Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Apr 22, 2014

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

Hey everyone, and thanks for coming out to the latest installment of Ask Aaron.

What's on your mind today?

The politics of pot?

Ted Cruz's endorsements?

Mich. afirmative action ban upheld by Supremes?

The demise of ticket-splitting?

The GOP and gay marriage?

Andrew Cuomo's battle with liberals?

As always, anything (within reason) is fair game, so ask away...

I thinks there is a divide between being Republican and conservative. I mean, Kansas is very conservative (tho elects many Dem governors) while Wyoming is very Republican but not that conservative. Which are the TOP 5 conservative and top 5 Republican states?

GREAT point.

My top 5 conservative would be:

1. Arizona

2. Georgia

3. Louisiana

4. Mississippi

5. Oklahoma

The 5 most Republicans would be:

1. Utah

2. Wyoming

3. Oklahoma

4. Idaho

5. Alabama/Nebraska

Which GOP candidate would she want to run against?

In order:

1. Broun

2. Gingrey

3. Anyone else

Given the polling trendlines, sooner or later the dam is going to break on gay marriage, no? Republicans running in blue and, soon, purple states are going to have to embrace gay marriage out of political necessity. Will the 2018 midterms be the first time we see this on a broad scale?

You would think that it would happen at some point, but I don't think that point will come until the GOP base becomes much more amenable to gay marriage. That's still not happening.

Could it happen by 2018? Sure. But there was a poll today from the Family Research Council (reported on by Politico's great Maggie Haberman) that showed 82% of GOPers remain opposed to gay marriage. So that's a long way to go.

Until then, the GOP will likely be sandwiched between popular public opinion and their base. Not a great place to be.

With the SCOTUS Decision, can we expect another wave of anti-affirmative action inititives on the ballot?

I would count on it. Either that or GOP state legislatures (of which there are still plenty after the 2010 wave) will start working on this issue.

Fawning Politico profile last week. What does Corker's future look like? Running for president in '16 or '20? Run for governor in '16?

Here's the story referenced.

I think Corker could be governor one day. I'm not sure he's really presidential timbre, and he's kind of inflamed the tea party at times. But he's got a great reputation among the GOP establishment in DC.

Have there been enough to see an actual trend upwards? Or does it seem to be region-dependent?

The most recent polling I've seen suggests things have kind of stayed as-is.

Of course, public opinion on this has been so constant for so long (years, really). We shouldn't really expect many big, statistically significant shifts.

Is it just me or is he trying to make himself into a second Nixon? His anti-pot rhetoric, which he seems to be ratcheting up recently, has very Silent Majority overtones

I think you could make an argument that Christie is kind of taking the George W. Bush route -- Compassionate Conservatism with a Jersey edge, perhaps.

He's moderate on some issues but projects strength and conservatism on the issues he really cares about -- most notably on national security.

Say he retires to be guv. Who replaces him? Diane Black or Marsha Blackburn seem to be the most obvious options.

Those are two good ones. I think you also have to consider the LG, Ron Ramsey, as well as someone like state House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Three predictions for 2016: 1. All GOP candidates will oppose SSM. But most will avoid talking about it. 2. If he runs, Chris Christie will take some criticism for allowing SSM to take effect in NJ. 3. At least one candidate (Cruz? Santorum?) will run as someone who "really means" his opposition to SSM.

Agree on all three.

Prove me wrong: Cruz is to 2014 what Palin was to 2010: Huge endorsement power, big fundraising boost for candidate, earns title as kingmaker.

I tend to agree. He's about as close as you get to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for conservatives these days.

Doesn't he check more of the GOP's wishlist than any other candidate? Governor, has cred with Christian right but not too tight with them, smart, wonky, can appeal to libertarianish strain of the party, and a young minority to boot. If I were a GOP overlord I would be working overtime to anoint a Jindal-Susana Martinez ticket.

Basically nobody disputes that Jindal is probably the GOP's best candidate -- on paper.

But on paper doesn't always translate. As Rick Perry about that.

