Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

February 8, 2016

Former Coats Staffer Withdraws From Indiana Senate Race

Coats is heading for the exit — again. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Holcomb, former chief of staff to Coats, above, is no longer running for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three days after Indiana’s filing deadline, Eric Holcomb, former chief of staff to Sen. Dan Coats, withdrew from the race to replace his former boss in the Senate.

Holcomb filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office at 11:33 a.m. Monday to withdraw his name as a candidate. The deadline to withdrawn was noon.

Full story

Rand Paul’s ‘Long Haul’ Cut Short

Paul will pick up his Senate campaign. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Things didn’t go the way Paul might have hoped as he pursued his presidential aspirations. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, maybe the necessities of a modern presidential campaign were just a bit too much.

A former strategist for the Republican said while Paul’s drive to become president was never in question, the first-term senator’s national ambition “clashed against his personality – his prickliness, not wanting to do certain things and not being comfortable” with everything from making the ask on the fundraising circuit to what is asked of a candidate in this digital age. Full story

Bernie Sanders as GOP Tool: Their Plan to Use Him Against Democrats

UNITED STATES - FEB 1. - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders speaks Feb. 1 at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernard Sanders’ surprisingly strong candidacy for president has laid bare a sharp division within the Democratic coalition, pitting its activist base against the moderate-minded establishment.

It’s a split Republicans — especially the ones focused on winning down-ballot races this fall — are now racing to exploit.

Full story

February 5, 2016

Pelosi, DCCC Use Tea Party to Fire Up Dem Voters

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks with Melinda Henneberger, off camera, Roll Call editor-in-chief, after an interview in the Capitol on Jan. 8 (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

 Pelosi cites “tea party extremism” in blast mailer to Democratic voters. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic leaders are urging their voting base to fill the party’s campaign coffers as part of an election-year battle against a “tide of tea party extremism.”

Some political observers believe the tea party — specifically, the House Freedom Caucus — will keep its powder dry this year in favor of a number of policy and spending battles in 2017. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi see the conservative movement as a way to fire up their base.

“In the coming months, the DCCC will engage the American people in our urgent campaign to fight back the tide of tea party extremism and keep our nation moving forward,” the California Democrat wrote this week in a blast mailer to Democratic voters. Full story

Anti-Abortion Groups to GOP: Include Fiorina in Debate

US Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina (C) arrives to attend an Addiction Recovery Roundtable at the Hope for NH Recovery center in Manchester, New Hampshire, on February 5, 2016.  / AFP / JEWEL SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Fiorina arrives at an addiction recovery roundtable at the Hope for NH Recovery center in Manchester, N.H., on Friday. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The leaders of two influential anti-abortion rights groups are blasting the decision to exclude Carly Fiorina from Saturday’s presidential debate, arguing that GOP voters deserve to see the primary field’s lone female candidate — and one of the race’s sharpest critics of Planned Parenthood — on stage in New Hampshire.

In a statement shared with Roll Call, the women — Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, and Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life – said that they are “dumbfounded” at Fiorina’s exclusion.

Full story

Obamacare Repeal Votes Motivate Democratic Donors

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is chairman of the DCCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is chairman of the DCCC, which has been raising money off Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If there’s a silver lining for Democrats in Republicans’ repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it’s that they’ve made good money off of it.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised more than $627,000 since early December in digital grassroots fundraising off Affordable Care Act repeal votes in the House and Senate. It has been the committee’s best grassroots fundraising off of a specific topic this year.

Republicans have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for years. But the DCCC, the campaign arm of the House Democratic caucus, is using this year’s milestone — a repeal bill landing on the president’s desk — to excite its Democratic base ahead of congressional elections in November. Full story

February 4, 2016

A Democrat Begins Senate Campaign in Louisiana

Vitter suffered his first political loss this past weekend. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After Vitter’s loss, a number of Republicans and now one Democrat want his seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer, said Thursday she will run for Senate in Louisiana — the first Democrat to enter the race, which already features five Republicans.

“Politicians in Washington and Baton Rouge are fighting over things that just don’t matter,” she said while announcing her campaign, adding that she sees herself as part of a “new generation of leadership” needed in Congress. Full story

By Eli Yokley Posted at 6:14 p.m.
La. Senate

Is an Audit on the Way for Iowa Caucuses?

