Newspaper article Roll Call

Crowded Presidential Field Pushes Congressional Races out of Limelight

Newspaper article Roll Call

Crowded Presidential Field Pushes Congressional Races out of Limelight

Article excerpt

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Members of Congress running for re-election in early presidential states are learning a lesson: It's hard to get attention when the circus is in town.

Over the five-week August recess, an opportunity for members to spend time at home to connect with constituents, members like GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte have had the unique challenge of fighting for voters' attention as 17 Republican and five Democratic candidates traipsed through her turf.

Many voters in New Hampshire said they aren't paying attention to House and Senate candidates at home just yet.

"I don't follow the Senate race," Virginia Morgan, a Democrat from Gorham, told CQ Roll Call before a Sen. Bernard Sanders town hall last month in New Hampshire's North Country. "I've been so wrapped up in the presidential stuff going on that I haven't even followed much of anything else."

"I know more about presidential elections and things like that," said one older woman who declined to give her name as she packed up her belongings after a morning on Hampton beach.

Operatives from both sides of the aisle say getting the public's attention for House and Senate races in early presidential primary is a tough sell.

Adding to the woes is a shrinking local press corps in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, where the reporters left are forced to make a choice to cover the historic number of candidates with local politics, or the local races -- a fact that sometimes leaves down- ballot candidates in the dust.

"The biggest problem isn't that you're competing with the presidential race, the bigger problem is that we don't have the press coverage we used to have because of the cutbacks in the media," said Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman. "It's unfortunate, it's sad."

An Iowa GOP operative said congressional candidates in the Hawkeye State face a similar dilemma.

"The [Des Moines] Register is strapped so thin on covering all the different presidentials, it's tough to get them at events," the operative said. …

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