Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

October 27, 2014

McConnell Brings Back the Bloodhounds for Closing Week in Kentucky (Video)

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is calling out the dogs — but this time there’s some fun involved.

The Senate minority leader’s campaign for re-election in Kentucky launched a new ad Monday evening that features McConnell surrounded by bloodhounds. It harkens back to his very first Senate campaign, when he upset Democrat Walter Dee Huddleston in 1984.

With McConnell facing a competitive race against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the current secretary of state, he’s unveiling a more light-hearted ad for the final week, which was featured on local news in Louisville Monday evening.

“You know, a lot of people try to tell me how to do my commercials,” McConnell says in the ads, which features the Republican leader in a variety of preposterous situations and also features a talking baby.

Full story

‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Launches Ads in Louisiana Race

Duck Dynasty Star Launches Ads in Louisiana Race

Willie Robertson, center, of Duck Dynasty attended the State of the Union earlier this year as a guest of McAllister. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Wielding a bible and an AR-15 rifle, the patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” clan has once again waded into political waters.

Phil Robertson, the head of the family at the center of A&E’s reality show, “Duck Dynasty,” which is filmed in Louisiana’s 5th District, appeared in two new television ads released Monday to support his nephew Zach Dasher, a businessman hoping to oust embattled incumbent Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La.

In one ad dubbed “Believe,” Robertson tells voters, while holding a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other, “Bibles and guns brought us here and bibles and guns will keep us here. Zach Dasher believes in both.” Full story

Without an Opponent, Jeff Sessions Still Spends

Without an Opponent, Jeff Sessions Still Spends

(Courtesy Sessions campaign)

How does a senator running unopposed for re-election in a red state during a good year for Republicans manage to spend nearly $1 million?

It adds up fast.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has nothing to worry about next Tuesday. Still, his campaign logged $996,988 in spending from January 2013 through September 2014, including more than $7,000 on Christmas cards.

Full story

Democratic Super PAC Ups Ante Against Michael Grimm

Democratic Super PAC Ups Ante Against Michael Grimm

Democrats are targeting Grimm, right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC has placed a massive broadcast television buy against New York Rep. Michael G. Grimm for the final week of the campaign.

The group is spending $1.7 million in support of Democrat Domenic M. Recchia Jr. on New York City broadcast, and the  reservation will last until Election Day, according to a spokesman. Combined with a previous cable buy, the super PAC is on track to spend $1.9 million against the legally and politically embattled Republican.

An analysis of ad spending provided by a Democrat monitoring the media market reflects a congressman fighting alone against a Democratic onslaught of advertising in the Staten Island-based 11th District. Full story

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Almost Always Voted With Obama

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Almost Always Voted With Obama

Udall voted with Obama 99 percent of the time in 2014, according to the newly released CQ vote study. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to avoid tough votes this year has backfired in one respect — it gave his vulnerable incumbents few opportunities to show off any independence from President Barack Obama.

A new CQ vote study shows vulnerable Senate Democrats almost always voted to support the president in 2014 — a fact that has been instantly seized upon by Republicans, given that Obama’s approval rating is languishing in the low 40s nationally and lower still in several battleground states.

As senior writer Shawn Zeller writes in this week’s CQ Weekly cover story, Democrats who have been distancing themselves from Obama on the campaign trail not in votes on the Senate floor — whether it be Mark Udall of Colorado, Mark Pryor of Arkansas or Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana:

Udall disagreed just once, on a Pennsylvania state judge’s nomination to a federal district court. Pryor parted with Obama three times, and Landrieu four, but only one of those votes was on a policy matter. In July, Landrieu voted against Obama’s request for $2.7 billion to deal with the surge of Latin American children entering the U.S. illegally.

Indeed, all of the most vulnerable Democrats voted with President Obama at least 96 percent of the time on the 120 votes on which Obama has urged a “yes” or “no” vote. Full story

Donna Edwards Motivates Volunteers for Virginia Democrat

Donna Edwards Motivates Volunteers for Virginia Democrat

Edwards, right, motivates campaign volunteers for Foust, left, in Manassas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

MANASSAS, Va. — Democrat John Foust’s campaign boasts it has made 960,000 phone calls, knocked on 120,000 doors and registered 1,500 new voters in the quest for Virginia’s open 10th District.

But on a crisp Saturday afternoon in Manassass, just 10 days before Election Day, Foust asked his volunteers for a few more hours of help — and he brought in Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., for some last-minute motivation.

Donna Edwards Motivates Volunteers for Virginia Democrat“John has done everything right,” Edwards told the crowd of about 40 volunteers packed into a Democratic Party of Virginia’s campaign office, which was covered in signs for Foust and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who is also on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“He has raised the money, he has got the message and right now he’s got the momentum because you’re knocking on doors, and so I just want to thank you,” added Edwards, who made the short trip to Foust’s district with her arm in a sling after dislocating her shoulder the day before.

