Here’s a glimpse at some of the major stories your ABC News political unit will be tracking in the week ahead:
RACE AND THE PRESIDENCY – President Obama injected a fresh, vivid angle into the Trayvon Martin fallout with his raw and surprising appearance Friday, a highly personal address that sought to channel emotions being felt in the nation’s black communities. It was perhaps the most personal speech of his presidency, delivered without a script and delving more deeply into issues of race than this buttoned-down president is usually comfortable going. With weekend vigils in cities across the country, what this national “soul-searching” – not, according to the president, a “national conversation” – will look and sound like remains to be seen. But a highly politicized incident only becomes more so with the president’s vow to brainstorm federal policy reactions in response to Trayvon’s death. Already, Obama’s friend and former colleague, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has announced plans for congressional hearings on state-level “stand your ground” laws.
READY FOR LIZ? – Liz Cheney’s campaign for Senate in Wyoming got off to a rollicking start, with her claim that Sen. Mike Enzi must have been “confused” when he claimed she promised not to challenge him in a primary. The not-so-subtle dig at Enzi’s age comes as Cheney will have to show she can challenge a solidly conservative senator who wasn’t on anyone’s list of vulnerable lawmakers. The Republican establishment is largely lining up behind Enzi – even if that means being against a Cheney, at least for now. The question for Republican donors, and ultimately voters in Wyoming, is whether it’s worth taking a chance on a younger and more combative Cheney at the expense of the reliably conservative veteran. One wrinkle for next year: Wyoming law makes it easy for Democrats and independents to sign up as Republicans only for primary day, to vote, say, against a candidate whose last name they don’t like. And don’t look yet, but a tea party challenger is ready to line up and take on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky.
MIDEAST PEACE – Secretary of State John Kerry’s bid to restart long-stalled peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians bears some fruit with the resumption of talks in Washington next week. You could feel bad for the expectations greeting Kerry right now except he’s the one setting those expectations, with a few rounds of shuttle diplomacy in the region already under his belt. Kerry may be more optimistic than the players, but the fact that there’s a meeting at all is news, given the state of non-talks over the past year. US officials hope the change of scenery will be productive.
VIRGINIA IS FOR FIGHTERS – Saturday marked the first debate of the Virginia gubernatorial race, pitting former DNC chairman and Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who’s considered a conservative rising star. But all anyone really is talking about is the widening scandal around the current governor, Bob McDonnell, the subject of a reported federal probe involving unreported gifts from the CEO of a technology company. McDonnell, a onetime vice-presidential short-lister and possible 2016er, is vowing to soldier through his final six months in office. One political casualty, though, could be Cuccinelli, whose argument against McAuliffe as the consummate insider is undercut by the dominant story in Richmond – and Cuccinelli’s own ties to the company at the center of the McDonnell scandal, Star Scientific.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS – The congressional effort to have sexual misconduct complaints taken out of the military chain of command appeared dead after Democratic committee chairmen sided with military brass in saying the move would be unnecessary and potentially dangerous. But then tea party senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul lent their voices, and now all bets are off. Backers of the change, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are promising a showdown on the Senate floor. They’re prepared to make the case that the scourge of sexual assaults in the military makes the case that dramatic steps are in order. Having prominent Republicans, like the Iowa-visiting Paul and Cruz, on board makes the fight particularly intriguing.