Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 07, 2014

Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly Post Politics chat series.

Happy New Year, and welcome back to Post Politics' weekly Ask Aaron live chat.

The political world is slowly lurching to a start after a characteristically slow holiday period.

So what's on your mind?

* The Senate's vote to move forward with a long-term unemployment insurance extension

* Dennis Rodman

* Legal weed's increasing popularity

* Liz Cheney dropping out

* Clemency for Edward Snowden

* The Supreme Court blocking gay marrige in Utah

As always, anything's fair game...

One week out from the R primary in the FL-13 Congressional district. Who ya got?

It's so hard to tell. Businessman David Jolly has the fundraising advantage but is lesser-known than state Rep. Kathleen Peters.

I think whoever emerges starts as an underdog against Alex Sink, the Democratic former GOV candidate.

This is going to be a huge race in March, so keep an eye on it.

How do you feel about it?

Envious.

I must say that the true-believing liberal that David Weigel interviewed sure sounds different from the guy who was a middle-of-the-road governor of Montana for eight years.

Isn't Brian Schweitzer amazing? (BTW, here's the interview) This is a guy who is very pro-gun who somehow has gotten the liberal netroots to fall in love with him.

But when it comes to running for president as an underdog, you often have more lattitude to define yourself. Remember when Romney was the conservative alternative in 2008? Or when Howard Dean was the liberal option in 2004? Neither really fit the bill, but they were able to pull it off -- at least until they lost.

Do you laugh at what DC considers "cold" or have you lost your cold weather toughness?

I've stopped shaming these East Coasters. They are beyond help.

Where do talks stand? Seemed to be a lot of activity last month, but has died down. Odds that Congress will get something done?

If you define "something" pretty broadly, I'd say 30-40 percent. If you define "something" as including a new path to citizenship, I'd say 10-20 percent.

I just think the House passes other stuff (enforcement, etc., maybe a Dream Act-esque bill), and then the Senate has to decide whether they want half-measures that don't accomplish comprehensive reform.  I don't think they take that deal.

I know even back then in 2008, there was a lot of press attention to the "PUMA"s and people who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton and were now either going to support John McCain over Barack Obama or stay home on Election Day (only one CNN could find was Lady de Rothschild who thought Barack Obama, raised in two-bedroom rented high-rise apartment, was too elite). Beyond Barack Obama's great campaign, HRC herself ran a bad campaign and really turned people off her "brand" all by herself.

I think this is what people are forgetting. We all saw her great numbers as secretary of state, but once she steps on to that campaign trail, I think she very quickly becomes the polarizing Hillary of old -- someone GOPers love to hate more than Democrats love to love.

I tend to think hindsight is 20-20 on a campaign, but her campaign was sure caught off-guard in a lot of ways.

I think DC underrates Schweitzer/misreads netroots. Liberals don't want to take away guns from hunters (even NRA was for some gun legislation) and his economic populism is what resonates.

Fair point. But I'm guessing much of the Democratic Party would take issue with this stance:

"Gun control is you control your gun, and I'll control mine."

Not all Democrats will disagree with that, of course, but there's a reason you don't see Democratic presidential candidates taking that position.

I remember this story (it probably got some press) when Brian Schweitzer was chairman of DGA and he was stumping in New Jersey for then incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine. He gave his standard line, "I'll control my guns and you'll control yours" and it went over like a lead balloon. Just silence. Kind of showed his regional appeal. Think the Netroots like him, but they like him in Montana.

Great minds!

Totally agree w/previous comment. Obama was dismissed because he was an outsider while the Clintons had "confidant" after "confidant" feeding stories to the press about her inevitability. How the media took that to mean actual voters liked her, I'll never know.

I think the idea that nobody ever gave Obama a chance and we all thought Hillary was inevitable is mis-remembering history.

There was a huge amount of buzz when Obama got in, and how many journalists were actually saying he had no chance? Maybe a few.

The reason we all thought she was a heavy favorite is because she was. And we didn't need "confidants" to tell us that -- the polls did the job for them.

But polls are always a snapshot in time.

Where does his political career go next? I doubt he'll be tapped to be a lobbyist for the beverage association...

HEY-O!