Foust, a tall, mustachioed and soft-spoken supervisor in Fairfax County, needs the last-minute help.

Full story

New DSCC Ad Hits Scott Brown on Medicare

New DSCC Ad Hits Scott Brown on Medicare

Scott Brown speaks in New Hampshire. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is releasing a new ad Monday in New Hampshire targeting former Sen. Scott P. Brown on Medicare.

Brown faces Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in a race rated Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

The DSCC’s ad, provided first to Roll Call, hits Brown for his vote in 2011 for a budget that would have made cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Full story

Senators Line Up to Be DSCC Chairman in 2016

Senators Line Up to Be DSCC Chairman in 2016

Tester, right, is interested in leading the DSCC next cycle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had limited options over the past two cycles as he recruited a chairman to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But 2016 is likely to be different.

After two straight cycles of defending twice as many seats as Republicans, the tables will soon turn as the Republican class of 2010 faces re-election. The next cycle will also feature presidential turnout, which could benefit Democrats as they either cling to a small majority or, more likely, push to regain control — depending on what happens over the next few months.

Beyond the benefit of a more favorable map than in 2012 and 2014, with fewer incumbents up in 2016 Reid will simply have a larger pool of applicants to choose from. And there should be several willing candidates among the numerous names currently being mentioned. Full story

Louisiana Senate Runoff Questions Remain After LSU Win

Louisiana Senate Runoff Questions Remain After LSU Win

Landrieu campaigns Sept. 20 on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Louisiana State University’s two conference losses earlier this year had briefly quieted anxious chatter in Bayou State political circles, the school’s Oct. 25 victory over Ole Miss has both college football fans and Senate campaigns in the state keeping a close eye on the rest of the season.

The Southeastern Conference is holding its championship game Dec. 6, the same day Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy — both LSU graduates — would face off in a runoff if neither takes a majority of the vote on Election Day.

The issue for the campaigns: The game is in Atlanta, and if LSU qualified, tens of thousands of voters would be out of state on that day to cheer on the Tigers. Motivating turnout on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas is never easy, but the exodus of a portion of the voting base — or simply not paying as much attention to politics — would add an unpredictable wrinkle. Full story

10 Moments That Won or Lost Senate Control

10 Moments That Won or Lost Senate Control

Ernst, above, is running against Bruce Braley for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

Angus King Endorses Republican Senate Colleague

Angus King Endorses Republican Senate Colleague

King, left, endorsed a Republican for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, a member of the Democratic caucus, is backing a senior Senate Republican in his bid for re-election.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is not facing a significant challenge on Nov. 4, but the support from King is interesting considering the independent senator’s potential role in a closely divided or tied Senate. King and Alexander are both members of the informal caucus of former governors.

The two senators are personally close, but Alexander also is a former Republican Conference chairman with close ties to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Full story

DCCC Polls Hawaii House Race

DCCC Polls Hawaii House Race

Djou served in Congress for several months in 2010. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A new Democratic poll shows the party’s nominee in an open House contest in Hawaii with a 7-point lead over the Republican.

State Rep. Mark Takai, a Democrat, led former Republican Rep. Charles Djou, 49 percent to 42 percent, according to the survey, which was conducted for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Public polling has shown a closer race, either a dead heat or with Djou slightly leading Takai. Both are seeking to succeed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat who lost the primary for Senate earlier this year.

This week, American Action Network, a GOP group, went up with $300,000 on Honolulu broadcast attacking Takai’s past comments on taxes. They hope Djou will upset the Aloha State’s 1st District, which voted for President Barack Obama by a 41-percent margin in 2012.

On Friday, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call to moved the race rating to Leans Democratic.

Full story

DSCC Raises $6.5 Million in Early October

DSCC Raises $6.5 Million in Early October

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is chairman of the DSCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

DCCC Spends to Boost Five Incumbents

DCCC Spends to Boost Five Incumbents

Rahall is receiving a boost from national Democrats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added an additional $1.3 million in ad buys Friday in five districts to boost incumbents with increasingly challenging re-election races.

The cash injection comes 11 days before voters head to the polls and signals House Democrats are increasingly fearful they could see double-digit losses on election night.

Here are the five districts where the DCCC is adding airtime:

Full story

Most Vulnerable Senators, Ranked by Their Wealth

Most Vulnerable Senators, Ranked by Their Wealth

McConnell is the richest on our most vulnerable list. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The most vulnerable senators who face the voters in less than two weeks run the gamut from multimillionaires to one of the poorest on Capitol Hill, based on Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress ranking of the minimum net worth of every single lawmaker.

Two senators in tough spots on Nov. 4 are members of the 50 Richest list. One of the vulnerable senators has a negative minimum net worth.

Ironically, given the market for ex-senators on K Street and elsewhere, most could see a substantial improvement in their personal finances should they lose. (See Cantor, Eric).

Here’s a breakdown from our most recent 10 Most Vulnerable Senators list, appearing in order of their minimum net worth:

Full story

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