Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 25, 2014

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

Hey all, and welcome back to another installment of "Ask Aaron." Here's looking forward to another great discussion.

What's on your mind this week?

Obama's comments on Russia?

Scott "Whatever" Brown?

The Koch brothers and the 2014 election?

Nate Silver?

The importance of "castrating hogs" in a Senate race?

Rummy's "trained ape" comment?

The Bush brand being en vogue?

As always, we like to mix it up here. So everything's on the table.

Ask away....

Mead Treadwell just replaced a couple staffers.Dan Sullivan has American Crossroads. He has the Club for Growth. He has Condi Rice. He has over a million in CoH. Chance Treadwell drops out before Aug primary? Over/under 40%?

Good question. This thing is certainly headed in Sullivan's direction, and the fact that he has both establishment and Club support suggests he's the guy.

All of that said, Treadwell has some name ID and pretty good fav/unfav numbers. I think as long as he feels competitive, he stays in.

If, at some point, the writing is on the wall and he can secure next-in-line status, though,  maybe he steps aside.

Hi Aaron -- What do you make of Joe Biden in NH today?

I think he badly wants to run for president. This isn't *officially* about that, but you can bet he's having a good time and making some friends.

Most vulnerable incumbent House Dem?

Great question. We had a poll showing Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) down double digits. I think Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) are in the mix too.

Yes, I know about castrating hogs. As a come-on to voters, in a state that is becoming more urban than rural all the time, this seems like a dubious move. Even Chuck Grassley, who actually owns a farm, doesn't resort to animal husbandry appeals.

Look -- this is all about making a splash with an ad. It's interesting and unusual.

Will this be Joni Ernst's slogan going forward? I doubt it.

He seems to be enjoying a little boomlet of support, presumably as a result of Christie's troubles. When does he have to get off the fence and let people know whether he is running. I assume it is earlier than, say, Hillary.

I actually think Jeb can affort to wait a little longer than other folks (though maybe not Hillary). In fact, he might benefit from waiting a little longer, waiting for people to long for a steady hand -- like they did in 2012.

The money will be there if he runs.

Everyone's wondering if Republicans will take over the Senate. My question is does it really matter if they do? So the President will likely not get to sign any major legislation. How would that be any different than the last few years? And for all the factors in the GOP's favor this year, the same are true of Dems in 2016 (# of vulnerable GOP seats, presidential election year turnout, etc...) which means Dems could very well take it right back. Does it really matter?

This is a GREAT point. Democrats have a huge advantage in the 2016 election -- though I would argue that it's not quite as huge as the GOP's edge this year. Dems have to defend 6-7 clearly red states this year; GOP only has to defend 1-2 in 2016 (PA and IL).

The point for the GOP is giving themselves a CHANCE at total control after the 2016 election. Given the terrain in 2016, they probably need to take it this cycle and hope enough swing states in 2016 to keep that control.

But your point is well-taken.

Any thoughts on the saturation of coverage on flight 370? I'm starting to think CNN took the plane.

I know a lot of people thought it was overkill, but people are interested in it.

Candidly, I didn't watch much/any of the coverage, so I'm not sure how substantive it was. But at least this had potential nationa security implications; unlike the O.J. Simpson trial, Jodi Arias, etc.

How much trouble is Mark Udall in at this point?

About 5x more trouble than he was in 6 months ago.

I still think he's the favorite, but this is now a winnable race for the GOP -- against a guy whom they didn't even really challenge in 2008.

He doesn't know how to hold a gun and celebrates Duke basketball. Oops.

Meanwhile, Alison Grimes picked Florida to beat Louisville in the national championship and Wichita State to beat Kentucky.

Should we call that a wash?

When he decides to retire, is his seat definitely going to go to the Dems?

Hardly a sure thing, but it's trending that way. It went more for Obama in '12 (52-47) than in '08 (51-48), but it's still pretty close to the country as a whole.

Keep an eye on how the GOP competes for McCarthy's district next door on Long Island (56 percent Obama district).

If R's take the Senate and McConnell loses to Grimes, who is the new leader? Cornyn? Any wild cards?

Cornyn is the most obvious choice, but it would be interesting to see if a conservative challenger emerged -- Mike Lee, perhaps.

That said, if McConnell loses, it's significantly less likely the GOP would win the seven seats it needs to win back the Senate.

Who have you got now? (not your original picks)

I still feel pretty good about mine: Florida-Virginia-Wisconsin-Michigan.

Wisconsin I'm less than certain about (not a state that inspires confidence), but I'm liking Michigan's odds against Louisville more than a lot of people. And Virginia looks fantastic.

How much does the potential Kane scandal about dropping charges affect her chances against Toomey?

She's definitely the heir apparent. I think it hurts your stock any time someone in your own party is criticizing you.

The decision she has to make is whether this is a huge liability and whether running for Senate would make this into a bigger headache. That's a whole different stage than an AG reelection race.

