By Stuart Rothenberg
Everyone knows about the 40 to 50 GOP House seats at risk this cycle. But what about those lower-tier contests that some consultants and bloggers are pushing?
What about such Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “emerging races” as the one in Texas’ 7th district, where Michael Skelly (D) is running against Rep. John Culberson (R), or in California’s 50th, where Nick Leibham (D) is challenging Rep. Brian Bilbray (R), or in Virginia’s 5th, where Tom Perriello (D) seeks to upset Rep. Virgil Goode (R)? Should we all get excited about them at this point, or continue to be skeptical until the fall?
Does Mike Montagano (D) really have a chance in Indiana’s 3rd or Steve Sarvi (D) in Minnesota’s 2nd? How about Dennis Shulman (D) in New Jersey’s 5th?
How about two “Red to Blue” contests that also qualify as long shots, Virginia’s 2nd, where Glenn Nye (D) is taking on Rep. Thelma Drake (R), and Maryland’s 1st, where Frank Kratovil (D) hopes to upset Andy Harris (R)?
Larry Joe Doherty (D) is hyping a poll against Rep. Michael McCaul (R) in Texas’ 10th, and some bloggers seem to be excited about Sharen Neuhardt (D) in Ohio’s 7th. Neither even made the DCCC’s emerging races, so how seriously should they be treated?
Talk of a 30-plus seat Democratic year is overblown. Even though many factors favor Democrats, the party would need to win solidly Republican districts to get that kind of gain, and that’s a daunting challenge. Partisanship still matters a great deal.
In Texas’ 10th, a Goodwin Simon Victoria Research polling memo for Doherty in late May argued that “Democrats have a real chance to take this district in November.” The Doherty campaign is also crowing about a June survey conducted by IVR Polls, an automated polling firm with a very thin political track record.
The reality of the race is quite different. Doherty showed almost $260,000 in the bank at the end of June — not what he’d need to oust a mega-wealthy Republican in a solidly GOP district that gave George W. Bush 62 percent in 2004. If McCaul campaigns, he wins.
Ohio’s 7th? Forget it. State Sen. Steve Austria (R) is an established officeholder with $361,000 in the bank on June 30 in a district Bush won last time by 14 points. Neuhardt, a political neophyte, had $108,000 in the bank.
California’s 50th? Didn’t we hear that Francine Busby (D) was going to win this seat when Duke Cunningham (R) headed to prison? She didn’t, because the Republican floor seems to be at or about 50 percent, making it very tough for any Democrat.
Virginia’s 5th? Challenger Perriello has had strong fundraising (much of it on the Web), a team of consultants that can’t be ignored and strong academic credentials. He is personable, and his message of faith could resonate in southern Virginia.
But it’s no wonder Perriello bridles at the usual “liberal” and “conservative” labels. He’s a “social justice” Catholic, meaning that he’s pretty far to the left. That will play well in Charlottesville, but not the rest of the district.
Perriello’s only hope is to run a technically perfect campaign, talk in generalities to avoid a liberal tag and hope a wave carries him over the top. It’s been done before, but it’s not likely.
Can Shulman, a blind rabbi and psychologist, upset conservative Rep. Scott Garrett (R)? The challenger’s June 30 cash-on-hand of $258,000 is not encouraging. Nor are the district’s recent election results: John Kerry drew 43 percent in the district in the 2004 White House election, ’06 Democratic challenger Paul Aronsohn drew 43.8 percent and ’04 Democratic challenger Anne Wolfe drew 41.1 percent. Looks like a trend, doesn’t it?
What about Michael Skelly? He is smart and would be an engaging dinner companion. If Skelly were running in a competitive district, I’d think he’d have a good shot. But he isn’t. Texas’ 7th gave George W. Bush 64 percent in 2004 and regularly delivers big numbers for Republicans, making it a nightmare for any Democrat.
If you really think Skelly has much of a chance, ask yourself this: Do you really think that Republicans could beat Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) or Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) even in a bad political year for Democrats? Of course not. Yet their districts went for Kerry in 2004 by roughly as much as Culberson’s Texas district went for Bush four years ago.
Montagano and Sarvi? Sarvi has no money ($98,000 in the bank on June 30) and Montagano, 27, who has raised an impressive amount (probably with some family help), seems more like an overly enthusiastic undergraduate running for class president than a Member of Congress.
Of all the longer shots, Nye and Kratovil look to be serious contenders. Virginia’s 2nd district is competitive, and Nye’s extensive international experience, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, makes him a credible messenger of change. The big question is whether his youth and button-down style will sell throughout the district.
And Kratovil has the strong backing of fellow Marylanders, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen, who can help him with fundraising and direct party resources into the race. That makes his long-shot race worth watching.
In general, however, be skeptical early on about low second- and third-tier Democratic challengers in solidly Republican districts. If they are in the game in early October, give them a longer look. But for now, don’t buy the hype.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 28, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Here are our latest Senate ratings.
- VA Open (Warner, R)
- NM Open (Domenici, R)
- Sununu (R-NH)
- CO Open (Allard, R)
- Coleman (R-MN)
- Stevens (R-AK)
- Landrieu (D-LA)
- Smith (R-OR)
- Wicker (R-MS)
- Collins (R-ME)
- Dole (R-NC)
- McConnell (R-KY)
- ID Open (Craig, R)
- NE Open (Hagel, R)
- Alexander (R-TN)
- Barrasso (R-WY)
- Chambliss (R-GA)
- Cochran (R-MS)
- Cornyn (R-TX)
- Enzi (R-WY)
- Graham (R-SC)
- Inhofe (R-OK)
- Roberts (R-KS)
- Sessions (R-AL)
- Baucus (D-MT)
- Biden (D-DE)
- Durbin (D-IL)
- Harkin (D-IA)
- Johnson (D-SD)
- Kerry (D-MA)
- Lautenberg (D-NJ)
- Levin (D-MI)
- Pryor (D-AR)
- Reed (D-RI)
- Rockefeller (D-WV)
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) brings a number of attractive qualities to the ticket as vice president, but Sen. Barack Obama's tech savvy campaign team will have to work to rescue a valuable URL if Kaine is chosen as the senator's running mate.
Right now, visitors to TimKaine.com are automatically redirected to the official website of Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
As reported by the Washington Post in 2005, the domain name TimKaine.com was registered in April 2001 by Matt Chancey, a young, self-described conservative Christian activist who lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia at the time.
While there were initial fears that he would use the Web site to tarnish Kaine's image, they were laid to rest when the Chancey chose to redirect visitors to Kaine's official lieutenant governor's web page. The Web site didn't become an issue and the Kaine campaign utilized Kaine2005.org, which is no longer active.
But it appears that Chancey never updated the redirect, and so visitors to TimKaine.com are now directed to the official Web site of Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. If Kaine ends up being chosen as Obama's running mate and the pair wins the election, Bolling would succeed Kaine as governor of Virginia.
Most importantly, if Kaine is chosen, the Obama campaign will likely do everything they can to obtain the coveted URL. Chancey just lost a July 15 runoff for the GOP nomination for Public Service Commission president in Alabama.
The first draft of this item first appeared on Political Wire on July 29, 2008.
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Last spring, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) became the first serving Member of Congress to give birth in more than a decade. Now, Congress is going through a mini baby boom.
South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D), and her husband, former Texas Rep. Max Sandlin (D), announced this week that they are expecting their first child in late December.
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) just gave birth to her second child, a son, on May 15. McMorris Rodgers gave birth to her son in April 2007, and she was the fifth woman to have a baby while serving in Congress.
Each of the most recent moms has handled their political careers differently. McMorris Rodgers didn’t announce her pregnancy until after her competitive 2006 re-election.
After knocking off Rep. John Sweeney (R) last cycle, Gillibrand was initially regarded as one of the more vulnerable Democratic freshmen, but her fundraising and polling numbers have her in solid shape for re-election.
Herseth Sandlin is not in danger of losing re-election, but she is mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2010.
Back in 1996, then-Rep. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) chose not to seek re-election, and she gave birth to twin boys in June of the election year. But she made a political comeback two years later, winning an open Senate seat.
New York Rep. Susan Molinari (R) gave birth to a daughter that year as well. And later that summer, the Congresswoman went on to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, mentioning her daughter in her conclusion. Molinari left Congress a year later, however, to pursue a career in broadcasting. She is now a Washington, D.C., lobbyist.
