Special Elections: When the 113th Congress convenes for the first time on Thursday, some seats will already be empty. Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has already quit his Chicago-area seat; former South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott quit his Charleston-area seat on Tuesday to take over Sen. Jim DeMint's seat in the upper chamber; and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson will leave her Southeast Missouri seat to take a job as head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. All three races are unlikely to be seriously competitive after parties pick their respective nominees.
The one race that could be competitive comes in Massachusetts, where Sen. John Kerry is likely to quit his seat after he's confirmed as Secretary of State. Outgoing Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who first won his seat in a 2010 special election after Ted Kennedy passed away, is contemplating a comeback bid.
This time, Democratic Party bigwigs including Kerry, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Kennedy's widow, have lined up behind Rep. Ed Markey, who has already jumped into the race. Others, most notably Rep. Mike Capuano, haven't ruled out their own run, but Markey is the prohibitive favorite.
Democrats realized after Brown's 2010 win that they hadn't done enough to nationalize the race in one of the few states where President Obama remained popular. They won't make that mistake again.
Candidate Recruitment: Picking the right candidate can make all the difference. In a midterm election without an overarching national wave, that's doubly important. "The fundamental lesson I learned coming out of the cycle is that the cycle--it’s not about 2014, it’s about 2013," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel said in an interview last month. "Our success was because we recruited early. We organized early."
That's a lesson Rahm Emanuel taught when he chaired the DCCC -- Emanuel sought out non-traditional candidates and political moderates before Democrats took over the House after the 2006 elections. And Republicans attracted their own mix of elected officials and eclectic professionals that bolstered the Tea Party wave of 2010.
Both national parties have started their search for A-list candidates. Israel was calling Democrats who narrowly lost on Election Night to start convincing them to run again. National Republicans have held their own meetings to create lists of potential stars. Both sides know the candidates they attract now can be the all-stars who take over seats next November.