While (fake) President Bachmann mourns the demise of the Iowa straw poll, and (real) President Obama threatens to race guys in giant mascot suits, here are some of the stories the ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
Believe it or not, Jeb Bush is not a formal candidate for president of the United States. You might be mistaken for thinking that he is, given that he's already managed to surrender national front-running status and have his first campaign shake-up. The former Florida governor is scheduled to make it official in his hometown of Miami on Monday, fresh off of a European trip where he managed to talk about his father (who's popular) far more than his brother (not so much). The GOP field is bigger and less predictable than the Bush family and its allies had hoped. Yet the would-be 45 has a chance to reset expectations, if not realities, with a busy first week of announcements and travel.
A "major announcement by Donald J. Trump" is scheduled for Tuesday in Manhattan -- at Trump Tower, of course. Unless he's found the president's birth certificate, or he's fooled everyone into hyping another season of "The Apprentice," Trump is going to be announcing his presidential candidacy. Really, this time -- maybe. Trump is developing into a multi-layered problem for the Republican Party -- not because he's a major threat to win the nomination, and not only because he will say and do things that will detract from more plausible candidates. The GOP's problem is that Trump continues to crack the top 10 in major national polling, by dint of celebrity if nothing else. That means he's in a strong position to earn an invitation to the first round of Republican debates this summer, potentially edging out a governor or a senator in the process.
The fate of President Obama's biggest economic agenda item of his second term hangs in the balance after a chaotic few days in Congress, capped by the stunning decision of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to oppose the administration's trade bills. Even if a key defeat gets turned around, it will be after progressives engaged in open warfare with the White House and its pro-business allies. It all carries major significance for 2016: Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is entering a "phase two" of bigger public events, has managed to not have a firm position on the trade bills. Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley are among those saying that's not acceptable, and Elizabeth Warren is stepping up her public game, too. The issue hasn't divided liberals so much as it's separated liberals from a swath of the establishment. All of that is to say, there's no good answer for the Clinton campaign on this one.
Speaking of no good answers, Benghazi will grab a fresh round of headlines on Tuesday. Sidney Blumenthal will be giving closed-door testimony to the special House committee investigating the 2012 killings of four Americans in Libya. Yes, Blumenthal's reemergence means that cosmic political forces might be trying to pull the scandals of the 1990s into the 2016 campaign. Beyond that, Blumenthal's emails to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offer intriguing tidbits about real-time intelligence, as well as early worries about political fallout. Clinton's own next appearance before the committee still hasn't been set.
There aren't many mysteries left regarding the 2016 field, and few are saying there aren't enough candidates running. But two of the final pieces to fall into place involve two of the bigger personalities in the potential field: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Both are widely expected to run, and both cut roughly similar profiles of no-nonsense governors who hope their style (if that's what you'd call it) plays in New Hampshire. Christie and Kasich are finalizing their decision-making even as Republicans wrestle with how to handle a field of its current unwieldy size, with debate season looming.
ABC's Tom Thornton and Glenn Elvington contributed to this production.