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September 2, 2014

2
P.M.

Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Total Responses: 36

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Aaron Blake

Aaron Blake

Aaron Blake covers national politics at the Washington Post, where he writes regularly for the Fix, the Post's top political blog. A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron and his wife, Danielle, and dog, Mauer, live in Northern Virginia.

About the topic

The Fix's Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

Q.

Aaron Blake :

Welcome to the post-Labor Day edition of the Ask Aaron live chat. Why is the post-Labor Day part significant? It means we have finally moved past the August doldrums, and can bear down on the 2014 election!

Already today, we have seen:

A strong new web ad from American Crossroads in Louisiana

Some questionable polling showing Dick Durbin in trouble

Cory Gardner struggling with personhood (not literally, of course)

Ex-Rep. Eric Cantor cashing in

Rand Paul's brand of foreign policy falling out of favor in the GOP

As always, everything is fair game, so ask away!

Q.

Undecideds

They typically break towards one side or the other after Labor Day. Do you see that happening this year? It seems to me that with no driving issue that unites the electorate, they will be a bit scattered
A.
Aaron Blake :

The conventional wisdom says they break for the challenger, but I don't think that's really the case anymore.

See here.

– September 02, 2014 2:00 PM
Q.

A lot of close GOP losses

How worried should the GOP be that they will wake up on Nov. 5 with a bunch of their Senate candidates getting between 45 and 50%?

A.
Aaron Blake :

Well:

1) A lot of them could win with less than 50%. It's happening more and more these days. In fact, a couple Democrats facing reelection this year were under 50 in 2008: Begich and Franken. And it happened again in '10 and '12.

2) It's entirely possible. The GOP has under-performed expectations in recent years, and the Democrats are good at winning the so-called "toss-ups." (They won 7 of Cook's 9 toss-ups in 2012.)

– September 02, 2014 2:04 PM
Q.

Ohio

Who do you see lining up to run against Rob Portman in 2016? I think Tim Ryan, Marcia Fudge, Joyce Beatty, and Marcy Kaptur all enjoy their safe seats in the House.
A.
Aaron Blake :

I think any Democrat with aspirations to run for higher office might wait and run for the open governor's seat in 2018. Dems have a very thin bench in Ohio. The fates of Lee Fisher in 2010 and Ed FitzGerald in 2014 loom large.

– September 02, 2014 2:05 PM
Q.

Kathy Hochul

Who ya got in the Democratic primary for Lt. Gov. in NY? Does the NYT endorsement push Tim Wu to victory against a former one-term congresswoman from upstate?
A.
Aaron Blake :

It's a very tough situation for Cuomo. Voting against his LG is a great way to send a message without going whole-hog and voting for Teachout in the GOV primary.

In reality, Hochul was a great pick for a GOV who was worried about the general election. But Cuomo's biggest obstacle is now the primary.

– September 02, 2014 2:07 PM
Q.

Minnesota

You spent some time in your home state (what'd you eat at the fair?) recently. How can Mike McFadden turn it into a top-tier race, if he can at all?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Hot Dish on a Stick (2/10)

Norwegian Onion Rings (7/10)

Minnesota craft beer (9/10)

Chicken in a Waffle Cone (8/10)

Grilled corn on the cob (8/10)

As for McFadden, I think he needs to do something to make this race about Franken. I haven't really seen him doing that quite yet, and I'm not sure the ammo exists, to be honest. Franken has been very careful in his 6 years.

Fun side note: Both McFadden and Franken gave me their State Fair recommendations on Saturday.

McFadden here

Franken here

– September 02, 2014 2:11 PM
Q.

Michelle Nunn

Does this 2014 run set her up for a 2018 gubernatorial run?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Expectations are pretty high. But I think if she loses and keeps it close, you'll definitely hear from her again. So far, so good.

Plus, Democrats don't have much of a bench in Georgia.

– September 02, 2014 2:12 PM
Q.

