-- The times they are a-changin': Eight years ago, Democrats were struggling to sell a decorated Vietnam veteran against a deferment-laden incumbent. Four years ago, a young anti-war senator capitalized on America's war fatigue against a former POW. At the Republican convention in Tampa, foreign policy was an afterthought. It's a surprising departure to see Republicans leave military issues aside -- almost as surprising as it was to see Democrats devote so much time to the progressive social issues that energize their base. -- With a well-received keynote address, Julian Castro thrust himself -- as well as his twin brother, state Rep. Joaquin Castro -- into the national spotlight. But where can the San Antonio Mayor go from here? While some Texas Democrats are already touting the mayor as the party's likely gubernatorial candidate in 2014, Texas remains a solidly red state for the time being. The continued growth of the Hispanic population in the Lone Star State will open things up for Democrats in years to come, but that time hasn't arrived yet, making it difficult for Julian Castro to capitalize off his new-found fame anytime soon. Meanwhile, his brother is poised to emerge as a rising Democratic star in the House. For the moment, the brother who made the introduction on Tuesday night might have a clearer path to a heightened national profile than the keynoter himself. -- Competing strategies in the Massachusetts Senate race were on full display during the Democratic Convention. Sen. Scott Brown, who mostly kept his distance from the Republican Convention in Tampa, gushed about Michelle Obama's convention speech. While Brown played up his independent streak, Warren delivered a fiery address Wednesday night that energized the activists in the arena and made the case against the national GOP. Warren and her allies are looking to nationalize the race and link Brown to Romney and Paul Ryan in the minds of potential crossover voters. -- With fewer than 60 days to go until Election Day, we're about to get a better sense of just how much money is being pumped into the presidential, Senate, and House races. From now until Nov. 6, groups that spend over $10,000 on ads mentioning a candidate for office -- even if those spots are "issue ads" run by non-profit groups -- will have to file reports with the Federal Election Commission detailing their spending. Analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that (reported) outside spending in 2012 has already surpassed the $301.6 million outside groups spent in the last presidential year. But that total doesn't include many millions of dollars of issue ads already expended this year. That curtain will pull back between now and Election Day, and we'll be able to more accurately quantify the torrent of advertising we've seen all year. -- It was a sleepy week for public polling, between the challenges of interviewing over a holiday weekend and the focus on the proceedings here in Charlotte. But expect that to end quickly. Even cash-strapped media outlets are going to be eager to take the pulse of the presidential race following the two parties' conventions. Polling in downballot races is also expected to pick up over the next week (the latest Battle for the Senate chart showed Democrats leading Republicans, 48 to 47, assuming likely independent winners Bernie Sanders and Angus King caucus with the Democrats). With fewer than 60 days until Election Day, it's a sprint to the finish, and there won't be a better place to watch it than The Hotline. -- Advice for anyone who writes or speaks about politics: if it deals with Nazis, drop it. Period. During the past week, three Democratic party officials and one Republican congressman found themselves on the hot seat for making such references. State Democratic Party chairmen John Burton of California and Dick Harpootlian of South Carolina joined Democratic National Convention delegate Pat Lehman of Kansas in comparing Republicans to various Nazi figures. Meanwhile, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., managed to draw a link between federal student loans and the Holocaust (he later apologized). While the pressures of campaign season can force otherwise competent people to say dumb things, it's hard to imagine how anyone thinks using Nazi references will ever end well.
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