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.
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.)
With three weeks to go before the general election, Democrat David Cicilline had nearly twice as much money left as his Republican opponent John Loughlin in the race to succeed to succeed U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday.
Cicilline’s campaign had $205,976 on hand as of Oct 13, while Loughlin’s had $114,005, Federal Election Commission records show. That’s the last snapshot of the two candidates’ war chests we’re going to get before the Nov. 2 election.
In the 2nd District, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin had $429,763 on Oct. 13 – a whopping 44 times as much as his Republican opponent Mark Zaccaria, who had just $9,573.
As I reported yesterday, veteran U.S. Rep. Barney Frank – who our exclusive new poll shows is facing a stiff challenge this year – saw his cash on hand fall to $649,560 on Oct. 13. His Republican challenger Sean Bielat wasn’t too far behind, with $462,914 on hand after he raised a whopping $653,705 in the first two weeks of October alone. Frank says he’ll lend his campaign $200,000 to stay competitive between now and Nov. 2.
Republican Sean Bielat is giving 15-term U.S. Rep. Barney Frank his most competitive reelection race in years, according to our new WPRI 12 poll being released on air right now. The survey of 400 likely voters in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District was conducted Oct. 14 to 17 by Fleming & Associates. The margin of error is plus or minus 5%. Here are the key numbers:
- Frank: 49%
- Bielat: 37%
- Not sure: 12%
There’s much more in my full story over on WPRI.com, including insight from Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming and a look at which groups of voters are learning toward Frank and which ones are going for Bielat. You can also find out how voters feel about President Obama, Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry, and the financial crisis.
And if you missed it earlier, check out my earlier posts about Frank’s new campaign spending numbers, why we did the poll, and whether this is really a race.
With less than eight hours to go before WPRI releases the results of our exclusive 4th District poll, it’s becoming ever clearer how seriously U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is taking the challenge from his Republican opponent Sean Bielat.
Frank’s campaign war chest shrank by 40% in the first two weeks of October, according to his latest campaign finance report, which had to be filed by the end of today. The 14-term Democrat’s cash on hand dropped from about $1.1 million on Sept. 30 to $649,560 on Oct. 13.
The Bielat campaign hasn’t filed its latest financial report as of this writing. The Republican had $364,664 on hand as of Sept. 30. I’ll update when I get his numbers.
As for Frank, he spent $700,000 and raised $268,604 during the first half of this month. All told, he has shelled out $2.7 million during this election cycle to hold onto the seat he first won the year Ronald Reagan was elected president. This also helps explain why Frank said yesterday he is loaning his campaign $200,000.
For my Rhode Island readers, neither of the 1st District candidates – Democrat David Cicilline and Republican John Loughlin – has filed his campaign finance report as of now. These will be the last spending snapshots we get for federal candidates before voters go to the polls on Nov. 2.
(image credit: White House/Pete Souza)
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the pugnacious Democrat who’s represented Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District for three decades now, is in the midst of his toughest re-election fight in years against Republican Sean Bielat, a newcomer and former Marine from Brookline. As I mentioned earlier this month, I’m still skeptical about whether Frank will actually go down to defeat – but anything’s possible in 2010, and Frank is taking few chances.
Part of the reason for my skepticism is because we haven’t had any independent polling done on this race – all the gauges of voter sentiment have come from inside the two campaigns, which are not exactly unbiased sources.
Well, that’s about to change.
Tomorrow at 6 p.m., WPRI 12 will release the results of an exclusive survey of 400 likely voters in the 4th District conducted last weekend by our pollster, Joe Fleming. It’s the only independent poll anybody has done in a race that’s getting national attention, and it will give us a clear read on whether Bielat really stands a chance against Frank. We’ll reveal the results simultaneously on TV and online.
We also want to bring both Frank and Bielat into our studios for a televised debate focused on issues of concern to residents of Bristol County, Mass. The 4th District includes 12 communities there, including New Bedford and Taunton, plus part of Fall River. As a Bristol County native myself, I know how ignored the region often feels – when I lived there it seemed like the Boston stations only covered us when somebody got shot, and the Rhode Island stations have to cover a lot of ground across two states.
With that in mind, WPRI GM Jay Howell offered to air a Frank-Bielat debate – specifically for Bristol County voters – in prime time. “Voters in Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and other area communities deserve the opportunity to watch a televised debate that’s focused on the issues critical to Bristol County,” he said in a statement. “That’s why we’ve been committed to organizing debates in all of the key races this November. There’s still time to make this debate happen, and we are hopeful that Congressman Frank will reconsider his decision and agree to debate Mr. Bielat.”
Originally, both campaigns agreed in principle to come for a debate – but then Frank’s campaign changed its mind, citing scheduling issues. I’m still holding out hope that we’ll make it happen, and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can look forward to getting the poll results tomorrow at 6 and finding out once and for all where things stand in the 4th District.
(image credit: Associated Press/Steven Senne)