It was a good week for Chris Christie, a bad week for the tea party, and a great week for people who think it's not too early to think about 2016. Crist is rising in Florida, a Carter is running in Georgia, and we're pretty sure crack-smoking mayors now count as an American export. Meanwhile, President Obama is sorry – and he'll feel some other sentiments soon, with new clashes on the horizon in Congress. Here's a glimpse of some of what your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
We didn't need Time magazine to tell us that Chris Christie is a large human being. His sweeping reelection victory makes him even bigger – while also enlarging the target on his back when it comes to efforts to define the GOP. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were among those offering the observation that what he did in New Jersey isn't necessarily transferable to other states. And Sen. Rand Paul may be offering the sharpest critique: He's calling Christie a "moderate." Those are fighting words in today's Republican Party, and Christie has seldom been known to back down from a fight. How he uses his expanded national platform will be key in understanding the vision for Republicans that he's seeking to take beyond the Garden State. Christie starts with some Sunday-morning rounds this weekend, including a live, in-studio interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
A major marking point in the Obamacare rollout comes next week, with the first release of enrollment data from the first month that the new health care exchanges have been live online. Actually, that whole online part has been the problem. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said to expect a "very low" number, owing to a "miserable" and "excruciatingly awful" Website rollout. But enough happy spin: These numbers, and the breakdown between younger and healthier Americans, and older and sicker ones, will be the first indications as to whether the new health care law is actually working, glitches and all. Start your betting pools, and forget about the 500,000 the administration once thought would enroll by the end of October. Will the total number of enrollees be able to fit in a baseball stadium? Will it match the average attendance at a Miami Marlins game this year? (19,584)
Democrats are getting nervous about the botched health care rollout, and the presidential apology didn't make things better on that front. It's a "crisis of confidence," in the words of one red-state Democrat who's up for reelection next year. That crisis starts to have legislative consequences next week, as the House plans to vote on new efforts to roll back parts of Obamacare. Yes, House leaders vote to do that just about every week. But votes to guarantee that you can keep your old health insurance will be more painful than normal for Democrats to oppose, given the context. And bipartisan bills delaying the individual mandate and insurance cancellations are starting to pop up. As the Obama administration admits that it's still learning about new Website problems, even while racing the clock to fix the initial ones, the real deadlines might be imposed by the president's allies on Capitol Hill.
Negotiators are nearing a breakthrough agreement with Iran that would trade sanctions relief for commitments to cease development of nuclear weapons. The only thing standing in the way might be … the US Congress. The Israelis are upset, and so are leading lawmakers in both parties, who are aghast that the Obama administration would consider lifting sanctions in any manner, so long as Iran is engaged in any nuclear activities. A congressional push to strip the administration of flexibility on sanctions represents a major challenge to a White House that's often struggled to find footing on foreign policy. At stake is progress on perhaps the biggest national-security priority the Obama administration is pursuing at the moment; a congressional rebuke would be a huge blow.
|CHAIN OF COMMAND|
There is exactly one issue in the history of civilization of which you can say the following: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul are one side, while Senators Claire McCaskill, Carl Levin, and Lindsey Graham are on the other. That issue would be reforming the way that sexual assault allegations and other serious crimes are prosecuted inside the military. Gillibrand is pushing an effort to take such cases outside the chain of command, while McCaskill and her allies are intent on reforms that keep superior officers in charge of pursuing justice. Wrenching, even appalling stories are at the heart of the debate, which will play out before Thanksgiving in the Senate. Gillibrand and company face a tough road to getting 60 Senate votes, and aspects of both sides' cases were boosted by new Pentagon statistics this week that found a spike in the number of sexual assaults reported in the military this year. Does that mean the problems are getting worse, or that the ability to have incidents investigated is getting better?