Kansas and South Dakota

Can you break down the three and four-way races in Kansas and South Dakota, respectively? Those races are more interesting to me than the hodgepodge of "toss-ups" which will largely be focused on making sure each party's followers turn out to vote.
A.
Aaron Blake :

I'm still skeptical in SD. I think the second third-partier, ex-GOP state Sen. Gordon Howie, would have to take a big chunk out of Rounds's conservative support. I think Pressler probably takes from both Weiland and Rounds, so that's not enough for Weiland to have a shot.

In Kansas, keep an eye on whether Democrats effectively embrace the independent, Greg Orman, who actually appears to have a chance. The Democrat in the race doesn't really inspire much confidence.

– September 02, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

Deja vu

What do you make of the suggestions that Mitt Romney should consider another run at the Presidency in 2016? What message does that send to the many other Republican wannabes?
A.
Aaron Blake :

It sends the message that nobody really knows who the other folks are and that Romney hasn't done what most candidates do and simply faded away.

I'm not sure it means much beyond people speculating about something fun to speculate about.

– September 02, 2014 2:16 PM
Q.

Ed Gillespie

So, umm, when does Ed Gillespie start to surge in the polls against Mark Warner? The Beltway pundits told me he would be formidable.
A.
Aaron Blake :

I know of very few people who said Gillespie would win or really even have a shot. He was exactly what Scott Brown is/was in New Hampshire: The best recruit Republicans could hope for in what remains an uphill race.

People often mistake analysts like the Fix saying a candidate is a good candidate with saying that they will win. This is the former case.

– September 02, 2014 2:18 PM
Q.

Toomey's challengers?

Do you think Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA.) is likely to face any primary challengers in 2016, and if so, from his left of right? Assuming he wins renomination, who do you think will be his Democratic opponent?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Given his support for that gun control compromise, you can't rule it out.

But Toomey is also formerly allied with the Club for Growth, which makes getting to his right quite difficult. I don't really see that happening.

– September 02, 2014 2:20 PM
Q.

Immigration

I heard from some conservative TV person (I forgot who) that the GOP wants to pass comprehensive reform, but does not want it to be signed by Obama. Have you heard any similar rumors? The guy also thinks it will be signed into law in 2017.
A.
Aaron Blake :

It's a fun theory, but that's about it.

Even if the GOP wins the presidency, it will have a very difficult time doing immigration reform. The base will cry foul just like it is right now.

That said, perhaps the GOP does something scaled-down that is easier for the base to swallow. That's hard to do right now given Democrats control the Senate.

– September 02, 2014 2:22 PM
Q.

The second half of my question

Who do you think will be Toomey's Democratic opponent, assuming he wins renomination?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Most likely Kathleen Kane, the attorney general. But she will almost definitely have a primary with ex-Rep. and '10 nominee Joe Sestak.

– September 02, 2014 2:23 PM
Q.

Iowa Senate

True or false: Ernst is too conservative to win in Iowa.
A.
Aaron Blake :

It's a tougher argument in the Midwest. This is the region, after all, that brought us both Ron Johnson/Chuck Grassley and Paul Wellstone/Russ Feingold/Tom Harkin.

Ideology means less there. Personal style counts for a lot.

– September 02, 2014 2:25 PM
Q.

Harry Reid

Do you think whether Democrats retain the Senate majority in 2014 plays into Harry Reid's decision on running for another term in 2016?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Of course, but even if GOP wins the majority, Democrats will have a great chance to win in back in 2016. So if it's 51-49 GOP, I think Reid might stick around.

On the other hand, if the GOP has 53 or 54 seats, the exit might be a little more attractive for Reid.

– September 02, 2014 2:26 PM
Q.

IL SENATE

Is IL Durbin seat really competitive? Some polls have shown it that way..
A.
Aaron Blake :

Glad you asked! I think this could be a 10-12-15-point race. But it would be very hard for the GOP to win.

 

– September 02, 2014 2:27 PM
Q.