In 1995, freshman Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-Utah) gave birth to a daughter. But her political career was short-lived — her then-husband, Joe Waldholtz, who had managed her winning campaign, became embroiled in personal and campaign finance scandals, and Waldholtz — now known as Enid Greene — had to abandon her 1996 re-election campaign. She ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Utah in 2004, and also briefly served as chairwoman of the Utah GOP.
Former California Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D) was the first woman to give birth while serving in Congress, when she had a daughter in 1973. She served in the House for five more years, losing a bid for California attorney general in 1978. But Brathwaite Burke remains in politics today, and has served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since 1992. Now 75, she plans to retire when her term ends later this year.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 24, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Here are our latest House ratings. Any seats not listed are currently considered to be at limited risk for the incumbent party. For our race-by-race analysis, you must subscribe to the print edition of the Report.
# = Moved benefiting Democrats
* = Moved benefiting Republicans
^ = Newly added
- AL 5 (Open; Cramer, D)
- CO 4 (Musgrave, R) #
- MN 3 (Open; Ramstad, R)
- NV 3 (Porter, R) #
- NH 1 (Shea-Porter, D) *
- NJ 7 (Open; Ferguson, R)
- NM1 (Open; Wilson, R)
- OH 15 (Open; Pryce, R)
- OH 16 (Open; Regula, R)
- PA 10 (Carney, D)
- AK A-L (Young, R) *
- FL 24 (Feeney, R) #
- LA 4 (Open; McCrery, R)
- LA 6 (Cazayoux, D) *
- NM 2 (Open; Pearce, R) #
- NY 26 (Open; Reynolds, R) *
- NY 29 (Kuhl, R)
- NC 8 (Hayes, R)
- WA 8 (Reichert, R)
- AZ 1 (Open; Renzi, R) #
- CA 11 (McNerney, D) #
- FL 16 (Mahoney, D) #
- GA 8 (Marshall, D)
- IL 11 (Open; Weller, R) *
- KS 2 (Boyda, D) #
- NJ 3 (Open; Saxton, R)
- PA 11 (Kanjorski, D) *
- WI 8 (Kagen, D) *
- CT 4 (Shays, R)
- IL 10 (Kirk, R) *
- FL 21 (L. Diaz-Balart, R) ^
- MI 7 (Walberg, R)
- MI 9 (Knollenberg, R)
- MO 6 (Graves, R)
- OH 1 (Chabot, R)
- OH 2 (Schmidt, R)
- PA 3 (English, R) #
- TX 22 (Lampson, D) *
- VA 2 (Drake, R) #
- AZ 5 (Mitchell, D)
- AZ 8 (Giffords, D)
- KY 3 (Yarmuth, D)
- OR 5 (Open; Hooley, D)
- PA 4 (Altmire, D)
- VA 11 (Open; Davis, R)
- AL 2 (Open; Everett, R)
- CA 4 (Open; Doolittle, R)
- FL 8 (Keller, R)
- FL 13 (Buchanan, R)
- FL 25 (M. Diaz-Balart, R) ^
- ID 1 (Sali, R) ^
- IL 6 (Roskam, R)
- MN 6 (Bachmann, R)
- MO 9 (Open; Hulshof, R)
- PA 6 (Gerlach, R)
- WV 2 (Capito, R)
- IL 14 (Foster, D)
- IN 9 (Hill, D) #
- KS 3 (Moore, D) #
- MN 1 (Walz, D) #
- MS 1 (Childers, D) #
- NY 13 (Open; Fossella, R) #
- NY 20 (Gillibrand, D) #
- NY 25 (Open; Walsh, R) #
KY 2 (Open; Lewis, R) *
IL 8 (Bean, D) #
PA 8 (Murphy, D) #
Monday, July 28, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
The next 15 weeks in the 2008 presidential race will be primarily about whether American voters are comfortable with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the Oval Office. But that doesn’t let presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) off the hook completely. His message and positioning will help determine whether he will remain a credible alternative to Obama.
“If people get comfortable with Obama, he will win. If they don’t, then McCain might win,” one veteran Republican campaign strategist told me recently.
Right now, Obama has not yet closed the deal with a whole lot of voters who want change. Whether it’s because of his lack of experience, controversial friends or race, these voters are not yet comfortable with the Illinois Democrat leading the nation.
For many of these undecided voters, who will be crucial in November, McCain is now a safer pick — the experienced, old white guy who surely is ready to be president. It’s not that these voters are enthusiastic about the Arizona Republican. It’s that they can easily see him in the office and doing the job.
Of course, there is some irony here, since McCain is known for his flammable temper and a shoot-from-the-hip style that has some veteran Republicans wondering what kind of president he’d be. But for some voters, McCain looks like a safe alternative.
So it is Obama, not McCain, who is the master of his own destiny. It’s up to him to make those undecided voters comfortable with who he is and what kind of president — what kind of commander in chief — he would be. If he succeeds in doing so over the next three months, he is likely to win the White House.
But while the outcome of the presidential contest turns primarily on the public’s evaluation of Obama, McCain is not irrelevant in the electoral equation. McCain’s campaign can both define the Arizona Senator and establish an important contrast between the candidates that makes it harder for Obama to win over undecided voters. But recently, the Republican hasn’t been successful in doing so.
McCain has spent so much time over the past few months establishing his own conservative Republican credentials that he has allowed his “maverick” image to erode. Instead, he has come awfully close to sounding like just another Republican. And that’s the last thing in the world that he can afford to do, since it makes things easier for Obama.
We all know that “change” is the single most important theme this cycle, even if some voters continue to look for experience, maturity, leadership and conservative values.
Nobody ever thought that McCain could win the “change” battle over Obama — the Democrat simply was better-positioned for a number of reasons to carry the banner of “change” — but McCain cannot afford to be overwhelmed as an agent for “change,” as is now happening.
So far, McCain has failed to take maximum advantage of his reputation as a maverick — a reputation that accounts for much of his popularity across the political spectrum.
He certainly still disagrees with President Bush and most elected leaders in his party on issues such as global warming and the environment, immigration, taxes and regulating business, yet he’s either soft-pedaled or fuzzied up some of his differences, or emphasized his support for the traditional GOP agenda.
“You can’t allow the Democratic message linking McCain and Bush to stand. You have to go after it. If it stands, it’s just too high a hill [for McCain] to get over,” one GOP strategist told me recently.
“The biggest problem for McCain is that people still see him as offering a third Bush term,” echoed one Democratic strategist who commented that McCain has wasted the spring and early summer instead of creating a “maverick” narrative that would appeal to American voters.
So where does McCain go now? I haven’t a clue.
Iraq, of course, remains both a problem and an opportunity for McCain.
Yes, McCain was correct about the surge — even if Obama is unwilling to admit it. But it isn’t clear that that matters. In defending recent Bush policy, McCain undercuts his maverick image and invites Democrats to paint him, not entirely fairly, as just another Republican defending the status quo.
McCain surely is worse off now that the Iraqi government has indicated its support for a timeline on withdrawal from Iraq. But can he afford to switch his message on Iraq? Certainly not. He’s climbed out on a limb on Iraq and has no choice but to stay out there.
McCain needs once again to embrace his maverick reputation, yet he also needs to create a contrast with Obama. But most of all, he needs to continue to raise questions about Obama’s readiness for the job to keep undecided voters from getting comfortable with the Democrat.
“The day undecided voters decide that Barack Obama can be president, the race is over,” one Republican told me recently. McCain needs to make certain that Obama continues to be under the microscope, yet in doing so, the de facto Republican nominee gives Obama the opportunity to close the deal with undecided voters.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 24, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
You can’t manufacture a competitive race with a poll and a press release.
It would be generous to call GOP nominee Steve Sauerberg a long shot against Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) in Illinois. But you wouldn’t know it by the rhetoric coming from the Republican’s campaign.
“New Polling Shows Sauerberg within Striking Distance of Durbin,” blared a July 15 release. The campaign points to a July 12 poll by Southern Outreach showing Durbin ahead of Sauerberg 52 percent to 35 percent.
“This polling confirms what we have long believed,” Sauerberg campaign manager Christopher Hage said in the release. “No amount of money from Washington special interest groups will be able to change Dick Durbin’s disastrous 25-year record in D.C.”
