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5 Political Stories You'll Care About This Week
PHOTO: Former US President Bill Clinton speaks, Feb. 21, 2013 during the inauguration ceremony for the first phase of the Eko Atlantic real estate project, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Sen. Thad Cochran has now met the tea party. Mayor Bill de Blasio has met New York City traffic laws. Democrats have met their version of the Koch brothers. Edwin Edwards has met another job he wants. And Ted Nugent is still getting to meet Texas Republicans.

We’ll see some old faces and new names on the trail soon. Here’s a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:

1. BIG DOG, BIG TRAIL

The 2014 campaign trail is heating up, with the marquis race of the year getting some serious star power. Former President Bill Clinton starts his midterm campaigning by taking on the Democrats’ No. 1 enemy: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. (Actually, McConnell is the tea party’s No. 1 enemy this year as well, and the primary comes long before the general election…) Clinton is rewarding the daughter of a longtime friend and supporter in campaigning for Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose campaign can use the boost of credibility that will come with Tuesday’s visit by the former president. The campaign stop comes as Clinton-era scandals get fresh airing courtesy of Kentucky’s other senator, Rand Paul, who’s reminding voters of the Monica Lewinsky affair as he gears up for a possible 2016 candidacy.

2. WHACKS AT WALKER

Line up Scott Walker -- you’re next. The Wisconsin governor is getting a taste of the medicine received most recently by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with Democrats swarming to connect a complicated local scandal to a national Republican rising star. In Walker’s case, the allegations and accompanying document dump are related to a four-year-old case involving aides in his county executive office, several of whom were convicted of illegally coordinating official and campaign business. No smoking guns have Walker’s fingerprints on them, and he’s dismissing the stories as old news. Walker’s national fate is tied to his reelection bid this year, and Christie’s recent experiences have Walker’s opponents fired up, with Walker getting a national spotlight he hasn’t since his successful attempt to beat back a recall attempt.

3. RUSSIA RESET

The Sochi Olympics are winding down, but Washington’s focus on Russia is just getting started. With the crisis in Ukraine, President Obama declared that he’s determined “not to see this as some Cold War chessboard in which we are in competition with Russia.” Yet that’s exactly what it’s become – unless your game of choice is “Risk.” Russia’s influence looms over every action the Obama administration takes with regard to Ukraine, with the president drawing another red line he may not want to keep in permanent ink. And Russia’s actions have huge implications on Syria, Iran, and the broader Middle East, with President Vladimir Putin holding the potential to frustrate Obama at virtually every turn.

4. OUTSIDE AGITATION

2014 is shaping up as the year of outside spending, and chips are being purchased early. We now have a major left-leaning entry in the field, with billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer hoping to be the liberal version of the Koch brothers as he elevates climate change inside midterm congressional elections. The coming weeks bring the first major House election of the year – for a vacant seat in a battleground district in Florida – plus the start of GOP primary season. That means tempting opportunities for big-dollar Super PACs to flex some early muscle.

5. TAXING TIMES

Don’t hold your breath on this one, but tax reform gets its last best shot of 2014 next week. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., is promising to unveil a long-awaited (in fiscal-policy circles) framework for tax reform, the product of months’ worth of occasionally bipartisan hearings and discussions. Camp’s colleagues aren’t even on board for him pushing these concepts, not in the do-no-harm political climate that’s dominating Republican thinking on Capitol Hill at the moment. Plus, early indications about President Obama’s budget proposal – notably, a refusal to include Social Security reforms he’s previously hoped Republicans would embrace – suggest that the White House no longer considers grand bargains worth pursuing. Camp’s move will revive discussions about what if anything major can get done in 2014 in Congress, with the smart money on not much at all.

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