Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 24, 2014

October 20, 2014

Clay Aiken Returns to TV (Video)

Clay Aiken Returns to TV (Video)

Aiken released his first TV ad. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken, the Democratic nominee in North Carolina’s 2nd District, went up Monday with his first ad of the general election.

With two weeks to go, Aiken talks to camera in the 30-second spot, attacking Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers for keeping her paycheck during the government shut down, among other things.

Full story

NRCC Cuts TV Buy in Maine

NRCC Cuts TV Buy in Maine

Cain is the Democratic nominee in Maine's 2nd District. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Republican Congressional Committee is cutting the last two weeks of its television reservations in Maine’s 2nd District, according to a committee spokeswoman.

The NRCC originally reserved $1.6 million for the open-seat race to succeed Rep. Michael H. Michaud, a Democrat who is running for governor. The committee spent $965,000 of that reservation, but will now shift the remaining funds to offensive seats elsewhere.

“We have put Democrats on defense in Maine, and we are increasing our buys in several offensive seats,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek told Roll Call on Monday.

The committee will now add six-figure sums to four other offensive opportunity races: Full story

New DSCC Ad Hits Thom Tillis on Women’s Health

New DSCC Ad Hits Thom Tillis on Womens Health

Kay Hagan is up for re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going up with a new ad in North Carolina attacking Republican Thom Tillis on women’s health issues.

Tillis faces Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. The race had been trending narrowly in Hagan’s favor, but last week the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced the party would invest an additional $6 million for the final few weeks. Republicans need to gain six seats to take control of the Senate, and they want this to be one of them.

The new ad, provided first to CQ Roll Call, slams Tillis for acting to “defund Planned Parenthood,” and for previously saying that businesses should be able to deny coverage of contraceptives to their employees. Full story

DCCC Raised $16.7 Million in September

DCCC Raised $16.7 Million in September

Steve Israel of New York is the chairman of the DCCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats raised $16.7 million in September, according to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aide.

The committee ended last month with $34 million in the bank. Much of that money is currently being spent on television in House races across the country.  Full story

Mark Begich Targeted on Arctic Oil Drilling in New GOP TV Ad (Video)

Mark Begich Targeted on Arctic Oil Drilling in New GOP TV Ad (Video)

Begich is being targeted on ANWR in a new TV ad. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Republican-aligned outside group is hitting Alaska Sen. Mark Begich for failing to persuade his party to support opening drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Utilizing a theme of broken campaign promises from 2008, when Begich defeated Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, the new TV ad from American Crossroads hammers the Democrat for both the percentage of votes on which he agreed with the president last year and the fact that Congress has not approved ANWR oil exploration.

“We’ve had six years of Begich’s broken politics,” the ad’s announcer says. “Alaska needs a change.” Full story

October 17, 2014

Iowa Senate Race Becomes Headache for House Democrats

Iowa Senate Race Becomes Headache for House Democrats

Ernst, right, is running for Senate as a Republican in Iowa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A competitive Senate contest in the Hawkeye State is creating a ripple effect down ballot, causing headaches for national Democrats as Election Day nears.

Recent polls show state Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, with a small lead over Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat. But the Republican’s advantage has percolated to three of Iowa’s four House contests, keeping one competitive district in contention for Republicans, plus putting two Democratic seats in play.

In particular, Ernst’s performance is buoying former Capitol Hill aide David Young, the Republican nominee in the competitive 3rd District, which is currently rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. Privately, Iowa Republican operatives said Young is running a lackluster campaign against former state Sen. Staci Appel, a Democrat.

In the end, Ernst might be the one to pull him over the edge.

“I do think it looks to be like a pretty good year for Republicans in Iowa,” said John Stineman, an Iowa Republican operative. “It’s kind of a nail biter, but both Young and Ernst should be able to pull this out if we keep the momentum.”

Full story

Are These 10 Vulnerable Members Lucky or Good?

Are These 10 Vulnerable Members Lucky or Good?

Sinema is running for re-election in a competitive district in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

All’s fair in love and … House races? Not so much.

Less than three weeks before Election Day, would-be safe incumbents such as Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., are scrambling to win in partisan districts — while these 10 members are headed for victory in otherwise competitive districts.

Some are blessed with luck. Others create it for themselves. It’s your call which is which.

Here are the luckiest — er, slickest — incumbents of 2014, in alphabetical order: Full story

NRCC Throws Hail Mary in Nebraska House Race (Video)

NRCC Throws Hail Mary in Nebraska House Race (Video)

Terry, center, faces a tough race in Nebraska this cycle. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s the Willie Horton ad of 2014.

The National Republican Congressional Committee went up with an ad Friday tying the Democratic nominee in a competitive Nebraska House race to Nikko Jenkins, a former inmate convicted of murdering four people after his early release from jail.

It’s an ad reminiscent of the Willie Horton spot former President George H.W. Bush ran in 1988, tying his Democratic opponent to a convicted murderer who raped a woman while on a weekend pass from prison.

Republicans hope the Nikko Jenkins ad in the Omaha-based 2nd District will turn things around for Rep. Lee Terry, one of just two GOP House incumbents in a race rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Full story

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home

Roberts speaks to a reporter in Topeka. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

FORT SCOTT, Kan. — Dozens of cows trumpeted in the pens out back as Sen. Pat Roberts made his pitch to attendees at a livestock market.

