September 11: Larry Silverstein v. New York With the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks looming, the struggle for ground zero continues to play out in maddeningly slow motion. Just last month, developer Larry Silverstein took control of new land at the World Trade Center site. “The cumulative delay across the three sites totaled 999 days,” a Silverstein spokesman huffed in August. “The same Port Authority bureaucracy that turned this straightforward, one- to two-year effort to dig a hole into a three-and-a-half year ordeal must do better.” Construction at the site is years behind schedule. Most recently, with private capital nearly unavailable, Silverstein and the Port Authority have squabbled over funding. “That we are where we are after this much time is an embarrassment to our city, our state and the nation,” New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently told one paper. As if all this weren’t enough, the city is investigating whether companies working at ground zero are paying their hard hats off the books, avoiding paying into pension funds and ponying up taxes. “It’s going to be big,” District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
September 15: Chuck Grassley v. The World This is D-Day for health-care reform. As Paul Begala wrote at The Daily Beast, September 15 is “likely to be the crucial day in determining the course of the battle.” It was the deadline set by Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat from Montana, for the bill to come out of his Finance Committee. (The White House, for its part, has tried to pretend that no such deadline exists for its reform plan: “I’m not going to put a date on any of this,” David Axelrod told Politico last week.) The man who can most determine the timing and form of that bill is Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Finance Committee.
September 23: Obama v. Gaddafi They may have shaken hands back in July but that doesn’t mean Barack Obama and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are pals. The two will meet again when they address the United Nations General Assembly on the same day in New York. The recent release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber from prison in Scotland—and the hero’s welcome he received in his native Libya—seems to have stopped the warming trend in relations between the U.S. and the North African country. The White House released a statement opposing the hijacker’s release. John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the U.N., has said that a photo-op featuring Gaddafi and Obama would be a “spectacular failure” of the American president’s foreign policy. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared the U.N.’s rostrum on the same day as President Bush, his White House faced a similar dilemma.
November 3: Christie v. Corzine The campaign for New Jersey’s governorship got nasty well before the summer’s end. In one ad, Republican candidate Chris Christie compared his opponent to Gordon Gekko, the “Greed is Good” antihero from Wall Street. Corzine countered by saying that Christie, a former U.S. attorney, broke the law by having conversations with Bush political adviser Karl Rove and politicizing his office. Each has thrown jabs about the other’s alleged ethics violations. A corruption scandal that led to the arrest of state officials this summer continues to simmer in the background. Despite the support of Democratic heavyweights—Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jon Bon Jovi—Corzine is trailing in the polls, falling 10 points behind at the end of August.
December 8 : The Kennedy Legacy v. Pretenders to the Throne The special election to fill Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat is not until after the New Year, but the real battle will be a month earlier, when the state’s Democrats compete in a primary for the party’s nomination. No Republican has represented the Bay State in the Senate since 1967, so today might as well be the actual Election Day. Among those eying the prized position are former Rep. Marty Meehan, who left Congress two years ago to lead a state university, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, Teddy’s nephew. The full list of people vying to become the next senator from Massachusetts won’t emerge until Joseph Kennedy gives final word on his decision to run. The position has been in the Kennedy family, more or less, since 1953. Massachusetts pols are wary that their voters will like to keep it that way.
Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.