* Senator Carl Levin announced today that he won’t seek reelection next year, prompting this from Ross Douthat:

The kind of Republican who could win a Senate race in Michigan is exactly the kind of Republican the party needs — and doesn’t have.

* The statement on Levin from NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring:

“Over the last few months, the 2014 map has gone from sorta difficult to really tough for Senate Democrats. Politically, Senator Levin’s decision knocks a Democratic Senate already on defense far back on their heels and offers us a real pick up opportunity. Republicans can win in Michigan, as the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General have proven. That is why we’ve been speaking to local officials and grassroots organizations in preparation for Senator Levin’s potential retirement, and now that groundwork will start to pay off.”

Chuck Todd, for one, agrees that the seat is now “firmly in play.”

* Smart point from Steve Benen: Harry Reid said today that Rand Paul’s talking filibuster is a reminder that Senators should drop their perpetual, obstructionist abuse of the silent filibuster — but of course, Reid and Democrats could have made this happen.

* Speaking of which, John McCain really is deeply confused about the significance the Rand Paul show has for filibuster reform.

* Ezra Klein on the continuing refusal of Republicans to acknowledge what it is Obama has actually offered them in terms of a deficit compromise. As noted earlier, the White House outreach strategy is all about making this ignorance, feigned or otherwise, less and less sustainable.

* Buzzfeed has a terrific roundup of front pages around the country that show how the sequester cuts are playing in local media. Oddly, the story is playing quite differently than it is in the Beltway press.

* What impact will the sequester have? Dems are circulating this notice from the commissioner of Social Security:

As a result of sequestration, visitors in our field offices will wait significantly longer, and callers to our 800-number will wait almost 10 minutes for us to answer. We also estimate that pending levels of initial disability claims will rise by over 140,000, and, on average, applicants will have to wait about two weeks longer for a decision on an initial disability claim and nearly a month longer for a disability hearing decision.

The move to highlight this suggests Dems are betting that the sequester cuts will begin imposing specific hardships that will ultimately force the GOP back to the table.

* Good stuff from Ed Kilgore on how progressives need to reclaim the language of “entitlement reform” from conservatives, which is necessary if we’re going to have a real discussion over how best to maintain the safety net.

* Nate Silver asks tough questions about Justice John Roberts’ “dubious” use of statistics to cast Section Five of the Voting Rights Act as anachronistic, which is itself a sign that the conservative bloc may be leaning towards striking it down.

* Ian Millhiser on how Rand Paul’s filibuster also revealed his horrendous views on labor law, which in turn essentially showcases the ugly side of his libertarianism.

* And Joe Scarborough laughably compares Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” posture with Krugman’s position that we should defer slashing the deficit until the economy improves. Scarborough has to mischaracterize Krugman’s views in order to portray them as as marginal.

What else?