Even though there's no presidential race until 2016, the new year will see some major political stories unfold.
Every seat in the Minnesota House is on the ballot in 2014, along with the governor's office and the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Al Franken, who won the 2008 election by just 312 votes after a lengthy recount and legal battle. DFL Governor Mark Dayton won in 2010 by a narrow margin as well -- fewer than 9,000 votes.
Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says Minnesota Democrats typically do worse in non-presidential election years.
"Turnout goes down by 10 to 15 points, and Republicans have done well in that environment," he said.
But Schier says this year's election will also be a challenge for Republicans. Primaries could be bruising because so many candidates hope to run against Franken and Dayton. Schier also says Republicans are struggling to bring together competing factions.
"On one side you have the libertarian, the liberty Republicans and the tea party Republicans who are emphatic conservatives," he said. "Then you have the more main stream center-right business interests who are fighting for control of the party."
A key test of GOP unity will come in mid February at precinct caucuses in the 2nd District. Longtime Republican Congressman John Kline is facing an endorsement challenge from tea party favorite David Gerson, who's upset with Kline for supporting debt ceiling increases and government surveillance programs.