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Off to the races: Lots of potential names to replace Levin

The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter warns Democrats that they have some advantages heading into 2014 and beyond -- the history that a president’s party traditionally loses seats in midterm elections, the slowly growing economy, and the Democrats thin bench beyond Hillary Clinton. 

Just a day after his filibuster, Rand Paul says he’s “seriously” considering a 2016 bid. (Reality check: This is nothing news. It’s been basically a done deal since before his dad retired.)

ILLINOIS: “Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan spoke with several of the nation’s top progressive groups during a visit to Washington D.C. last week, further fueling expectations that the popular Democrat will run for governor in 2014,” Politico reports. “Madigan is weighing a campaign for the state’s top office even though the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Pat Quinn, has said he plans to seek another term.” 

INDIANA: The Indianapolis Star: “Koch group turns up heat on GOP state lawmakers.” From the story: “Gov. Mike Pence will get a little help from his conservative friends to push his tax cut through the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly. So far, the proposed 10 percent cut to individual income taxes has received a lukewarm reception from Pence's fellow Republicans in the legislature. But the conservative Americans for Prosperity group announced Thursday it will launch an aggressive media campaign to back the governor -- and browbeat reluctant GOP lawmakers. The national group was founded by the billionaire Koch brothers of Kansas and is known for opposing President Barack Obama and some of his programs. But Thursday, group President Tim Phillips said the organization and its 32 local chapters would be focusing more attention on state governments.” 

KENTUCKY: “Sen. Rand Paul’s almost 13-hour filibuster generated a massive amount of attention from conservative activists Wednesday, and many were asking why Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t on the floor cheering him on,” Roll Call writes. “Paul admitted on CNN that he declined to notify his fellow Kentucky Republican or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about his spontaneous plan to hold up Senate action on the nomination of John O. Brennan to be director of the CIA. But grass-roots conservatives helped push behind the scenes to get more Republican senators to join the protest of the Obama administration’s drone program.” 

MASSACHUSETTS: Mark your calendars for March 27 – it’s the first Democratic primary debate between Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch.

MICHIGAN: “Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's decision to not seek re-election in 2014 has set the stage for a wide-open race to replace the longest-serving senator in Michigan history,” AP writes, adding, “Levin is the sixth member of the Senate to announce his retirement, creating an open seat for Democrats in a state that has backed President Barack Obama twice but where Republicans hold the governor's office and the power in the rest of state government.” 

More: “Just one Republican has won a Michigan Senate seat in 40 years, Spencer Abraham in 1994, a non-presidential year.” Abraham was defeated by Debbie Stabenow in 2000. 

Talk about potentially CROWDED fields in the Michigan Senate open seat primaries. The names of 21 people have surfaced as possibilities, including six Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Democrats: Rep. Gary Peters, Rep. Mark Schauer, ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, ex-Gov. James Blanchard, attorney Geoffrey Fieger, and Debbie Dingell.

Republicans: Rep. Mike Rogers, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, Rep. Candice Miller, Rep. Justin Amash, ex-Gov. John Engler, Detroit charter school founder Clark Durant, billionaire Dick DeVos, state Sen. Roger Kahn, state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, University of Michigan regent Andrea Fischer Newman, former Secretary of State/RNC committeewoman Terri Lynn Land, Rep. Fred Upton.

Peters is the Democrat most Democrats point to.

And a GOP official pointed to the following Repubicans: Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee; Bill Schuette, the state attorney general and former three-term 1980s U.S. congressman. Ironically, Schuette gave up his House seat to run for the Senate against Carl Levin and lost; Brian Calley, the 35-year-old lieutenant governor. He’s the youngest lieutenant governor in the country; Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, and Dave Brandon, the University of Michigan’s athletic director.

The Detroit News says Rogers and Rep. Candice Miller would be two top possibilities. And it has this quote from Schuette’s spokesman: "Bill will continue on serving the citizens of Michigan as their attorney general," Schuette spokesman John Sellek said.

Republicans need to net six seats to take control of the Senate. Democrats currently are defending 21 seats of their 55, with seven in states won by Mitt Romney. They are defending open seats so far in West Virginia, Iowa, and New Jersey. In addition to West Virginia, the South Dakota seat is also a top GOP target – whether or not incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson retires or seeks another term.

SOUTH CAROLINA: For his opposition to Rand Paul’s filibuster, the hashtag on twitter #PrimaryGraham began.

“Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, launched her first television advertisement Thursday as she seeks the Democratic nomination in South Carolina’s 1st District special election,” Roll Call writes.

Odd closing line, though: “I approve this message because I’m not going to talk about the jobs that we lost. I know what it takes to create new jobs.