CNN's John King and other top political reporters empty out their notebooks each Sunday on "Inside Politics" to reveal five things that will be in the headlines in the days, weeks and months ahead.
In this week’s Inside Politics forecast: A little campaign triage, a few interesting races to watch in the week ahead and Peter Hamby’s uncanny ability to connect political reporting with a good meal.
1. A POSSIBLE CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN TEXAS?
Jonathan Martin of The New York Times shared reporting that his sources believe 91-year-old GOP Rep. Ralph Hall could be in trouble as he tries to survive a primary runoff.
John Ratcliffe is the challenger, and in his ads he makes direct issue of Hall’s age, saying he has been in Washington for too long. Ratcliffe is getting help from some grassroots conservative groups who count Hall among the GOP establishment incumbents they view as too willing to deal with President Obama.
Hall is airing tough ads of his own, including one painting Ratcliffe as a tax-raising trial lawyer.
"Republicans in both Texas and in DC that I talk to are worried he's not going to win," said Martin of Hall's prospects. "It's not a pure ideological victory, if the right was to win there. But you can be sure, given the recent record, they will trumpet any victories they can get."
A sampling of Ratcliffe's fundamental strategy to take down Hall:
2. AND THEN “FIRST TO MENTION LAROUCHE" PRIZE GOES TO...
Staying in Texas, Nia Malika Henderson shares the Democratic angst over Kesha Rogers.
GOP Sen. John Cornyn is a likely shoo-in for re-election. But Texas Democrats still have some hope of winning the governor’s race and if nothing else want to make a strong 2014 effort as a springboard to 2016 and beyond, when they insist demographic and other changes will help them turn reliably red Texas more blue.
But Rogers could prove a spoiler.
She is the Democratic Senate runoff against David Alameel, who has the state Democratic Party’s backing.
What’s the rub against Rogers?
Well, she’s a supporter of gadfly extremist and perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, who – and Rogers agrees – believes President Obama should be impeached.
"She's often seen with poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache," said Malika Henderson. "They are worried that she is really disrupting their attempt to rebrand and rebuild the Democratic Party in Texas."
"They don't think she'll win but they're worried she might do well in that primary," she added.
3. GOP HOPES TO LIFT IOWA'S ERNST INTO GENERAL ELECTION
Much of the media attention when it comes to June 3 is the GOP Senate primary in Mississippi, where the tea party has perhaps its last best chance of unseating a GOP incumbent this year.
But Politico’s Maggie Haberman smartly pointed to another key race to watch: Iowa’s GOP Senate contest.
Remember Joni Ernst? Name doesn’t ring a bell? OK, remember the candidate whose first TV ad talked of a childhood helping to castrate hogs on the family farm.
Yup, that’s Joni Ernst.
Well she has gone from the middle of the pack to the favorite in the crowded GOP field, and now the establishment – including Mitt Romney – is trying to help her get to 50 percent in the June 3 primary.
Republicans hope she can avoid a runoff and turn her attention to the fall campaign and Democrat Bruce Braley, who forecaster predict will have a difficult time waging a campaign against a woman.
"Both sides are going to come out of the gate blasting," said Haberman.
Just in case you forget, here's Ernst's memorable TV spot debut:
4. HAMBY'S HUNGER TURNS TO TENNESSEE
There are patterns, and then there are obsessions.
CNN's Peter Hamby is as good as they come in sniffing out good political news. He just prefers to do so on a full stomach. Week after week, his reporting nuggets are served with references to a pancake breakfast here, and a Lincoln Day dinner there.
And this week was no exception.
Peter is interested, and shared some nuggets, about a Chris Christie foray into Tennessee next week. The visit, Christie's first trip to the south since winning re-election last November, is a good chance for the New Jersey governor to break bread with some potential 2016 backers.
"Nashville is a huge Republican donor hub, outside of Texas and New York," noted Hamby. "It's a big money place, because of, not just country music. There's a big Christian publishing industry. There's a lot of Republican money there."
5. CALL IN THE GOP COMMS. SWAT TEAM
Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby is the GOP’s Senate nominee in Oregon.
Maybe you’ve heard about her because she beat a tea party-style challenger in her primary. Or maybe you’ve heard of her because of late campaign media accounts of allegations she stalked two former boyfriends after they ended relationships with her.
Water under the bridge, the men say now – and Republicans attribute the media accounts to a Democratic smear campaign designed to torpedo Wehby before the primary.
Publicly, national Republicans predict those stories will not hurt and could actually create some sympathy. But privately there is some concern, about the potential political impact but even more so about whether Wehby and her team are up to the challenge of what is now a top-tier Senate campaign.
So, as Wehby turns her attention to Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley, I’m told the National Republican Senatorial Committee quietly dispatched a team of communications gurus to Oregon to give Wehby and her team a little advice and training.