This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

Sleeper Cell

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee perfected the art of thinking outside the box last year in facing an unfavorable political landscape. It recruited a little-known Democratic House member to run against veteran Sen. Richard Lugar, on the off chance the incumbent would lose in the primary. The committee persuaded a well-liked former state official to run in North Dakota, even though few pundits gave her a chance. And in Massachusetts, the DSCC backed a political novice, Elizabeth Warren, hoping she'd rally the base against popular GOP incumbent Scott Brown. Those long shots paid off. Facing an even tougher political environment in 2014, the committee is nonetheless planning to contest Senate races in deeply conservative Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Party officials are talking with a surprise recruit in West Virginia: pro-coal lawyer Nick Preservati, who is planning to announce a campaign within the next month. In Georgia, Democrats are eyeing Rep. John Barrow, but even if he doesn't run, they've talked with a few political outsiders who could step in and mount credible campaigns. And while the buzz centers on actress Ashley Judd running in Kentucky, Democrats are quietly looking at other options, believing that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vulnerable against a more moderate Democrat, such as Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. With the right candidate in West Virginia, a weak GOP opponent in Georgia, and McConnell shaky in Kentucky, all of these races are winnable for Democrats and could force the GOP to worry about its flank.

Josh Kraushaar

He Has No Use for That Tooth Fairy, Either

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had an unusually large gaggle of reporters chasing after him as he headed into the Tuesday caucus lunches this week. "What have I done wrong? I'm trying to figure this out," he joked. After being pressed on his plans for the budget, Hatch was thrown what should have been a softball question about his birthday plans. (He turned 79 on March 22.) But don't go there. "Oh, I hate birthdays," he said with disdain. "When I was a kid, we were so poor that the neighbor kids had birthday parties and I never did, and I got so I just blotted it out of my mind, and it's carried over even to today. I hate birthdays. Not because I'm getting older. I mean, I admit that." Presents, as you might have guessed, are out. "I don't want anything," Hatch said. But a staffer reminded him that he did receive a present for Christmas from his office that he liked, a statue of a red-tailed hawk. "Oh, yeah. They gave me a statue of a tough old bird, which I had, of course, made very clear in the last election. I'm a tough old bird, you know?"

Stacy Kaper

Murmurs

Ballers As every gambler and office-pooler alike knows, there is money in March Madness; and wherever there is cash, politicians follow. So it was a slam-dunk for those Washington watchdogs, the Sunlight Foundation, to find a lineup of fundraisers planned by members of Congress during the NCAA tournament. Among them: Friday's HellerHighWater PAC party at the Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas hosted by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and game-watching parties for the Sweet 16 matchups March 28 and 30 at the Verizon Center hosted by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. The most ironic event: the March Madness kickoff Friday at the Diageo Townhouse on Capitol Hill hosted by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, a Mormon who recently pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Virginia. Diageo is the world's largest liquor producer.

Habits Former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., was spotted in the Capitol on Tuesday after testifying on housing-finance reform before the Senate Banking Committee, on which he used to serve. "I'm going to go have a free lunch," he said when reporters saw him heading over to the weekly caucus luncheons. But not so fast. Martinez had to sing for his supper like most members do and answer reporters' questions on his way in. He got stuck discussing Sen. Rand Paul's comments on immigration reform. "I'm out of practice," he said.

Sleeper Cell

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee perfected the art of thinking outside the box last year in facing an unfavorable political landscape. It recruited a little-known Democratic House member to run against veteran Sen. Richard Lugar, on the off chance the incumbent would lose in the primary. The committee persuaded a well-liked former state official to run in North Dakota, even though few pundits gave her a chance. And in Massachusetts, the DSCC backed a political novice, Elizabeth Warren, hoping she'd rally the base against popular GOP incumbent Scott Brown. Those long shots paid off. Facing an even tougher political environment in 2014, the committee is nonetheless planning to contest Senate races in deeply conservative Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Party officials are talking with a surprise recruit in West Virginia: pro-coal lawyer Nick Preservati, who is planning to announce a campaign within the next month. In Georgia, Democrats are eyeing Rep. John Barrow, but even if he doesn't run, they've talked with a few political outsiders who could step in and mount credible campaigns. And while the buzz centers on actress Ashley Judd running in Kentucky, Democrats are quietly looking at other options, believing that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vulnerable against a more moderate Democrat, such as Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. With the right candidate in West Virginia, a weak GOP opponent in Georgia, and McConnell shaky in Kentucky, all of these races are winnable for Democrats and could force the GOP to worry about its flank.

Josh Kraushaar

He Has No Use for That Tooth Fairy, Either

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had an unusually large gaggle of reporters chasing after him as he headed into the Tuesday caucus lunches this week. "What have I done wrong? I'm trying to figure this out," he joked. After being pressed on his plans for the budget, Hatch was thrown what should have been a softball question about his birthday plans. (He turned 79 on March 22.) But don't go there. "Oh, I hate birthdays," he said with disdain. "When I was a kid, we were so poor that the neighbor kids had birthday parties and I never did, and I got so I just blotted it out of my mind, and it's carried over even to today. I hate birthdays. Not because I'm getting older. I mean, I admit that." Presents, as you might have guessed, are out. "I don't want anything," Hatch said. But a staffer reminded him that he did receive a present for Christmas from his office that he liked, a statue of a red-tailed hawk. "Oh, yeah. They gave me a statue of a tough old bird, which I had, of course, made very clear in the last election. I'm a tough old bird, you know?"

Stacy Kaper

Murmurs

Ballers As every gambler and office-pooler alike knows, there is money in March Madness; and wherever there is cash, politicians follow. So it was a slam-dunk for those Washington watchdogs, the Sunlight Foundation, to find a lineup of fundraisers planned by members of Congress during the NCAA tournament. Among them: Friday's HellerHighWater PAC party at the Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas hosted by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and game-watching parties for the Sweet 16 matchups March 28 and 30 at the Verizon Center hosted by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. The most ironic event: the March Madness kickoff Friday at the Diageo Townhouse on Capitol Hill hosted by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, a Mormon who recently pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Virginia. Diageo is the world's largest liquor producer.

Habits Former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., was spotted in the Capitol on Tuesday after testifying on housing-finance reform before the Senate Banking Committee, on which he used to serve. "I'm going to go have a free lunch," he said when reporters saw him heading over to the weekly caucus luncheons. But not so fast. Martinez had to sing for his supper like most members do and answer reporters' questions on his way in. He got stuck discussing Sen. Rand Paul's comments on immigration reform. "I'm out of practice," he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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