Hillary gets an early 2016 endorsement from Claire McCaskill  and political dynasties rise in Illinois

New Jersey's U.S. Senate race is generating a lot of chatter about the star-studded field of Democratic candidates, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

On the Republican side, though, there are no big names and very little excitement, despite the GOP's initial hopes of competing in October's special election for the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg on June 3.

The GOP's top candidate so far, political consultant Steve Lonegan, is virtually unknown to voters despite having run for office before. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed that 62 percent of voters didn't know enough about Lonegan to have an opinion of him.

Still, Lonegan did run unsuccessfully in two previous GOP gubernatorial races, which at least had the benefit of giving him greater name recognition than his primary opponent, Alieta Eck, a physician who has never run for office.

So are Republicans simply giving up on the seat?

"I'm not sure it's so much a white flag as the reality of New Jersey politics," said Reed Galen, a GOP strategist and former deputy campaign manager for Sen. John McCain's presidential run.

"New Jersey is probably the bluest state in the nation," he said. "The bench for Republicans is not very deep and running against the likes of a popular and charismatic Democrat like Cory Booker is like climbing Mt. Everest in board shorts."

May the best Illinois political dynasty win

The Illinois governor's race suddenly got interesting with the likely entry of Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff whose father and brother ran Chicago for decades.

Daley announced that he's exploring a challenge to Gov. Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat, in the 2014 party primary. And Daley the candidate lost no time bare-knuckling the sitting governor for lack of leadership in solving the state's pension woes, the worst in the nation.

But the politics of the race will make it one of the most interesting in the country next year.

Daley became chief of staff to President Obama, another Illinois politician, when Rahm Emanuel left the White House to run, successfully, for mayor of Chicago.

Though Daley has remained in the background of national politics, he shares political instincts with his legendary father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, and his brother, Richard M. Daley, who together ruled Chicago for 43 years.

But Daley may not be the only scion of an Illinois political dynasty joining the race.

Also considering a run is Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, has been around almost as long as the Daleys and rules virtually all political turf outside Chicago.

It's not a good sign for the incumbent Quinn, who's saddled with basement-level approval ratings, though it certainly will raise the profile of the race.

McCaskill endorses Hillary Clinton for 2016

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though Clinton hasn't actually said she's running.

McCaskill, who backed then-Sen. Barack Obama over Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, this week joined an effort by the Super PAC Ready for Hillary to draft the former first lady and secretary of state for another run. "Hillary Clinton had to give up her political operation while she was making us proud, representing us around the world as an incredible secretary of state, and that's why Ready for Hillary is so critical," McCaskill said. "It's important that we start early, building a grassroots army from the ground up, and effectively using the tools of the Internet ... so that if Hillary does decide to run, we'll be ready to help her win."