Here at First To Last, we've largely been laser-focused on the weekly goings-on in the presidential primary. But the election cycle is not just about who will one day sit in the Oval Office, it's also about who will win seats in the legislature and make sitting in the Oval Office a constant nightmare. So this week, we're getting out in front of some of the key downticket races that are shaping to be interesting, contentious barnburners of their own.
Of course, the downticket races are not in any way divorced from the activity at the presidential level. As the presidential fields have winnowed, party leaders are already starting to game out how well the would-be standard-bearers atop the ticket will enable -- or imperil -- the fortunes of those writhing down below.
That the GOP is faced with the prospect of a choice between Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz means that those running House and Senate campaigns have their work cut out for them. Yes, Trump would be a widely despised general election candidate, but Cruz would not be much better -- a problem Republican leaders have been forced to confront for many months.
But the recent Wisconsin primary brought Democrats face to face with some potential coattails problems of their own, after a massive victory for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) failed to produce a win for the Democrats' favored state Supreme Court candidate, JoAnne Kloppenburg. That result further fueled Clinton allies, who have painted Sanders as a candidate who is either unable or unwilling to help with party-building.
It all just goes to show that there's a lot more to this election cycle than a race to pick the putative leader of the free world. On this week's First To Last, we take a too-early look at some of the important downticket races, beginning with these eight important Senate contests.