But there are multiple problems with the release and analysis. First, the poll doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s an automated poll of 1,500 likely voters taken on a single day. And Southern Outreach, known more for its phone banks than survey research, doesn’t have much of a polling track record.
Second, despite Hage’s claims, money will be a factor, should a race actually develop.
Durbin had more than $8.1 million in the bank on June 30, compared with just over $1 million on hand for Sauerberg. Through the second quarter, Sauerberg raised only $431,000 from individuals, but he dumped in $1.3 million of his own money. Business consultant Dan Seals — the Democratic candidate seeking to oust Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in November — had more campaign cash than Sauerberg at the end of last month, and he’s running in only one of the state’s 19 Congressional districts.
In addition, 60 percent of poll respondents said they didn’t know enough about Sauerberg to have an opinion of him. His campaign views it as a “tremendous opportunity for growth,” but he’ll need more than $1 million to boost his name identification. Maryland resident Alan Keyes (R) spent more than $2.5 million when he received 27 percent of the vote in the 2004 Senate race against Barack Obama (D). At least Sauerberg is doing better than Keyes in the polls.
Finally, the Sauerberg press release points out the Durbin is under 50 percent, and led Sauerberg by “only” seven points, outside the Chicago-metro area. You can file that information under “irrelevant” since Chicago votes will count in this election.
It must be tough to work for a campaign that’s given no chance, and every press secretary has a job to do, but the Sauerberg campaign is about to experience firsthand the financial power of Durbin and the downballot impact of Obama. No matter what Southern Outreach shows, this is race is not in play.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 23, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Friday, July 25, 2008
The July 25, 2008 print edition of the Rothenberg Political Report is on its way to subscribers. The print edition comes out every two weeks and the content is not available online. Subscribers get in-depth analysis of the most competitive races in the country, as well as quarterly House and Senate ratings, and coverage of the gubernatorial races nationwide. To subscribe, simply click on the Google checkout button on the website or send a check.
Here is a brief sample of what's in this edition...
House Outlook For 2008
With second quarter fundraising numbers now available and the general election fast approaching, we have taken a fresh look at the national political environment, as well as individual House races.
The result has been some significant shifting of races. What has not changed is our general view of the election cycle. Democrats continue to have major advantages, including their party’s reputation, greater enthusiasm and money.
The GOP brand is not an asset this year for Republicans except in the most Republican districts, and many GOP challengers and open seat hopefuls are echoing Sen. Barack Obama’s call for change.
Democrats have the advantage on almost all issues, though Republican strategists believe that they have found a good issue down the stretch: drilling for more oil and gas.
The DCCC’s huge financial advantage over the GOP should help Democrats put more seats into play and make considerable gains in November.
Republican insiders acknowledge that the national party won’t be able to help embattled GOP candidates until well after Labor Day, meaning that those Republican incumbents, challengers and open seat hopefuls will be on their own (or depend on outside groups), while the DCCC pounds them with media.
Democrats will gain House seats again this year. The only question is how many. In our last quarterly report on the House, we put likely Democratic gains in the 8-12 seat range. We are increasing that target to 10-15 seats, though we believe that a somewhat bigger Democratic gain (even 20 seats) would not be all that surprising.
For the state-by-state, race-by-race analysis, you must subscribe to the print edition of the Report.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
It’s no longer the time for mere scenarios or fundraising polling memos. Now is the time for serious candidates to show they have the fundraising energy and prowess to run top-shelf campaigns.
The latest round of fundraising numbers shows that some Congressional hopefuls have established themselves as credible candidates, while others need to find an explanation for their weak totals.
The weakest showings? How about three of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “emerging races,” all of which might be migrating to a new DCCC submerging races category?
Kentucky 2nd district hopeful David Boswell was promoted by some Democrats as a strong contender for retiring Rep. Ron Lewis’ (R) open seat. Yes, said Democrats about the Owensboro-Bowling Green district, it’s conservative, but the Democratic state Senator is a good fit for it.
Well, Boswell’s June 30 cash-on-hand total of $45,000 should end that talk. Republican nominee Brett Guthrie’s $661,000 in the bank means that, barring a total turnaround of finances, this race is over.
A few weeks ago, I wrote favorably about Kathy Dahlkemper (D), who is taking on veteran incumbent Rep. Phil English (R) in Pennsylvania’s 3rd district. Dahlkemper had plenty of time and reason to haul in cash after her April 22 primary win, but instead she raised $203,000 in the quarter and ended June with a disappointing $128,000. English had $787,000 in the bank.
Dahlkemper has some personal money, and polling suggests that she’s very much still in the race. But her fundraising numbers are disappointing.
I’ve heard a bit of a buzz recently about Democrat Steve Sarvi’s challenge to Rep. John Kline in Minnesota’s 2nd district. After seeing that Sarvi raised $147,000 in the second quarter and ended June with $98,000 in the bank, I have to figure that buzz is the winding down of the battery in the Democrat’s electric razor rather than excitement about his prospects.
Incredibly, Sarvi’s campaign is bragging about the numbers. Here’s what the candidate’s Web site said: “The campaign’s 2nd Quarter numbers represent nearly a two-and-a-half fold increase on its previous quarter and a three-fold increase on its 4th Quarter 2007 results.” Translation: The campaign’s unimpressive second-quarter numbers weren’t as bad as its pathetic first-quarter numbers and its even worse fourth-quarter of 2007 numbers.
If there was any doubt about New York’s open 25th district, the June 30 numbers should end it. Republican Dale Sweetland is his party’s likely nominee, but with an anemic campaign bank account of $108,000 against Democrat Dan Maffei’s $962,000, this seat looks comfortably Democratic.
Elsewhere, El Tinklenberg (D) in Minnesota’s 6th district showed $225,000 in the bank to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann’s $1.3 million.
Then there is the case of Larry Kissell in North Carolina’s 8th district, who is rapidly getting the reputation of being the Democrats’ John Hostettler. Hostettler, you may remember, is the former Republican Congressman who didn’t like raising money — so he didn’t. Every two years, the National Republican Congressional Committee had to bail out Hostettler by spending its cash on his re-election. Finally, in 2006, he lost. Some Republicans were less than upset.
Kissell, who lost narrowly last time and complained that he received little support from the DCCC in 2006 (which is true), promised to raise more money this time. The DCCC showed early interest in the race, no doubt to make up for its inactivity last time. But Kissell’s fundraising this time has been stunningly inadequate. He may still win, but not because of anything he has done in fundraising.
Not all poor June 30 cash-on-hand numbers are as bad as they seem. New Jersey Republicans Chris Myers (3rd district) and Leonard Lance (7th district) have bank accounts that are scary. But they both had to spend heavily to win primaries that took place in early June, and their general election fundraising has only now begun. Give them a full quarter to see what their cash looks like.
I’ve also heard some talk that state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. (D) might give Rep. Charles Boustany (R) a fight in Louisiana’s 7th district, but Cravins just decided he wanted to run, and his $104,000 in cash on hand isn’t enough to make the Republican give a second look to the challenger quite yet.
If some candidates merit identification for their weak fundraising, others deserve attention for their strong efforts.
Rep. Mark Kirk (R) showed more than $2.8 million in the bank on June 30, and his opponent in Illinois’ 10th district, Dan Seals (D), had $1.17 million on hand. Two New Jersey Democrats running for open seats, John Adler (3rd) and Linda Stender (7th) each had more than $1.2 million in the bank.
In Florida’s 21st district, incumbent Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) had more than $1.7 million on hand, while challenger Raul Martinez (D) showed more than $1 million in the bank. Washington 8th district Democratic challenger Darcy Burner had almost $1.25 million in the bank, and Virginia’s 11th district Republican Keith Fimian had $1 million on hand on June 30. And Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski showed more than $2.1 million on hand.
Of course, these are just a few of the strong fundraisers. There are many others. But in a year where there seems to be so much money, it is the underperformers who are the real story.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 21, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
It was a dark primary night last Tuesday for one Georgia Democrat. Thirty-six-year-old Atlanta businessman Rand Knight, who corralled a series of high-profile endorsements, pulled an astounding 5 percent of the vote in last week’s Senate Democratic primary.
But the night was just as grim for some leading labor unions.