I think Jindal still has a lot to prove when it comes to being a compelling national candidate. His State of the Union response, of course, was rough, and I'm not sure he's really made a name for himself just yet.

All of that said, I think he'd be near-ideal as a vice presidential candidate.

More likely to run for governor or own the Buffalo Bills?

Bills, by far.

Saw him on MSNBC this morning. Avoided a few pointed questions. What are his chances?

I'm still not quite sure we know the depth of Gov. Nathan Deal's (R) vulnerabilities after the state's botched response to the ice storm.

But Democrats really like Carter and hope that he can carry things for them in a state they hope to compete in very soon.

You're right, though: He seemed to struggle at times under some tough questions from Chuck Todd.

Michelle Nunn or Mark Begich? Mark Udall or Terri Lynn Land? Jeanne Shaheen or Jeff Merkley?

All three of these are pretty clear:

Begich

Udall

Shaheen

Note that he's quite unpopular back home in Louisiana. Not the sort of thing to give comfort to a GOP activist/donor/officeholder thinking about backing Jindal.

That's a great point too. I wrote about this a while back.

He seems to have righted the ship somewhat, but you do wonder about a GOP governor in a deep-red state having such problems.

Rick Perry had a little bit of that problem when he ran, though nobody really took much notice.

Establishment Rs have picked Mississippi Senate and ID-01 as their two biggest stands this cycle and will win them both.

Likely true. It has been fascinating to see the establishment strike back.

If the Chamber/establishment wins both of those races, I'm not sure where the tea party's victories come from. Ben Sasse in Nebraska, maybe. But the establishment isn't really lined up behind Osborn.

Who does he most want to run against? Tom Wolf seems pretty clean, even if he did borrow a campaign slogan from Peter Russo. Allyson Schwartz, a former director of an abortion clinic and a vocal supporter of Obamacare would seem like a more appealing option, correct?

I do tend to think Schwartz might give Corbett the best chance. But it's also true that businessmen and -women have won primaries before all the dirt really comes out on them.

There's also the fact that the media pays less attention to primaries.

None of this is to say that there's a bunch of dirt on Tom Wolf -- just that we might not know everything just yet.

Do you really think that Merkley is in trouble? Or do you just think Shaheen is in great shape?

I answered too quickly. Should have been Merkley, not Shaheen.

Regret the error. The other two I stand by.

Why not Nikki Haley?

She's struggled even more than Jindal with her governorship, and she doesn't have as lengthy a resume. Jindal was running the state's health department in his mid-20s, for pete's sake.

I don't know many who have as good a resume as Jindal by age 42.

Do you know how many casinos Trump would have to sell to become a NFL owner? This Buffalo Bills talk is all talk, no show, from Trump again.

Still more likely than him running for president.

If Obama had to have a conversation with red-state Democrats like Mary Landrieu, what would he say to her to justify delaying the decision on Keystone XL? Wouldn't she (and others in her situation) accuse him of throwing her overboard in favor of small number of enviros?

I think they are really going to start pressing the issue as November approaches.

But, in the end, if he's not going to approve it at all, it's probably better for these members for him to keep delaying it rather than putting an end to it.

Udall v Gardner. How would you rate this race?

I still think there's about a 2/3 chance that Udall wins. But I also don't think Gardner would have run unless he thought he could really chip away at that.

What will/could be the most surprising outcome of a Senate/gov primary this year?

I think Tillis is definitely the favorite in #NCSEN, but if he went to a runoff with someone like Brannon, who knows...

It's not a coincidence that establishment groups are rallying to Tillis right now. They're trying to make sure he's the nominee, and apparently they have at least a little doubt that that'll be the case.

The Draft Ben Carson movement: entirely a scam or only mostly a scam?

This is a reference to this great story from Jaime Fuller.

I don't doubt that these folks might believe spending 90 cents to raise $1 is a good longterm strategy -- in the name of building a huge network of donors.

But I think that if their donors knew what was going on, they might have a different opinion.