MN State Fair

Were you there on Saturday, supposedly their record breaking day?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I was! A quarter-million people in one day. Amazing.

– September 02, 2014 2:28 PM
Q.

Rand Paul VP

Do you think that it's nomination or bust for Rand Paul in 2016 or do you see a nominee seriously considering adding him to the ticket as VP? If so, who are some of those candidates?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I'm not sure I see Paul as the VP type. The preference these days is for a steady-hand type, not the wild card that Paul is. A VP pick is something that probably can't win you a bunch of votes, but could definitely lose some.

– September 02, 2014 2:30 PM
Q.

Most likely

House incumbents to lose
A.
Aaron Blake :

Michael Grimm is No. 1.

Next would probably be Ron Barber, Joe Garcia, Mike Coffman.

– September 02, 2014 2:33 PM
Q.

VA 10

Shouldn't this seat be a lock for Comstock? It seems that national GOP strategists are more than a bit worried about the campaign she's running
A.
Aaron Blake :

Hard to call it a lock when it went for Obama the first time, by three points. But this is probably one that Republicans should hold on to for a few more years.

– September 02, 2014 2:34 PM
Q.

American Crossroads Ad

Is the new American Crossroads ad against Sen. Landrieu the most effective ad of the cycle yet or does Sen. Begich's Alaska ad still hold that title?

A.
Aaron Blake :

Well, the Landrieu ad is web-only for now, so we'll have to see if they actually put it on TV. I think they have to do at least a version of it. Some of the material is very good.

The Begich ad still wins for me, though. Here it is

– September 02, 2014 2:37 PM
Q.

Rick Perry's "personal" Twitter account

So, if Rick Perry's "personal" Twitter account is truly personal, then he's responsible for what appears on it (including the photo/caption of the DA). Otherwise, the only other conclusion is that his "personal" Twitter account isn't really personal, and presenting it to the public as such is just a sham.
A.
Aaron Blake :

"Personal" to me sounds like it's not his official account, moreso than he's doing the tweeting. But fair point.

– September 02, 2014 2:39 PM
Q.

Ted Cruz

Do you think Ted Cruz will self-destruct before the 2016 Presidential election?
A.
Aaron Blake :

No. He's careful. He will continue to be divisive, but that's not really him self-destructing.

– September 02, 2014 2:40 PM
Q.

Eric Cantor's new job

How many Congress critters are drooling over Eric Cantor's new job? Any word on his pay?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Glad you asked!

Here you go. It's basically $1.8 million: $400k salary plus $400k bonus and seven digits worth of stock options.

– September 02, 2014 2:42 PM
Q.

Reid-McConnell

Are Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell really just two sides of the same coin -- more strategist than legislator, never aspired to the presidency, somewhat Machiavellian (better to be feared than loved), and both are institutions in their home states?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Basically nobody in Senate leadership is aspiring to the presidency. And if they are, they've chosen the wrong path. Being a leader is a great way to be unpopular.

All of the things you describe are pretty ideal qualities in a leader -- at least as far as working within the party.

– September 02, 2014 2:43 PM
Q.

Ebola ad

So, Cotton *did* vote against disaster emergency relief. Shouldn't there be consequences for votes, especially when your philosophy is about government spending being bad in the abstract?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Yes, he did. As is almost always the case with these things, though, these members are voting on much more than just one item, and there are often complicating factors that don't make it into that 30-second ad.

There's also the fact that experts say there is very little chance that Ebola could spread in the United States. So you can say Tom Cotton voted against disaster emergency relief, but to tie that to Ebola is I think where people think Pryor's ad misfires.

– September 02, 2014 2:46 PM
Q.

South Dakota

Given how dirt cheap it would be to advertise in South Dakota, why don't some of these super PACS throw some money around to boost the profile of the third party folks that could draw votes away from Mike Rounds? We've seen Democrats like Harry Reid and Claire McCaskill try to mess with GOP primary fights already. Isn't this the next step?
A.
Aaron Blake :

There are lots of cheap states for Democrats to throw their money at, including Alaska, West Virginia, Montana and Iowa. Why they would spent in SD over those states, I'm not sure.

