House ratings changes, next week's primaries and Center for Politics wins an Emmy


House ratings changes

A race-by-race analysis, as well as history, suggests Republicans are in line to make a small, mid-to-high single-digit addition to their majority, but there’s been little movement one way or the other in most races or in the overall climate. We’re planning to take a fuller look at the House picture next month, but in the meantime we have a handful of House ratings to tweak:

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D, IL-17)Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic: Bustos won a tough race against former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) in 2012, and Schilling is running again. However, conversations with partisans on both sides of the race suggest that other contests in Illinois are looking more competitive, such as Democratic-held IL-10 and IL-12 and Republican-held IL-13. Bustos has more than triple the cash on hand of Schilling and, in recently announced multi-district ad buys, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee — the parties’ House campaign arms — ignored this district (although House Majority PAC, a kind of unaffiliated shadow DCCC, did make some future ad buys in markets here). It’s worth noting that the only district Republicans hold that matches President Obama’s 57% performance here is the open CA-31, where we favor a Democratic takeover. Obama did worse in every other Republican-held district.

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R, IN-2)Leans Republican to Likely Republican: Walorski, a first-termer, is not the strongest incumbent, and she had a surprisingly difficult election night in 2012: She only won by less than two points over veteran Brendan Mullen (D) in a race that was largely off the national radar in the closing weeks of the campaign, and she ran seven points behind Mitt Romney in her district. That said, Republicans make a decent argument that the 2012 Senate race ended up being a boost to Mullen: Not only did Richard Mourdock’s (R) poor performance hurt Walorski, but so did the fact that Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) held IN-2 before being elected to the Senate, which might have helped Mullen down the ballot. Democrats have trumpeted nominee Joe Bock — a former member of the Missouri state legislature and a professor at the University of Notre Dame — but Walorski has quadruple Bock’s cash on hand, and 2014 might not be the right year for them to make a big play here. Those aforementioned early ad buys by the DCCC and House Majority PAC have omitted this district. That doesn’t rule out a Democratic play here, but it makes sense for Democrats to go after districts that are less Republican (Romney got 56% here). Given what happened in 2012, the district still bears watching, though.

MI-4 Open (Rep. Dave Camp, R, retiring)Likely Republican to Safe Republican: Out of an abundance of caution, we moved this 53% Romney district to Likely Republican after Camp retired, but Democrats don’t appear to have much interest in contesting the seat.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D, MN-7)Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic: One of the more curious ad reservations in the DCCC’s $43.5 million, 36-district ad buy announced last month was a hefty $1.5 million to defend Peterson, a 12-term incumbent whose district gave President Obama just 44% in 2012 but who has not had a truly tough race in two decades. Republicans have trumpeted the candidacy of Torrey Westrom (R), a blind state senator, and are vowing to spend heavily against Peterson: They backed up those words by announcing a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Minneapolis/St Paul market, presumably to be used against Peterson and Rep. Rick Nolan (D, MN-8). The likeliest outcome here is that Peterson holds on for another term and then retires in 2016 or soon thereafter, giving the Republicans a much easier shot at a pickup. But this is a race where both sides appear fully engaged; add that to the district’s Red tint, and it merits a more competitive ratings.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D, OR-5)Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic: Schrader is one of the few Democrats to occupy a district where President Obama actually did worse than his national average: Obama got 51% nationally but only 50% here. Still, Republican challenger Tootie Smith, a Clackamas County commissioner, has raised hardly any money, and Schrader has proven himself to be a survivor in the past. In the Pacific Northwest, Republicans seem more excited about former Microsoft software engineer Pedro Celis’ (R) challenge to first-term Rep. Suzan DelBene (D, WA-1), but we’re still listing that race as Safe Democratic for now.

Table 1: Crystal Ball House ratings changes

One note: On May 22, we switched the rating for Rep. Lee Terry (R, NE-2) from Likely Republican to Leans Republican. Terry had a weak primary showing, and the entry of a third-party conservative into his race has made it more competitive. While we noted this change on Twitter and on the Crystal Ball website, readers who follow us through the newsletter version of the Crystal Ball might not have been aware of it.

What to watch for on June 24

The next big primary day is June 24, and it comes with an added bonus: the Mississippi GOP Senate runoff between Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

As we noted in our immediate reaction to the June 3 primary that saw neither candidate win a majority, we view McDaniel as the favorite heading into Tuesday’s runoff; the few polls of the contest generally agree. Additionally, history has shown that many incumbents in runoffs who have failed to get over the 50% hump in party primaries have struggled in the second round of balloting. Moreover, it seems likely that McDaniel’s supporters are more motivated to show up in large numbers for the runoff, an election that will almost certainly have lower turnout than the primary.

Besides the Magnolia State runoff, there are regular primary elections in five other states. Listed below are some of the highlights.

Colorado: The main action in the Centennial State will be in the Republican gubernatorial primary, with the winner advancing to take on Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in November. The limited polling in this race suggests that 2010 runner-up and ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) may be a very, very slight favorite to win the GOP nomination (he ran as the Constitution Party nominee last time). However, a recent internal poll from rival Bob Beauprez (R), also a former House member and failed gubernatorial nominee (in 2006), indicates that the race is still very much wide open. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) might also have a shot at winning the GOP nod, with former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp (R) looking likely to bring up the rear in the four-man Republican field.

