Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 29, 2015

November 2, 2012

Indiana: Howey Poll Gives Donnelly Big Edge Over Mourdock

Rep. Joe Donnelly led Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock in a new poll. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) led state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) by 11 points in the latest bipartisan survey from Howey Politics Indiana.

Donnelly garnered 47 percent of the vote, while Mourdock had 36 percent in the survey.  A libertarian candidate, Andrew Horning, picked up 6 percent, and 11 percent of voters were undecided.

The new poll comes 10 days after Mourdock’s controversial remark in the candidates’ final debate that pregnancy from rape is something “God intended.” In this new survey, 87 percent of respondents were familiar with that remark.

Full story

Monthly Unemployment Report Beats Expectations

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned at the Farm Bureau Center in Doswell, Va., on Thursday. Current polls have President Barack Obama and Romney neck-and-neck in the state. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Job growth in October strongly beat expectations Friday, even as the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in the final report before next week’s elections.

The government reported 171,000 net new jobs last month and revised upward the previous two months by 84,000. The unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a point, as discouraged workers started to return to the labor force.

The report contained ammunition for both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney but mostly comes as a relief for a White House with the rate staying below 8 percent for a second straight month and allowing the president to point to strengthening job creation in the final days of the too-close-to call race. Full story

Utah: Matheson Trails Love in New Poll

Utah Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson trails Republican challenger Mia Love in a new poll. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love could be pulling away from Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in the race for Utah’s 4th district.

Love led Matheson by 12 points, 52 percent to 40 percent, in a new poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune. Just 9 percent of Republicans surveyed backed Matheson, which is not enough in a district Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is expected to carry with ease.

However, the Matheson campaign released a poll Thursday night — just hours ahead of the Tribune poll’s release — that showed him ahead by 2 points.

These two polls can’t both be right, but both national parties have been spending here as if the race is close. Full story

November 1, 2012

Illinois: Bloomberg Super PAC Buys $730K in Airtime for Robert Dold

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC will back Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) with $730,000 worth of television ads, according to three GOP sources tracking media buys.

Independence USA PAC’s most recent spot describes Dold as a Member with “courage, independence, results.” Full story

Nebraska: Bob Kerrey Nabs Chuck Hagel Endorsement

Nebraskans should send former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) back to the Senate on Tuesday because he has a history of working across the aisle and would help end partisan gridlock, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel said today in endorsing his former colleague.

Some polls have shown the race between Kerrey and Republican Deb Fischer tightening in recent days.

Hagel, who stressed that he is still a Republican, noted that Kerrey has also received endorsements from other Republican former Senators, including Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who co-chaired a commission that proposed cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Kerrey has also won the support from New Hampshire’s Warren Rudman, who helped draft the 1980s budget agreement known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Full story

Virginia: Mitt Romney, George Allen Rally GOP Faithful

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets the crowd at a campaign stop at the Farm Bureau Center in Doswell, Va. Romney was joined on the stump by Republican Senate candidate George Allen, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Tim Kaine. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

DOSWELL, Va. — Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate candidate George Allen rallied the GOP faithful today to begin a final joint push across this crucial battleground state.

In the second event of a three-stop tour, several hundred supporters donning stickers for Romney, Allen and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) crowded into the expansive Farm Bureau Center outside Richmond to hear the nominees for president and Senate. Full story

Michael Bloomberg Endorses Barack Obama Despite ‘Disappointing’ Term

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election today, highlighting the issue of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, as well as other issues, including health care, abortion and gay rights.

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Bloomberg said in a column on his eponymous news service.

Bloomberg pointed to the hurricane as a sign that the world should act on the climate change issue.

“Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action,” he said.

Full story

Rape Comment Forces John Koster Into Damage Control

Former state Rep. John Koster has been in damage control mode. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In this election, some candidates have made unguarded comments at off-the-record fundraisers, while others have drawn fire for impolitic comments about women and rape.

Former state Rep. John Koster (R) has managed to do both. Koster, who remains closely tied with Democrat Suzan DelBene in Washington State’s 1st district, has been in damage control mode since Wednesday, when a progressive group released a secretly recorded audiotape of him saying that “the rape thing” does not justify abortion.

In the audiotape, posted on YouTube by the progressive group Fuse Washington, Koster responds to an unseen questioner who asks him: “Is there any time that you would agree with abortion?”

Koster’s reply includes the comment: “On the rape thing, it’s like: How does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime – how does that make it better?”

Full story

New Jersey: Shelley Adler Compares Jon Runyan to Deadly Hurricane in Ad

Rep. Jon Runyan (above) was compared to Hurricane Sandy in a recent campaign ad run by his opponent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrat Shelley Adler has pulled a radio spot that compared Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) to deadly Hurricane Sandy.

Adler campaign spokesman Michael Muller told Roll Call that the ad was no longer airing. “We reached out to our buyer on Tuesday and we got confirmation it was off the air on Wednesday,” he said.

Adler, trailing Runyan in New Jersey’s 3rd district, left no doubt in the since-canceled radio spot that she was comparing the Congressman to the storm that hit the Garden State on Monday. The storm, dubbed “Sandy,” destroyed beaches and homes. It is being blamed for more than 70 deaths and has left millions on the Eastern Seaboard without electricity.

“They’re calling it ‘frankenstorm’ — a nor’easter inside of a hurricane,” a male narrator says in the spot. “In New Jersey, we’ve seen acts of nature do real damage. We’re also seeing our own Member of Congress do lasting damage in Washington. Jon Runyan has been in Congress only two short years and already he’s voted over and over again against New Jersey’s workers and families.”

Full story

Daily Ad Track

The flow of new ads has declined in the waning days of this campaign, but we saw some candidates release defensive, counter-ads after enduring brutal attacks. We also saw a strong closing biographical ad.

Full story

House Majority PAC Enters Minnesota’s 2nd District

Rep. John Kline is being targeted by a Democratic super PAC. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s operation isn’t the only campaign sensing a last-minute opportunity in Minnesota.

House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, started airing spots in the Gopher State’s 2nd district this week to boost former state Rep. Mike Obermueller’s (D) bid to unseat Rep. John Kline (R).

It’s a district both party committees bypassed in their fall ad buys, spending big in the highly competitive 8th district instead. Roll Call rates the 2nd district as a Likely Republican seat.

HMP’s $65,000 buy in the Twin Cities market will air this spot on stem cell research:

The super PAC is also expanding existing buys for similar stem cell spots in other races: $150,000 in Minnesota’s 8th district, $150,000 in Colorado’s 6th district and $200,000 in California’s 7th district.

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

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.

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