally, the waning weeks before Election Day marked the time when candidates stopped fundraising and focused on get-out-the-vote activities while spending the millions of dollars that they raised on airing TV ads. And October recess kicked off marathon days of glad-handing, baby-kissing and flesh-pressing.
Especially in major media markets such as Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles, campaigns now find retail politicking is not worth candidates’ time.
“The bang for your buck is not great if you’re the candidate,” said Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) in mid-October while knocking on doors with San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters in Coronado. On that beautiful Saturday afternoon, it was her fourth door without an answer.
The pressure to fundraise is mostly to blame. The advent of outside groups with unlimited cash put candidates’ call time at a premium — at least until there’s no more airtime left to buy.
One House aide running a targeted race described a strict regime of three events a day this week — and only during mealtimes. Every other moment, this House candidate fundraises or, sometimes, calls undecided voters.
“In the last couple of weeks, frankly, I need him on the phones raising money so that we can hope to compete on air and reach more voters,” said another Democratic operative running a top House race.
The receipts tell the larger story: House and Senate races are more expensive endeavors than they were two or four years ago. The top House fundraisers in competitive races bring in, on average, about $1 million more than in 2008.
A study released Wednesday estimated that $6 billion will be spent on the 2012 elections.
“It used to be if a candidate did five or six hours of call time a day, four or even five days a week, that was considered extraordinarily good,” Heller said. “Today, that’s a rock-bottom minimum. And for the most contested races, it’s not nearly enough.”
Of course, much of this depends on the candidate, the campaign and the state.
If the candidate is a self-funder, he can hit the campaign trail as much as possible — such as former WWE CEO Linda McMahon in Connecticut. The Republican nominee for Senate donated $40 million to her own campaign. This cycle, she could afford to attend 240 small events for women and marched in every fair or parade in the state.
In North Dakota, retail politicking is still worth the effort because of the state’s small voting population. This week, Rep. Rick Berg (R) kicked off a statewide tour in his dark green Ford pickup truck, and an aide said he’ll average five stops per day for his Senate bid’s last big push. His opponent, former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, starts a five-day, 30-stop bus tour today in her colorful campaign bus emblazoned with “Bring it home, Heidi,” per an aide.
But those kinds of events are becoming the exception instead of the rule, especially in early to mid-October. It’s rare for reporters to show up to such events in states with dwindling news outlets.
In the final days of a campaign, it’s often more productive for bleary-eyed candidates to turn out the party faithful instead, according to Scott Cottington, a Republican consultant for three decades.
“I just think there’s a general aversion to campaigning on the ground anyway, and I think that’s somewhat a reflection of both sides catering to their base now,” Cottington said. “If I know I can be calling known donors and raising money, most candidates would rather spend their time doing that than going out and meeting people in the crapshoot that’s going out, door to door.”
Of course, for some candidates, it’s advantageous to spend more time behind closed doors. Some Congressional hopefuls aren’t good at chatting up crowds, while others have a gaffe habit. In the YouTube age, it’s easier to leave the personal appeal for the straight-to-camera spot.
“We owe it to our clients to make sure they don’t get ambushed,” LaCivita said. “That’s just responding to the times. No one wants to see their client bushwhacked by some half-cocked blogger.”
Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.
October 31, 2012
PALATINE, Ill. — Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) have polar opposite personalities and politics. But they have one unusual similarity in this House race: They are both battling their national profiles to win this northwestern suburban Chicago House seat.
An unlikely victor last cycle, Walsh embodies the feisty tea party spirit of 2010 but made headlines on cable news for his rookie gaffes. Duckworth, a double amputee, is a Democratic darling who missed an opportunity to win a 2006 Congressional race at the height of the country’s anti-war frustration.
This cycle’s contest would have been a clash of two political movements if all signs didn’t point to a Democratic victory. But Duckworth picked up a few campaign tricks in the past six years, becoming a better candidate since she lost to now-Rep. Peter Roskam (R) by 2 points. Her fan base extends downstate to Democrats in Springfield, who redrew the 8th district to be more favorable to the party and to include her Hoffman Estates home. Full story
LEMONT, Ill. — Rep. Judy Biggert built a reputation as a genteel Republican willing to work across the aisle during her 14 years in Congress.
But politics has changed, and Biggert has not.
“The last time I went to the Civility Caucus, there were three people there: the two co-chairs and me,” Biggert recalled to a roundtable of local business leaders last week.
Today, one of those co-chairmen is the head of the organization that has already spent $1.35 million to defeat her next week: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.).
Biggert has never faced a race like this — and it shows. Now there’s a good chance her hesitance to embrace the aggressive tactics of today’s politics could cost her in her race against former Rep. Bill Foster (D). Full story
October 30, 2012
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Freshman Rep. Robert Dold boasts the dubious distinction of representing the most Democratic district of any Republican Member of the House.
If he’s lucky, Dold will keep that title next year in this redrawn district north of Chicago.
“Where is Zion?” asked his daughter Harper, 10, studying an atlas from the front seat of Dold’s blue, decorated campaign bus early Saturday afternoon. “Is this the right map?”
