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As everyone outside North Carolina knows, a big senate race is brewing in the Tar Heel state. The primary season isn’t over, and already millions of dollars in outside money have flooded the state. Negative ads fill the airwaves – covering Obamacare hypocrisy, romantic affairs with lobbyists, alleged payouts and more. National polls track who’s up and down. And we still have more than 6 months until Election Day. This is what happens when control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.

But what about inside the state? I just returned from a three-day visit, trying to learn the answer. Where is the focus? What issues matter? And in other races there, could North Carolina really elect a U.S. Representative who’s better known for singing on American Idol?

No one can tell us better what’s happening on the North Carolina ground than Rob Christensen, often called “the Dean of North Carolina reporters.” Rob is a columnist and reporter at the Raleigh News and Observer, covering NC politics for nearly 40 years. He’s also author of “The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics.”

Direct download: Rob_Christensen_4-23-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:52 PM

Think Arkansas and politics, and obviously one family name jumps to mind.

But there's another family name in Arkansas politics that reigns supreme, too – this one for more than 50 years. It's also central to the biggest topic for the 2014 misterm elections: The battle for US Senate.

Can sitting democratic senator Mark Pryor keep his seat -- despite serving a state where the President and his health care plan remain unpopular? And, by going deep into Arkansas, is there anything we can learn in the “will-she-won't-she” debate around Hillary Clinton.

One person who knows both families well and perhaps Arkansas politics even better: Skip Rutherford, Dean of Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. Previously he oversaw the building of the Clinton Presidential Center and Park. He served as Founding President of the William J. Clinton Foundation. He’s also a former administrative assistant to then-Senator David Pryor.

Direct download: Skip_Rutherford_4-16-14.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:58 PM

Of the many political areas changing daily thanks to digital and social media, few are more significant than polling. If the ways we are persuaded depends on who favorite, tweeted or posted the latest campaign message, then understanding the trends behind that persuasion is key.

And as we look towards the Midterm elections, among the most-watched groups: the so-called RAE or Rising American Electorate. Unmarried women, young voters, minorities – voters who helped Democrats take the White House, but new polls show, may be less likely to show up for the Midterms. With Senate control in the balance and women Senators or candidates central to several key races, what can digital, social media and polling tell us about potential turnout – and potential results?

Anna Greenberg is a Democratic pollster who has helped candidates win at nearly all levels of American government. She is a Partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and heads their digital arm GQRDigital. Perhaps most importantly, she was recently named 2014 Democratic Pollster of the Year by American Association of Political Consultants.

Direct download: Anna_Greenberg_4-14-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:14 PM

In the last month, Colorado jumped back into the national political discussion for more than just its policies on recreational drug use. Suddenly, the Centennial state is the latest chip in the battle for Senate control.

It began when popular Republican Rep. Cory Gardner stopped saying no, no, no and decided to say, sure, I’ll run for Senate. With that, the race against Democrat Mark Udall was on, and Colorado got interesting. Throw in an active fight for governor, and Colorado is not just a great place to ski – but it’s a great place for politics.

One person paying close attention: Denver Post political reporter Lynn Bartels, who has watched and covered politics in Colorado for more than 20 years. She says she thinks “politics is like sports but without the big salaries and protective cups." She also has been called one of the state’s “best political reporters and tweeters.”

Direct download: Lynn_Bartels_4-10-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:18 AM

It’s tough to find a state that is more politically interested – or interesting – than New Hampshire. Because it traditionally hosts the first Presidential primary, it’s been known to launch or torpedo campaigns over the years. It’s where, of course, Bill Clinton became the comeback kid.

Now a Senator is trying. On Thursday, former MA Sen. Scott Brown will formally announce that he hopes to become the new Senator for New Hampshire. The race is not only sexy and intriguing – after all, Brown is the former Cosmo pin-up – but it also could hang heavy in the all-important battle for Senate control.

