Off to the races: 2014 is on…

Politico: "In 2012, Democrats snagged Senate seats from Republicans in states where the GOP should have prevailed with relative ease. In 2014, Republicans want to show they can play that game, too. The GOP could conceivably capture the Senate by winning in seven states currently represented by Democrats but that Mitt Romney carried. But running the table in those states is a very tall task, party strategists freely acknowledge, so they’re working to expand the map of competitive races to states like Iowa, Michigan, Colorado and several others."

National Journal: "The Democratic Party is hoping 2014 will be a Year of the Woman—again. As party operatives prepare for the 2014 midterm elections, Democratic women are being cast in starring roles, on the ballot and at the ballot box, as the party tries to take back politically important governor's mansions and keep its fragile majority in the Senate."

Politico: "Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s political marriage is about to be put to the test. For five years their unlikely alliance has gone, by and large, smoothly. He has benefited from a widely admired secretary of state whose presence in his administration helped unite the party after their 2008 combat. She has burnished her foreign policy CV and taken a break from the political grind as she mulls a second run at the White House. But Obama’s own recent difficulties, combined with the swirl of attention around Clinton and her intentions in 2016, is threatening to alter those dynamics — in ways that aren’t helpful to either of them."

“This cycle, Democrats face a similarly tough challenge: picking up seats in 17 districts on a map drawn to give the GOP an advantage,” Roll Call writes as it compares Steve Israel to Rahm Emanuel. “To accomplish this, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel has sought to emulate his former mentor with relentless recruitment, an incessant focus on messaging and Emanuel’s aggressive style — minus a few four-letter expletives. The two Democrats have a lot in common. Former aides note their shared religion, gregarious public personas, all-in approach to wooing candidates and their soundbite-driven quests to drive messaging.” More: “Above all, Emanuel was known for his persistence and personalized approach to recruitment. He reportedly called one reluctant prospect from his daughter’s ballet recital to help alleviate his concerns about family life in Congress. One former aide described Emanuel’s recruitment approach as a ‘lack of boundaries.’”

FLORIDA: One of the potential GOP candidates in the special election to replace the late Bill Young (R-FL) is too young to run in the special election.

MASSACHUSETTS: Remember that Dec. 10 is a special election in MA-5. Democrat Katherine Clark is the favorite and leads in fundraising over Republican opponent Frank Addivinola.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: WMUR: "Former New Hampshire Republican senator Bob Smith said he has changed his mind and will try to defeat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for his old seat next year. Smith told WMUR Political Scoop on Sunday that he had made a decision not to run largely to get out of the way for other candidates, but as weeks came and went no major candidates got into the race, and he kept getting encouragement to run."

KENTUCKY: Politico: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a heavy TV ad buy in defense of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, the latest turn in the establishment’s move to shore up GOP candidates against hard-right opponents, POLITICO has learned. The Chamber placed a $182,240 statewide buy on broadcast TV from Dec. 3 through Dec. 12, three media-buying sources said."

VIRGINIA: Washington Post: "Despite sweeping losses in this month’s off-year elections, Virginia Republicans are hoping that the botched rollout of the health-care law will drag down Democrats across the country in 2014 — including U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner. But if Republicans want revenge after their drubbing by Democrats this year, they must overcome some familiar hurdles. The first is that Warner remains extremely popular, polls show, and has the wealth to fund a formidable reelection campaign. The second is that Republicans lack a big-name candidate willing to take him on, and they may not get one as long as they stick with their plan to select a nominee at a party convention rather than in a primary."