– September 02, 2014 2:48 PM
Q.

RE: IL Senate

"Some polls" in Illinois were one-day polls. It might not be a blowout but there's no way Oberweis sniffs the margin of error.
A.
Aaron Blake :

We Ask America is the only one-day pollster I see. YouGov and Gravis have methodology issues of their own, but they aren't one-day samples.

– September 02, 2014 2:50 PM
Q.

MN State Fair

You didn't have the chocolate chip cookies there?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Ran out of room in my stomach. (Plus, my mom's cookies are better. There, I said it. Sorry Sweet Martha.)

– September 02, 2014 2:51 PM
Q.

Under the Radar

What's race that's under the radar right now that you're really interested in seeing how it develops?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Kansas, for sure. Pat Roberts clearly has liabilities, and independent Greg Orman has money and momentum. Definitely worth watching.

– September 02, 2014 2:52 PM
Q.

Do e-mails really work?

In 2012, I gave maybe $10 online to the Obama campaign, so I ended up on the e-mail list. Since then, the occasional e-mail would continue to ask for money, but I ignored them. Then they of course shared the list with all the relevant Democratic committees and candidates, but the worst has to be the DCCC. In one day last week, I counted at least seven separate e-mails, each more desperate than the last for a donation. Rather than continue to delete them unread, I finally opted out, and where they ask for comment, I told them that they're lucky I can't stand Republicans, or I'd vote against them out of spite. Am I just an outlier?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Probably not. But the DCCC's online fundraising has been amazing this cycle, so whatever they're doing appears to be working -- at least when it comes to raising money.

– September 02, 2014 2:53 PM
Q.

Thin Bench

How do Democrats overcome the thin bench problem in various states you wrote about?
A.
Aaron Blake :

(The piece at hand can be found here.) It's tough because it's systemic and it's hard for them to install Democrats who can hold down competitive-but-GOP-leaning districts for several cycles without losing.

If I were them, though, I would focus on winning the statewide constitutional offices -- the ones where the GOP can't re-draw the map. Those are very fertile recruiting grounds for Senate and governor candidates.

But again, it's hard to win those races when you're recruiting from state Houses and state Senates where your ranks are decimated.

– September 02, 2014 2:55 PM
Q.

Ron Johnson

He's been awfully quiet lately. Someone getting concerned about his re-elect in two years?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Not "getting" concerned. He should *always* have been concerned, because it will be tough.

– September 02, 2014 2:56 PM
Q.

One-day polls

Can you please tell newspapers to stop publishing one-day polls?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Will do.

– September 02, 2014 2:57 PM
Q.

Worst Week in Washington

So on Chris' Chat on Friday, we kept guessing and guessing who had the WWIW last week, and we never got an answer. Is there a permanent Link like for the "5 Myths" page that will always get us to the latest WWIW winner/loser?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Ideally, you should be able to look at the "Worst Week" tag on The Fix. We are trying to be more consistent about putting Worst Week on Fix, though, so give us a little time.

– September 02, 2014 2:58 PM
Q.

RE: Emails

Yes, emails work. Lists lose people all the time and the number is monitored, but people are added too and the constant emails method works. Remember, people delete/don't emails, there are repeat donors, and sometimes it takes the bombardment. It works. Trust me.
A.
Aaron Blake :

As with many things in politics, being annoying works. :)

– September 02, 2014 2:59 PM
Q.

2016

Is Rand Paul really the frontrunner for the nomination right now?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I don't think so. I don't think there is one frontrunner, but rather an indistinguishable cluster of them.

– September 02, 2014 3:00 PM
Q.

Aaron Blake :

Thanks everyone for coming out!

Have a great week, and we'll see you next Tuesday at 2.

Q.

 

A.
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