From 0 to 10, rank Republican elites' (officeholders, donors, opinion leaders) dislike for Rand Paul's foreign policy views. 0 would mean they find them acceptable, 10 means they would rather vote Democratic than accept a President Paul.

I think he's at about an 8, whereas his dad is at about a 10.

I think the establishment suspects he's closer to his dad than he's letting on. And if he becomes the frontrunner, I would expect the GOP to do some real soul-searching when it comes to its foreign policy goals and ideals.

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions today. With about six months to go until the midterms, what's the likelihood that the Republicans win the Senate? The folks over at the NY Times say it's a tossup. Do you agree with that sentiment, or is that being overly generous to the Dems?

I say there's a slightly better chance of a GOP takeover right now than Dems holding the majority.

Things change, of course, but the GOP just has so many targets, and they really only NEED to win in red states.

If the environment tilts GOP in any significant way in November, I think the GOP should be able to get to at least 50 seats -- and would probably be favored to get to 51.

About the same as W at this point, no?

I was comparing Haley's resume to Jindal's, but your point stands in general...

Any chance Rounds gets a serious challenge in the R primary. He seems to be the only one pumped for his candidacy.

There are a couple other GOP candidates raising decent money, but there's probably too many of them and they'll just split up the vote.

Republicans seem to be trying to make the case that Warner is vulnerable. I'm a Republican that would love to see the race be competitive, but I don't see it now or down the road. He is the most popular pol in the state.

His approval ratings are hard to overcome. If he was in a deep-red state, then maybe we're talking -- something like a reverse of the still-popular Scott Brown losing in Massachusetts in 2012.

Ed Gillespie needs a lot of help from the environment.

Everybody's taking a lot for granted with Tillis. The GOP's lurch to the right has left a lot of disgruntled voters, especially in a statewide race. Tax breaks for the rich have left the state with a $200 Million shortfall, teacher pay is in the basement, and Gov. McCrory, a longterm employee for Duke Energy, has to thread the needle in dealing with the fiasco of their coal ash spill(s). Throw in several Tea Partiers looking to draw blood and you could easily see a Harry Reid/Nevada situation.

I think the one thing standing in the way for the tea party is the 40 percent runoff threshold. If it was 50 percent, a runoff would be far more likely for Tillis, and the tea party could coalesce more.

For now, Brannon hasn't gotten much big-name support.

Have attracted some pretty strange people as supporters (remember the Southern Avenger?). Anti-Semitic, white supremacist, and 9/11 "truther" sites are filled with praise for the Pauls. While people can't be held responsible for those who admire them, how much of a problem will this be for Rand Paul's presidential ambitions?

I do think that Ron Paul's 2008 and 2012 campaigns were somewhat marginalized by the kinds of folks who supported him. They certainly stood out.

Politicians are, to some degree, defined by their followers. When people are thinking about who they back, it's totally natural to look at the other people who support that candidate. If that includes some unsavory characters or people you don't want to associate with, then that matters.

That said, Rand's followers aren't the same as Ron's.

Wait -- I live here. And we almost have gone Democratic twice in last 2 national elections. Why is GA so high on your list? Are there pockets of conservatism? Sure -- but not as much as people think. I never thought I would be arguing GA is not as conservative -- but how are you measuring this????? Please share. Sure we have a bunch of extremists running for R-GA senate -- but that isn't everything that's happening in the state.

I was thinking mostly about the kind of legislation coming from the state legislature, how conservative the delegation is (GA is certainly a leader on this count), and how culturally conservative its Democratic contingent tends to be.

Your dismissive tone to Trump's possible Gov run leads me to believe you think he just wants attention. For shame!

I'll take a timeout now.

Do you expect Rand Paul to come under attack for his "soft" views on marijuana. Not exactly where the GOP base is.

I actually think you can make a compelling conservative case for reducing drug sentences. It saves money by keeping people out of prison and ending expensive legal processes.

In fact, you're starting to see conservative Republicans governors make this case in several states. Our own Wesley Lowery had a good piece on this recently.

Thanks everyone for coming out yet again.

We'll see you 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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