Stu Rothenberg

Republicans win a special election — and complete control of the 2014 narrative

Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid

While we should be cautious to read too much into a special election, there’s no denying that the Republican victory last night in Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District (FL-13) is bad news for Democrats in the 2014 mid-term election, regardless of how they try to deflect it.

The spin from Democrats is that FL-13 had long-been held by Republicans and the district has a Republican tilt, albeit very slight, at R+2. This is true. But talking points miss some very important points.

First, this is a district twice won by President Barack Obama, so it’s more friendly to Democrats than they want to admit. Secondly, Democrats had the money advantage. Alex Sink, who lost last night, overwhelmingly outraised and outspent her Republican opponent, former lobbyist David Jolly, and outside groups backing the Democrat slightly outspent those backing the Republican candidate.

Third, Jolly was a lobbyist, and that point was frequently brought up by Sink and outside groups backing her campaign. Despite being pegged in populist rhetoric as a Washington insider, Jolly managed to win.

Rothenberg: Democrats are losing independent voters

Senate Democrats are hoping that they can turn news reports and commentary from pundits into something that will motivate both their donors and base supporters to rally behind them this fall. That was ultimately the strategy behind the DSCC memo earlier this week that took aim at election guru Nate Silver’s 2014 Senate projections.

Democrats do face an enthusiasm gap. Republicans are much more motivated to get out and vote this fall, according to a new CBS News poll, so it makes sense on some level for party leaders and strategists to prod their base.

But Stu Rothenberg, namesake of the The Rothenberg Political Report, warns that Democrats’ appeals these appeals may not be enough, noting that recent polling suggests that independent voters are moving away from President Barack Obama and his party (emphasis added):

Attitudinally, independents once again more closely resemble GOP voters than Democrats.

The CBS News/New York Times survey found that while Democrats continued to approve of the president (76 percent approve), Republicans (only 7 percent approve) and independents (only 37 percent approve) did not, and while 60 percent of Democrats said the economy is “very good” or “fairly good,” only 17 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of independents agreed. In addition, Democrats were upbeat about the direction of the country, while Republicans and independents were not.

AR Senate: Political analyst gives Republicans an edge over Mark Pryor

At least one political prognosticator sees trouble on the horizon for Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who is among the handful of vulnerable red state Democrats seeking re-election next year in an increasingly difficult political climate.

Stu Rothenberg, founder of eponymous publication, The Rothenberg Political Report, no longer views the race between Pryor and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) as pure tossup. He is now giving Cotton a very slight edge in what is a must-win seat for Republicans.

“While we continue to regard the Arkansas Senate race broadly as a tossup and think that Pryor is doing all of the right things, we are increasingly skeptical that he can localize the Senate contest as much as he needs to in a state where Obama is so unpopular,” wrote Rothenberg at Roll Call.

Rothenberg contends that Arkansas voters can see a difference between President Obama and Pryor, who has sought to distance himself from the White House. That may be a tougher sell than he thinks. Cotton is going to tie Pryor to Obama as much as possible, and it’s not going to be any sort of a stretch to do so.

Shutdown unlikely to be a big factor in 2014 mid-term

Pundits and talking heads have been weighing in on the effects of the 16-day quasi-government shutdown on the Republican Party and the 2014 mid-term election. Many are saying that the electoral consequences could be steep, and could even cost the GOP control of the House of Representatives.

It’s hard to counter arguments and polling data that the Republican Party’s standing with Americans has been hurt by the shutdown. Gallup recently found that just 28% of the public has favorable view of the GOP, the lowest of any party on record. The good news is that Republicans are still favored on the economy. They were also given a gift by the endless problems plaguing the federal ObamaCare exchange.

But the shutdown could help Democrats with fundraising and candidate recruitment, Stu Rothenberg recently wrote, at a time when President Barack Obama’s poll numbers with his own party had been softening.

No, control of the House of Representatives isn’t in play next year

The political stalemate in Washington that has led to a government shutdown has Democrats salivating at the prospect of winning back the House of Representatives in the 2014 mid-term election., a leftist organization, released a set of polls earlier this week showing that 24 Republicans could be vulnerable next year, alleging that the government shutdown “has significant electoral implications” in the district they represent. The polls, which were conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), were immediately seized upon by Democrats, who need a net-17 seats to win control of the chamber.

While it’s true that many polls show Republicans taking the brunt of the blame of the government shutdown — though a recent CNN poll shows that blame is pretty close to evenly spread — Stu Rothenberg, a political analyst and namesake of the Rothenberg Political Report, disputes the notion that control of the House is up for grabs.

