What to Watch in 2013 Politics

Beth Reinhard

We had no time to catch our breath after the November election before plunging into imbroglios over Cabinet appointments and the fiscal cliff. But the chances of 2013 offering even a brief respite from politics are as unlikely as the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre ringing in the New Year with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Pass the eggnog quick!

With the 24/7 news cycle came the 365-day-a-year campaign, and it’s only getting worse. Fundraising invitations for candidates up for re-election in 2014 were going out before the 2012 election.

Nothing compares to the drama of a presidential race or the impact of the mid-terms, but pay attention starting now because this year will set the stage for 2014 and 2016. How much longer will President Obama bask in the glow of his re-election before the inevitable sputter in the polls? Will the Republican Party get serious about improving its image and outreach to an increasingly diverse electorate? And will Mitt Romney...oh, never mind, who cares?

Those are just a few of the questions on minds cluttered with marginal tax rates and charitable deductions. Here are some of the top political events we are looking forward to in 2013:

1. Debates over immigration reform and gun control. After a first term consumed with ending wars and avoiding economic collapse, President Obama has promised to turn his attention to social concerns. The group led by Vice President Joe Biden faces a January deadline to come up with proposals to stop gun violence in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. Activists on both sides of the immigration debate are gearing up for what could be an epic battle over how to treat the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country.

2. Governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia. With the news that Newark Mayor Cory Booker will not challenge Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the Democratic Party is scrambling. Christie, whose popularity is soaring as he oversees the recovery from “superstorm” Sandy, has already said he’ll be “much more than ready” for a White House bid in 2016. Virginia fascinates because it’s emerged as one of the most important battleground states in the country. In 2008, President Obama turned the state blue for the first time since 1964. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s victory the following year paved the way for the Republican rout in 2010, but the GOP couldn’t overcome Obama’s well-laid groundwork in 2012. We also won’t be able to take our eyes off Virginia because of the colorful, front-running characters: Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general whose idea of a great day is shutting down an abortion clinic and stabbing a knife into the heart of Obamacare, and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the brash former national party chairman and consummate political hack.

3. Special Senate elections in Massachusetts.Obama’s appointment of Sen. John Kerry to replace Clinton as Secretary of State is expected to clear the Senate, opening up the seat he has held since a collection of celebrities recorded “We Are the World” in 1985. Republican Sen. Scott Brown, recently ousted by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, has a good shot at getting his job back.

4. Mayor’s races in New York City and Los Angeles. Both of these cities boast larger-than-life mayors whose political careers are destined to continue after they leave city hall.  Bloomberg, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent billionaire, whose dislikes include big guns and Big Gulps, is winding up his third term. Four candidates are competing to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a rising star in the Democratic Party who chaired the 2012 nominating convention.

So enjoy the champagne but don’t overdo it. Twitter is no fun with a hangover.