The 2014 midterm elections will mark the last electoral judgments that will shape the Obama era -- a chance, perhaps, to untangle the complicated strands of a divided country.
They will provide a valuable snapshot of a changing nation. They won't settle the age-old arguments of American politics -- though they just might shake new life into a paralyzed system.
With a colorful and ambitious cast of candidates, they offer a wild ride of colliding ambitions, with doses of political legacies, a distinct taste of tea partiers, and control of the national agenda on the line.
ABC News' "14 for 14" project is documenting the races that matter between now and November. It is a dynamic list of the campaigns -- 14 at any given time -- that individually and collectively provide the big picture of where the country stands, and where we are headed.
The stakes are as clear as they are stark: In 2014, Republicans will make a serious bid to take over the Senate, while Democrats hold out bleak hopes of flipping a stubborn House. President Obama may wind up with far more change than he bargained for, unless he can recapture some elusive campaign magic.
All 435 House seats will be filled this year. So will 36 Senate slots, with an equal number of governors slated to be elected.
But the 500-plus big races are fascinating in their smallest details, for the personalities and issues that animate individual elections more than the ultimate scoreboard results.
There will be new faces, old faces, and familiar names. The grandsons of two former presidents -- a Bush in Texas, and a Carter in Georgia -- are making bids to continue family legacies into a new generation.
A Clinton-in-law will be trying to recapture a seat she famously lost two decades ago. Bill and Hillary Clinton will try to save an old family friend back in Arkansas -- and keep the Senate in Democratic hands in the process.
There will be fresh candidates and ancient grudges. In Texas, a mom whose pink tennis shoes carried her to national prominence will take on a conservative stalwart who's been paralyzed from the waist down since he was in his 20s.
In Florida, a former governor wants his old job back, having taken a unique path through a political wilderness to potential political redemption.
|Republicans want to take the Senate, Democrats hope to flip the House.|
The powerful Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, faces generational and ideological challenges from two directions in Kentucky. He's got a tea partier on his right, and a 35-year-old female statewide office-holder on his left.
In Arkansas, Clinton friend Sen. Mark Pryor is perhaps the most endangered incumbent in the country, in part because of who's running against him. Rep. Tom Cotton brings a resume out of dream casting for conservatives, and with him rides Republican hopes of winning the six seats that will determine Senate control.
Presidential ambitions are in play as well -- and not just Hillary Clinton's. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hopes to make history with a third statewide win inside of four years, after already becoming the first governor ever to make it through a recall bid.
If Democrats hope to have a shot at retaking control of the House, they'll have to beat GOP incumbents who occupy seats like one in Colorado -- a district that's about as evenly drawn as they come, in a state engaged in the vast social experiment of legalized pot.