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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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."