-- It's telling when an incumbent's campaign chooses to bury an impressive $3.2 million fundraising haul right smack in the middle of a news cycle dominated by New Hampshire primary stories. That's what Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., did this week. Still not a believer in Democrat Elizabeth Warren's chances? She just gave you 5.7 million more reasons to take her seriously. It's startling how dramatically the narrative in the Massachusetts race has shifted in a year's time.
-- Both Warren and Brown will have plenty of cash to saturate the airwaves. It's going to come down to message: Will Republicans effectively be able to portray Warren as out of the mainstream, and will Democrats be able to cast Brown with the rest of the unpopular Congress, as a partisan and too conservative for the Bay State? So far, both attempts at oppo haven't stuck as much as strategists would have liked - but there will be plenty more to come.
-- The press clippings from the opening debate in the Texas Senate race all told the same story: frontrunner David Dewhurst was back on his heels, defending his record as lieutenant governor, especially from the attacks of tea party favorite Ted Cruz. But while the debate underscored Dewhurst's potential vulnerabilities -- and showed why he's wisely avoided candidate forums -- it likely will do very little to move the needle for Cruz. As of now, the only statewide televised debate is scheduled for March 2, and even that will have a limited audience.
The key for Cruz is to go up on TV with statewide ads that both make the case that Dewhurst is a moderate and articulate why Cruz is the logical conservative alternative. In a state the size of Texas, that takes a lot of money -- a lot more than Cruz had in the bank at the end of September. Keep an eye out for Cruz's 4th quarter fundraising report: It should reveal whether he will have the resources to vault himself into competition with Dewhurst.
-- What happens when you take party politics out of redistricting? Total chaos, apparently. Six members of California's House delegation have now retired, blunting the state's influence in Congress. (California's delegation has the sixth-highest average seniority of any state's in the House this year. Needless to say, it'll be lower in 2013.) Plus, we've still got two more member-versus-member primaries and veteran GOP Rep. David Dreier without a home - and that's just in Southern California.
Both parties opposed the proposition empowering a citizen redistricting commission in 2010. After watching this cycle in California, you can bet that the next time a proposal like this comes up in another state, the parties (and the congressional delegation) will fight it even harder.