Knight was endorsed by the National Education Association, the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia AFL-CIO, and at least 25 other local unions. Teachers and organized labor are often considered two of the most critical endorsements in a Democratic primary, but they didn’t get Knight anywhere.
In this case, the candidate may be to blame.
“Rand was a young man who had the passion and the agenda,” Georgia AFL-CIO President Richard Ray said about the first-time candidate. “But he was never able to raise any money.” Knight raised just $228,000, including $78,000 of his own money, through the June 25 pre-primary reporting period.
But he spent the money on paid staff and phone banking and didn’t air any television ads or send out any mailings. Knight’s strategy propelled him to a distant fourth place (out of five candidates), about 140,000 votes shy of the runoff.
Knight received only 5,500 more votes than Vietnam veteran/former Capitol Hill staffer/aspiring screen writer Josh Lanier, who did not accept individual contributions over $100 (he only raised $430 total) and spent less than $13,000 total after he put in some personal money.
Instead of spending his precious time raising money, Knight spent more than a year effectively courting the state’s labor leaders.
“Nobody outworked Rand Knight [with labor leaders],” Ray said. After the primary, the Georgia AFL-CIO immediately endorsed former state Rep. Jim Martin (D) in the Aug. 5 runoff against DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones (D).
Knight’s candidacy is a good reminder that sometimes endorsements don’t matter all that much, and that money and campaigns matter, too.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 21, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
This week, Stu participated in a 2008 House round table discussion with David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report and Tim Sahd of the Hotline. You can read the House transcript or listen to the podcast at Salon.com. Nathan participated in a 2008 Senate panel with Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report and Amy Walter of the Hotline. You can read the Senate transcript or listen to the podcast at Salon.com.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is about to pick up his first challenger, and his race is not for another 27 months.
Former U.S. Customs Agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price (D) is set to announce her candidacy for the Senate on Aug. 2. Price is also a former captain in the Army Military Police Corps and co-author of the 2006 book “BorderGate,” which “details her brave fight against corruption within the Department of Homeland Security,” according to her Web site.
Price may be getting in first, but she certainly won’t be alone in the race against Bunning, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Senators of next cycle’s class.
State Attorney General Jack Conway (D) is mentioned as a possibility and would make a strong candidate. The good-looking statewide office holder narrowly lost to then-Rep. Anne Northup (R), 52 percent to 48 percent, in Kentucky’s 3rd District in 2002.
Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D) is also a potential candidate. He narrowly lost to Bunning, 51 percent to 49 percent, in 2004, when he was a state Senator. In 2007, Mongiardo was elected statewide on the ticket that ousted incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R).
State Auditor Crit Luallen (D), who considered challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this cycle, is also mentioned as a potential Senate candidate.
Even with the field to herself, Price isn’t doing herself any favors. She’s set to announce her candidacy in McCreary County. But, as noted by Louisville Courier-Journal political reporter Joe Gerth, every political reporter in the state will be at St. Jerome’s picnic at Fancy Farm, the annual fall kickoff for state campaigns, roughly 300 miles away.
UPDATE: According to another Democratic source, Mongiardo and Luallen are less likely to run, but Rep. Ben Chandler and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson are potential candidates.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, July 21, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
It’s far too soon to know whether the presidential contest will blow open into a laugher or remain competitive from now until Election Day. But if the race stays close until the end, a mere four or five states are likely to tell you whom the next occupant of the Oval Office will be.
Right now, those states look to be Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Michigan.
Let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that these will be the five closest states. But together these five states will tell a great deal about whether Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has added to the Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Al Gore states, thereby giving him at least 270 electoral votes, or whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has either held the 2000 and 2004 George W. Bush Electoral College coalition together or been able to offset one or two losses with a previously Democratic state of his own.
Colorado and Virginia make the list because they are the two states mostly likely to switch to Obama that went for Bush in both 2000 and 2004.
Early polls show Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, ahead in Colorado and running essentially even with McCain, who will be the GOP standard bearer, in the Old Dominion. Of the two, Colorado would seem to be the more likely Democratic opportunity, and it is not easy to imagine Obama winning Virginia while losing Colorado.
Obama’s potential in both states is in the suburbs, with upscale, white voters who are drawn to the Democratic nominee’s message of change. Both states have seen Democratic gains recently — Democrats won the two states’ last Senate races and made gains in each state’s Legislature in 2006.
If Obama fails to carry either state, his arithmetic gets dicey. Even more important, a pair of McCain victories would suggest that the Republican made substantial gains between June and November — a bad sign for Obama nationally.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ohio is on the short list of key states. Kerry lost the state by 118,601 votes last time, and if he had carried the Buckeye State, he would now be running for re-election.
Republicans have had serious problems in Ohio over the past few years, losing all of the state’s top offices, a Senate seat and a Congressional district. The state’s economic problems have also made it ripe for Obama’s taking in 2008. Indeed, if McCain keeps the state in the GOP column, it would be a sign of the limits of Obama’s appeal — especially with “Reagan Democrats” but more generally with swing voters.
Nevada has proved to be one of the more competitive states over the past few White House contests, so it automatically becomes a bellwether of the 2008 presidential election. Yes, there are plenty of conservatives and Republicans in the state, but Nevada also has its share of Hispanics, labor union members and moderate Democrats.
Bush won Nevada in 2004 with 50.5 percent and in 2000 with 49.5 percent. Bill Clinton carried it twice, albeit narrowly. If Obama wins Nevada, he’s likely winning other red states, and he’s likely to be the next president of the United States.
Finally, Michigan probably is McCain’s best chance of picking off a state that has gone Democratic in the past two presidential contests. That is enough to warrant placing the Wolverine State on this short list of predictive states.
If McCain replicates either of Bush’s winning electoral vote coalitions, he won’t need to worry about Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, each of which went Democratic in both 2000 and 2004. But if Obama carries states that Kerry and Gore lost, McCain will need to swipe a state or two from the Democratic column in order to get to 270 electoral votes.
Of the three Midwest states, Wisconsin’s performance in the past two presidential contests suggests it’s McCain’s best shot. After all, while Gore and Kerry carried the state, their margins — two-tenths of a percent in 2000 and four-tenths of a percent in 2004 — were ridiculously close. Kerry carried the Badger State by 5,708 votes out of almost 2.6 million cast.
Pennsylvania also was a tighter race in each of the past two elections than was Michigan. And, if you believe that trade is a litmus test issue in Michigan — and it may be — then McCain is on the wrong side of the issue.
So it’s hard to argue with the view that Michigan is tougher for the Republican nominee than either of the two other states.
But I’ve picked Michigan because it has something that neither of the other two states has: a weak Democratic governor and a mood of desperation flowing from a decimated economy. The state has been in such serious economic straits for so long — well before the current economic slowdown — that Michigan voters might be willing to try something new, including giving McCain a long look.
So keep an eye on Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Michigan as you watch the polls. They’ll give you more information than the national numbers.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 17, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) will have to defy history to win this year’s Senate special election in the Magnolia State.
Over the last 60 years, there have been 23 times when both of a state’s Senate seats were up for election. In 20 of those instances (87 percent of the time), one party won both seats.
This year, two states have elections for both Senate seats: Wyoming and Mississippi. While Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi and Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran have known for six years that their seats would be up, the death of Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) in 2007 and the unexpected midterm retirement of Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have forced special elections in those states.
Republicans are not at risk of losing either of the Wyoming seats, but Democrats are excited about Musgrove’s prospects against appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R). Cochran is a heavy favorite to win re-election.
But further analysis of the three instances where the two Senate races were won by candidates from different parties show an even tougher road for Musgrove. In two of the three instances, the split results maintained the partisan status quo before the election.
In Idaho in 1962, Democratic Sen. Frank Church won re-election while appointed Sen. Len Jordan’s (R) victory retained the Republican seat. And in South Carolina in 1966, Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond won re-election, just as Democrat Fritz Hollings held the Democratic seat after defeating the incumbent in the primary.
In the final case, in New Hampshire in 1962, Republican Sen. Norris Cotton won re-election, while his party lost the state’s other Senate seat. But the Senator who had been appointed to fill that vacancy and who ran to fill the rest of the unexpired term, Maurice Murphy Jr. (R), lost in the primary, and Thomas McIntyre (D) defeated Rep. Perkins Bass (R) in the general election. (Bass is the father of former Rep. Charlie Bass, who lost reelection last year in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district.)
