Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead in Sunday’s “Inside Politics” forecast.
1) Arizona emerges as a new front line in the gun debate
As Americans grapple with the debate over gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the Associated Press’ Julie Pace reports that Arizona is shaping up to be a new front line in that fight.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally will likely face former astronaut Mark Kelly in the 2020 general election. Kelly, a Democrat, is married to former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a shooting in Tucson in 2011.
Kelly and Giffords have become outspoken advocates of gun control, while McSally has been an ardent supporter of gun rights in the past. Recently, however, Pace reports that McSally has softened her tone somewhat and expressed an openness to some new gun legislation.
“Republicans like McSally know that their success in 2020 may hinge on their ability to hold some of these suburbs that have traditionally voted for Republicans, but have really started to move away from the party in the Trump era,” Pace said. “A lot of Republicans we talk to say that this issue, gun control, could shift that trend even further away from the party.”
2) Sanders sliding in Iowa?
Bernie Sanders could be facing some troubling signs out of first-in-the-nation Iowa.
Fresh off a trip to the Iowa State Fair, the New York Times’ Lisa Lerer reports that very few of the voters she spoke with expressed much interest in the Vermont senator.
“This is fascinating because Iowa, of course, was the state that fueled Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign last time around,” Lerer said. “Now he seems to be having some trouble there.”
Sanders has lost ground in some recent polls, but his aides say that it’s still early in the race and most of his supporters haven’t started paying serious attention. But with Sanders sliding in the polls, there are signs the campaign is growing nervous – among them, Sanders’ more explicit criticism of media coverage in recent days.
“Bernie Sanders lost the primary last time but maybe won the argument,” Lerer noted. “The question this time around is whether there are other people Democrats would prefer to carry on the legacy.”
3) Warren’s Native American outreach
Elizabeth Warren is returning to an issue that was an early source of controversy for her presidential campaign.
Politico’s Laura Barrón-López reports that the Massachusetts senator will be attending a Native American presidential forum this week in Sioux Falls, Iowa, following her release of a policy plan targeting Native American issues.
“It’s going to be the first reaction from tribal leaders about whether or not they actually feel as though she went in the right direction with this proposal which is one of the biggest she’s issued so far,” Barrón-López said.
Warren’s campaign got off to rocky start amid controversy over her claims of Native American ancestry. Her decision last year to release the results of a DNA test drew criticism from some Native American leaders, resulting in an apology from the senator.
The fact that she’s appearing at the forum at all, however, could be enough to set Warren apart from some of her competitors.
“Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker don’t appear to be attending,” Barrón-López said, “and they face some criticism for that.”
4) Ugly nomination battle brewing
An ugly battle is brewing in the Senate over a recent court nomination by President Donald Trump.
The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim reports that Trump’s recent circuit court nominee, Steven Menashi, is already stoking tensions between Democrats and Republicans. Menashi was nominated over the objections of his home state senator, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and some Democrats are calling for Menashi to withdraw over controversial law review articles he has written
Republicans, however, are fighting back, setting the stage for a heated battle to push the nomination through.
“Remember just how important the courts are to this President, but also particularly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” Kim said. “We’ve got 43 circuit court judges confirmed under the President’s tenure right now, about 100 district court judges, and they’re just going to continue to confirm more and more as the rest of the term goes on.”