cook political report

Cook Political Report: Cicilline-Doherty race is now a ‘toss up’

March 1st, 2012 at 3:13 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Washington is taking notice of Congressman David Cicilline’s troubles in the 1st Congressional District.

The influential Beltway forecasting firm Cook Political Report updated its scoreboard of competitive U.S. House races on Thursday, and sharply downgraded Cicilline’s chances of holding his seat after this week’s WPRI 12 poll showed him 15 points behind Republican challenger Brendan Doherty.

Cook House editor David Wasserman moved the 1st District race from “Likely Democratic” – meaning it wasn’t competitive – to “Toss Up,” which means “either party has a good chance of winning.”

“A Republican hasn’t won a House seat in the Ocean State since 1992,” Wasserman writes. “But 20 years later, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline’s unpopularity has seriously jeopardized his party’s chances of holding onto what should be a very safe seat.” Unsurprisingly, he places most of the blame on Providence’s financial crisis.

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Duffy: RI-1 fight may be ‘among the ugliest races’ ever in state

February 28th, 2012 at 1:32 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island isn’t exactly known for its squeaky clean politics. But Monday’s new WPRI 12 poll has made Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy think this year’s 1st Congressional District race could be one for the history books – and not in a good way.

The poll shows Congressman David Cicilline 15 points behind Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. “I think this means if he’s going to win this race, he’s not going to win it pretty,” Duffy, a Rhode Island native, said of Cicilline. “It is going to be among the ugliest races Rhode Island has ever witnessed.”

And considering the state’s political history, “the bar’s pretty high there,” she added.

Cicilline’s allies think he can to close the gap and defeat Doherty by following the strategy employed by Sheldon Whitehouse to defeat then-Republican Lincoln Chafee in 2006 – basically, say that even if the former state police superintendent is a moderate himself, he’ll provide a key vote to empower congressional Republicans who’ve supported privatizing Medicare.

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Doherty among best-funded Republican challengers in the US

February 13th, 2012 at 6:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Republican Brendan Doherty faces long odds in his attempt to win Congressman David Cicilline’s strongly Democratic U.S. House seat this November. But he’s not lagging in the money race.

Doherty has the fourth-most cash nationwide among Republican congressional challengers compared with the Democratic incumbent, according to numbers compiled by the Cook Political Report.

Doherty’s $482,327 on hand was 93% of the $517,687 that Cicilline had for the 1st District race in Rhode Island as of Dec. 31. The only Republicans more competitive financially were those in California’s 9th District (213%), Indiana’s 2nd District (160%) and Oklahoma’s 2nd District (107%).

Cook’s House editor David Wasserman upgraded Cicilline’s chances of holding the seat from “Lean Democratic” to “Likely Democratic” last October, which means the race is “not considered competitive at this point but [has] the potential to become engaged.” He’d classified the race as “Lean Democratic” for four months last summer.

Democrats need to win 35 to 40 Republican-held seats if they want to win back the House majority in November, according to Cook. Doherty was one of 25 GOP candidates for Democratic-held seats with more than $100,000 on hand on Dec. 31.

(photo: Doherty campaign)


We knew them when, Jennifer Duffy edition

June 22nd, 2011 at 11:43 am by under Nesi's Notes

The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy is a favorite source of political insight here on Nesi’s Notes, not only because of her expertise and wit but also because she’s a native Rhode Islander.

So it was unsurprising – but still exciting – to find her among the 13 experts included in a new Business Insider list of “the savviest political analysts in the country right now.”

Duffy’s “analyses of statewide and congressional races [are] considered essential reading in the political community,” BI declares. No disagreement here.

Others on the list include her boss Charlie Cook, Peggy Noonan (the only other woman on it), Ron Brownstein and New York magazine’s John Heilemann. Congrats to Jen.


Cook downgrades Cicilline’s chances of holding House seat

June 9th, 2011 at 4:38 pm by under Nesi's Notes

The bad news just keeps on coming for Congressman David Cicilline.

The Cook Political Report on Thursday downgraded Cicilline’s chances of holding onto his seat next year as the influential Washington newsletter released new ratings on competitive U.S. House races around the country.

Cook’s House editor, David Wasserman, moved the 1st District from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic” – meaning he’s decided it now qualifies as a competitive race.

Wasserman made the change without additional comment. A Likely rating indicates seats that “are not considered competitive at this point but have the potential,” while Lean seats “are considered competitive races but one party has an advantage,” according to Cook’s definitions.

