In the past few weeks, the U.S. Senate races of 2014 have started to take shape. Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, announced that she would take on Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi in a Republican primary.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky got a challenger too, in businessman Matt Bevin. And Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has decided to run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.
What's going to get the most attention, appropriately, is whether Republicans can retake the Senate. (More on that in a bit.) But there are other questions at stake in the election, and we'll find out some answers as the races develop.
First, is President Obama's health-care law going to be a hit or a flop? And will Republicans finally offer an alternative?
Liberals think that as the law is put in place, people will appreciate their new benefits and support for it will rise. Conservatives think the start of the Affordable Care Act will be something between a disappointment and a disaster.
If they're right, the best bet for Democrats will be to change the subject to the Republicans' lack of a plan.
If red-state Democrats such as Pryor and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana start running away from the law - declaring their support for delaying some of its provisions, for example - we'll know conservatives are winning the argument.
Second, is there going to be a resurgence of hawks in the Republican Party? Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has pulled the party in his direction; it's more skeptical of foreign interventions and worried about civil liberties than it was during George W. Bush's presidency.
Cotton and Cheney are as youthful and energetic as Paul but on the other side of these debates - and they could start pulling the party back toward its Bush-era views.
Third, how do conservatives really feel about Republican leaders?
A vocal contingent of them considers McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the rest worthless sellouts who are at odds with grass-roots sentiment. This group is backing Bevin.
The Kentucky primary will give us a chance to see how many troops each side of this bitter intraparty feud really commands.
Fourth, have Republicans learned from the races they threw away in 2010 and 2012? They could have won several Senate seats had they nominated merely mediocre candidates rather than disastrous ones.
Rep. Paul Broun, who is running for the Senate in Georgia, has a habit of mentioning Obama in close proximity to words like "Hitler" and "Soviet," and he says that the Big Bang theory, embryology and evolution are "lies straight from the pit of hell."