UNITED STATES - FEB 1. - Kristin Clemens, of Des Moines, celebrates as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders with a 84-83 result at precinct 47 at the State Historical Society of Iowa, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Kristin Clemens, of Des Moines, celebrates as her candidate, Sen. Bernard Sanders, won Precinct 47, 84-83 on Monday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Iowa Democrats are facing increased pressure to re-examine Monday’s incredibly close and uncomfortably messy vote, especially after the Des Moines Register called for “a complete audit of results.”

But party leaders say it may be hard to recreate what happened at hundreds of small precinct gatherings, where voters can arrive supporting one candidate and leave backing another. Full story

Tim Scott Hits South Carolina Airwaves for Marco Rubio

Just days after endorsing Sen. Marco Rubio for president, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is hitting the airwaves back home for his GOP colleague from Florida.

The ad, obtained ahead of release by Roll Call, appears to be from the same video shoot as the endorsement video, as Scott’s shown by his childhood home.

Full story

February 3, 2016

Owens, Mills Outraising Incumbents in Rematches

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 9: Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, runs down the House steps barefoot as she leaves the Capitol for the Columbus Day recess after final votes on Friday Oct. 9, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Love’s Democratic challenger outraised her by $25,000. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In Utah’s ‘Safe Republican‘ territory, where Democrat Doug Owens is again vying for the 4th District seat he lost by 5 points in 2014, he is one of the rare rematch candidates to have raised more than the incumbent.

Freshman Republican Rep. Mia Love has been looking to solidify her hold in a district Mitt Romney carried by 37 points in 2012. She brought in $325,000 in the final three months of 2015, and spent $302,000 of it, leaving her with $781,000 in the bank. But Owens raised $350,000, spending only $135,000, and has $500,000 in the bank.

Wealthy Minnesota businessman Stewart Mills is making a second attempt to unseat the Democratic congressman who defeated him by a point and a half in 2014. Mills’ 4th-quarter fundraising report shows him raising $258,000 for his bid for the 8th District. That’s more than Rep. Rick Nolan’s $187,000, even excluding Mills’ $11,000 contribution to his own campaign. Nolan still has some $400,000 more in the bank.

In another House rematch, vulnerable New Hampshire Republican Frank Guinta was outraised by his Democratic opponent. Guinta, however, has been in hot water for campaign finance violations, and his Democratic opponent, Carol Shea-Porter, is a former member of Congress.

Shea-Porter raised $211,000 to Guinta’s $71,000. Although Guinta maintains a cash-on-hand advantage over Shea-Porter, he’ll have to make it through a primary before facing Democratic competition. His primary opponent, businessman Dan Innis, also outraised him, though by only about $20,000.

It’s much more typical, of course, for rematch challengers to lag in fundraising. That’s been the case in Maine’s 2nd District, where freshman GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a member of the Financial Services Committee, has consistently raised more than Democrat Emily Cain, whom he defeated by 5 points in 2014. But only $61,000 separated their 4th quarter fundraising hauls. Thanks to a hefty 1st quarter haul, Poliquin’s cash on hand total still dwarfs Cain’s.

The same has been true in Texas’ 23rd District, the site of a rematch between Democratic former Rep. Pete Gallego and freshman GOP Rep. Will Hurd. Gallego raised $224,000 and has $424,000 in the bank. Hurd, as he has throughout the cycle, raised more, taking in $312,000 and leaving him with over $1 million in the bank.

In Illinois’ 10th District, Democratic former Rep. Brad Schneider has been raising serious money in his bid to take back the 10th District seat from Republican Rep. Robert J. Dold, but Dold is still raising more. The Republican raised $464,000 compared to Schneider’s $391,000. Dold also has more cash on hand.

Incumbency isn’t always a fundraising advantage. A number of challengers in competitive or closely-watched House races that aren’t rematches upended the incumbency-advantage narrative in the 3rd quarter. In Iowa’s 1st District, for example, Democrat Monica Vernon raised more than freshman Republican Rep. Rod Blum, one of the most vulnerable members of the House. She did so again in the 4th quarter.