Cicilline is the only endangered Democratic incumbent in the country who represents a district where his party holds a double-digit advantage. Cook gives Rhode Island’s 1st District a Partisan Voting Index score of “D+13.” His is one of 49 House races coast to coast that Cook rates as competitive right now.

The downgrade by Cook comes the same week one of its competitors – the Rothenberg Political Report – published a 2,000-word article laying out Cicilline’s troubles and concluding he may be “one of the most vulnerable incumbents” in Congress.

At least three Democrats and two Republicans have already expressed interest in challenging Cicilline next year. Republican candidate Brendan Doherty has scheduled his first major fundraiser for later this month, WPRI.com reported earlier today.

Just because the race is considered competitive doesn’t mean Cicilline will lose, though. Wasserman also changed the 1st District from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic” last fall – and Cicilline managed to win the election by six points.


Cook ups Bielat’s chances of beating Barney Frank

October 29th, 2010 at 10:42 am by under General Talk

Frank and Bielat at an Oct. 11 debate

The Cook Political Report, the influential forecasting firm in Washington, D.C., released new ratings on competitive open U.S. House seats Thursday – and for the second time this month, Cook has upgraded Republican Sean Bielat’s chances of defeating Democrat Barney Frank in his bid for a 16th term representing Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District in Congress.

David Wasserman, Cook’s House editor, switched his rating on MA-4 from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic” – the same rating he has on the RI-1 race between David Cicilline and John Loughlin.

That means the Frank-Bielat contest is among those “considered competitive races but [where] one party has an advantage,” whereas before Wasserman just thought it could become competitive but hadn’t yet.

In short, Bielat has turned what could have been another waltz to re-election for Frank into a truly competitive race. Our WPRI 12 poll earlier this month showed Frank at 49% and Bielat at 37%, with 12% of voters still undecided.

Bielat was actually just here in our studios taping a half-hour appearance on “Newsmakers” that will air this weekend. The program was supposed to be a debate between Bielat and Frank, but the Democrat backed out. The interview with Bielat will be shown Saturday night in prime time.

I’ve asked the folks at Cook for a copy of Wasserman’s analysis on the Frank-Bielat race, and I’ll update this once I receive it.

Update: Taking a closer look at Cook’s new chart of competitive House races, it’s worth noting that Frank’s seat is the most heavily Democratic one the party could lose next Tuesday. Its Partisan Voting Index, or PVI – which measures how strongly a district leans toward one party – is “D+14,” meaning Democrats usually do 14 points better there than they do nationwide. Patrick Kennedy’s seat is next, with a “D+13″ PVI.

I could do a whole day’s worth of posts about why Southeastern New England has suddenly become an unexpected battleground for Democrats, but for now I’ll just point out that the area’s unemployment problem is worse than anywhere else in New England outside of Maine. That can’t help incumbents.

Update #2: Here’s Cook editor David Wasserman’s full write-up on why he upgraded Bielat’s chances against Frank:

Very few 30-year incumbents release a poll one day showing them leading 56% to 37%, then take $200,000 out of their retirement plan to fund their race. Then again, very few incumbents are Barney Frank. Multiple media polls taken since then have shown the Financial Services chairman under 50%, including a Boston Globe survey showing Frank leading Marine Corps Reservist Sean Bielat 46% to 33%, with a high number of undecided independents. That makes some sense after Frank has endured a rough spate of press, including his camera-wielding partner’s awkward confrontation of Bielat.

Bielat has raised an astounding $600,000 in the first two weeks of October (more than his campaign had raised the whole year prior). Obviously the cash is mostly flooding in from outside the district, but it means Bielat has the resources to play David versus Frank’s Goliath on the airwaves in the final week. One ad set to steel drums intones, “While you were worried about your job or mortgage, Barney Frank was on his way to the islands on a private jet owned by a Wall Street fat cat who got millions in bailouts.” This is an extremely Democratic district, and Frank is still the favorite, but it’s a race.

As always, thank you to Cook for sharing it with me.

Update #3: WRNI’s Ian Donnis notes an interesting piece by Republican strategist Todd Domke, who compares Bielat’s candidacy this year to Rhode Island Republican Ronald Machtley’s successful 1988 campaign against veteran Democratic Congressman Fernand St. Germain. (Machtley, who was succeeded by Patrick Kennedy in 1995, is now president of Bryant University.)