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What We Learned From Wednesday's Democratic Debate

Sanders entered the debate after a close primary win in Michigan. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)

The day after former secretary of state Hillary Clinton won a big primary victory in Mississippi and Sen. Bernie Sanders kept the race going with an upset victory, a close one, in Michigan, the two faced off in Miami. Broadcast on CNN  in English, and on Univision in Spanish, immigration was just one of the issues the candidates covered. Differences with Republicans were stark.  

Dem Senate Takeover Probable, If Cruz or Trump Nominee

The prospect of Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket makes Republicans holding onto control of the Senate much more difficult. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly positioned to fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Democrats are now poised to take over the Senate in November.  

The two Republicans still in the race who could help their party’s Senate prospects, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, continue to flounder. While a deadlocked GOP convention in Cleveland could, at least in theory, nominate a candidate with broad appeal and low enough negatives to revive the party’s Senate prospects, that development is both a long way in the future and a long shot.  

Where House and Presidential Races Converge

Coffman, R-Colo., faces a tough re-election race in a true presidential swing state. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s going to be hard for most House races to get any attention this year, with a competitive presidential race and the fight for control of the Senate. But a handful of districts have the luxury of not only hosting a competitive House race, but also being swing areas of presidential battleground states.  

In states such as New York, California or Minnesota, House strategists and campaigns are largely on their own to motivate voters and get them to the polls. But in a few districts, House strategists and candidates can focus on persuading voters, since the presidential nominees, national parties and, in some cases, the Senate campaigns will have done the heavy lifting to get out the vote.  

Cruz and Kasich Implausible Scenarios Keeping Trump on Top

Even though he's not a factor in the Super Tuesday primaries, Kasich is banking on later ones in his home state of Ohio and in neighboring Ohio and Michigan. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The early primaries usually winnow presidential fields because each one tests aspects of a candidacy, and because only victories keep the money flowing.

But while this Republican field has winnowed, it hasn’t shrunk as much as some would like. Part of the answer involves the existence of super PAC money, which allows a handful of contributors to keep a candidacy alive. But maybe even more important this time is the shape of the field and the nature of the front-runner.  

Rubio Gets Donnie; Other New Kids on the Block Might Be Tougher

Wahlberg speaks during a Rubio campaign rally in North Las Vegas on Sunday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t waste any time rolling out some heavy-hitting endorsements, including former New Kids on the Block star Donnie Wahlberg, after hangin’ tough for a second place showing in South Carolina.  

It’s clear that Walberg believes Rubio has the right stuff to be president, but securing the backing of the other four NKOTB members may not be quite as easy.  

Handicapping the GOP Race Past Iowa

While Trump, center, and Cruz, right, have established themselves as front-runners, Rubio has broken away from other establishment candidates. (Scott Olson/Getty Images File Photo)

Have we entered a new period in American politics, when establishment candidates on the GOP side don’t win their party’s nomination? That is the question I posed in a June 4, 2015 column . It is still a relevant question.  

While I answered that it is a mistake to assume that the establishment candidate would inevitably win the GOP nomination, I doubted that combative candidates such as Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, could pass the smell test for most Republicans.  

NRCC Names Furst Johnson IE Director

Furst Johnson was communications director for former Rep. Katherine Harris' 2004 campaign. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

National Republican Congressional Committee Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Jessica Furst Johnson will be the committee’s Independent Expenditure Director for the 2016 cycle.  

“Jessica was instrumental in helping us win our historic Republican majority in 2014 and we are excited she will lead our IE unit in 2016,” said NRCC Executive Director Rob Simms in a release first obtained by Roll Call.  

Obama’s Empty Campaign Threat on Gun Control

Obama listens to a question from Pintal County, Ariz., Sheriff Paul Babeu during a town hall event on Thursday. (Aude Guerrucci/Pool/Getty Images)

In the heat of his push for more gun control, President Barack Obama threatened to withhold support from anyone, including Democrats, who didn’t support “common-sense” changes. But based on the political realities of this cycle, his comments aren’t likely to dramatically impact Senate races.  

“Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen,” Obama wrote in a New York Times op-ed . “I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”  

Top Races in 2016: The South

Volunteer David Bowser peeks outside the Pinellas County Democratic Party headquarters in St. Petersburg on Election Day 2012. (Edward Linsmier/Getty Images File Photo)

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of looks at the most competitive House and Senate races in the 2016 election cycle.  

The South region includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  

Gyrocopter Pilot Plans Run for Congress

Hughes plans to run for Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the Capitol lawn is turning toward a more conventional means to get into Congress: being elected.  

Douglas Hughes, who pleaded guilty in Novembe r  to a felony charge related to his April 15 flight, said he plans to run for a seat in the House, but is not yet announcing which Democrat he plans to challenge. Hughes faces a maximum of three years in prison with his guilty plea, which means he could be running for Congress from behind bars depending on his sentencing in April.