Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 3, 2014

November 1, 2012

After Sandy, Utility Workers Get Power Back On and Vote Too

Hurricane Sandy is causing logistical problems for elections in places far away from the storm’s path of destruction.

Electric utilities from across the country have sent employees to the East Coast to assist local crews in the massive power restoration efforts. With little chance those employees return home by Election Day, some of their employers have worked to secure absentee ballots in their home states.

For instance, Florida Power & Light Co. has sent about 860 workers north to help in the efforts in communities from Virginia to New Jersey. FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said the company has been working to ensure the voting rights of a diverse workforce.

Full story

AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka Heading to Ohio for Campaign’s Final Days

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today he will head to Ohio for the final four days before the elections as part of the labor group’s get-out-the-vote strategy on behalf of President Barack Obama and downballot Democrats nationwide.

“We’re facing a dramatic choice of visions and paths forward,” Trumka said today during a conference call with reporters.

He said working-class Americans are rejecting the agenda of the Republican ticket, led by Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).

The AFL-CIO has mobilized 128,000 volunteers who plan to knock on 5.5 million voters’ doors in battleground states such as Ohio, he said.

“We’ll make 5.2 million phone calls,” Trumka added. “We’ll be talking to voters at their homes, on their phones, at their worksites.”

He said union volunteers and organizers are also making a difference for Democratic Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), among others.

“We also continue to monitor reports of voter suppression,” Trumka said. “We’re going to have over 2,000 people available as poll monitors that will be connected to a number of lawyers around the country. We’ll be able to have a rapid response team that will respond immediately to that.”

Trumka said he visited an early voting site in Las Vegas last week where Republican volunteers were also on the ground. He said Ohio would be a major focus of such poll watching and predicted that Obama would ultimately win the state by 3 points or 4 points.

Michael Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director, said working families, particularly those in unions, have “decisively chosen Barack Obama’s path.”

Trumka said a Romney campaign ad claiming that Jeep has planned layoffs — a claim that parent Chrysler Corp. has called erroneous — “is backfiring on him” particularly in Ohio. “It shows how desperate he is,” Trumka said.

Trumka said the labor movement has much at stake on Nov. 6. If Romney wins, he said, “I think it would be devastating for America, including the trade union movement.” He added that a Romney administration would be “geared toward corporate America and away from workers.”

No matter what happens this cycle, the union leaders said they would maintain a full-time staff in Ohio and other states so they can grow the program into future elections.

Indiana: American Bridge Sends Talking Richard Mourdock Mailers

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.

Candidates Abandon Campaign Trail to Dial for Dollars

Candidates Abandon Campaign Trail to Dial for Dollars

Scott Peters, Democratic candidate for California's 52nd district, listens as Rep. Susan Davis speaks to campaign workers at his campaign headquarters. Peters is running against Rep. Brian Bilbray. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

Missouri: Super PAC That Backed Sarah Steelman Makes Ad Buy for Todd Akin

Independent Republican groups are making one last push in support of Rep. Todd Akin’s Senate candicacy, spending money on Missouri TV ads in the campaign’s final days.

The Now or Never super PAC, which backed former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman over Akin in the GOP primary, announced today that it would spend $800,000 to air a spot in Missouri encouraging voters supporting GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to vote for Akin to help Republicans win control of the Senate.

“Mitt Romney can take our nation in a new direction, but he needs a Senate that supports him,” the ad says. “You don’t have to agree with everything he says, but you can be sure, in the Senate, Akin will vote for Romney’s policies.”

Full story

California: Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC Makes Major TV Buy Against Joe Baca

California: Michael Bloombergs Super PAC Makes Major TV Buy Against Joe Baca

Rep. Joe Baca (left) is being targeted by a super PAC funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) new super PAC has made a $1.3 million television reservation in the Los Angeles media market targeting Rep. Joe Baca (D), according to a source who tracks media buys.

Independence USA, Bloomberg’s super PAC, made the buy is in support of Baca’s opponent, Democratic state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod. The new California election system involves a general election pitting the top two finishers from a “jungle” primary, hence the two Democrats in this race.

This sum is more than Independence USA’s total spent on all other federal races in his most recent Federal Election Commission filing, which is aggregated by the Center for Responsive Politics. The news of the reservation was flagged by a media buyer — an information flow that often proves faster than FEC records.

The New York Times reported earlier in October that Bloomberg “expects to spend from $10 million to $15 million of his money in highly competitive state, local and Congressional races.”

According to Southern California Public Radio, McLeod’s appeal to Bloomberg is her stronger support for gun control than Baca.

Joe Walsh Struggles With Crossover Appeal in Chicago Suburbs

Joe Walsh Struggles With Crossover Appeal in Chicago Suburbs

Rep. Joe Walsh speaks to supporters in front of his Addison Township campaign headquarters in Elmhurst, Ill., on Saturday morning. (Shira Toeplitz/CQ Roll Call)

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

Virginia: Tim Kaine Hunting for Few Undecideds Left

Virginia: Tim Kaine Hunting for Few Undecideds Left

Democrat Tim Kaine is running for Senate in Virginia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

ASHLAND, Va. — Former Gov. Tim Kaine spent an hour today in a Democratic town within a heavily Republican county in an effort to encourage his supporters to persuade the remaining undecided voters to vote for him and to increase turnout among Democrats.

