Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2014

September 6, 2012

Obama Holds Pep Call for Disappointed Volunteers

Obama Holds Pep Call for Disappointed Volunteers

President Barack Obama's speech tonight has been moved indoors after bad weather threatened Charlotte, N.C. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama gave a campaign pep talk today to the tens of thousands of volunteers who were shut out of his nomination acceptance speech after Democratic convention organizers moved the event from Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Cable Arena.

 

In a conference call, Obama said he couldn’t risk their safety if a severe thunderstorm hit Charlotte in middle of his speech or the others scheduled for this evening, including Vice President Joseph Biden’s nomination acceptance speech. But the president said he understood that many of them had worked hard to get tickets and had traveled to North Carolina at their own expense.

 

“I know it’s disappointing,” he said. “My main message is we can’t let a little thunder and lightning get us down, we’re going to have to roll with it.”

 

Obama told them that he hoped they would still join speech watching parties tonight and said he is eager to share his vision when he takes the stage. So far, Obama said, the convention has been “unbelievable,” highlighting first lady Michelle Obama’s Tuesday speech and President Bill Clinton’s speech on Wednesday night.

 

“Hopefully at the end of this convention, people will say we accomplished what we needed to and offered our vision for the country,” Obama said, “but this is still going to be a really close election.”

 

He said the Republicans would have “massive checks from wealthy donors” on their side. “The good thing is I’ve got you. … Nothing’s more powerful than the work you guys do.”

 

And he said that the campaign will work hard to get volunteers opportunities to see him at campaign events around the country. “Hopefully you’ll have even a closer front row seat,” he said.

House Democrats: Don’t Blame Us

House Democrats: Dont Blame Us

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addresses the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.— President Barack Obama has had harsh words for Congress, and no doubt there are more ahead as the campaign unfurls. So House Democrats have a simple message this week: Don’t blame us.

House Democratic leaders have been trumpeting their accomplishments in an effort to inoculate themselves from attacks on Congress and to set themselves apart from the dismal public perception of the institution as a whole.

In fact, Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said, there is a distinction to be made.

“I don’t think the president is running against Congress,” he said. “The president is running against a Republican do-nothing Congress that tried to stop and thwart everything that he tried to do.”

Full story

Obama Venue Change Means Different Backdrop, Little Else

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech has been moved from a football stadium to a basketball arena, disappointing Democratic convention delegates but likely causing minimal political fallout.

Democratic officials and strategists said it would have been preferable not to move today’s speech from Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Cable Arena. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) acknowledged that the television visual of a wide-open football venue packed with Obama supporters sent a powerful political message to voters in 2008, when Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at what was then known as Denver’s Invesco Field, while also serving as an important campaign organizing tool.

But given that weather forecasters are predicting the possibility of showers for a greater Charlotte area that has been pummeled with strong rain and thunderstorms off and on since Labor Day weekend, Van Hollen said that the Obama campaign and convention organizers made the right call in moving Obama’s big speech indoors, despite disrupting the travel plans of thousands who were planning to attend. Full story

Michigan: Kerry Bentivolio Wins GOP Nod for Special Election

Reindeer rancher Kerry Bentivolio will get a head start on Congress if he wins in November.

The Republican won the GOP nomination for the same-day special election for former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R) seat Wednesday night, defeating the same candidate he beat last month for his party’s nod in the general election.

McCotter’s resignation prompted a special election to replace him for the final few weeks in Congress later this year. Bentivolio remained the only Republican on the ballot in the August primary and defeated a write-in candidate, former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, for the GOP nod.

On Wednesday night, Bentivolio defeated Cassis again in the special election primary — this time with her name on the ballot — as well as three other candidates. He will face UAW official Dave Curson in the special election in November. On the same day he’ll face Democrat Syed Taj, a doctor and Canton Township trustee, for a seat in the 113th Congress.

Bill Clinton Delivers Strongest Argument Yet for Barack Obama’s Re-Election

Bill Clinton Delivers Strongest Argument Yet for Barack Obamas Re Election

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Bill Clinton delivered for the Democrats on Wednesday evening, throwing the packed Time Warner Cable Arena into a frenzy of cheers, laughter and applause as he gave the firmest argument yet for the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Clinton offered to the Democratic National Convention a confident endorsement of Obama’s policies amid an economic recovery that he said was now four years in the making, but that needed more time given the depths the economy had sunk to by the time the president took office in 2009. Clinton fact-checked Republican arguments against Obama and filled what had been a gaping hole in the president’s case to independent voters with substantive, concrete evidence for why the commander in chief deserves another four years.

