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.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – An exit strategy, proof of the Obama Midterm Drag, and insights into some of the most intriguing faces and races of 2014 and 2016 filled our weekly close-of-show trip around the Inside Politics table.
1. FROM FERGUSON TO THE EXIT?
Could Ferguson serve as the final chapter in Eric Holder’s career as attorney general?
Nia Malika Henderson of the Washington Post takes a look at the options Holder currently has on the table for leaving the federal government.
“Inside the Justice Department, people have speculated that [by] the end of the year he would be moving on,” said Henderson.
“But now the calculus is probably different,” she notes: If the Senate changes hands in November, it would make it difficult for another Obama nominee to be confirmed should Holder step down.
“[There's] also this question about Barack Obama's legacy, and the attorney general's legacy around civil rights as well. They very much feel like there's more work to do.”
2. TO MITCH MCCONNELL, CRUSH = “KICK THEIR A–“
Mitch McConnell still has a tough race of his own on to worry about in the final 10 weeks of the 2014 midterm campaign. But Jonathan Martin of The New York Times found the Kentucky GOP senator in good spirits during an interview this past week.
McConnell, as we have discussed for weeks, set a high and colorful bar early in the cycle when he told Jonathan’s colleague Carl Hulse his goal was to “crush” the Tea Party this year.
“Yes, we were determined this time to have the most electable nominees everywhere,” was the tame way McConnell described his strategy in the new conversation with Martin. Meaning determined not to let more controversial tea party candidates win GOP nominations only to lose in November.
In private, Martin discovered the senator has a more colorful way of describing his goal:
“Privately I'm told he was telling fellow senators he was going to kick their A–,” said Martin.
As Martin notes, the flipside of success is that McConnell won’t have candidates to blame if the GOP falls short of its goal of picking up a net gain of six seats – and with that the Senate majority.
3. A HAWKISH TONE AS BROWN MAKES A RACE OF IT
Perhaps the best news for GOP Senate hopes this past week was a New Hampshire poll showing a neck-and-neck contest between Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and GOP challenger Scott Brown.
Not too long ago, Brown – the former Massachusetts senator who has migrated north – was down 10 points or more. Robert Costa of The Washington Post recently spent some time in the Granite State, and shared insights on the tone Brown believes is making a difference in the race.
Hint: Think John McCain, who recently visited to campaign alongside Brown.
“He's playing up his military record in the Army National Guard,” said Costa.
“He believes that talking about hawkish view on foreign policy is the key to win in a state like New Hampshire that allowed John McCain back in 2000-2008 to do so well in the presidential primary.”
4. NEED PROOF OF THE OBAMA DRAG: SEE NH’S BLUE STATE BLUES
If you need evidence of why we call the president’s approval rating the North Star of midterm year politics, then study the new WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll that shows that close Shaheen-Brown Senate race.
Remember President Obama carried New Hampshire fairly easily in both 2008 and 2012.
But this new survey put his approval rating at just 37 percent among likely voters – 59 percent disapproved of how the president is doing his job.
Strategists in both parties say there is zero doubt that President Obama’s slide is the driving force in making the Senate race so competitive.
And Republicans say the “Obama Drag” is in evidence elsewhere, too: in two House races in the state with Democratic incumbents. Both are close, and while 10 weeks is a long time in a campaign, Republicans are getting more confident the closing chapter of this campaign year will be played out on terrain favorable to them.
Democrats, on the other hand, are less and less sure the President will be able to engineer even a modest uptick in his numbers.
5. ALL THE WORLD IS A CAMPAIGN STAGE
Not so fast if you think tracking down a 2016 presidential contender is as easy as racing off to Iowa or New Hampshire.
Have you tried Israel? Mexico? China even?
Julie Pace of The Associated Press helped us understand how more and more of the 2016 wannabes are looking to burnish their foreign policy chops.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky got decent media attention during his annual overseas trio – Guatemala this time – to perform surgeries and other eye care for disadvantaged children.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is soon off to Mexico, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is planning a trade mission to China and Japan.
All part of stamping their passports and expanding their horizons, Pace notes.
“One of the ideas,” explains Pace, “is to try to get your foreign policy credentials touched up now and avoid having one of those bumpy credential building trips during the presidential election year when the glare's on you a lot, à la Mitt Romney.”