It was a week for the “inexplicably stupid,” even before Gov. Chris Christie issued his own final judgment on the scandal that’s rocked his year. An Iowa Senate candidate insulted farmers, and a Kentucky Senate candidate (who happens to be the Senate Republican leader) used Duke basketball fans in a campaign ad during March Madness. If you squint, 6 million can look like 7 million. Frank Underwood is setting up shop for real in Maryland. Vladimir Putin may care that he’s destined to lose - eventually. Out there – somewhere, literally – is Planet Biden, more remote though maybe not harder to reach than Planet Hillary.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team is tracking in the week ahead:
March 31 has long been the date circled on the calendar – the enrollment deadline for those seeking to enroll in a health care plan under Obamacare this year. Monday is still the deadline, even with a new loophole that lets stragglers sign up late. The White House is rightly proud of reaching the 6 million mark – close to the early estimates of 7 million enrollees – but some fairly large asterisks are attached. It’s not yet clear how many of those signing up have actually paid premiums for coverage; how many were previously without insurance; and – critically – the breakdown between younger, healthier Americans and those with more-expensive-to-cover health conditions. How that information rolls out could be key to political judgments on success or failure of the still-new law.
|BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE|
The lawyers hired by Gov. Chris Christie have, thankfully for Christie, cleared him of wrongdoing in the bridge lane-closing scandal that’s implicated a small circle of former top aides and advisers. Christie is using the report as a chance to clear the decks. He’s headed to Las Vegas to kiss the important ring of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, in the so-called “Sheldon primary” for the kind of big bucks previously showered on Newt Gingrich. Big questions linger for Christie – not the least of which involve whether and when the former aides at the heart of the scandal decide to speak publicly. Christie has less control of the story from here, with state legislative and federal criminal probes outstanding. And his pronouncement of his own popularity in Iowa will be tested soon enough.
|BLACK, WHITE, AND GRAY|
DC voters go to the polls Tuesday in the Democratic primary for mayor – tantamount to the general election the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia. First-term Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking to overcome a late-breaking scandal involving an illegal shadow campaign slush fund – an investigation that led to the guilty plea of a friend and top fundraiser just three weeks before the election. Polls show a scattered primary coalescing as a two-person race between Gray and a city council member, Muriel Bowser. Gray is closing his campaign by focusing on his base in poorer and largely black neighborhoods, in a campaign that will speak to the complicated politics of race in a fast-changing city. The nation’s capital, of course, has had more than its share of colorful mayors. (Marion Barry himself, now a city councilor, issued a late endorsement of Gray, praising him as “a leader with a solid crack record.” Seriously, that happened.)
|CLINTONS AT HOME|
It’s called the “Women in the World” conference, and the gathering in New York City is the perfect forum for the message being carried by Hillary Rodham Clinton in her post-secretary-of-state days. Clinton will be featured on a panel discussion with Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund on Thursday. She’s part of a star-studded few days also featuring Meryl Streep, Diane von Furstenberg, Queen Rania of Jordan, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, and former President Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton won’t be there, but he is popping up on the campaign trail late in the week close to his home base: Clinton will be campaigning for House candidates in Arkansas Friday and Saturday, again traveling to territory that’s effectively off-limits for President Obama this year.
You know the drill, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra is in for it in Washington next week. Barra will appear at back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday hearings – one in front of a House committee, one at a Senate panel – to answer lawmakers about the recall of some 1.4 million vehicles that’s been linked to at least a dozen deaths. Then, on Thursday, GM is due to provide answers to the list of more than 100 questions federal regulators have for the company. The big questions revolve around what the company knew and when about the faulty ignition switches. Expect members of Congress to channel no small degree of public outrage.