It was the year of Rob Ford and Carlos Danger, of Glitch Girl and Pajama Boy, of a phony translator and an innocent Elvis impersonator, of a government shutdown and a Website overload. A teenager's Afro helped win a mayor's race in the nation's largest city, while San Diego's mayor was anything but classy. A 30-year-old government contractor and a 67-year-old duck hunter rocked national politics. A pair of very different Texans talked themselves to political fame, and an unlikely duo from New Jersey won the races they'd been waiting for.
Politics can only go up from here – only in part because 2014 is a midterm election year. Here's a glimpse at the storylines your ABC News political team will be tracking in 2014. And be sure to watch "This Week" Sunday to find out our 2013 Game Changers.
So 2013 wasn't really President Obama's year. But 2014 might get off to a slightly better start, thanks to the budgetary ceasefire that goes a long way to avoiding another government shutdown. The coming year will be critical in defining the president's legacy. His signature health-care law goes into effect; a stalled agenda that includes immigration reform, gun control, and tax restructuring will get what might be its last best chance; intelligence reforms will dominate the early part of the year; and hotspots including Iran, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq will all demand presidential attention. Oh, and the midterm congressional elections loom, with Republicans hoping to take back control of the Senate. If the president hopes his second term will be about more than protecting things he did in the first, it has to start in 2014.
The Republican establishment is poised to strike back – or so their hope goes. Sick of seeing tea party-powered candidates cost them congressional seats, high-powered GOP groups are already fighting it out in next year's races, playing aggressively inside of Republican primaries. The establishment's arguments got more ammunition after the politically disastrous government shutdown. If anything, though, tea party leaders say they're more energized about 2014 than previous cycles, and they have their eyes on Senate seats in states including Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. Tea party successes in 2010 and 2012 often came with a big price for Republicans, which is why big names like Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, and the US Chamber of Commerce say they won't stand by while primaries sort themselves out.
The Republican star of 2013 was Gov. Chris Christie, who ran up huge margins in a reelection bid that positions him well for 2016. That same formula figures to make 2014 a big year for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who joins Ohio's John Kasich and New Mexico's Susana Martinez as potential national candidates facing reelection next year. Walker brought an aggressive budget-cutting agenda to his first term, moves that drew him a rare recall challenge. But he survived – and if he wins reelection next fall, that would mark the third time inside of four years that he won a gubernatorial race in purplish-blue Wisconsin. Walker's unassuming manner could leave him standing as a milder version of Christie, in a political environment where outsiders are prized.
The year closes with a lump of coal for some of the less fortunate Americans. Long-term unemployment benefits are getting cut off, and the first batch of food-stamp cuts could be followed by another round early in 2014. Between a new pope talking about income inequality, the dregs of an "occupy" movement that showed signs of taking Democrats leftward, and a presidential vow to fight for a higher minimum wage, questions about fairness and economic justice will stay close to the political foreground throughout the year. It's a potential weapon for Democrats against Republicans – though as Hillary Clinton enters a decision-making year, there's room on her left still, too.
No, not the duck variety … New faces with familiar names are looking to make a splash. Among those making their first bids for statewide office next year are the grandsons of two former presidents (George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter), and the daughter of a former vice president (Dick Cheney). Plus, Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law is looking to reclaim a House seat in Pennsylvania, while Chelsea's parents battle to keep a Senate seat in Arkansas in the hands of a longtime ally's son. The races will test the legacies of some of the most prominent political dynasties of the past several decades. And in the case of at least the Clintons and the Bushes, the verdicts could have some bearing on 2016 and beyond.