It’s tough sledding out there – and that’s not even counting the scofflaw kids who took advantage of the fact that Capitol Hill has, well, a hill. Snow didn’t keep us from learning a whole lot about private email servers, though not much at all about what Hillary Clinton was emailing about. Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech that looked more like a State of the Union than a State of the Union, except with Sheldon Adelson – plus his wife’s purse – more loose than usual. And the only reason we know that is that everyone is watching “House of Cards,” except that Ben Carson might be watching “Orange is the New Black.”
As President Obama readies some legacy-building in Selma, and Jeb Bush hits Iowa for the first time, here’s a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team is tracking in the week ahead:
The story that’s rocked presidential politics in recent days will be harder to erase than a backup hard drive. It won’t go anywhere until Hillary Clinton or her aides explain why – and under whose authority – she declined a State Department e-mail account and chose to conduct all business on a private account, on a server located at her home. Clinton’s response to date has been limited to less than 140 characters. A series of public speeches in coming days – including an anticipated “No Ceilings” announcement in conjunction with the Gates Foundation – will give her more opportunities, though she’s not all that likely to take them. The State Department review of her e-mails will take months, and will only involve the messages her team has chosen to turn over. With subpoenas flying and lawyers spinning, it’s beginning to feel like the 1990s to a growing a number of anxious Democrats.
If you’re looking for an official kickoff for the retail phase of the presidential campaign, this may as well be it. Jeb Bush breaks the Iowa and New Hampshire seal in the week ahead, with his first visit to the kickoff caucus state this weekend, then stops in the first-in-the-nation primary state next Friday. He’s the last major GOP contender to hit the most critical early states. The Iowa visit includes an agricultural forum featuring most of his 2016 rivals, with some calories on top in the form of a visit to a Pizza Ranch in Cedar Rapids. Bush will get some early practice in facing the skepticism many conservatives harbor toward his possible candidacy. The political world will get a glimpse of the wonky, distinctively Jeb style of town-hall campaigning; in Nevada this past week, he made a point of taking questions and offering answers in both English and Spanish.
Sen. Robert Menendez has suddenly become the most interesting man in Washington. It’s hard to script, and harder to chart, the web of implications surrounding the senior senator from New Jersey. CNN’s late-week report that Attorney General Eric Holder has greenlighted charges against Menendez, in connection with a corruption investigation involving a political patron, has all eyes on both the senator and the Justice Department. Meanwhile, in his role as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has emerged as the Obama administration’s chief intra-party critic on two of its biggest foreign-policy initiatives: Cuba policy and Iran nuclear negotiations. Menendez backed the administration – for now – in holding up a vote on new Iran sanctions. Now, with Holder headed for the exits and Iran talks at a make-or-break moment, Menendez’s fate has implications far outside New Jersey.
|BOEHNER AND BLUSTER|
The federal government did shut down this past week – but blame the snow, not Congress. Almost lost in the flurry of news was the fact that House Speaker John Boehner went forward with a “clean” bill funding the Department of Homeland Security, despite howls of protest from the tea party and its favorites in Congress who wanted to roll back the president’s actions on immigration. That move prompted new cries for Boehner’s ouster, though few expect those to go any further than previous coup attempts. It did, however, highlight the fractious nature of even Boehner’s expanded majority. And he’ll have to cobble votes together again soon: The next debt ceiling deadline is March 15, meaning more brinksmanship is in the offing.
Hillary Clinton’s e-mail revelations hasn’t helped her standing with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which has long been skeptical of the near-coronation that the Democratic primary is looking like at the moment. The question will be whether that translates into support for, say, former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who conveniently has political events to fill the party’s void. It appears highly unlikely that Sen. Elizabeth Warren will change her mind and decide to run, but her supporters have found some other causes in the meantime. Liberal angst over the party establishment is playing out in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing a tough run-off challenge. And in Maryland, the so-called “Warren Wing” is hoping to draft Rep. Donna Edwards into the Senate seat that’s opening up in 2016.