It's amazing that both conferences decided to pick two guys with the personalities of driftwood to lead them.

I think the milquetoast, steady, soft-spoken thing is actually part of the reason they have become the leaders they are. The Senate practically begs for that kind of personality in a leader.

We haven't even gotten to 2014 yet, but could you see her running for president instead of trying to win reelection in a blue state in a presidential year?

I still consider New Hampshire to be a purple state, even though Obama won it twice. So it's not like she's a huge underdog.

I think it might be a little early for her, but I think she'll be a part of the conversation for years to come (if she's reelected) and can certainly gain a lot of friends in 2016 with all those candidates coming to her state.

So picking the overall number 1 seed to win is the same as making an ad celebrating Duke? I've heard of false equivalence before, but that's ridiculous.

The ad didn't celebrate Duke. It featured a half-second clip of Duke, in error. Nobody will remember it (or the bracket) come November.

In the wake of Akin, Mourdock, et al., how many 2014 GOP senatorial candidates do you expect will be likely to say something so off-putting that it will likely lose them an office that previous polling indicated they reasonably could've won? Paul Broun, e.g.?

It's impossible to say, but the folks that national Republicans worry about doing something like that include Broun, Phil Gingrey (GA), Joe Miller (AK) and these tea party challengers to Cochran and Pat Roberts.

The problem with Nate Silver and traditional press is that polls are the only thing used to predict flipping a seat. Apathy is hard to measure, especially from an office in DC or NYC. A lot of times, it's not perceptible until late in a cycle. That's how people miss things, or don't realize potentially close races.

Well, it is possible to measure apathy, but that changes much more quickly than who people favor in an election. That's why the early polls focus on the head-to-head, which is basically saying: 'If the electorate is normal, here's who is favored.' 

Closer to the election, you adjust the model based on enthusiasm.

But in defense of pollsters, their product does give us a very good idea of which seats are in play -- even if one or two of them might be over- or under-stated.

Hagan's odds as of today?

I say 60-40 in her favor, but some polls have shown her personal numbers are in very poor shape.

I was surprised he did not run in 2002 or 2004 for the Senate. What advantages does he have in the primary, and what disadvantages does he have?

I'm just not sure how much he stands out in this primary with 1) a wealthy guy (Perdue), 2) a woman (Handel) and 3) two conservative firebrands (Broun and Gingrey).

He's a relatively soft-spoken guy, and I'm still trying to figure out what his niche in this field is.

Remember this interesting little article from last year (Guess who likes the GOP's 20-week abortion ban? Women)? Do you see any potential for the 20-week ban fight to become the new partial-birth ban fight? i.e. gain mainstream support and force Dems on defense on the abortion issue?

I don't think they are close to the same thing, politically speaking. I think the support for the 20-week ban is quite a bit softer in the middle, and I don't see a huge movement forming to really push this issue hard.

That said, the polls suggest Republicans are on the right side of this issue, when it comes to the American people. The question is whether they want to push another social issue when so many other social issues are working against them.

Dems don't seem too concerned about the midterms. Is this due to Hilary's large advantage in 2016? It seems that any GOP victories this year will be forgotten after the Clinton wave passes through.

I just think that the 2014 election is kind of depressing for Democrats. They don't have much chance of re-taking the House, and the Senate is all about saving moderate Democrats in red states -- not exactly something that makes wealthy liberal donors want to stroke checks.

No wonder they're more interested in 2016.

Why does Cornyn have the advantage over Thune? I always thought of Thune as a big star in the party.

A lot of it is because Cornyn's the whip right now. Also, because Thune still has plenty of time (not to mention potential presidential aspirations, with which being a member of leadership doesn't exactly jibe.)

Is the GOP one party anymore or 2 regional parties? One a socially conservative lead party & one a fiscally conservative party who is especially willing to compromise on gay rights and basically anything else other than abortion?

I don't really see that latter party just yet.

I still think the GOP is still pretty uniformly socially conservative; it's just a matter of emphasis. The ones who want to win elections tend to want to focus on other stuff.

What thoughts do you have about current (Susan Brooks, Ann Wagner) and potentially future (Barbara Comstock) GOP house members running for Senate?

I think all three of those are definitely in the mix.

Others to keep an eye on: Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Martha Roby (Ala.), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.).

I don't know if no one in KY will remember. KY basketball and AL football fans are not know for being rational.

Now you're casting aspersions. (Although anybody who would root for Nick Saban needs to have their sanity checked.)

What's the intel on her thought process? I know she talks about her disabled sister she has to take care of, but you just don't say no to VP. And if she were to not be offered, or say no, or run and lose, she would still have two years left in her term and still be in her 50s. Senate run maybe? Heinrich is up in 2018

I think VP maybe. That she could explain. Running for Senate, I think, would be harder to explain. And I think it would make a lot less sense for her.

Thanks everyone for coming out. As always, you guys brought some great questions.

We'll see you all next Tuesday at 2.

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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