Now that the calendar has changed, we can begin our midterm-election obsession in earnest. The year is chock-full of great, big-ticket races: Mitch McConnell‘s reelect in Kentucky, 4 red-state Democratic senators up for reelection, Scott-vs.-Crist in Florida. But today we’re highlighting the under-the-radar candidates who we think could be vying for their own headlines later this year.
— Democrats landed a couple of marquee female recruits in Kentucky (Alison Lundergan Grimes) and Georgia (Michelle Nunn). But Republicans have one of their own in Michigan, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. Land surprised some when she raised $1 million in the third quarter (in addition to $1 million in self-funding). Watch her fourth-quarter numbers (coming by month’s end) to see if she can sustain that momentum. Oregon’s Monica Wehby (R) is in a bluer state, but her profile as a pediatric neurosurgeon could boost her chances against Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) if health care continues to be a Democratic liability.
— Republicans are strongly favored to retain control of the House, but Democrats are excited about some of their challengers, including Amanda Renteria, a former Capitol Hill aide challenging Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) in a D+2 seat, and Ann Callis, running against Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) in an even-PVI district. Republicans, meanwhile, are touting Arizona challengers Andy Tobin and Martha McSally, in addition to Minnesota’s Torrey Westrom, who they think has a shot to unseat longtime Rep. Collin Peterson (D) this November.
— Unlike the battle for the Senate, Republicans are largely on defense on the gubernatorial map, looking to protect their 2010 gains. But Democrats are excited about their chances in Pennsylvania, where GOP Gov. Tom Corbett‘s approval ratings are in the tank. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) might be the nominal frontrunner in a crowded primary, but watch former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty, who has emerged as a top-tier candidate, despite lower initial name ID. One state in which Republicans have a chance at a pickup is Illinois — Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is well underwater in the Land of Lincoln — but their prospects could hinge on the outcome of the March primary. Wealthy self-funder Bruce Rauner (R) debuted yet another new TV ad over the holidays in his bid to secure the nod.
That’s just a sampling of the candidates we’re watching as the year begins. We’re happy and grateful to have you along for the ride.
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Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.