So if Musgrove wins this year, it will be the first time in at least six decades that an appointed Senator has lost election in the same cycle that his party won the state’s other Senate seat.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 16, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Here are our latest gubernatorial ratings. Democrats currently hold 28 governorships compared to 22 for the Republicans.
- MO Open (Blunt, R)
- Daniels (R-IN)
- Gregoire (D-WA)
- NC Open (Easley, D)
- Douglas (R-VT)
- Hoeven (R-ND)
- Huntsman (R-UT)
- Lynch (D-NH)
- Manchin (D-WV)
- Schweitzer (D-MT)
- DE Open (Minner, D)
Friday, July 18, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Missouri Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R) hasn’t had a tough race in more than a decade, but he chose to leave his safe House seat in order to run for governor. Now he’s in the middle of a competitive primary, with an uphill general election looming if he survives.
Hulshof jumped at the opportunity to run for the Show Me State’s top job when unpopular Gov. Matt Blunt (R), son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), surprised everyone by announcing in January that he would not seek a second term. Chaos ensued within the party, but the GOP field eventually boiled down to Hulshof and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
A July 7-10 Research 2000 poll for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV showed the Congressman leading Steelman 32 percent to 24 percent in the Aug. 5 primary. Two other candidates are in the race and received a combined 17 percent in the poll, but they are not expected to win the nomination.
A June 9-10 American Viewpoint survey for Hulshof’s campaign showed him leading in the primary 39 percent to 26 percent.
The primary has been very competitive, and even bitter at times, but Republicans will need to quickly unify behind their nominee in order to defeat state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D), who has been running for governor for more than two and half years.
The July Research 2000 poll had Nixon leading both Hulshof, 52 percent to 35 percent, and Steelman, 53 percent to 34 percent, in general election match ups. A January Research 2000 survey showed Nixon leading Blunt by 9 points, but controversies during his first term severely limited the governor’s appeal, while Hulshof and Steelman should pull closer by increasing their statewide profiles.
Republicans’ chances of holding the governorship improved when Blunt bowed out, but it’s still a tough hold.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 15, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
Not a single Democratic House seat switched to the GOP in 2006 while Republicans were losing 30 Congressional seats.
Could Democrats pitch another shut-out this year? It’s possible, though unlikely, even given the poor Republican poll numbers, the desire for change and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s financial advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.
After all, Democrats won a handful of reliably Republican districts in 2006 that they will struggle to retain, and no party has been shut out of taking over seats from the opposition in consecutive elections, at least since World War II.
So where are the best GOP chances?
Tier 1 Opportunities
Texas’ 22nd District, Nick Lampson (D). If only one Democratic seat switches to the Republicans, it’s likely to be Lampson’s. Lampson, of course, was defeated for re-election in 2004 (in a different district) only to come back and win Republican Tom DeLay’s open seat in 2006.
Although DeLay dropped his bid for re-election, the Republican nominee was unable to get her name on the ballot and was forced to run as a write-in candidate. Even then, Shelley Sekula Gibbs drew 42 percent of the vote.
Sekula Gibbs almost won her party’s nomination again this time, but she was defeated handily in the runoff by Pete Olson, a former aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R), who was generally regarded as the stronger general election candidate.
Lampson’s district gave President Bush 64 percent in 2004, a reflection of its Republican bent. While Lampson has built a much less liberal record than he did during his first service in the House, he is still a Democrat in a very Republican district. And that makes him the most vulnerable House Democrat in 2008.
Louisiana’s 6th District, Don Cazayoux (D). Cazayoux, a relatively conservative Democrat, is a reasonably good fit for his northeast Louisiana district. Despite that assessment, the reality is that he owes his seat in Congress to Woody Jenkins, the unelectable GOP nominee in the special election held earlier this year.
Cazayoux has a reasonable chance to win a full term in November, but if the Republicans nominate state Sen. Bill Cassidy, who has announced his candidacy, the freshman Democrat will have his hands full. The district definitely leans Republican, and a strong GOP nominee automatically becomes formidable. Republicans caught a rare break when Jenkins decided not to run again.
Tier 2 Opportunities
Kansas’ 2nd District, Nancy Boyda (D). Boyda upset then-Rep. Jim Ryun (R) last time, and the Republican nature of the district (Bush won it by 20 points in 2004) guarantees a serious contest. Ryun faces state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins for the Republican nomination.
Alabama’s 5th District, open seat. Rep. Bud Cramer’s (D) retirement opens up a conservative Southern district that will see stiff competition and should be a GOP target. But the likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Parker Griffith, looks strong, while the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Wayne Parker, lost to Cramer twice.
California’s 11th District, Jerry McNerney (D). Freshman McNerney rode the Democratic wave and help from the environmental community to beat Republican Rep. Richard Pombo two years ago, but he isn’t an ideal fit for his Republican- leaning district. The GOP nominee, former state Assemblyman Dean Andal, looks to be a serious threat.
Pennsylvania’s 10th District, Christopher Carney (D). Carney beat a scandal-plagued Republican in a solidly Republican district, and the question is how long he can hold onto the seat. His GOP challenger, businessman Chris Hackett, hasn’t united Republicans following a nasty primary. Still, Carney is in the kind of district that he can never take for granted.
Florida’s 16th District, Tim Mahoney (D). Much like others on the list, Mahoney would not have won last time except for a GOP scandal, but he has been a strong fundraiser and won’t be an easy target for Republicans, who won’t pick a nominee until late August. Still, the GOP is likely to have a credible nominee in this Republican-leaning district.
Other Districts to Watch
Pennsylvania’s 11th district, Paul Kanjorski (D). Democrats are nervous about veteran Kanjorski, who has received his share of negative publicity. The early campaign of Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) has been underwhelming, but that may not matter by the time November arrives. Polling suggests that this may well be a top-tier GOP takeover opportunity by November.
New York’s 20th district, Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Freshman Gillibrand is a fundraising phenom, and she will be very hard to beat in 2008. But former state GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell has plenty of personal resources and is running in a reliably Republican district that a flawed Republican lost two years ago. The district’s fundamentals alone make this a Republican opportunity.
Wisconsin’s 8th district, Steve Kagen (D). Republican John Gard narrowly lost this Republican open seat last time, but the presidential year should bring out more voters and freshman Kagen hasn’t had the smoothest term.
A handful of other Democratic seats could also produce GOP upsets, including two in Arizona (Rep. Harry Mitchell’s and Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s in New Hampshire and Rep. Jim Marshall’s in Georgia.
No matter what happens, Democratic losses will be few and the party can expect a substantial net gain in November.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 14, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
The July 16, 2008 print edition of the Rothenberg Political Report is on its way to subscribers. The print edition comes out every two weeks and the content is not available online. Subscribers get in-depth analysis of the most competitive races in the country, as well as quarterly House and Senate ratings, and coverage of the gubernatorial races nationwide. To subscribe, simply click on the Google checkout button on the website or send a check.
Here is a brief sample of what's in this edition...
Mississippi Senate: Blue Plate Special?
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Republicans defending a Senate seat in Mississippi is just another sign of how bad 2008 is shaping up to be for the GOP.
Coming into the cycle, many Republicans expected the Magnolia State might have a retirement – Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s. Cochran decided to run for reelection, but Mississippi’s other senator, Trent Lott (R), decided to call it quits for K Street, just a year after winning reelection.
Gov. Haley Barbour (R) subsequently appointed 1st District Cong. Roger Wicker (R) to fill the open seat, and Wicker is now standing for election this November for the remaining four years of the term. Democrats recruited former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to run, and even though he lost reelection to Barbour, he starts the race with high name identification.
Meanwhile, Republicans lost Wicker’s open seat in a special election, and Democrats nationwide are energized and starting to count to 60 Senate seats. Mississippi would be part of that equation. Read the whole story by subscribing to the print edition.
Alaska Senate: Legendary Status
Just because they name the airport after you doesn’t mean they won’t throw you out of office.
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, and he’s in danger of losing reelection. He’s coasted through six reelections, but Stevens is now under federal investigation, just as some of his fellow Republicans in the state are being carted off to jail.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and the DSCC successfully recruited Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to run for the Senate. While his political track record isn’t unblemished, he’s the best candidate they could have hoped for in a state where only 14% of voters are registered Democrats.
