Labor Day is almost here, which means the 2014 midterms are only slightly more than two months away. Unfortunately, political consultants have not found a way to make summer not precede fall, so it is likely that you and many of your fellow voters haven't paid much attention to politics or polls since the solstice.
Fortunately for you, many reporters and election aficionados have.
Here are a few of their recommendations; some are on specific races, some tackle the big picture, some are on the midterms, some are on American politics writ large, some are long, some short -- all are quite good.
As we get more responses, we'll add them to the list -- although there are already plenty to keep you busy for a weekend or two.
This is the best look yet at Cotton, who a year ago was considered the top GOP recruit for a Senate race, and now instead of blowing out Mark Pryor (D) -- the way journeyman congressman John Boozman did four years ago against incumbent Blanche Lincoln (D) -- Cotton is now locked in a close race. Written by his home-state press, this profile explains all the upside and downside of Cotton's candidacy in Arkansas.
Who is Charlie Crist? The answer is complicated -- The Tampa Bay Times
This character study of a politician who is both familiar and opaque was fascinating.
The New Racism: This is how the civil rights movement ends -- The New Republic
I'd recommend Jason Zengerle's recent cover story in The New Republic: "The New Racism: This is how the civil rights movement ends." In it, Jason details how a generation of African American lawmakers in the South feel as though they're watching the political progress they took years to build vanish practically overnight. It's a rich, historical narrative that describes a hugely important shift in American politics. And it's a compelling read.
Grand Old Problem -- Texas Monthly
We all think it's a safe bet that Republicans will win all the big races in Texas in November, again, but twenty years of success has made them erratic. My report from the state Republican convention.
The Overcomer -- Texas Monthly
If anyone is curious about the probable next governor, attorney general Greg Abbott, our editor-in-chief Brian Sweany had a chance to profile him before he stopped taking question.
If you want to get a sense of the common rhetoric among female candidates for office, The Onion deflty provides this snapshot. I'm still waiting for "Voters clamoring to know if male political candidate a father first" headline.
Edwin Edwards will live forever -- New York Magazine
Land's ties to family business rise to fore in Senate race -- The Detroit News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, who has poured $3 million of her own money into the race against Democrat Gary Peters, continues to be dogged by questions over her wealth and connections to a family real estate business. I wrote a long takeout on these connections in early July.
Mitch McConnell is headed down the stretch -- New York Times Magazine
My pick is Jonathan Martin's deep dive into the Kentucky Senate race — not just because it's a superb read but because it's about a Senate minority leader who's somehow facing a credible threat to his own seat in a cycle that strongly favors his party.
Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson -- Robert Caro
Though I am extremely late to actually reading it, the brief-by-Robert-Caro-standards history of the U.S. Senate in Master of the Senate, the third part of his biography of LBJ, is tremendously illuminating in context and contrast for this fall's elections. Even if you don't explore Caro's articulation of Johnson's mastery, the what-it-does-and-why introduction is enormously illuminating.
Meet the former high school dropout and gang member who wants to be lieutenant governor of Nevada. If she wins, she could undermine state Republican efforts to replace Senator Harry Reid, who represents the state and serves as majority leader of the Senate—thus keeping the Senate in Democratic hands.
Unlike previous midterm election years, no dominant theme has emerged for 2014 -- The Washington Post
This is an election about nothing — and everything. Unlike in previous midterm election years, no dominant national theme has emerged for the 2014 campaign, according to public opinion surveys as well as interviews last week with scores of voters in five key states and with dozens of politicians and party strategists.
Are bad pollsters copying good pollsters? -- FiveThirtyEight
Many nontraditional polls may be cheating, adjusting their results to resemble higher-quality polls. We can see this by looking at polling from the final three weeks of Senate campaigns since 2006: in races without traditional, live-interview surveys (what we’ll call gold-standard polling), nontraditional polls have had significantly higher errors than they’ve had in races with at least one gold-standard poll. Gold-standard surveys appear to be the LeBron Jameses of the polling world: They make everyone around them better.