The tea party is five now, and there’s no more naps in Kindergarten. So it’s a good thing everyone’s awake now, just in time for the first primaries of 2014. Meanwhile, rumblings of a Republican Senate takeover are coming from Colorado, and have nothing to do with the munchies. In Arizona, money still talks, especially when it yells. In New Jersey, a governor says he’s on his back nine, but a bunch of folks want to play through anyway. And we’re pretty sure it’s bad karma to joke about rabbis and traffic jams the week that AIPAC comes to town.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
The 2014 election season officially arrives next week, with the first primaries of the year taking place Tuesday, in Texas. That would be the nation’s most populous red state, and a state where tea party tendencies were firmly established with the election of Sen. Ted Cruz two years ago. Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, has a tea party challenger in Rep. Steve Stockman. Few give Stockman a serious chance against the established Cornyn, who has cozied up to Cruz in preparation for this race. More intriguing, perhaps, is the challenge in the Dallas area being posed to Rep. Pete Sessions, who’s emerged as a target for conservatives nationwide who are frustrated with House GOP leadership. He’s running against Katrina Pierson, a 37-year-old African-American woman who boasts the endorsement of Sarah Palin and a range of tea party groups. In northeast Texas, meanwhile, the oldest member of Congress, 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, is facing off against five fellow Republicans in the primary.
|IN ONE PLACE|
Get a load of this lineup: Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson – plus Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. They’re just a few of the speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which starts Thursday just outside Washington. There’s a good bet that the next Republican presidential candidate will be in the room – and a better bet that conservatives make some headlines out of what they’re saying about the president, and each other. Most of the GOP will be in one colorful place for a few days, though only physically. With tea party challenges percolating – and in the aftermath of a GOP governor’s veto of the Arizona bill that was pushed by social conservatives – voices on the right will struggle to find a soothing chorus.
|CHRISTIE MAKES NICE|
Perhaps no speech at CPAC will be as closely watched as the New Jersey governor’s. Christie, pointedly, wasn’t invited to the confab last year, an apparent snub that came as conservatives seethed over his embrace of President Obama’s leadership in Sandy’s aftermath. Christie, who was up for reelection in blue New Jersey in 2013, didn’t much need national conservatives anyway. That’s all different this year. Christie will take the stage amid a still-swirling scandal that’s seen his stock, both in his home state and beyond, drop fast. The governor said this past week that he’s on his “back nine.” If he wants to play another round, it needs to start in front of crowds like this.
President Obama is getting back in the Middle East game. After disappointments in his first term, the president was happy to let Secretary of State John Kerry take the lead on most matters Israeli-Palestinian over the past year. But on Monday, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House, the president plans to signal a more aggressive involvement going forward. Later this month, Obama will host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a similar meeting in Washington. The presidential re-assertion comes as rhetorical pressure will build via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington, where Netanyahu and a host of American politicians speak starting Sunday.
President Obama delivers his annual budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday, with perhaps more of a thud (or is it less of one?) than usual. That’s because the president’s budget has about as much chance of becoming law as a Seth Rogen movie does of sweeping the Oscars. (It’s not just Washington that sees Ben Affleck as the bigger star…) The president’s budget will serve as a campaign blueprint of sorts – a chance to codify Democrats’ pitch for ending tax loopholes for the wealthy, and boosting the middle class. The president is dropping controversial measures to trim entitlement benefits, proposals that were meant as carrots to entice Republicans who won’t eat vegetables if this president is serving them, of course.