Despite their confidence, Democrats have to walk a fine line. Even though some of Stevens’ actions make him an easy target, he is still beloved in the state that he has represented for four decades.
For a top tier race, the contest is getting started late. But as the candidates raise money and start their campaigns, everyone has one eye and ear tuned to when the FBI might hand down another indictment. Read the whole story by subscribing to the print edition.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has agreed to use the Republican Web site Slatecard exclusively for his fundraising.
DeMint, one of the most tech-savvy Members of the Senate, is the first Senator to utilize the popular Web site. And it’s just an extension of his efforts to reach constituents, voters and donors through the Web.
“Sen. DeMint is excited about new technologies that allow direct and dynamic communication with people in South Carolina and throughout the country,” DeMint Communications Director Wesley Denton said.
DeMint, the chairman of the Republican Steering Committee, has a sleek Senate Web site, where he and his staff blog. The site also has six separate regional blogs maintained by staff and accessed by inputting a county or ZIP code. He used YouTube to respond to President Bush’s most recent State of the Union address. And he has a Twitter account, but it’s just a feed from the blog on his campaign Web site, not a minute-by-minute breakdown of his daily activities.
The former owner of a marketing company, DeMint has engaged the blogging community and embraced the Internet has a strategic and marketing tool.
He committed just a few days ago to Slatecard and has taken in $3,581 from 12 contributors. But his race for a second term isn’t until 2010.
The move could give the Web site a boost. DeMint is a star within conservatives in the caucus. He raised $9 million in 2004 and will raise more next cycle. DeMint is also using the site to raise money for his political action committee, Senate Conservatives Fund.
Slatecard, considered the Republican equivalent of ActBlue on the Democratic side, has taken in about $411,000 since its inception nine months ago. The goal of the site’s founders is to raise $1 million for the cycle.
ActBlue was founded in 2004 and has taken in $56.8 million since. According to the Wall Street Journal, the site took in nearly $792,000 in its first cycle.
The top Republican fundraiser on Slatecard thus far was Kevin O’Neill, who raised $64,744 from 126 contributors by using Slatecard exclusively for all his fundraising for the special election last fall in Virginia’s 1st district. He lost the GOP nominating contest to Rep. Rob Wittman (R).
The site was co-founded by David All, a former communications director to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), and San Diego software developer Sendhil Panchadsaram. All is also the founder of TechRepublican.com.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 11, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Republican businessman Martin Ozinga’s first television ad in Illinois’ 11th district race isn’t particularly exciting news, but his campaign is trying to leverage a unique Web site to attract curious or skeptical voters who may be disillusioned with the political process.
The 30-second bio ad, which is running on cable stations in a majority of the 11th district, directs people to Iamnotapolitician.com, instead of Ozinga’s regular campaign Web site.
At Iamnotapolitician.com, viewers are greeted with a simple and stark red page with “I am not a politician” written across the page in white capital letters. Then, a 90-second introductory video, which is different than the television ad, automatically pops up and introduces Ozinga through testimonials.
After the video concludes, the phrase “I am ... committed” appears, referencing the themes of the video, and visitors can either replay the video, e-mail it to a friend or “Learn More,” which takes them to the official campaign Web site.
The Web site and theme is meant to contrast Ozinga’s biography with that of his opponent, state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D). But Ozinga got into the race late after the GOP nominee dropped out and is battling to hold the open seat being vacated by Rep. Jerry Weller (R).
Ozinga’s supporters got the idea for the Web site in early April and bought the domain name for $30. Iamnotapolitician.com made its official debut April 30, when the URL was emblazoned across a giant red banner behind Ozinga during his announcement speech. The campaign subsequently had road signs with the Web address and placed inexpensive banner ads on the Web sites of the daily newspapers in the district to drive people to the site.
Though the tactic is unique, it’s not without some glitches. First, the video takes a long time to load, even on a high-speed connection. And second, the Web site doesn’t offer an initial way to capture valuable information, such as e-mail addresses of visitors, that campaigns covet these days.
Overall, Republican Internet consultant David All panned it. “It’s a clever URL, but how far is that going to get you?”
“It’s a good way to introduce Marty in a simple, but powerful way,” Ozinga campaign manager Andy Sere said. “It’s a practical thing we can use to drive a message.”
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 10, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, July 14, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
As almost everyone knows, Charlie Cook is a longtime friend and the publisher of the highly regarded Cook Political Report. I think it’s fair to say that I pay close attention to Charlie’s House and Senate ratings and he does the same with mine.
This column was prompted by a short piece in the Washington Post about recent ratings changes by Charlie’s newsletter, but my comments are less about the Cook Political Report and more about how the Post played those new ratings.
The Post suggested that the recent shift in the ratings of 27 House races toward Democrats by the Cook Political Report is “evidence that a Democratic wave may be building.” I don’t agree. Though, like Charlie, I expect significant Democratic House gains.
It’s important to note that 21 of the 28 races Cook moved recently went from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” From a handicapping point of view, there is relatively little difference between those two categories.
My own newsletter lists only districts where I believe a change of party is possible. My “Republican Favored” and “Democrat Favored” categories are roughly similar (though not identical) to Charlie’s “Likely” categories, and I never expect races in those categories to change party. Any race in those categories that switches is a significant upset in my view, as Iowa’s 2nd district and New Hampshire’s 1st district were in the previous cycle.
Suggesting that moving a race from “Safe” to “Likely,” in Charlie’s terminology, or adding it to my ratings as “Favored” is a dramatic development is simply a misunderstanding of the categories and an over-reaction to the change.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. In releasing its list of ratings changes, the Cook Report noted that while “it’s not likely a majority of the races moved from ‘Solid’ to ‘Likely’ Republican will become competitive by November,” because of the environment “even very difficult districts for Democrats [are] worth keeping tabs on.” So even the Cook Political Report doesn’t believe that the races it moved are currently competitive.
Why move a race into the “Favored” or “Likely” column if the meaning of the change is small? Speaking only for myself and not Charlie, I am trying to give readers a sense of the different tiers of races. Even though races that I classify as “Favored” are not likely to change party control, they seem to me to be of a different quality than certain more competitive contests (“Lean” races in my terminology) or races where the incumbent party is at such limited risk that it doesn’t make my list.
Now, back to Charlie’s recent changes. Some of the races that he has moved are also on my list, as well, including West Virginia’s 2nd district, Kentucky’s 2nd district and Florida’s 8th district. Others could well be added soon, including Florida’s 21st district, and I may move some contests as soon as he does.
But some of the races that the Cook Report moved currently appear to me to be such long shots that I can’t imagine adding them in the near future. Fundamentally and without overwhelming evidence to the contrary (which Charlie may have but I do not), I view them as just too tough for Democrats. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of the Cook Political Report. It just means that we approach ratings in a slightly different way.
Yes, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his district gave President Bush 67 percent in 2004 and is a reliable Republican bastion. His Democratic opponent, Daniel Johnson, may have a good story to tell, but that’s rarely enough in a very partisan district, especially in a presidential year.
GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s 46th district in California? Debbie Cook, the Democratic mayor of Huntington Beach, may well do better than Rohrabacher’s previous challengers, but can she win?
The district gave Bush 57 percent in 2004 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) 69 percent of the vote in 2006. In other words, there are a lot of Republican voters there. Debbie Cook might be able to get to 45 percent or even 47 percent, but if I doubt that she can win under any circumstances, she doesn’t get on my list.
I’d put Pennsylvania’s 5th district, the open seat held by retiring Rep. John Peterson (R), into the same category. GOP nominee Glenn Thompson is a good fit for the district, which gave President Bush 61 percent of the vote in 2004. Yes, State College (home to Penn State) is in the district, but that alone doesn’t make the district likely to flip.
Naturally, if I were to become convinced that the Democratic nominee in any of these districts could win, I would add them to my list.
More than four years ago in this space, I explained why I continued to rate South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Inez Tenenbaum as a slight underdog even though many saw the race as at least a tossup. I noted the importance of fundamentals and ideology in races in explaining my reasoning. She lost by just over 9 points.
There is plenty of credible evidence that many voters have soured on the GOP, and that development is likely to allow Democratic Congressional candidates to improve their showings in many districts.