In New Jersey’s 5th District, former Bill Clinton speech writer Josh Gottheimer again raised more than longtime GOP Rep. Scott Garrett, who angered some Republicans, including his Wall Street allies, when he said in July he wouldn’t contribute to the NRCC because of the committee’s support of gay candidates.

Tennessee GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais has been outraised before; he barely won his 2014 primary and is facing what some have described as a more daunting challenger in young Republican Grant Starrett this year. Starrett again outraised DesJarlais this quarter, although Starrett’s $92,000 4th quarter haul is less impressive than the $733,000 haul (including a $227,000 personal loan) he reported in his first fundraising report.

The 4th quarter saw several challengers post higher numbers than incumbents for the first time. In Michigan’s 7th District, for example, Democratic state Sen. Gretchen Driskell raised more than four-term Republican Tim Walberg. Walberg only raised a few thousand dollars more than Driskell in the previous quarter, but his cash on hand has now grown to more than $1 million, while Driskell has only $604,000 in the bank.

California Republican Steve Knight’s fundraising got off to a rough start this cycle. He took in only $29,000 during the first quarter of 2015, but as a member of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program for vulnerable members, he got a significant boost in the 2nd quarter, posting an impressive $405,000 haul. He slipped again in the 3rd quarter, though, raising just $77,000. In the final quarter of 2015, his haul returned to the six-figures. But Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio, who got in the race in December, managed to raise $35,000 more in less time.

Contact Pathé at simonepathe@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @sfpathe.

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Pat Toomey Endorses Marco Rubio for President

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Toomey is up for re-election this year.

Updated: 5:30 p.m | Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio for president Wednesday during an interview on CNN.

“We face a huge national security crisis, obviously, emanating from the Middle East. There is tension all across the world,” he said. “Marco has demonstrated clear understanding. He’s done the hard work, he’s knowledgeable, thoughtful and a smart guy.”

Full story

Rand Paul Suspends Presidential Campaign

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 18 - Rev. Robert Johnson, of Waukee, Iowa, asks a question to republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a campaign stop at Platinum Kutz barber shop in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Jan 18, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Rev. Robert Johnson talks to Paul, R-Ky. at a campaign stop at Platinum Kutz barber shop in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa Caucuses. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that he will suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, opting to focus instead on his on his re-election effort this year.

The announcement came two days after the libertarian-leaning senator finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses with just 4.5 percent of the vote, well behind the two other senators in the race who have gained much more traction, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.  Full story

In Iowa, Fight Over Democratic Votes Might Linger

UNITED STATES - FEB 1. - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greets supporters on the rope line at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders greets supporters on the rope line at his caucus night rally at the Holiday Inn Des Moines Airport and Conference Center on Monday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa — Has the Hanging Chad become the Hung-Up App?

In 2000, the site of poll workers evaluating whether “hanging chads” from paper ballots would be counted in the Florida presidential contest became a defining metaphor for the closeness of the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore.

In Iowa, in 2016, the closeness of the Democratic presidential caucuses has been underscored by stories throughout the state that the Microsoft application that precinct chairmen used to report results was experiencing delays, prompting the state party to enlist the campaigns to help track down the tallies in 90 precincts, or roughly 5 percent of the vote. Full story

Time Is Running Out for Senate Primaries Fundraising

Duckworth is running for Senate, opening the 8th District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Duckworth has outraised her primary and general election opponents. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For several of this year’s competitive Senate primaries, the fourth quarter of 2015 was the last fundraising quarter before primary day.

In Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, voters go to the polls on March 15, a month before the next Federal Election Commission fundraising report deadline. In all three of those states, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has backed the better-known candidate, who, unsurprisingly, raised more money from October through December of 2015. Full story

February 2, 2016

Baltimore the Battleground for Two Maryland Senate Candidates

Edwards and Van Hollen are running for Senate in 2016. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly File Photo)

With Cummings out of the Maryland Senate race, Baltimore, his hometown, will be key for Edwards and Van Hollen. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly File Photo)

In the political theater Maryland voters will see over the next nearly three months ahead of the April elections, the main characters in the state’s Democratic primary finally know their roles.

Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, two Democrats who had been looking over their shoulder for months to see if Rep. Elijah E. Cummings was looking to join them in the race for retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s Senate seat, got the news they were hoping for on Tuesday: He won’t.  Full story

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