President Obama returns to U.S. soil with more pressure to make a case he hasn’t quite made on Syria. We all know Putin’s a tough sell, but the dynamics in Congress aren’t much better — not with the way a request for military action against Syria divides both parties along jagged lines.
So we welcome the president back home, and back into a debate he needs to win. We welcome Hillary Rodham Clinton back to the stage. We watch as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t welcome Rand Paul to his home state. And we’re set to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the killing of four Americans at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, all while a use-of-force resolution lingers over a divided Congress.
Here’s a look at some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
HARD SELL – President Obama needs his second week of salesmanship on Syria to go a lot better than his first. His surprise announcement last weekend that he would seek congressional approval for a military strike sparked days of bipartisan backlash. The president comes home from the G-20 summit lacking new international partners for a military response, and lacking clear backing from the public or Congress. ABC News’ whip count of the House and Senate shows the president clearly lacking the support he needs for a resolution to pass Congress. The inside and outside games are connected: With an address to the nation Tuesday, the president will seek to make a case to the public he’ll need to win if he hopes to win over Capitol Hill. But he’s spotted his opponents a critical first few days. Members of Congress in both parties are lining up in opposition to the president in large part because of what they’re hearing back in their home districts. In that regard, based on anecdotal evidence, opposition to military action in Syria is stronger than the 59 percent of Americans who say they’re against it in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
HELLO, HILLARY – Circle this one on your calendar. Tuesday evening — yes, the same night President Obama will address the nation on Syria — Hillary Rodham Clinton will be at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia to deliver remarks on “the balance and transparency necessary in our national security policies.” It’s likely to be Clinton’s most closely watched speech since leaving her post as secretary of state. Even if Clinton steers clear of Syria — where she offered support for President Obama in a brief written statement this past week — these will mark Clinton’s most extensive comments on a major political issue this year, and possibly in several years. She’s already raised eyebrows by keeping a less-than-low-profile while presidential buzz follows her everywhere she goes. Her last policy-oriented public speech, on voting rights, was an easy political play for any Democrat. But addressing national security and privacy rights, in the wake of the NSA revelations, is anything but smooth political sailing, to say nothing of Syria’s crosscurrents. The timing alone — in the midst of the Syria debate, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, and just before the anniversary of the Benghazi attack — guarantees that Clinton will make news, even though she’ll surely remain mum on 2016 plans.
BLOOMBERG’S BALLOTS – Two very different elections, in two very different parts of the country, share a central figure: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s legacy is on the line in the race to replace him, with Bill de Blasio running as a liberal antidote to the Bloomberg vision of New York. He’s doing it so successfully that he may top 40 percent in the Democratic primary and avoid a runoff on Tuesday. (Tuesday will also almost certainly mark the end of the line for Anthony Weiner’s comeback bid, and will decide Eliot Spitzer’s fate in the city comptroller’s race.) Meanwhile, in Colorado, an unprecedented recall effort against two Democratic state senators — including the senate president — was inspired by the passage of new gun restrictions in the state. The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is calling it the “worse election you’ve never heard of.” The National Rifle Association and its allies are hoping to make a statement that will be heard in state houses and congressional districts across the country. If Bloomberg and his cash can’t save these lawmakers, good luck arguing that new gun restrictions equal good politics.
JERSEY BOYS – The GOP’s feud of the summer gets a visit — but not a meeting. On Friday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will be in Gov. Chris Christie’s home state of New Jersey, campaigning alongside Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan. Paul made a point of asking Christie to join them, knowing full well that Christie doesn’t want to be anywhere near the candidate who last made news by accusing his Democratic rival of “acting ambiguous” to secure support among gay voters. Christie declined the invitation, citing longstanding plans to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday: “In a choice between Mary Pat Christie and Rand Paul, it’s no choice for me,” he said. There’s a serious side to this clash of the titans: The fight began when Christie worried aloud that Paul’s brand of libertarianism in foreign policy was “dangerous,” and the Syria debate is highlighting that split inside the Republican Party. One Paul aide said that Christie will have ample opportunity to meet up with the Kentucky senator this fall, since Paul plans on being back in the Garden State to campaign more for Tea Party-favored Lonegan in his long-shot race against Democrat Cory Booker.
POT POLITICS – The national marijuana debate comes to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with the Senate Judiciary Committee examining the growing conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to pot policies. Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently announced that the Justice Department doesn’t plan to challenge new state laws that aim to legalize marijuana use, is sending James Cole, deputy attorney general, to testify. Twenty states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, and Colorado and Washington have gone quite a bit further, legalizing recreational use in small quantities. The committee’s chairman. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has made clear his intention is to respect state laws when it comes to enforcing federal drug policies, which still treat marijuana as an illegal drug.