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At the Races: 2018 Starts in PA-18
Our weekly newsletter on the latest in House and Senate races

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Subscribe here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget BowmanThis week … Trump is wading into another special election, Democrats went after one of their own and Tim Pawlenty said “no thanks” to a Senate run.

Opinion: Welcome to S-Town
Congress should try fixing problems instead of creating them

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones won an election against an accused pedophile, only to find himself in the midst of Washington’s craziness, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

You have to wonder what’s going through newly elected Sen. Doug Jones’ mind as he experiences his second full week in the Senate. Can you imagine winning an election against an accused pedophile, only to arrive in the one square mile of America that is crazier than the circumstances that brought you here?

What about Sen. Tina Smith, who replaced Al Franken after he voluntarily resigned for sexual harassment he said he mostly never committed?  Congress made even less sense on Tuesday, when the prevailing debate among senators was not about Korea or nuclear war or the economy or education, but over whether President Donald Trump had called Haiti and all of Africa a “shithole” or a “shithouse” in a meeting with senators last week.

Opinion: Forgetting What It Means to Be an American
Selective memory of president and supporters imperils the country

What President Donald Trump and his supporters choose to remember is selective and troubling, Curtis writes. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The 2004 romantic comedy “50 First Dates” offered a novel, though somewhat implausible, premise — and I don’t mean that Drew Barrymore would find Adam Sandler irresistible. The heroine of the tale, afflicted with short-term memory loss, woke up each morning with a clean slate, thinking it was the same day, with no recollection of anything that happened the day before.

Who knew the president of the United States, most members of a political party and White House staff would suffer from the same condition?

The ‘Emotional Space’ Inside High-Stakes Diplomacy
Looking back at Obama, looking square at Trump

Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama take time for reflecting in the new documentary “The Final Year.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Welcome back to Political Theater, Roll Call’s newsletter and podcast on the spectacle of politics and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the nation’s culture. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here

The civil war in Syria. Boko Haram. Russia. Climate change. American foreign policy operates in a high-stakes environment in a very public glare. And in 2016, in the midst of a contentious election year, President Barack Obama oversaw a team of players trying to solidify a legacy in his last year in office. Documentary filmmaker Greg Barker went along for the ride, from the cramped quarters of the West Wing to an emotional speech at Hiroshima, Japan for his new film, “The Final Year.”

Opinion: White People in Norway? Who Knew?
Kirstjen Nielsen displays the rhetorical contortions necessary to serve under Trump

Kirstjen Nielsen might want to stay away from categories on Norway or basic geography if she ever appears on “Jeopardy” — especially if the answer is, “What’s a Scandinavian country with lots of white people?” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the conclusion of more than four hours of testimony Tuesday before an often hostile Senate Judiciary Committee, Kirstjen Nielsen, the new secretary of Homeland Security, slowly gathered up her papers, shared a few laughing words with Arizona Republican Jeff Flake (the last senator in the room) and confidently exited surrounded by an armada of aides.

Depending on her level of self-awareness and the degree of flattery from her staffers, Nielsen may have nurtured the belief that she aced her Capitol Hill exam. After all, the loyal Cabinet secretary avoided saying almost anything controversial, even when pressed by Democrats over Donald Trump’s doubly confirmed reference to “shithole countries” during last Thursday’s White House immigration meeting that she attended.

Opinion: Groundhog Day in America
Sensationalism, not substance, drives the daily conversation

Washington politics feels a lot like waking up to “Groundhog Day” every morning, Winston writes. (Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

When it comes to Washington politics, it feels a lot like we’re all living in the comedy “Groundhog Day,” where every day starts the same way, over and over and over again. In the movie, Bill Murray wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. as the clock radio blares Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”

America wakes up every day to the diatribe du jour from morning show anchors Mika and Joe, Chris and Alisyn, and from the “Friends” in the opposition. Soon after, the president sends out his first tweet of the day. Cable explodes, shrieking, “This time, it’s really Armageddon.”

Opinion: Civil Liberties and Odd-Duck Congressional Coalitions
FISA debate a throwback to more bipartisan times

While the FISA bill amendment by Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Justin Amash of Michigan failed, it attracted bipartisan support from 58 Republicans and 125 Democrats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photos)

For two hours last Thursday, the House held a debate that harked back to the heyday of Sonny and Cher and Butch and the Sundance Kid. Instead of lockstep polarization on Capitol Hill, throwback Thursday marked a brief return to the era when legislative coalitions crossed party lines.

The topic before the House was the intersection of civil liberties and national security — about the only issue that can still upend standard red-and-blue divisions.

At the Races: Senate Challengers — One In, One Out
Our weekly newsletter with the latest on House and Senate races

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Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. We want to hear what you think. Email attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings and sign up for the newsletter here. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

Opinion: The Women Who Could Take Back the House for Democrats
Trump presidency a catalyst for action

Pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran is vying to replace Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who is not seeking re-election. (Courtesy Dr. Tran for Congress)

In a typical election cycle, EMILY’S List hears from 900 or so women who are interested in running for political office. As of this week, less than a year after President Donald Trump took office, more than 25,000 women have reached out to the group, whose goal is to help elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.

That unprecedented number tracks with what I’ve seen covering special elections for the House and Senate in 2017. Particularly in Alabama and Georgia, I kept seeing female voters showing up in huge numbers to work for Democratic candidates, even when the women themselves weren’t Democrats, or had never been particularly political at all.

Opinion: With a Potemkin President, Maybe It’s Time for Congressional Government
With Trump, the less he does the better

A strong case can be made that the less President Donald Trump does, the better off Americans are, Shapiro writes. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

In 1885, an up-and-coming Ph.D. student named Woodrow Wilson wrote the book that would establish his academic reputation. Entitled “Congressional Government,” Wilson’s conclusions reflected “the declining prestige of the presidential office” in the decades following the death of Abraham Lincoln.

“That high office has fallen from its first estate of dignity because its power has waned,” Wilson wrote in his introduction. “And its power has waned because the power of Congress has become predominant.”