-- Wednesday's health care reform vote gave Republicans their first opportunity to test out how their battle-tested message against the bill that worked so well in last November's elections might translate to the 2012 campaign. The verdict? Not bad. Health care is still among the post pressing thoughts on voters' minds, but, of course, it's too early to tell whether that will be the top issue two years from now. Republicans didn't waste any time signaling that they were ready to go on offense this cycle, quickly pointing to the eight vulnerable Democrats who voted against repeal after voting against the original bill last year. And the next day, House Republicans got their first open seat to target in Connecticut's 5th District, a district they only modestly targeted last year. Look to that race for an early test of how they frame their 2012 message.
-- For the second straight election cycle, Connecticut will play host to a most contentious and high profile Senate race. Like former Sen. Chris Dodd (D) before him, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) opted for retirement in the face of steep reelection odds. The Democratic primary will feature (at least) two popular and skilled candidates in former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Rep. Chris Murphy, while the deep-pocketed 2010 nominee Linda McMahon might make another run on the Republican side. All this adds up to two more years of excitement in a state not normally associated with marquee Senate races; Connecticut's two Senate seats had been held by Dodd and Lieberman since 1981 and 1989, respectively. Lieberman's announcement also set off a wave of debate over whether there is any place for independent politicians in the U.S., and whether Lieberman has been courageous or an opportunist.
-- It was a big week for Senate retirements, with North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad (D) also announcing he wouldn't run for re-election in 2012. But while the Connecticut race began immediately, in North Dakota, things are off to a slower start, and likely to stay slow for a while.
-- Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen (D) demonstrated this week that Godwin's Law is still in effect. On the House floor, he compared GOP strategies to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' and thus reinforced that one loses an argument in record time once Nazis are invoked. But Cohen also showed that he has an iron will. He went onto CNN's "AC360" and "John King, USA" and still dug a deeper hole with his Nazi analogy.
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