Standing on a stage where live bluegrass bands often play, Kaine, who is running against former Gov. George Allen (R) for the state’s open Senate seat, said that 3 percent of voters are probably still undecided. He said “person-to-person contact” is vital at this point in the campaign. Kaine said that more than $20 million in outside money has been spent against him by rich individuals from out of state who can write checks with a lot of zeros, and said he wants to “show there aren’t enough zeros in the world” to beat a grass-roots campaign run by Virginians.

Truman Parmele, the owner of the coffee shop and music venue, said bands play there five nights a week, performing any kind of music but hip-hop. Parmele, 67, said he’s independent, formerly in the Air Force and moderate on social issues. He told Roll Call that Obamacare scares him, and he asked Kaine whether he would support a flat tax. Parmele said Kaine is “very personable” and said he will probably support him.

Full story

Indiana: Dueling Internal Polls Show Different Races

Indiana: Dueling Internal Polls Show Different Races

Rep. Joe Donnelly is running for Senate in Indiana. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

What’s the effect of state Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s (R) week-old debate comment that pregnancy from rape is something “God intended”?

Depends on whom you ask.

Today, Mourdock’s campaign released a second poll showing his race versus Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) as a statistical tie. His own campaign survey showed Mourdock leading Donnelly, 45 percent to 44 percent.

It’s safe to say, Donnelly’s team sees the race differently. His campaign released its own survey today that showed him leading Mourdock, 43 to 36 percent, among 600 likely voters.

Either way, the race for Indiana’s Senate seat remains highly competitive. Roll Call rates it as a Tossup.

Mourdock’s pollster, John McLaughlin and Associates, conducted his campaign poll Oct. 29-30. Donnelly’s pollster, Global Strategy Group, conducted his campaign poll Oct. 28-30.

Both surveys interviewed 600 likely voters and had a margins of error of 4 points.

David Axelrod Wagers Mustache on Winning Expanded Battleground States

David Axelrod Wagers Mustache on Winning Expanded Battleground States

Top Democratic strategist David Axelrod bet his mustache that President Barack Obama will win Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s campaign claimed today that Mitt Romney’s campaign is “flailing” in the final days, with senior strategist David Axelrod betting his mustache that Obama will win the newly minted battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.

Axelrod and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on a conference call with reporters dismissed the Romney campaign’s late charge into those states, despite persistent polling leads for Obama, as a sign that it is losing in the existing battlegrounds and is increasingly desperate to expand the map.

“It’s break glass time in Boston,” Axelrod said. “I’ve put my mustache on the line.”

Messina said Democrats are piling up big leads among early voters in key battleground states including Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado and Florida.
Axelrod dismissed a question about Obama consistently trailing significantly among independents in polling. Full story

Daily Ad Track

Here’s what cut through the clutter today.

National

Not everyone agreed with us when we declared a spot from former Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei (R) as one of the best of the cycle. It was a static camera shot of the beach with almost no political messaging beyond his campaign logo. It reminded us of the annual Corona palm tree Christmas ads.

But if you need any better understanding of why we liked that spot, well, we’ll let this 4-year-old Abby do the talking for us.

Full story

Changed Politics and District Haunt Judy Biggert in Illinois

Changed Politics and District Haunt Judy Biggert in Illinois

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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

California: Raul Ruiz Up 6 Points in Internal Poll

California: Raul Ruiz Up 6 Points in Internal Poll

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A poll conducted for the campaign of Raul Ruiz found the Democrat up 6 points in his challenge to California Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R).

Ruiz led 48 percent to 42 percent in the Lake Research Partners poll, with 7 percent of voters undecided. The poll was taken of 409 residents of the 36th district who are either likely to vote or have already voted. It was conducted Oct. 20-22 and had a 4.9-point margin of error.

The polling memo stated that both candidates’ unfavorable ratings have increased over the past few weeks, as both sides have stepped up attacks. So, “in the final weeks of the race, it is important for the Ruiz campaign to introduce Ruiz to the 33% of voters who have not already voted and still have no impression of Ruiz,” the memo stated. Full story

Arizona: Republicans Spend Big in Final Week; Democrats Go For the Jugular

Arizona: Republicans Spend Big in Final Week; Democrats Go For the Jugular

Republicans are spending big in their effort to defeat Richard Carmona, who is running for the Senate in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

During the final week of the Arizona Senate race, supporters of Rep. Jeff Flake (R) and former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) are expected to spend almost $7.5 million, according to a Republican source who tracks media buys.

Both sides are investing heavily, although Republicans are slated to outspend Democrats by about a 2-to-1 margin. But the Democrats are packing a punch with this new spot:

Republican sources interpret the heavier GOP spending in the final week as a lack of Democratic confidence Carmona’s ability to defeat Flake. But Democratic sources say the Republican spending advantage is a sign of concern on the GOP side.

Full story

Robert Dold Fights District, Party Label in Bid for Second Term

Robert Dold Fights District, Party Label in Bid for Second Term

Rep. Robert Dold and his 5-year-old daughter, Honor, greet a supporter at his campaign headquarters in Highland Park, Ill. (Shira Toepliz/CQ Roll Call)

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

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