With Rep. Cory Gardner (R, CO-4) running for Senate against Sen. Mark Udall (D), Gardner’s district is up for grabs. This is a 59% Romney district, so the winner of the Republican primary is a safe bet to retain the seat for the GOP. Failed 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck (R) is the biggest name running for the GOP nomination here. Elsewhere, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R, CO-5), first elected in 2006, won renomination in competitive primaries in 2008 and 2012, and retired Gen. Bentley Rayburn (R) — a past Lamborn opponent — could conceivably give the incumbent some trouble.

Maryland: Because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is serving his final term, the election spotlight will shine brightly on the Old Line State’s gubernatorial primaries. The favorite in the Democratic contest is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who holds a sizable lead in the polls over Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) and state Delegate Heather Mizeur (D). Despite raising a large war chest, Gansler has struggled in the aftermath of controversy regarding a teen drinking party involving him and his son as well as reports that he made Maryland police drive him around recklessly, sometimes with lit emergency lights. On the Republican side, a recent Washington Post poll suggests Larry Hogan, a former Cabinet secretary with ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), is probably the leading candidate for the GOP nomination. The winner of the Democratic primary will be a heavy favorite in November in deeply Blue Maryland.

New York: The Empire State, which must enjoy holding elections, only has primaries for federal offices on June 24; it will hold primaries for other offices (such as governor) on Sept. 9. Tuesday’s primary will provide an end to what has been a bitter GOP primary in NY-1, where state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R) and former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney George Demos (R) have been lobbing withering attacks at one another for months. The winner will face off against Rep. Tim Bishop (D) in November in a race we currently rate as Leans Democratic. In the open NY-4 contest, Kathleen Rice (D) is the favorite in the Democratic primary; assuming she wins, Rice will be favored in November to replace retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) in a Likely Democratic race.

In what may be the most-watched House primary in New York, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) will attempt to again fend off his 2012 opponent, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D), for the right to represent the heavily Democratic NY-13. Upstate, in NY-21 Republicans will choose between 2010 and 2012 nominee Matt Doheny and former George W. Bush White House aide Elise Stefanik to take on filmmaker Aaron Woolf (D) in the fall. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has intervened in this primary against Doheny. The Toss-up seat is open following the retirement of Rep. Bill Owens (D). Next door in NY-22, moderate Rep. Richard Hanna (R) faces a challenge on his right flank by Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R). Hanna should win, although everybody thought deposed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA-7) would win, too. In the event of an unlikely upset, Democrats could not capitalize in this swingy district because they have no candidate here. However, Hanna will be on the November ballot as the New York Independence Party candidate, which is worth remembering if he loses Tuesday.

Oklahoma: Sen. Tom Coburn (R) is resigning his seat early, necessitating a special election this November. Because the Sooner State is deeply Red territory, the open seat has attracted seven candidates for the Republican primary, which will be tantamount to election. From that field, two are expected to have a shot at winning the GOP nod: Rep. James Lankford and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Polling shows it’s definitely a race at this point, and the possibility exists that neither will get over 50%, forcing an Aug. 26 runoff. Lankford’s Safe Republican House seat, OK-5, has attracted many Republican contenders, so the GOP primary there may well wind up going to a runoff.

Utah: There aren’t any federal primaries in the Beehive State this year, and its gubernatorial cycle is in presidential election years.

Center for Politics wins Emmy Award for “The Kennedy Half Century” documentary

The University of Virginia Center for Politics’ latest documentary, The Kennedy Half Century, has won an Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

This is the second Emmy Award won by the Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations, which regularly partner to produce documentary films for public television on American politics and history.

The film, directed by Paul Tait Roberts, is a one-hour documentary that chronicles the impact and influence of John F. Kennedy’s life, administration and tragic death on the public, the media and every subsequent U.S. president. The documentary features interviews with major political and media figures, including Bob Schieffer, Ron Reagan Jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Ari Fleischer, James Carville and Julian Bond, among others.

Emmy winners were announced Saturday at the Capital Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ 56th Annual Emmy Awards event in Silver Spring, MD.

The Kennedy Half Century is part of a larger project produced by the University of Virginia Center for Politics exploring JFK’s life and legacy that includes: A New York Times bestselling book, The Kennedy Half Century, by Center Director Larry J. Sabato; a state-of-the-art website; a free online course through Coursera and iTunes U (in which more than 100,000 students worldwide have enrolled over the last year); and a mobile app that allows users to explore the Dallas police audio tapes from the events of Nov. 22, 1963. A trailer for the documentary is available here.

This is the second year in a row that a Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations documentary has won an Emmy Award: Last year, Out of Order — a film that explores gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Congress — took home the top prize in the Best Topical Documentary category.

This Friday, the Center for Politics is holding a screening of Out of Order followed by a discussion between Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and former Sen. John Warner (R-VA), moderated by Center Director Larry J. Sabato. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at Nau Hall on the Grounds of the University of Virginia and will be streamed here. It is free and open to the general public with advance registration. Seating is limited, and those interested in attending should e-mail Center for Politics Programs Director Glenn Crossman at

The Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations are currently working on a new documentary, set for release this fall, on the 1964 presidential campaign.