Over the next two weeks, before Washington hits the road for a little holiday cheer, we'll be counting down the top 10 races that you need to know about heading into the New Year.
These races will include Senate, House and governor's contests that are important, telling, or just downright entertaining. The common thread? You'll definitely want to keep an eye on these going forward.
So, without further ado, we begin with No. 10...
(And a big thanks to PostTV's Victoria Lewis for her working on producing this video countdown.)
Here's the rundown, which will be updated as we go:
10. Illinois governor
He’s one of the most unpopular governors in America. His state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And he’s long been ripe for a primary challenge.
His name is Pat Quinn, and as of Tuesday afternoon, he had a clear path to the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has resigned from Congress amid mental health issues and a federal investigation into his political dealings.
Jackson submitted a letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in just the last few minutes, according to an aide in Boehner's office.
Jackson's office could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is going to have to answer questions about his unexplained absence from Congress. He just may not know it yet.
Jackson’s mysterious hiatus from the House (which his spokesman last week attributed to undefined “physical and emotional ailments”) is raising plenty of eyebrows these days, and both Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have now urged him to explain himself.
Jackson’s best course is to do just that as quickly as possible, tell the whole truth, and hope that it’s good enough to save what was once a bright political future — or at the very least, his congressional career.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s office says the Democratic Chicago congressman is struggling with “physical and emotional ailments” worse than previously known.
Jackson, 47, has been treated for what his office last week called ”exhaustion.” Now, his office says, things have deteriorated, though a statement declined to say specifically what was ailing Jackson, the son of the civil rights figure and former presidential candidate of the same name.
“Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time,” the statement reads. “At present, he is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility. According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter. We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period.”
Updated at 9:09 p.m.
Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) will not seek reelection this year, according to senior Republican aides.
Johnson has decided against pressing forward with a general election campaign despite winning his party’s nomination for another term last month. Because the primary is completed, county GOP chairman in the district will be tasked with picking a replacement.
Johnson’s district underwent major changes under a redistricting plan crafted by Illinois Democrats. His new swing district included many new constituents for Johnson, who is known for personally calling each resident as he seeks reelection.
All the talk about the lack of enthusiasm about Mitt Romney misses one key fact: Rick Santorum’s supporters may actually be just as lukewarm about their guy.
The last several Republican primaries have shown a subtle trend in the Republican presidential race, in which Santorum’s supporters say they are about as excited as Romney’s supporters — i.e. not very.
And it goes a long way to explain why Santorum hasn’t been able to catch fire, even as Newt Gingrich’s campaign has basically fallen off the map.
Updated at 12:05 a.m.
Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) beat longtime Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) in their primary Tuesday.
Kinzinger led 56 percent to 44 percent in the state’s newly drawn 16th district, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. AP has called the race in Kinzinger’s favor.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is expected to cruise to victory over Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in tonight’s Illinois Republican presidential primary.
But, how will you know if Romney is running at, above or below expectations? With 102(!) counties in Illinois, it’s tough to know where to look. That’s where we come in.
No state in 2012 will be more crucial to Democrats ability to re-take the House than Illinois.
Democrats have a great shot at picking up four seats from Republicans under a new redistricting map drawn by the Democratic legislature, but they will also have to defend the seat of retiring Rep. Jerry Costello (D). In all, as many as six Illinois congressional seats could be competitive come November.
But first come Tuesday’s primaries, which will put the pieces on the board. Our recap of what’s at stake is below:
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum spent several days in Puerto Rico over the past week but won only 8 percent of the vote and no delegates in Sunday’s primary, a result that suggests that his visit amounted to both a colossal waste of time and a considerable strategic mistake.
“Insurgencies live and die on momentum and I’m sure that drove their decision-making, but the failure to recognize the structural nature of the Puerto Rico primary indicates impulse decisions instead of cold-eyed analysis,” said Brad Todd, a Republican media consultant who is unaffiliated in the 2012 presidential contest.
If past is prologue, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney should win the Illinois presidential primary on Tuesday.
It’s not because he’s ahead — albeit narrowly — in most polling in the Prairie State. And, it’s not because he is a better ideological fit for the state than former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
There’s no relief in sight for Mitt Romney, with a new poll showing a tight race in the Illinois primary later this month.
The new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows Romney at 35 percent in the March 20 primary, but Rick Santorum is within the margin of error at 31 percent. Newt Gingrich follows in third place at 12 percent, while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is at 7 percent.
Congressional map-drawers in states across the country are struggling to maintain majority-black congressional districts as African Americans move out of urban areas. And now, it appears plausible that one of those new districts could be won by a non-black candidate.
Former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) is trying to do what few before her have accomplished: win a majority-black district as a non-black candidate. She faces an ethically wounded Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) in a primary in a district that has been stretched from the South Side of Chicago far out into the Cook County suburbs and Will County, which Halvorson represented for one term before losing in 2010.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) will not seek reelection in 2012, freeing up a district that Republicans may have a chance to win.
Costello’s office confirms that the 12-term congressman has decided not to seek a 13th full term.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve in the U.S. Congress for the past 23 years,” Costello said in a statement. “However, I said when I was elected in 1988 and many times since that I did not intend to stay in Congress forever as I had other interests that I wanted to pursue.”
Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh, who has emerged as perhaps the most high-profile tea party freshman in the House, will seek reelection in a new district that will likely pit him against another Republican in a primary.
Walsh announced the decision in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, opting for Illinois’ newly drawn 14th district over the 8th, which he currently represents. Under an aggressive Democratic redistricting plan, Walsh’s home was drawn into the more-Republican 14th with Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), but the Democratic-leaning 8th contains much of his current territory.