That is not, however, the same thing as saying that Democratic challengers will now win many districts that have been reliably Republican in the past. They won’t. Getting close may be a moral victory for some Democratic candidates, but I’m trying to measure a candidate’s likelihood of winning.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 10, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Some Democratic Senate candidates have serious fundraising work to do to be in a position to win this fall.
As second-quarter Federal Election Commission numbers trickle in, it’s helpful to look at the six successful Democratic challengers from 2006 for context. All six of those Democrats raised more than $5 million in that cycle, and each spent at least half of what the GOP incumbent spent against them.
In Ohio, then-Rep. Sherrod Brown spent almost $10.8 million (approximately 76 percent of incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine’s spending). Claire McCaskill spent $11.7 million (82 percent of then-Sen. Jim Talent’s total) in Missouri, Bob Casey spent $17.6 million
(68 percent of then-Sen. Rick Santorum’s figure) in Pennsylvania, and Jon Tester spent $5.6 million (66 percent of then-Sen. Conrad Burns’ total) in Montana.
Virginia’s Jim Webb had the lowest percentage of spending among the six successful Democratic Senate challengers in that cycle (53 percent of then-Sen. George Allen’s total), and he still spent $8.6 million.
Sheldon Whitehouse actually outspent incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee spent in Rhode Island.
So how do this year’s Democratic challengers stack up?
A couple of candidates are in good shape, at least on the fundraising front. Through May 21, Maine Rep. Tom Allen (D) raised $3.9 million, giving him 72 percent of Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) total raised. And in Minnesota, comedian Al Franken (D) actually outraised Sen. Norm Coleman (R), $9.4 million to $8.7 million through March 31.
The rest of the class is further behind.
Oregon Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) raised $1.9 million through April 30, about 38 percent of Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R) fundraising. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) raised $267,000 through March 31, putting him at 13 percent of Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R) total raised in Alaska.
In North Carolina, state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) raised 22 percent ($1.5 million) of Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s (R) take ($6.7 million) through April 16, though she announced on Wednesday that she collected $1.6 million from April 17 to June 30. In Mississippi, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) raised $449,000 through March 31, giving him 14 percent of appointed Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R) total at the end of March. In Kentucky, wealthy health care executive Bruce Lunsford (D) raised $1.5 million through April 30, 17 percent of the total taken in by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
Through March 31, Rick Noriega (D), having taken in 16 percent of Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s total in Texas; Andrew Rice (D), who had 30 percent of Republican Sen. James Inhofe’s total in Oklahoma; and Jim Slattery (D), who had 9 percent of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ total, also trailed the incumbents’ fundraising by wide margins.
Some of the Democrats chose to get into these races late and could receive plenty of money in the final months of the campaign, but the incumbents will be raising money as well. And some will get help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will have far more money to spend than the National Republican Senatorial Committee come fall.
On the Republican side, state Treasurer John Kennedy is the lone GOP challenger with a shot at unseating an incumbent. Through March 31, he raised $1.9 million, about 35 percent of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) figure. Kennedy added an additional $1.5 million in the second quarter.
Matching the incumbent’s spending doesn’t guarantee success. Last cycle in Arizona, real estate developer Jim Pederson (D) nearly matched Sen. Jon Kyl (R) in spending — thanks mostly to his ability to self-fund — and still lost, 53 percent to 44 percent.
This story first appeared in Roll Call on July 10, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Friday, July 11, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and business consultant Dan Seals (D) are gearing up for the most expensive House race in the Chicago area this cycle — and it may turn into the most expensive race in the country that doesn’t involve a self-funder.
Both candidates are already trumpeting their second-quarter fundraising figures, even though they aren’t officially due to be released until July 15.
Early Monday afternoon, the Seals campaign announced it had raised more than $635,000 in the second quarter of the year ($2.1 million overall for the cycle) and will show $1.17 million on hand as of June 30. Those are impressive numbers for a challenger anywhere in the country.
Four hours later, Kirk released his fundraising figures, including $900,000 raised in second quarter ($3.87 million for the cycle) and $2.85 million in the bank.
Both candidates have more money at this point than they did in their 2006 match, when Kirk bested Seals 53 percent to 47 percent. The Congressman spent more than $3.5 million in the previous cycle, compared with almost $1.9 million for Seals. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chipped in a mere $158,000, while the National Republican Congressional Committee sat the race out.
That election was overshadowed by very competitive and extremely expensive races in the neighboring 6th and 8th districts. But this year, the Kirk-Seals matchup will be the main event.
In the 6th district last cycle, state Sen. Peter Roskam (R) battled Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) in an open-seat race that received national attention. Roskam spent $3.3 million and the NRCC almost $3.4 million compared with Duckworth, who spent more than $4.5 million, and the DCCC, an additional $3.2 million, in a race Roskam won 51 percent to 49 percent.
With Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) at the top of the ticket, Roskam can’t take anything for granted, but the race has not developed for the Democrats. Challenger Jill Morgenthaler (D) raised $307,000 through March 31 and had only $163,000 on hand. Roskam raised almost $1.4 million through the first quarter with $967,000 in the bank.
In the 8th district, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) spent almost $4.3 million last cycle in her successful re-election run, and the DCCC came in with about $1.3 million. Her opponent, wealthy businessman David McSweeney (R), spent $5.1 million (including primary spending), but the NRCC tacked on another $2.4 million. Bean won 51 percent to 44 percent.
This year, Republicans have another wealthy businessman running, Steve Greenberg, but it’s unclear how much he’s willing and able to invest in the race. He raised almost $523,000 through March 31 but had only $5,000 on hand. Bean raised more than $2.2 million through the first quarter with almost $1.4 million in the bank, and she is a heavy favorite for re-election.
Open-seat races in Illinois’ 11th and 18th districts will also get national party attention this year, and the 14th district rematch between new Rep. Bill Foster (D) and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis (R) could also be competitive.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 8, 2008 and in Roll Call newspaper on July 9, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
By Stuart Rothenberg
This column is not a prediction. Predictions aren’t worth much. Instead, readers should view what follows as an assessment — an assessment that leads to a relatively obvious conclusion, but one that is not set in stone.
With just about four months to go until Election Day, the national political landscape continues to favor Democrats strongly. Indeed, almost every bit of national- level data reflects problems for the Republicans.
Voters give President Bush a failing grade. And to a large extent because of that, they have a better opinion of the Democratic Party than they do of the GOP. Not surprisingly then, those same voters see Democrats as better able to handle almost every issue, including taxes and fiscal responsibility, on which the Republicans have traditionally had a significant advantage.
For months, even for years, the national news has been bad, so it’s not surprising that voters want change. All of the numbers strongly suggest that Americans see the Democratic Party as the better vehicle for bringing about change than the Republican Party.
In spite of some better news from Iraq, most Americans think the war was a mistake and the administration’s performance inept. Perhaps it’s a sign of Republicans’ problems that most GOP officeholders and strategists would rather talk about the war than about domestic issues.
The economy has sputtered along for a while, but the most recent news has been much worse. Increased unemployment, continuing problems in the nation’s financial sector and much higher fuel costs and commodity prices (and therefore inflationary pressures) have further eroded consumer confidence and pulled the rug out from under stocks.
There is simply no reason to believe that the news will improve measurably between now and late October, which means that there is no reason to believe that the American public’s underlying mood will turn up dramatically.
Financially, Democrats are awash in cash, while Republicans will have far fewer resources. This is true at the presidential level now that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has opted out of public funding, but also at the House and Senate campaign levels.
Enthusiasm is greater among Democrats than Republicans, and Democrats have gained in registration in many states and Congressional districts.
Given all of this evidence, Obama has a far easier road to the White House than Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). The Illinois Senator merely has to take advantage of the political current, while McCain must swim against it, persuading voters to support him in spite of his party and Bush’s performance.
Finally, Obama is a great orator, while McCain is not. The Arizonan has a wonderful story to tell and is a true American hero, but he is not nearly as charismatic as Obama. And he is 71 years old, which does not present an ideal visual contrast with the Democrat.
This isn’t a tough climb for McCain — it’s a veritable Mount Everest.
And yet, it’s simply too soon to declare the presidential race over. Especially since it has barely begun.
