We were just about to place some bets on politics when Republicans decided to pull their chips back from Vegas. Mitch McConnell loves the women in his life, except of course for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat he will now face in the general election for the Senate seat in Kentucky. The Veterans Affairs scandal is reaching a crescendo, a battle of billionaires is shaping up over environmental regulations, and all eyes turn to Mississippi for the next tea party vs. establishment GOP contest.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the stories your ABC News political team will be covering in the week ahead:
|POINTING THE WAY|
President Obama is scheduled to use a speech to graduating cadets at West Point on Wednesday to reframe his foreign-policy vision, at a time that fresh flare-ups and a domestic scandal involving veterans’ health care are clouding his approach. The White House has been pointing to the speech for weeks as a chance for the president to lay out his approach to crises in Syria and Ukraine, to name just two hot spots that have occupied much of his time. The challenges are broader, though, with the president’s drone policy and NSA surveillance programs getting fresh scrutiny from Congress and the public.
The still-widening Veterans Affairs scandal will draw new headlines through the Memorial Day week, as the scope of internal and external investigations broadens. President Obama has set a deadline of the end of the week for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s own report to the allegations of excessive and possibly deadly wait times for veterans. A growing number of Republicans -- joined by Democratic candidates for office, and a growing number of current members of Congress -- want Shinseki gone even before then. The president will be pressed to follow up his anger with action, in the rare Washington dysfunction story where the White House can’t blame Congress.
|RED, BLUE, GREEN|
Get ready for environmental issues to start taking a piece of the political spotlight. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s announcement of the seven races he plans to spend $100 million supporting Democrats in is already drawing return fire from the Republicans. The Koch brothers still have some checks left to write, and are playing on a much broader field than Steyer’s group. The Kochs, unlike Steyer, are spending money in the races that will actually determine control of the Senate. And a bigger story is coming soon: The Obama administration is set to announce new EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants in the next 10 days. That’s poised to join or even eclipse the Keystone Pipeline as a major energy issue Democrats will wrestle with this year.
Next on your primary docket are runoff elections Tuesday in Texas. In the Dallas area, the oldest House member ever is seeking to avoid becoming the first incumbent to lose a primary race in 2014. Republican Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, is in a tight race against tea party favorite John Ratliffe, a former prosecutor who has made mention of Hall’s age in trying to replace him. If Hall loses, there will be no World War II veterans serving in the next Congress; the only other veteran of that war still serving, Rep. John Dingell, is retiring. The other notable contest Tuesday pits Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst –- who won national notice with a do-you-know-who-I-am routine with a local police dispatcher last year –- against fellow Republican Dan Patrick. The race for the No. 2 slot in Austin has taken a turn toward the nasty, with Patrick’s mental health records leaking out in the campaign’s closing days.
After tea party defeats in Kentucky, Georgia and Idaho, all eyes turn next to Mississippi for what might be the last best chance for a breakthrough for the movement. We’ll see if it can get any weirder in the home stretch of the June 3 Senate Republican primary. Several individuals have been arrested in connection with a scheme to break into a medical facility to tape Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife, who is bedridden and suffering from dementia. The apparent dirty tricksters have ties to local tea party groups, and are supporting Cochran’s primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran is playing up those connections, prompting McDaniel to say his campaign is “cast[ing] aspersion on my honor and integrity.” Here’s hoping this one is settled without a duel.