And, Clinton might have been the only Democrat capable of making such a case.

“Now, are we where we want to be today? No,” Clinton said. “Is the president satisfied? Of course not. Are we better off than we were when he took office? … The answer is, yes.”

Full story

September 5, 2012

Democratic Convention Loves Elizabeth Warren

Democratic Convention Loves Elizabeth Warren

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren addresses the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats love Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Senate hopeful took the stage here tonight to a welcome befitting the superstar she is among the Democratic base.

“War-ren, War-ren, War-ren,” the crowd roared.

And the applause and cheers for her only grew louder as she addressed the huge crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena. Warren, a Harvard professor and consumer advocate, delivered a strong speech. She introduced herself to the prime-time television audience, lauded President Barack Obama and knocked Mitt Romney’s economic plans.

Warren spent most of her speech empathizing with the struggle of middle-class Americans, telling them that the system was “rigged” against the little guy. But Warren assured the audience in the arena and in living rooms across the United States that, unlike Republicans, she and Obama had their backs.

But even as Warren’s speech was greeted with raucous applause here and is sure to be a boon to her already extraordinary fundraising, Democrats back in Massachusetts are increasingly worried about her campaign against Republican Sen. Scott Brown. While Warren has the enthusiastic, unwavering support of the her party’s base, her strength among the rest of the Bay State’s electorate is less certain.

Full story

Democratic Convention Has Rough Logistical Second Day

After a near perfect first day of the Democratic National Convention, the DNC hit some major snags on its second night, which has been rife with platform fights, logistical problems and accusations of dishonesty.

First, spurred by threats of rain, the DNC decided this morning to move Thursday’s festivities, including President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, from Bank of America Stadium indoors to the much smaller Time Warner Cable Arena.

If the bottleneck at the door tonight is any indication, the scene Thursday is sure to be a madhouse.

The fire marshal closed entry to and exit from the arena tonight, citing capacity issues. Though the entryway was later reopened, reporters spotted countless high-profile officials among the ranks of those locked out of the building. Full story

Gabrielle Giffords to Deliver Pledge Thursday at Convention

Updated: 8:12 p.m. | CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will make a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday evening, Roll Call has confirmed.

She will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance, according to a source close to the former Congresswoman, kicking off the night that will culminate in President Barack Obama accepting the Democratic nomination for president.

Giffords spokeswoman Hayley Zachary confirmed that the former Congresswoman is in Charlotte but did not expound on her plans for the convention.

“I can confirm that Gabby is in Charlotte to attend the convention, and she is excited to be here,” Zachary said. “She does not have a role in tonight’s convention schedule.” Full story

Democrats: Mitt Romney Will ‘Take Us for a Long, Painful Ride’

Democrats: Mitt Romney Will Take Us for a Long, Painful Ride

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray this evening urged voters to keep a Democratic majority in the Senate. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The heads of Democratic campaign arms charged with winning a majority in the House and keeping a majority in the Senate this evening made a largely economic case for Democratic control in Washington, D.C., and painted a sharp contrast with the GOP.

Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) ticked through the accomplishments of a Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama, from health care reform to veterans benefits.

But both saved their most impassioned words for knocking the GOP.

“Simply, with a Republican Congress sitting shotgun,” Murray said. “Mitt Romney will put the middle class on the roof and take us for a long, painful ride.” The crowd cheered as the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee alluded to an incident years ago during which Romney put his family’s dog on the roof of his car for a long road trip.

“Here’s their economic plan, ladies and gentlemen,” Israel said. “If you’re a millionaire, you win the lottery. If you’re a senior, you lose your Medicare guarantee.”

The phrase “middle class” was peppered throughout both speeches, honing a message that Democrats are looking out for and will look out for the wide swath of Americans who consider themselves in that economic strata — and that Republicans have not and will not.

Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, took particular aim at GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the House Budget chairman, and his Republican House colleagues’ votes.

Israel has made the changes to Medicare ensconced in Ryan’s controversial budgets a centerpiece of Democratic attacks on Republican candidates and Members. But Israel has a very steep uphill battle in taking back the House.

Murray, on the other hand, has at least an even chance of maintaining Democratic control of the Senate, even if by a razor-thin margin.

“Re-elect this president. Keep the Senate Democratic. And we can make sure every American family has the opportunities mine did,” Murray said. “Republicans may have given up on our country’s middle class, but President Obama never has; Senate Democrats never have and, together, we never will.”

