Politics really is just high school with suits and ties.
Somebody told Dick Durbin that a Republican said bad stuff about the president – so the senator Facebooked about it. The nation's intelligence apparatus really, really wanted to know what Angela Merkel was talking about on her cell phone. A nuclear nonproliferation expert used social media to dish on White House aides– and lost his job over snarky Tweets.
The attorney general of Maryland popped up at a graduation party where shirtless teenagers were drinking out of red plastic cups, and he brought his smart phone along. The entire nation has been hitting refresh on a Website that's cool for being uncool. And suddenly everyone wanted to sit next to the geek in the room -- at least on board the Acela.
We're guarding our lockers, at least until the government shuts down again. Here's a look at some of the stories the ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
So many questions, so little time to fix the problems. The disastrous rollout of the Obamacare health exchanges continues to play out without any firm answers about what went wrong, how it's being fixed, when it will be fixed, or even how many people have successfully enrolled in health coverage. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius avoided having to testify before Congress in round one, but her turn comes next Wednesday, in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Her tone-deaf statement that those demanding her resignation "are people I don't work for" will surely come up, as will her department's refusal to answer detailed questions about how the health care exchanges are actually operating. Meanwhile, Democrats are beginning to break ranks and press the administration to delay enforcement of the individual mandate, joining Republicans who just a few weeks ago shut down the government (remember that?) over their Obamacare argument. We're now almost a month into the critical three-month rollout. The fact that the Website still isn't fully functional could shake the entire foundation of the president's signature law.
Could immigration reform live again? The end of the last fiscal crisis opens a window for legislative action that will end right around the next fiscal crisis. That leaves a few weeks, or maybe months, for possible action in the House of Representatives. President Obama is pushing for House leaders to take up the sweeping Senate-passed bill, including the controversial pathway to citizenship for those now in the country illegally. The House is more inclined to take a piecemeal approach, taking up items like enhanced border security and the so-called DREAM Act, though not the bigger provisions around broader legalization. But that's if they feel pressured to act at all this year; momentum is slipping, and more House Republicans say they'd rather wait until 2014, even though (or because?) the approaching elections will make compromise even more difficult. The business community and evangelical leaders are set to make a major lobbying push on House leaders next week – perhaps marking the last best chance to move something along.
There's just one full week left of campaigning in the race for governor in Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe is a consistent leader in polls. The race is drawing Democratic boldfaced names, led by former President Bill Clinton, who'll appear at nine – yes, nine –events alongside his longtime friend over the campaign's stretch. McAuliffe appears to be winning an ugly war, where he would beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli by essentially being the least unlikeable candidate in the race – something strategists on both sides concede privately. On the other side, Republican all-stars are pitching in for Cuccinelli, with Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Gov. Bobby Jindal all helping a trailing candidate who's nonetheless a conservative favorite. A GOP defeat would be a bitter pill for a party that's hoping to get traction after a rough year – and losing to an old Clinton pal wouldn't make it go down any easier.
For all the action in Virginia, things are pretty quiet in New Jersey, the only other state electing a governor this year. Gov. Chris Christie is cruising to a wide reelection in the Garden State, and he's doing it in large part by keeping his distance from fellow Republicans on the national stage. Christie has spent much of the campaign's stretch denouncing Washington and those who operate in it, and he recently dropped a legal challenge to gay marriage – another in a long line of splits with conservative orthodoxy for Christie. The anniversary of Hurricane Sandy gives Christie another chance to demonstrate leadership that's separate from the tarnished national GOP brand. As for Democrat Barbara Buono, she's losing in lonely fashion: Those prominent Democrats – including the Clintons – who eager to embrace a possible victory in Virginia are staying far from New Jersey in the race's closing days.
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The Supreme Court's June decision striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act has freed a range of Southern states to enforce laws on ballot access. That means strict voter identification laws are now in effect in states with 2013 races, and more such laws will come into play in 2014. The most intriguing test case is playing out in Texas, where many longtime voters – particularly women – are getting to early-voting sites for local races only to find their voter-registration names don't precisely match their photo IDs. A district court judge was among those who found herself unable to vote under normal procedures because she was registered under her maiden name, which didn't match the married name on her license. An estimated 1.4 million people in Texas alone – a total that skews poor, minority, female, and Democratic – could run into problems voting, and will have to fill out provisional ballots and follow up to make sure their votes are counted. The issue will only get bigger next year, with a raft of voter ID laws – generally pushed by Republicans – set to be enforced at polling locations.