Pat Roberts Finds No Place Like Home“When we get a Republican majority, I’ll be chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and we are gonna put the livestock producer first,” Roberts told the crowd from a room behind the then-empty cow pen, where the auctioneer had briefly paused his chant to allow the state’s senior senator to address the crowd.

The lone man in a suit jacket in a crowd of denim, plaid, cowboy hats and baseball caps, Roberts kept it short — framing his election in the terms he used throughout his bus tour of the entire Sunflower State.

In the six campaign events Roll Call attended with Roberts last week, this was as close as he came to making the Senate race personal. Most of the time, Roberts’ pitch to voters was that the name on the ballot was all but irrelevant; it was the “R” next to it that mattered. Full story

October 16, 2014

DCCC Cuts Massachusetts Media Buy (Updated)

Updated 8:37 p.m. | The Democratic House political arm is scrapping plans to spend a substantial sum of money on the Massachusetts 6th District race, but is still investing in the Boston media market on New Hampshire’s two competitive House races, according to a source tracking media buys.

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aide characterized the move as a sign of confidence Democrat Seth Moulton will be able to hold the open seat against Republican Richard Tisei.

The DCCC had more than $1 million reserved in the Boston media market combined between the Massachusetts 6th District and New Hamsphire’s 1st District and 2nd District. Full story

EMILY’s List Endorses Kansas Candidates

EMILYs List Endorses Kansas Candidates
Yoder is a Kansas Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

EMILY’s List, an organization that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, announced Thursday a pair of endorsements in two late-breaking House races in Kansas.

The group offered its full endorsement of Margie Wakefield and Kelly Kultala, who are challenging GOP Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder, respectively.

For now, both races are rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. But highly competitive races for Senate and governor have roiled the ballot this cycle, causing concern for Kansas Republicans in two House districts. Full story

A Senate Race Where Democrats Neutralized Obamacare Attacks

A Senate Race Where Democrats Neutralized Obamacare Attacks

Franken is seeking a second term in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican critique of the president’s health care overhaul law may have hit a wall in Minnesota, complicating the GOP’s already long chances of picking up a Senate seat in the state.

Though the state’s health care exchange, MNsure, has hit a few snags in recent weeks, local Democrats still claim the program is an overall success — at least relative to other states. A University of Minnesota study credited the Affordable Care Act for dropping the state’s uninsured numbers to roughly 5 percent, making it the one of the lowest in the country. Minnesota also touts the lowest premium rates and generally low health care costs.

Those statistics have made it more difficult for businessman Mike McFadden, the GOP’s nominee, to challenge Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., for supporting the president’s signature health care law. Franken is the front-runner in the race, and independent polls show him with a small double-digit lead.

“The Republicans hope that the toxicity of the moniker Obamacare would lead to this kind of mob running against the Democrats has not happened. Voters are hearing different things,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at University of Minnesota. “It’s turning out that Democrats have found strategies to fight to a draw, which in 2014 is probably the best they could hope for, at least on this issue.” Full story

NRSC Confirms Tightening Race in Georgia

NRSC Confirms Tightening Race in Georgia

Perdue is running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed Thursday they were looking at a tougher race in Georgia, a Republican-held state they were predicted to win fairly easily.

The executive director of the NRSC, Rob Collins, told reporters the race “has tightened up” between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michele Nunn in Georgia.

Recent public polling has shown Nunn gaining traction, and Perdue is struggling to move past his comment that he was “proud” of outsourcing jobs during his business career. Last week, the NRSC announced they were putting another $1.4 million into the state to help Perdue, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee followed by announcing additional spending for the state.

Full story

How ‘Dr. Dan’ Cured His Campaign Woes

How Dr. Dan Cured His Campaign Woes

Republicans say Benishek is one of the "most improved" candidates. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once a top target for Democrats, Rep. Dan Benishek, a former surgeon turned tea party candidate, has turned a corner in his campaign for a second term, and national Republicans have labeled him one of their “most improved” members of the cycle.

What happened? A combination of staff changes, leveraging his slot on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and a favorable cycle for Republicans gave Benishek a clear advantage in the 1st District.

“It looked as if Michigan’s 1st District was going to be one of maybe the top two or three House races here in Michigan,” said Dennis Darnoi, a Michigan Republican consultant. “It hasn’t really reached the competitive level that, I think, was expected.” Full story

New DSCC Ad Attacks Ernst on Abortion Stance

New DSCC Ad Attacks Ernst on Abortion Stance

Joni Ernst is running against Braley for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is launching a new ad in Iowa Thursday targeting Republican Joni Ernst over her stance on abortion and her sponsorship in the state Senate of a “personhood” bill.

Ernst faces Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in one of the most competitive races this cycle. The open seat, currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, could be one of the six seats Republicans need to take control of the Senate.

The ad, provided first to CQ Roll Call, features an Iowa nurse named Kim Tweedy who says she has worked on the sexual assault response team.

“I’ve seen lots of cases, many of them are very brutal. It breaks your heart. I’ll never understand politicians who make it even harder, politicians like Joni Ernst,” Tweedy says. Full story

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