We never thought Scott Walker and Karl Rove would wish they worked at the IRS, but we do think they wish their old e-mails weren’t around anymore. We never thought Brian Schweitzer was a real threat to Hillary Clinton, but we did think he’d get to 2015 before making that obvious. We never thought Brett Favre would appear in a Senate ad, but we do think he knows something about being old in a chosen profession and pushing off retirement. We never thought Dick Cheney would be back defending the Iraq War -- check that -- yes, we did.
The bear has now said he doesn’t want to play whack-a-mole, though really it’s more about boots than mallets for President Obama. And we’re inspired by the Supreme Court – just like us, leaving the hard work for the last minute.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the storylines your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
Eric Cantor might be getting some company. Tuesday’s primary runoff in Mississippi could end the career of Sen. Thad Cochran, who’s held his seat since 1978. Chris McDaniel, a state senator and former radio talk show host making his debut on the national stage, has drawn tea party support and is favored to clinch the GOP Senate nomination after beating Cochran in the first round of voting. Brett Favre’s Chamber of Commerce-funded ad for Cochran, the same brand of pork that’s made Cochran’s name famous throughout his state could do him in, given the conservative base’s turn on all things related to the Washington establishment. The final flurry promises to be a circus, with everyone from John McCain to Chuck Woolery set to spend some time in the Magnolia State. And if Cochran goes down, expect Democrats to talk up the chances of their candidate, former Rep. Travis Childers, of picking up a critical Senate seat in the deep-red South.
Washington’s waiting game on President Obama’s Iraq response continues, with up to 300 don’t-call-them-combat troops set to be deployed, and Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the region. Back home, a coalition of liberals and conservatives is questioning the president’s ability to act without a go-ahead from Congress. More broadly, the Iraq crisis threatens to undermine the Obama worldview, and embolden his critics at a time of diminishing public support for his foreign policy decisions. (How else to explain the reemergence of the neocons, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his new venture?) Iraq has ramifications inside Republican politics, too, with Sen. Rand Paul’s brand of non-interventionism thrust into the spotlight.
The primary season hasn’t been kind to elder statesmen, and one of the biggest names in Congress – and surely the owner of one of the most familiar voices – is in danger of becoming the next victim. Rep. Charles Rangel, who has represented Harlem in Congress since 1971, has never faced a tougher challenge than in his primary fight against State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Rev. Michael Walrond. The New York Times endorsed Espaillat with a call for the 84-year-old Rangel to “yield to the next generation” after a swirl of ethics investigations that’s taken Rangel far from his peak of power as the first African-American chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Espaillant narrowly lost the primary in 2012 – and it’s worth remembering that Rangel won that election and the one before it, even after being censured by his colleagues for a series of ethical lapses involving improper fundraising and failure to pay taxes.
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It’s a battle of Republican rising stars, with familiar establishment-vs.-tea-party overtones. The battle for outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat in Oklahoma pits 46-year-old U.S. Rep. James Lankford against 36-year old state Rep. T.W. Shannon, a former speaker of the Oklahoma House. Lankford was part of the 2010 tea party class and has since ascended to House Republican leadership; Shannon is boasting the endorsement of the Cruz-plus-Palin team in making his case in one of the reddest states in the country. Shannon also happens to be black in a party that’s looking for non-white superstars. (“The Democrats accuse us of not embracing diversity?” Palin said at a campaign event for Shannon. “Oh, my goodness, he is — he’s it. He is the whole package.”)
There’s a new majority leader elected in the House, for all that that’s worth (and not worth). Rep. Kevin McCarthy will transition to the job Rep. Eric Cantor is vacating amid uncommon scrutiny. Some conservative groups are already blasting his ascension – he’s probably slightly to Cantor’s left – while liberal organizations are calling for him to call up immigration reform, immediately. That’s not going to happen, not with a rapidly shrinking legislative calendar and a Republican desire to not screw up what’s looking like a good election year for the party. Yet immigration in particular is forcing itself onto the national radar screen, with the flood of minors continuing via the U.S. border with Mexico.