That’s probably the same question Dold asked himself 16 months ago, when Democrats redrew the Congressional map in Illinois. Democrats unsuccessfully dumped millions into the 10th district during the past three cycles, so Dold began his first term as a top target, even before the redrawn map made his road to a second term more challenging. Full story
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Democratic hopes of winning the House majority have been quashed, but in this northern Chicago suburb’s crowded village hall on a Saturday morning, one can see the glimmer of what might have been.
At this single location, early voters wait an hour to cast ballots in one of three redrawn Congressional districts. The hall serves as a symbol of the extent to which Democrats redrew the lines of the state’s map to their advantage.
Throughout the cycle, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) repeated these words: “The road to the majority runs through Illinois.” But less than week before Election Day, it’s clear that Democrats won’t net the 25 seats needed to regain the Speaker’s gavel, and it’s equally clear they won’t make as many gains in Illinois as they had hoped. Full story
October 26, 2012
CHICAGO — Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) today released a poll that showed him with a 10-point lead over his opponent, Rep. Betty Sutton (D).
Renacci led Sutton, 51 percent to 41 percent, in a survey conducted for the freshman Republican’s campaign. Seven percent of voters said they were undecided.
The survey results come just after Renacci stopped airing advertisements in the Cleveland broadcast market through Election Day. His strategy puzzled Democrats and, privately, some Republicans too. Both parties view the race as highly competitive, and Roll Call rates it as a Tossup.
CHICAGO — Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s (R) campaign released a poll this morning showing a tied Senate race after his Tuesday night debate, when he called pregnancy from rape something that “God intended.”
Mourdock and his opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D), are tied at 44 percent in the survey paid for by the GOP nominee’s campaign. A libertarian candidate, Andrew Horning, received 6 percent in the poll.
Four percent of voters said they were undecided.
The new numbers serve as damage control for Mourdock after his highly publicized remarks in the final debate of his race. Democrats seized on his comments, airing a new advertisement featuring his words throughout the state. Even some Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, distanced themselves from Mourdock’s words by stating their disagreement. Full story
ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. — Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) had a 10-point advantage over freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) in the most recent poll of the suburban Chicago 8th district.
Duckworth led Walsh, 50 percent to 40 percent, in the Chicago Tribune poll of 600 likely voters. Notably, Duckworth led Walsh among female voters, 54 percent to 34 percent.
The new numbers come one day after Duckworth hosted Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to discuss Walsh’s comments on abortion. Speier opened up about her own medically necessary abortion on the House floor last February.
“His most recent commentary about women accessing abortion in late-term pregnancies for medical reasons being unnecessary” Speier said on her day trip to the Chicago area. “I’m living proof it is necessary. He continues to spew out horrific misinformation.”
October 25, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS — By now, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock should know when to hold his tongue.
But the Republican Senate nominee, who’s been in Indiana politics for more than two decades, has a habit of speaking freely, frequently.
Many Hoosiers agree with his ideology, but Mourdock’s errors are political. As a result, less than two weeks before Election Day, Mourdock’s greatest hurdle to winning a Senate seat is himself.
“Richard doesn’t really believe in a filter,” said one Hoosier Republican and Mourdock ally, who declined to criticize the nominee on the record. “He is who he is and refuses to compromise for expediency.”
On Tuesday evening, Mourdock described pregnancy that results from rape as “something that God intended to happen” in response to an open-ended question on abortion. He delivered a tearful apology the next day to those who misunderstood his comments, which he described as not “articulate.”
The comments sent the Indiana race into turmoil two weeks before Election Day, just as Mourdock regained his footing against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) following a rocky September for Republicans nationwide.
October 24, 2012
Updated 3:45 p.m. | INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) sought to clarify his controversial debate comment that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen” this morning, apologizing to those who misunderstood his remarks but standing by their intended meaning.
“If, because of the lack of clarity in my words, they came away with the impression other than those I said a moment ago, that life is precious, that I abhor violence, and God abhors violence and rape. If they came away with any impression other than that, I truly regret it,” Mourdock said at a press conference at Indiana Republican Party headquarters
Mourdock choked up repeatedly during the press conference, declaring himself a “more humble person this morning because so many people mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand the point that I was trying to make.” But when pressed about his apology, Mourdock defended the original intent behind his statement. Full story
INDIANAPOLIS — National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is standing by his nominee in Indiana, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who said pregnancy that results from rape “is something God intended to happen” in the final Senate debate Tuesday night.
Mourdock was answering a question about abortion and explaining his position that he is against the procedure in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. He faces Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, who is also anti-abortion-rights but believes in exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God,” Cornyn said in a statement emailed to reporters this morning. “To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous. In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it’s come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life.” Full story
October 23, 2012
NEW ALBANY, Ind. — In the final, high-stakes debate before Election Day, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) touched on an issue that has bedeviled another Republican Senate candidate, saying that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
“I just, I struggled with it myself for a long time,” Mourdock said as he teared up. “But I came to realize that life is that gift from God.”