Unlike many other kinds of elections, the presidential race is to a large extent about the candidates. McCain’s own image is much better than his party’s, and for all of Obama’s strengths and appeal, the Democrat isn’t without liabilities and weaknesses.
Obama’s race will limit his appeal to some voters, who will have greater difficulty relating to him than they would a white candidate. And even if you strongly disagree that he is “arrogant” or “elitist,” as some of his opponents have said, it’s certainly true that he lacks the warmth that some politicians possess.
Questions about Obama’s experience and readiness for the presidency still need to be answered. And, of course, his positions on issues (to the extent that he is forced to discuss them in detail) could limit some of his appeal.
The Electoral College could help McCain, if the national numbers stay close. While, even in a close race, he may lose a couple of states that Bush won in 2000 (Colorado and Virginia certainly are possibilities), Michigan seems less than secure in the Democratic column.
Ultimately, McCain’s chances depend on voters being uncertain about Obama’s readiness for the job and uncomfortable with him as president. And, of course, McCain must deflect Democratic efforts to portray him merely as a successor to Bush and the traditional Republican agenda.
Obviously, the 2008 race for the White House could blow open between now and Election Day. But even if that doesn’t happen, the underlying fundamentals make an Obama victory more likely. Still it isn’t inevitable, and that’s more than enough reason to continue monitoring the race closely.
This column first appeared in Roll Call on July 7, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Recent polling numbers released by Democratic candidate Bob Roggio in Pennsylvania’s 6th district aren’t that unreasonable or that different from his opponent’s most recent poll. But the corresponding analysis of the race to come dramatically underestimates Roggio’s uphill battle against GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach.
A June 21-24 Benenson Strategy Group poll for the retired businessman showed him trailing the Congressman, 49 percent to 32 percent. Those numbers are similar to Gerlach’s advantage, 56 percent to 30 percent, in his own poll, conducted May 20-21 by Public Opinion Strategies.
Democrats touted Gerlach’s job rating in their poll (39 percent excellent or good compared with 47 percent fair or poor) as a sign of the incumbent’s vulnerability and noted the absence of a job rating number in the Republican’s memo. Gerlach did include his personal rating, 58 percent favorable/20 percent unfavorable, in relation to Roggio’s 4 percent favorable/1 percent unfavorable, while identification numbers were omitted from the Democratic poll.
According to Roggio’s news release, “the race for PA-6 is just beginning,” playing time as an asset in the race. But that’s precisely the challenger’s problem.
Gerlach was first elected in 2002, with 51 percent, over attorney Dan Wofford (D). Wofford entered the race with higher-than-usual name identification for a challenger, because his father is a former U.S. Senator, and he was able to use his connections to outspend Gerlach $1.4 million to $1.1 million.
Two years later, attorney and former Ed Rendell campaign aide Lois Murphy (D) spent $1.9 million in her losing challenge. Gerlach prevailed that cycle, 51 percent to 49 percent, and spent $2.2 million in the process.
Murphy never really stopped running and jumped into a rematch in 2006. She ended up outspending the incumbent (more than $4 million to almost $3.5 million), but losing again narrowly, 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent. The candidate spending doesn’t count more than $3 million from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and almost $3.9 million from the National Republican Congressional Committee. EMILY’s List chipped in another $166,000 on Murphy’s behalf. But it wasn’t enough.
The Roggio campaign has boiled the race down to a simple task.
“As soon as voters are introduced to Bob Roggio through a biographical paragraph, Gerlach’s lead vanishes and Bob Roggio assumes a 7% lead,” according to the campaign’s release.
Well, that should be easy. At least the 500 likely general election voters sampled in the poll know who Roggio is, but he’s going to have a hard time introducing himself to the larger electorate in one of the most expensive media markets in the country.
The Democrat raised $205,200 through April 2 and had $168,259 in the bank. That’s not a lot of dough considering a reasonable ad buy for one week in the Philadelphia market will be at least half a million dollars. Television costs about $600 per point there, according to Media Strategies and Research.
But even if Roggio is able to put together some money to get out his message, there is no guarantee it will resonate. Murphy and the Democrats spent at least $9 million over a three-year stretch, but Gerlach was still re-elected twice. And undoubtedly, Gerlach will have something to say about Roggio as well and will attempt to define his Democratic opponent. The Congressman raised more than $1.5 million through April 2, with almost $715,000 on hand.
Gerlach will never be safe in a district that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won by 3 points in the 2004 White House election. And the Congressman could lose if a dramatic Democratic wave develops in the region because of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) efforts to appeal to suburban voters. But Gerlach won’t lose simply because people got to know Roggio.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 3, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Darcy Burner, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), lost her house in a fire last week, but thanks to her 5-year old son, she is glad to be alive.
Democratic groups are now using the fire to urge donors to help Burner and her campaign.
The fire broke out early Tuesday morning, July 1, and Burner’s son woke her and her husband up to alert them to the blaze, giving them just enough time to escape unharmed. But according to a local fire official, the house is considered a “total loss.”
Burner is in the middle of a competitive race against Reichert in Washington’s 8th district. She lost narrowly to Reichert in 2006 and her rematch is considered one of the Democrats’ best opportunities to defeat an incumbent this cycle.
Through the first quarter of the year, Burner was narrowly outpacing the incumbent in campaign contributions. She raised almost $1,397,000 through March, compared to $1,371,000 raised by Reichert, and she had more cash on hand than the Congressman.
After her narrow loss in 2006 and because of her stances against the Iraq War and the FISA bill, Burner has become a darling of the Democratic net roots. Now, in the midst of tragedy, the net roots are trying to come to her aid even more.
“Though she had what I know is a fantastic fundraising quarter, Darcy’s not going to be doing call-time for some time, so let’s help her out,” Democratic blogger Matt Stoller wrote on the Open Left Web site, soliciting campaign contributions for Burner through Act Blue.
“The tragedy has obviously upended her life, and she’s struggling right now to put all the pieces back together,” Markos Moulitsas wrote in a front page post on Daily Kos, prompting readers to give through Act Blue as well. “She is family.”
Since Burner is a candidate for Congress, giving her family personal support may be complicated. But according to one source familiar with campaign finance law, as long as the aid isn’t given for the purpose of influencing a federal election, it should be OK.
“For those who would like to do something to express their support, let me suggest making a contribution to your local humane society or animal shelter in memory of [the family cat] Charlotte [who died in the blaze], or to the Washington State Council of Firefighters Benevolent Fund,” Burner said in a statement.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 2, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprtined with permission.
Monday, July 07, 2008
By Nathan L. Gonzales
A former chief of staff to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is hosting a fundraiser for vulnerable freshman Rep. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.).
David Urban served as the Republican Senator’s top aide for five years before joining the American Continental Group in 2002. The $1,000-a-head fundraising breakfast for Carney is scheduled for July 16 at the lobbying firm’s offices in downtown Washington, D.C.
“While I’m a Republican, I like to think I support solid candidates,” Urban said in an interview. “[Carney] is a conservative Democrat ... who deserves to be given another shot.”
Urban has contributed to a long list of Republican candidates over the years, including Sens. Gordon Smith (Ore.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Cornyn (Texas), as well as ex-Sen. Rich Santorum (Pa.) and, of course, his former boss. He has also contributed to numerous GOP House Members.
Urban has contributed to a few Democrats as well, including a multiple contributions to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) from 2002 to 2005. He also gave $2,000 in 2003 to Pennsylvania 13th district candidate Joe Torsella, a personal friend, who lost the Democratic primary to now-Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
This cycle, Urban contributed to 4th district Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), even though he gave to his opponent, now-former Rep. Melissa Hart (R) in their race against each other last cycle.
Urban has also contributed to Republican Tom Manion, who is running against Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) in Pennsylvania’s 8th district. “I try to help the team when I can,” Urban said.
Carney is one of the most vulnerable Democratic Members of Congress. His northeast Pennsylvania 10th district went for President Bush by 20 points in 2004, and GOP Rep. Don Sherwood’s personal scandal was a major factor in Carney’s victory.
It’s also a district where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) ran very well in the Pennsylvania presidential primary and where presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) may not be quite the asset that he is elsewhere. The Congressman faces wealthy businessman Chris Hackett (R) this fall.
Roll Call reporter Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.
This item first appeared on RollCall.com on July 1, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.