“Is the House in play now? Of course not. My newsletter’s most recent race-by-race assessment, completed just days before the shutdown began, found that the most likely overall outcome next year is a small gain for one of the parties,” wrote Rothenberg, who spent a fair amount of the column picking apart the Public Policy Polling surveys.

Tommy Thompson isn’t going to have an easy primary

It looks as though Tommy Thompson, former Governor of Wisconsin and DHHS Secretary in the Bush Administration, is about to enter the race for the Senate seat being left vacant by Herb Kohl. But Stu Rothenberg recently noted, after review a Club for Growth-sponsored poll, that Thompson may have a rough go of it in the GOP primary:

[W]hile Thompson would seem to be a formidable contender, a closer look suggests he won’t have an easy time winning the GOP nomination against a well-funded primary opponent.

A new Club for Growth poll shows how much of a challenge Thompson will face.

The club has already made it clear it doesn’t like Thompson (though it has no preferred alternative at the moment), so the fact that its survey raises questions about his ability to win his party’s nomination isn’t surprising. But dismissing the group’s poll would be a serious mistake.

The survey was conducted by Jon Lerner of Basswood Research, who conducts much of the Club for Growth’s polling. Lerner is highly regarded by political insiders, many of whom have found his surveys to be accurate and his analysis devoid of ideology or wishful thinking.

The July 26-27 survey of 500 respondents “with a history of voting in GOP primary elections” found Thompson with good name recognition (his “hard” name identification was 86 percent, meaning those respondents not only knew his name but had an opinion about him) and a “favorable” rating of 68 percent.

GOP picks up strength in House races

The latest picture of what to expect on November 2nd in the House of Representatives appears to be a worst-case scenario for Democrats as Gallup’s latest polling shows a huge lead for Republicans among likely voters, though there was a slight gain for the majority party. And to make matters worse for Democrats, it’s supposed to rain on election day in 20 states.

Before we dive into what the analysts are saying, Politico offers us 35 House races to keep our eyes on as returns come in.

The latest forecast from Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight estimates a net gain of 52 seats for Republicans. This would put the make-up of the House at 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats.

Here is what Charlie Cook says about the mid-term:

50+ seat pick up for GOP in the forecast

With just eight days left to go until election day, it is looking more likely that Republicans will ride into the House of Representatives in a wave. Here is an assessment from Stu Rothenberg, who sees 97 seats in play (emphasis mine):

The number of Democratic incumbents who are sitting in the middle or low 40s in ballot tests is mind-boggling, creating a stunning number of opportunities for the GOP. Democrats dispute that assessment, arguing that their incumbents are much better off. But Republican polling finds eight or nine dozen Democratic seats are at some risk, and national polls suggest that the Republican numbers are on the mark. We now believe that Republicans gains of 45-55 seats are most likely, though GOP gains in excess of 60 seats are quite possible.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver is seeing gains in excess of 50 seats, rivaling the Republican Revolution in 1994 that saw a 54 seat pick up in the House for the GOP:

In an average simulation, the model projected that the Republicans will control 230 seats when the new Congress convenes in January; that would reflect a 51-seat gain from their current standing and would be close to the 54-seat gain that they achieved in 1994. This is the first time we have published a forecast putting the Republican over-under line at a number higher than 50 seats.

WI Senate: Johnson increases lead over Feingold

With just 32 days until Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is trailing Ron Johnson (R) by 12 points, the largest margin yet. According to Real Clear Politics, Johnson holds an average lead of 9.6 points.

  • Johnson: 53%
  • Feingold: 41%
  • Other: 2%
  • Not sure: 3%

The poll shows that 79% of voters are certain of their vote, which is bad news for Feingold as Stu Rothenberg notes that he may only have a couple of weeks to change minds:

[T]he midterm elections are still five weeks away, but the combination of early voting in many states and the difficulty of cutting through the coming clutter means that the best opportunity for campaigns to change voter attitudes is quickly coming to an end.

More than 30 states allow voters to cast their ballots well before Election Day. Early voting begins Oct. 9 in Arizona and Oct. 11 in Illinois. Early voting in Indiana starts 29 days before the Nov. 2 general election. In Wisconsin, it’s three weeks before Election Day. In Florida, early voting starts 15 days before the election.

With the DSCC buying ads in states they didn’t want to spend resources, such as California, Connecticut, Illinois and Washington, Feingold may soon find himself cut off from party funds, if it hasn’t happened already.

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