The crowd cheered: “Pat-ty, Pat-ty, Pat-ty.”

DNC Amends Platform Amid Controversy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Caving under pressure from critics, the Democratic Party today decided to restore to its platform the word “God” and language recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But on the floor of the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Democratic National Convention is being held, the vote to do so seemed anything but decisive.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gaveled the roll call vote to amend the platform and tried multiple times to secure the voice vote needed to approve the reinstated language.

“Let me try that again,” the confused Democratic National Convention co-chairman said after the first vote, during which it seemed an equal number of voices called out “Aye,” as they did, “Nay.”

He tried again, but to equally ambiguous results. After a third try, Villaraigosa decided to settle the issue, announcing that the vote had passed. The decision was met with boos from the crowd.

Not everybody believed the issue was settled. Full story

Ted Strickland Can Light Up a Room. Now What?

Ted Strickland Can Light Up a Room. Now What?

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland blew the party faithful away with his speech highlighting economic comeback stories in his home state.

But Strickland might as well have been talking about himself when he uttered these words: “You know, Vince Lombardi was right when he said, ‘It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up.”

Since narrowly losing re-election last cycle, Strickland kept active in national politics — in part by serving as the president’s re-election campaign co-chairman. But his fiery speech last night only fueled speculation about the 71-year-old’s next move.

Full story

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Inside Game

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Inside Game

Workers clean up to prepare for tonight's program in the Time Warner Cable Arena. The threat of severe weather has moved Thursday night's program into the arena as well. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

The CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing is being published from the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. For more information on signing up to receive this free email, click here.

THE PODIUM: The story of the day is that the podium will stay inside for tomorrow night’s Obama and Biden speeches. Convention organizers say they’ve decided the odds of intense thunderstorms in prime time are too strong to risk having the convention finale at Charlotte’s open-air football field; Republicans say the move is more because the Democrats were embarrassingly far away from filling the 74,000 seats in Bank of America Stadium.

The convention’s middle session convenes at 5 inside the 21,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena for six straight hours of speeches reflecting all the constituencies and agendas of the party — climaxing with the party’s surrogate-speechmaker-in-chief. Bill Clinton will take the stage at 10:30 and is supposed to finish formally nominating his best frenemy before the end of prime time. After that, a ceremonial roll call of the states will last well past midnight before Obama as officially acclaimed the party’s 2012 standard-bearer. (Amazingly, the scheduled benediction afterward is to be offered by Monica Lewinsky’s childhood rabbi, David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in L.A.)

Full story

Chris Van Hollen Talks House Races and Playing Paul Ryan in Debate

Chris Van Hollen Talks House Races and Playing Paul Ryan in Debate

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats still have a shot at winning back power of the House, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Roll Call on Wednesday in an interview.

“The House is still up for grabs,” said Van Hollen, the former two-term chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (2008 and 2010 cycles).

Democrats need to net 25 seats in November to reclaim the gavel, and their “drive for 25″ slogan has been a rallying cry heard this week at almost every Democratic convention event involving House Members.

But despite Democrats’ optimism, most political handicappers have begun to rule out a change of power.

“No. 1, we will win seats,” Van Hollen said. “Two, the momentum is with us. I think the selection of Paul Ryan on the ticket has actually sharpened the issues in a lot of these races and helped Democratic challengers.”

Full story

California: Internal Poll Has Alan Lowenthal Up 20

California: Internal Poll Has Alan Lowenthal Up 20

(Douglas Graham CQ/Roll Call File Photo)

A poll conducted for the campaign of California state Sen. Alan Lowenthal found the Democrat ahead of his Republican opponent by 20 points in the race for the newly drawn 47th district. Full story

For Barack Obama, it’s Never Been About ‘Better Off’

For Barack Obama, its Never Been About Better Off

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Obama campaign and its chief surrogates have spent the week here cleaning up a mess from the Sunday talk shows, when they collectively declined to answer “yes” to the question: Are Americans better off than they were four years ago?

Answering this question in the affirmative is standard practice for a president running for re-election — regardless of the circumstances he finds himself in. Vice President Joseph Biden tried to reset the campaign’s answer on Monday by telling a crowd at a rally in Detroit: “If you want to know whether we’re better off, I got a bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!”

By the end of the Labor Day holiday, everyone on team Obama was with the program, and in the two days since, the president’s supporters have told anyone who asks — or who will listen — that Americans are better off today than they were four years ago. But that has never been President Barack Obama’s re-election message, nor his argument for why he deserves a second term. And it still isn’t.

Full story

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