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Frank James

The pay equity issue, which President Obama and Democrats are making a central theme of the 2014 midterm election campaign, is often framed as a women's issue. But Democrats are expecting it will also have crossover appeal to men.

For many men, it's a matter of self-interest: Two-income families are part of a long-term trend, as many families find two paychecks essential to cover the bills in an era of rising prices and stagnant, if not falling, wages.

With November midterm elections looming, 2014 promises much more political catnip than 2013.

It's a year with a full roster of House, Senate and gubernatorial races, but 2014 is also likely to prove to be another critical period for the Affordable Care Act as an important deadline comes early and the Supreme Court takes up another aspect of the health law.

Here are some of the most important dates to watch:

If anything defined 2013, it was the political misstep. There were so many gaffes, flaps, scandals and ill-advised moves that voters were often left scratching their heads at the political class's uncanny knack for diminishing its profession.

Here are eight of the more memorable screw-ups:

The days are few and far between when President Obama has intentionally reminded us that he is the first African-American president.

Friday was one.

The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

The dual victories the Supreme Court handed to gay-marriage supporters Wednesday seemed to temporarily shift the focus of the fight from Washington to the states.

For instance, one of the more notable reactions to the Supreme Court decisions overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and upholding a lower court ruling that blocked California's Proposition 8 from taking effect came from the American Civil Liberties Union.

It didn't take long after the news broke about the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision tossing out a key piece of the Voting Rights Act for the fears of voting advocates, or the hopes of VRA critics, to be realized.

Forget, for a moment, about the bipartisan Gang of Eight, whose members crafted the original version of the immigration bill being taken up by the Senate this week.

There was a time when Jim DeMint was committed to helping Sen. Marco Rubio achieve his goals.

Not anymore.

At least not when it comes to remaking the nation's immigration laws.

DeMint is president of the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, which on Monday released a report contending that an immigration overhaul would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion over 13 years in direct and indirect spending like welfare and public schools.

The next Republican presidential primary is so far off that some of those attending the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday could be spotted wearing stickers for two potential candidates: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

It's just too early to choose.

According to scientists, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Most of the people who vote in presidential primaries aren't scientists, however.

Indeed, a Gallup poll this year reported that 46 percent of Americans (58 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents) held a nonscientific belief in creationism, the religious-based view that humans were divinely created within the past 10,000 years.

Ever since the surreal presidential election of 2000, voter access on Election Day has come under increased scrutiny. Tuesday was no different, with heavy turnout and confusion over new laws causing some issues.

But even in battleground states, there were few reports of major problems by late evening.

With the arrival of the last weekend before Election Day, it's crunchtime for President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Heading into the last 72 hours of their fight for the White House, it's the moment in the campaign when the president and his challenger make their closing arguments, fine tuned to excite their committed supporters but not so partisan as to drive off the diminishing sliver of wavering voters still left to be won over.

Though Superstorm Sandy destroyed much in its path, it did apparently build at least one bridge, that of bipartisanship between President Obama and New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie, a strong ally of Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, and a key critic of the president before the storm, has had little but praise for Obama for the assistance provided to New Jersey leading into the epic storm, which hit this week.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the week before Election Day is certainly not turning out the way anyone expected, especially the presidential candidates.

President Obama and Mitt Romney found themselves ditching their schedules for the start of the week as they responded to exigencies created by the massive hurricane raking the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

While much of what will happen on Election Day is now unknowable, we can predict with certainty that President Obama won't win a majority of the white vote.

No news there. No Democratic presidential candidate, after all, has received the support of most white voters since President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 historic rout of Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

Still, four years ago, Obama did manage to get a very respectable 43 percent of white voters to choose him over Goldwater's Senate successor from Arizona, Sen. John McCain.

That was then.

President Obama may have the overwhelming support of Latino voters in his race against Republican Mitt Romney, but that didn't get him a free pass during his appearance Thursday at Univision's presidential candidate forum.

Obama faced repeated tough questions from the hosts of the forum on the Spanish-language channel, and from some in the audience, for his failure to deliver on his promise as a candidate in 2008 to push comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in the White House.

Blindsided is what North Carolina Republicans felt four years ago when President Obama won the state, though by the slightest of margins — a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.

Republicans admit they had taken as a given a 2008 North Carolina victory by Sen. John McCain. And who could blame them? No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

But as McCain learned to his grief, history isn't always destiny. Obama's campaign had an effective strategy to win the state, and did.

Get used to hearing the name Julian Castro. You're likely to be coming across it a lot in coming days and perhaps beyond.

President Obama chose Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September.

Rebecca Smith owns a Tampa, Fla., construction-management firm that does a lot of work overseeing the building of schools and jails, and other projects for state and local governments.

But even though much of her firm's $80 million in annual revenue comes from contracts with government agencies, she says she was "disgusted" by President Obama's thesis that government had a significant role in her business achievements.

Obama's actual words, from a July 13 speech in Virginia, were:

Take one guy with an abiding interest in politics, another guy with website-building skills and throw in the shared desire to get people more engaged in the political process, and you have the ingredients for an interactive site called ISideWith.com.

The site's purpose is to show you which presidential candidate's views most align with yours by running you through a short quiz that asks your stance on various policy issues, then determines which candidate most agrees with you.

Even in Washington, a city where hyperbole rules, it still seems difficult to overstate how big a win the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's signature piece of domestic legislation is for the man in the Oval Office.

The Affordable Care Act is so identified with him, after all, that its opponents quickly dubbed it "Obamacare," a term supporters at first eschewed but later came to embrace.

To hear Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tell it, it's happenstance that his newly published memoir, An American Son, became available just as the speculation about Republican vice presidential possibilities is heating up.

Rubio, a rising Cuban-American star in his party, told NPR's Robert Siegel, co-host of All Things Considered, in a Thursday interview:

Coming a week after President Obama announced that he would defer deportation proceedings for many young illegal immigrants, it was safe to predict that he'd get an appreciative response from an audience of Latino leaders. They didn't disappoint.

President Obama's announcement Friday that he is using his executive authority to defer deportation proceedings for young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally but meet certain requirements was just the latest example of the president's use of his power to act without Congress on policy issues.

It's a given that Latino voters are viewed by both political parties as critical to the the 2012 general election and that polling shows President Obama, and Democrats generally, enjoying a significant advantage with that such voters.

That reality prompted Mitt Romney to tell donors at a closed-door Palm Beach, Fla. fundraiser in April, in remarks overheard by reporters:

"We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party." He suggested that if the GOP failed to draw significant numbers of Latino voters away from the Democratic Party "that spells doom for us."