House Races: A Bellwether for President?

National Journal Staff
July 18, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romney, take note: The battle for the House could serve as an early-warning system for the national political environment, as this year’s contests will be providing lots of clues to the mood of the electorate, particularly in the critical swing states.

Looking at five battleground-state House races in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio, voters will get more of a sense of how the presidential race is shaping up than by looking at in-state polls or focus groups. Call them the S&P 500 of the political world—they won’t precisely track the election results, but should come pretty close. 

Take Florida. If one of the ultimate tea party candidates can win a district that Obama carried, it’s a surefire sign Republican challenger Mitt Romney is in strong shape in the Sunshine State.

And in Iowa, in a sign of how the political winds have shifted, Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell has distanced himself from the president, most recently siding with Republicans (and 17 Democrats) to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. If that’s a sign of his constituents’ sentiment in an Iowa swing district, Obama will have a tough time carrying the state again.

With voting patterns in congressional campaigns increasingly aligning with voters’ opinions of the president, it’s a safe bet that the outcomes of these bellwethers will foreshadow the presidential election. Read more

--Josh Kraushaar, Hotline executive editor

NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT

Voters Talking More About Romney as Attacks Escalate 
[National Journal, 7/18/12] As the fire from both sides of the presidential race becomes increasingly nasty, talk about both candidates is more negative than positive. National Journal’s Beth Reinhard writes that this data raises early questions about whether the public will engage in the race or decide it’s a turnoff and tune out. 

In Race for Best Debater Against Biden, Most Top Veep Prospects Lag
[National Journal, 7/18/12] Whoever becomes Romney’s running mate will have two moments in the spotlight: a speech at the Republican convention at the end of August, and a debate against Vice President Joe Biden on Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky. If Romney wants to be absolutely confident in the debating abilities of his partner, there’s only one choice: Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the king of GOP debate prep.

Ann Romney Says No Veep Decision Yet 
[National Journal, 7/18/12] Ann Romney told ABC News today that her husband has not yet chosen his running mate, despite reports to the contrary. She added that she had no knowledge of who the potential VP could be or when the pick would be announced. At a campaign event today, Romney confirmed that he has not yet made a decision.

Mitt Romney Says Campaign Finance Laws Limit Ability to Fight Negative Ads
[Huffington Post, 7/18/12] Romney said the reason he is having a hard time in the "ad war" against Obama is because of the campaign finance laws. He continued that his campaign spent a lot of money in the primary, which Obama did not have to worry about.

New Democratic Consensus: Go After Romney on Bain, Taxes
[National Journal, 7/18/12] The newfound unity over the president’s aggressive challenge of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital is remarkable for a party that seemed at war with itself over the topic only a short time ago, as National Journal’s Alex Roarty writes.  

Romney Pushes Obama Attacks Into Ohio
[Associated Press, 7/18/12] Romney is taking the fight against Obama into key Midwestern battleground states like Ohio this week, staunchly refusing to cave on releasing his tax returns and firing on the president over the flailing economy. Meanwhile, Team Obama has filed a lawsuit against the state's top election official to overturn restrictions on early voting. 

Christie to Give Keynote at GOP Convention
[New York Post, 7/18/12] New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer, Republican activists told the New York Post. “It has a logic to it,” writes Politico's Maggie Haberman

Obama Campaign Sues Ohio Over Early Voting
[Associated Press, 7/18/12] Obama's reelection campaign has filed a lawsuit against Ohio's top election official to overturn the state legislature restricting early voting on Tuesday. The suit claimed the state law that prohibits in-person early voting in the three days before Election Day in November is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Romney and Bain Versus Batman and Bane
[NBC News, 7/17/12] Romney may have a new foe. Unable to let an irrelevant coincidence pass him by, Rush Limbaugh revved up the “controversy” over the fact that the villain of the new Batman movie is called Bane, while The Washington Examiner also fanned the flames. Watch Jon Stewart take a stab at Bain Capital’s supervillain namesake.  

Report: Romney Won’t Name Veep Pick Till After Olympic Games
[New York Daily News, 7/17/12] Sources close to the Romney campaign told the Daily News the working plan has been to announce the pick after the Olympic Games, which begin next week and end Aug. 12—just two weeks before the GOP convention in Tampa. 

Obama Bracing to Be Outspent by Romney
[Associated Press, 7/18/12] Obama was the first presidential candidate to raise more than $100 million in a month, and the first to forgo public money for his campaign. How did the president go from fundraising juggernaut to money chaser in just four years?

Dem Video Mocks Romney With Dancing Horse
[National Journal, 7/18/12] Yes, they went there. In a new Web video, the Democratic National Committee is attacking Romney on his reluctance to release more of his tax returns with a jab at his family’s involvement in an obscure horse-dancing sport, dressage. By day's end today, the DNC was out with its second installment.

Romney Attacks Obama for ‘Crony Capitalism’
[Los Angeles Times, 7/17/12] Romney is ramping up attacks on Obama’s “crony capitalism,” hitting the administration on government handouts like the Solyndra loan. The Romney camp is out with a new ad attacking Obama on that line, but The Washington Post’s factchecker calls the claim “unproven.”

Romney VP Hopefuls Dash for Cash
[Politico, 7/17/12] Here’s a look at the top veep contenders and their potential for bringing big bucks to the Romney ticket.

Romney Needs to Update His Playbook
[The Hill, 7/18/12] It’s easy to see why Romney has stuck to the primary’s familiar playbook in the general – it helped clinch him the nomination. But as the general election heats up, Romney needs to start treating the contest as the entirely different beast that it is.

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