I think he spends his time focusing on his PAC and stuff like that. He just gave $2.5 million to the top super PAC focused on electing Democrats to the Senate.

Any chance he had of being a third-party presidential candidate has probably gone by the wayside, given how poorly his last couple years as mayor went.

Will Nunn be able to capitalize on GOP primary (and possibly terrible candidate) and credibility to win?

It's totally within the realm of possibility. That GOP primary is bound to produce just about anybody, and Georgia would hardly be the reddest state Democrats have managed to win in recent years.

Dems started this year with the Renew UI serve, what will be the GOP pushback volley? Or will it be an ace? (I know, I know, too many tennis metaphors.)

While I love tennis metaphors, I'm not sure they fit. Republicans really haven't spent much time offering a lot of counter-proposals on this stuff. I think they've decided that the risks of that (pinning themselves down on potentially unpopular policies) outweigh the benefits.

And then there's the fact that whatever the GOP House produces is very unlikely to win approval from the Senate and avoid a veto.

I kept hoping that Bloomberg would finance a centrist party once he got out of office, but it appears that's he's now all-in for the Dems. Any hope of establishment Repubs and Dems finding a superfund supporter and trying to take back the center?

I suppose anything's possible, and I think we're closer to that happening that we have been in a while, but I still think it's a pipe dream.

One thing's for sure: If that happened, it would likely be hugely to the GOP's detriment.

If the producers of "Alpha House" or "House of Cards" or whatever called you up and asked you to do a cameo as yourself as a TV pundit discussing the plot of the episode, would you be down for it?

Sure. But if it's House of Cards, don't tell The Fix. He hates that show.

What will the Republican presidential candidates stances' be on healthcare in 2016? They can bash the law and call for its repeal all they want, but are they really going to run ads in swing states saying taking health care away from millions of people is good for them?

This is the GOP's messaging challenge. I think now that Obamacare is in effect, Republicans will feel more pressure to offer an alternative rather than just repeal.

Because, you're right, if they just run on repeal, Democrats can accuse them of trying to take away people's insurance. Before it was in effect, there wasn't a specific number that Democrats could say have gotten insurance under Obamacare.

Of course, if Obamacare winds up being a huge disaster, I don't think Demorats' argument will hold much water. People will just want to be rid of it.

With the Gerlach, Wolf, and Latham retirements, is Pelosi as Speaker next session still as hard a sell as it was two months ago?

I think it's slightly more likely. Retirements are huge when it comes to House races, and they are happening in the wrong places for Republicans (mostly in vulnerable districts).

There are 9 GOP retirements and only 1 for Democrats. That's a bad balance for the GOP. If it continues to be this lopsided (which I'm not sure it does), then Democrats have a much better shot. But there's still a couple months left in retirement season.

Granted it's all hypothetical, but would U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson have had a better shot of keeping the open U.S. Senate race in South Dakota for the Democrats?

Probably. But don't forget that ex-senator Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) running as an indepenent throws a wrench in this race. A three-way race is hugely unpredictable, and it means Democrats could win if they can top 40 percent.

Whether Rick Weiland is capable of that is another question.

As someone who's seen almost all of Luol Deng's Bulls games, I'm pretty bummed he was traded. It must be how you felt when Hunter was gone.

Torii leaving was a tough pill to swallow, as was Kevin Garnett. Garnett kind of has a reputation these days, but back in Minnesota, he was a class act and so much fun to watch.

Is he serious about running for president? If so, how would you evaluate his chances? His current name ID is about 5%.

I think he's got very little shot of winning, but I think his style means there will be some kind of Schweitzer boomlet at some point. He's got a very quotable style, which means he will get attention.

But as the 2012 GOP race showed us, plenty of candidates flame out once the media spotlight is upon them.

How do you see this issue factoring into the 2016 presidential campaign? Any candidates likely to embrace it? (Rand Paul has backed away from his previous support for legalization.) What about at the state level?

I think this issue is still too new for many big-name politicians to jump on-board. They're going to wait an see how it pans out in Colorado and Washington, for fear of those states descending into a stoner-fueled mess.

It's much riskier to be pro-legalization than anti right now.

Thanks everyone for coming out.

We'll see all of you (and I mean all of you -- attendance is mandatory) next week!

In This Chat
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.
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