5 Stories You'll Care About in Politics This Week

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's a time of farewells -- to Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to the pre-candidacy phase of 2016, and to Sen. Ted Cruz's old health care plan. It's a time for a high-profile deadline and honors for a liberal lion. Meanwhile, busted brackets may be the least of the story lines set to converge on Indianapolis.

Here's a glimpse at some of the stories your ABC News political team is tracking in the week ahead:

CLINTON'S CONTOURSThe world is on edge about what Hillary Clinton could possibly be up to as she finds office space, hires staff and tweets like, you know, a candidate for office. OK, so we know Clinton is running for president. What we don't know is where and when she'll announce. Early-to-mid-April is the hot zone of expectations, and we know she'll hit some early-voting states relatively soon. So far, the hires she's announced suggest a new team and a new tone. Clinton herself has betrayed little about what would, in fact, be different about a second presidential bid, and she may not be seen in public again until her announcement. That leaves political types interpreting her Twitter feed, where -- no surprise -- she's choosing to mix it up with congressional Republicans when the moments present themselves.PENCE'S PLAY The timing either couldn't be better or couldn't be worse for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. As he closes in on a decision about running for president, Pence signed into law a controversial "religious freedom" bill that LGBT groups view as opening the door to legalized discrimination. Pence's stand raises his profile among social and religious conservatives. But it has infuriated gay-rights groups, and has some business leaders threatening to keep their work forces and conferences away from the Hoosier State. The issue will bubble over in the coming days, with the Final Four coming to Indianapolis. The NCAA was among the prominent organizations expressing concerns about the new law.HARRY'S HANDOFFThe boxer is hanging up his gloves before -- in his words, and using his metaphor -- he would be relegated to a role as a pinch hitter. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's surprise retirement announcement leaves Democrats with their first leadership vacancy in either chamber of Congress in more than a decade. That means years' worth of pent-up ambition gets to vent itself. Former "Animal House" roommate Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would be the likely contenders for the top Democratic Senate post. Schumer won Reid's quick endorsement, and indications are that Durbin won't stand in his way. Liberal groups, meanwhile, are organizing to make sure Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. -- having spurned their presidential begging -- either runs for the job herself or plays a major role in determining who gets it.CRUZ CONTROLSen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won first-in-the-pool bragging and messaging rights with his presidential campaign announcement, a ready-for-Sunday-sermon-style event at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. He got high marks for the rollout, and has guaranteed himself a place on the right side of the field as candidates begin to size up each other's ideology. Now, after a few days of budget votes, Cruz starts to road test his message, with a midweek trip to Iowa. He'll get company soon: Cruz's fellow senators, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are both expected to make their 2016 moves in the coming weeks.TO THE WIREDeadline day is Tuesday in the high-stakes nuclear negotiations with Iran. That means it's all riding on a frenzied final weekend-plus of globe-trotting talks, with administration officials expressing growing yet cautious optimism that an agreement could be reached, and resistance toward extending beyond the week. Deadlines have come and gone before, but there's reason to think this countdown is for real. The Obama White House knows that there's only so long it will be able to hold off congressional actions that could torpedo the talks. And American public opinion will be a big factor in selling any potential agreement to a divided Congress.

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