Could Brown become New Hampshire’s latest comeback kid? What issues will matter? Is New Hampshire ready for some midterm election attention?

James Pindell is the WMUR.com Political Director. He writes their influential Political Scoop and provides on air political analysis for WMUR-TV. He has been called the "Insider's Insider" for his coverage of New Hampshire politics.

Direct download: James_Pindell_4-8-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:40 PM

Faster than you can say Crimea and almost as quickly as Russia invaded and annexed it, foreign policy has returned to the political radar. It never fully left, of course, as two wars, Arab Spring, Benghazi, Syria and more dominated the last decade.

But when Russian President Vladimir Putin followed his Sochi success with the Crimean heist, suddenly questions around U.S. policy, action and reaction to our one-time Cold War foe became political.

What options do western leaders have? What role should U.S. leaders play? And what might this mean for domestic politics – could foreign policy actually become a talking point on the 2014 campaign trail?

Nicholas Burns has held virtually every role in the US Foreign Service – Under Secretary of State, Ambassador to NATO and Greece, State Dept spokesman and more. He is now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government… and he’s here to help us understand the policy and the politics.

Direct download: Nicholas_Burns_4-3-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:49 PM

Few states have more action right now than Kentucky. It’s home to One of the biggest Senate races – the fight for Mitch McConnell’s office and whether the Minority Leader can come out of this not just with his seat, but perhaps the upgraded title to Majority Leader.

It’s also home to a likely Presidential contender, Kentucky’s junior Senator, Rand Paul, who keeps gaining strength and support, while possibly splitting the Republican Party.

And as if you didn’t know, it’s home to the Kentucky Wildcats, which this weekend could become college basketball’s national champion again. Which of these stories is most important to the Blue Grass state?

Well, we’re going to talk politics anyhow. Our guest, Sam Youngman, political reporter at the Lexington Herald Leader, who recently wrote that he’d like to have his ashes spread at Rupp Arena where the Wildcats play hoops.

Direct download: Sam_Youngman_4-1-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:21 PM

If the biggest story for Midterms 2014 will be the battle Senate control, then one of the most important states to watch will be Georgia.

It’s a complicated package to unwind: A retiring Republican Senator. The Democratic favorite: The daughter of another retired Georgia senator. And on the Republican side, seven candidates – including a former CEO, former secretary of state some U.S. Representatives and more. Their primary battle just might make professional wrestling look understated – and make the GOP establishment cringe. Throw in a governor’s race that features Jimmy Carter’s grandson, and Georgia becomes tough to pass up.

How to make sense of Peach State politics? Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He writes the Political Insider blog and column.

Direct download: Jim_Galloway_3-27-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:31 AM

If you have wanted over the last several months to understand what was really happening within in Republican Party, you had an obvious first stop: Robert Costa.

For a few years, but especially during the Government Shutdown, Costa established himself as the go to reporter for straight facts from deep within the Conservative movement. And the information came at us rapidfire: Tweets, posts, stories, takeouts, television. It didn’t matter the channel; if Costa had notes, he reported them.

So what’s next for the Republican Party? Senate Control? 2016 Presidential race? Tea Party vs. Establishment? And what’s up with the Eric Cantor makeover project?

Direct download: Robert_Costa_3-25-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:54 PM

We might have debated who invented the Internet, but there’s no debate over which candidate brought the Internet into political campaigns. In 2003 and -4, Democrat Presidential candidate Howard Dean made fundraising go digital.

The brains – if not the functionality, design, and execution – behind that operation belonged to Nicco Mele, a 20-something year old webmaster who had worked for various advocacy groups.

Since that online revolution, Mele has launched his own firm – EchoDitto – which helps organizations gain greater impact through technology. He also is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath,” where he warns against – of all things – the disruptive and perhaps dangerous power of the Internet. Among the areas he worries about: Digital’s potential destruction through polarization of politics and government.

Direct download: Nicco_Mele_3-20-14a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:42 AM