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April 29, 2014

2
P.M.

Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Total Responses: 27

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

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

Q.

Aaron Blake :

It's time for my favorite part of the week, when I set aside an hour to take your questions.

So what's on your mind this week?

Donald Sterling?

Cliven Bundy?

The Democrats' 2014 problems?

Michael Grimm?

The GOP's demographic problem?

Vance McAllister?

As always, we like to get a good mix of questions in here, and I'll do my level-best to answer all the good (or even mediocre) ones.

Let's do it...

Q.

Social issues

Are there any states where Republicans can be expected to go on offense on social issues this cycle? KY and AR seem like natural fits
A.
Aaron Blake :

A lot of it depends on who the Democrat is. Mark Pryor is pretty conservative on social issues, so I'm not sure where Republicans might go after him.

In Kentucky and Georgia, I can see Republicans putting a little pressure on Grimes or Nunn.

But once they broach that subject, Democrats respond with the "war on women" attacks and start talking about contraception, etc. And as we've seen before, that can lead to all kinds of pitfalls for the GOP.

So the GOP is probably just as happy not to broach this stuff.

– April 29, 2014 2:01 PM
Q.

Nunn

She seems like the real deal, certainly more so than Grimes or Tennant. Do you think she can make it a real race even against Perdue, Kingston or Handel?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I'm a little skeptical, but lots of crazy things can happen in an open-seat race.

I do know that Broun and Gingrey fading in the GOP primary hasn't really changed Democrats' view that this is a targeted race. But a lot of that could be because it's one of only two states where they're playing offense.

– April 29, 2014 2:03 PM
Q.

Senate

Better odds of being senator? Wehby, Handel, Ernst? What %?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I'd say a tie between Handel and Ernst. Ernst has a better shot to be GOP nominee than Handel does, but Handel would be a better bet to win if she made it to the general election.

– April 29, 2014 2:04 PM
Q.

Maine

Will LePage survive? It looks like Cutler will again divide the 'anti-LePage' vote..
A.
Aaron Blake :

It's definitely within the realm of possibility.

Democrats assumed that having a legitimate candidate like Michaud would tamp down Cutler's share of the vote, but recent polls show it's still a very tight race.

– April 29, 2014 2:04 PM
Q.

True or False

Immigration reform bill will pass the House over the summer, die in the Senate, and then a big push will happen during the lame duck session.
A.
Aaron Blake :

Depends on how you define immigration reform. Comprehensive? No. Something else that has no chance in Senate? Maybe.

– April 29, 2014 2:05 PM
Q.

McConnell

So now that he has essentially destroyed Bevin, can we expect him to do the same to Grimes? I know her whole advantage is that she doesn't have a paper trail for him to exploit but Bevin isn't even in office and he still got dirt on him.
A.
Aaron Blake :

It will be rough-and-tumble from the start.

You're right that Grimes isn't a businesswoman like Bevin, but she does have a record as secretary of state, and she comes from a well-heeled political family with its own "paper trail."

This race will be brutal.

– April 29, 2014 2:07 PM
Q.

Senate

Don't you think Democratic candidates like Tennant, Nunn and Grimes in those states are the type of Democratic candidates that, without Obama, Republicans could vote for? I would see them being senators 15 years ago.

A.
Aaron Blake :

I do think Tennant and Grimes certainly fit the bill as candidates who can win in red states, and they will be hard to box in (unless they do it themselves).

With Grimes, I'm not as sure. She really has yet to define herself. And she'll need to please the left, given that's who is giving her the gobs of money that she's raised.

– April 29, 2014 2:12 PM
Q.

NC

There will be a runoff?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Looking more and more like Tillis will avoid it.

A new poll shows him at 38 percent, just shy of the 40-plus-1 he needs, with about 30 percent undecided.

Unless something really changes -- and Demcorats ARE running ads against him -- I think he avoids the runoff.

– April 29, 2014 2:15 PM
Q.

Blake v. Fix

Your live chats are way better than Cillizza's. Just FYI.

A.
Aaron Blake :

Offered without comment.

– April 29, 2014 2:15 PM
Q.

2014

Which state is the Democratic firewall? Michigan, Colorado or Oregon?

A.
Aaron Blake :

Those are beyond the firewall when it comes to the majority. (For the majority, I would point to Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina.)

If Democrats lose Michigan or Colorado, this was a really bad election for them. If they lose Oregon, it's been a bloodbath.

– April 29, 2014 2:17 PM
Q.

Obamacare

As you cited in your article, 76% of Americans do not think the law is improving the health care system, 86% do not think it's improving the quality of care, and 92% do not think it is lowering their cost. Those are ridiculously damning numbers, and it means more than 3/4 of the country agree that the law has failed in two of it's most central tenets: affordability and quality. Do any other numbers even matter?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I think this is a great point. (Here's the post referenced.)

Until a real chunk of the American people decides that this law has done something good when it comes to their own pocketbooks or their own health-care quality, nobody is going to be a pro-Obamacare voter.

Pre-existing conditions coverage and kids on their parents' insurance are viewed favorably, but they don't impact a whole bunch of voters personally. And politics is personal.

– April 29, 2014 2:20 PM
Q.

Ann Wagner

Freshman congresswoman but big fundraiser and lots of insiders say she has lots of ambition. Do you see her making moves up the ladder after the elections?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I think she's definitely in the mix. She was considered a possible 2012 Senate candidate (the GOP got Akin instead) and is a former RNC co-chairwoman.

I can definitely see her running for Senate one day -- or even climbing the GOP leadership chain.

– April 29, 2014 2:22 PM
Q.

Colorado

Polls show that Republicans do a lot better there in 2016 than in a lot of other swing states, and Cory Gardner is more competitive in polls than a lot of other Republicans running in tossup Senate races. It seems to me like Colorado is turning more true libertarian than any other state, and this cycle economic issues are paramount, thus giving the GOP an advantage. Whats going on over there?
A.
Aaron Blake :

It's quite possible. I think we're a little uncertain about the polls out there showing the GOP running close for both governor and senator, because the state swung so much for Obama. What you have to remember, though, is that the GOP there has been a mess for years, and they finally seem to have some legit candidates.

It's a whole new ballgame.

– April 29, 2014 2:25 PM
Q.

Midterms

The Democratic coalition doesn't seem to turn out in midterm elections, especially when their party controls the White House. How do Democrats mitigate this problem in 2014 and in the future?
A.
Aaron Blake :

You either expand the coalition or you make sure these low-turnout groups start to turn out more. Both are exceedingly difficult.

The problem Democrats have is that they have such a good coalition for the presidential election (and specifically, for Obama) but such a bad one for the midterms. So in 2008 and 2012, it works in spades; but in 2010 and 2014, it looks like a huge loser.

The more they spurn the 2008/12 coalition to grow the 2010/14 coalition, though, they risk jeopardizing their chances in presidential elections.

– April 29, 2014 2:27 PM
Q.

In an alternative universe...

Boehner retires after Republicans gain a high single digit number of seats this November. What does House leadership look like come January 2015?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I think Cantor is probably the speaker but McCarthy might get a challenge for majority leader -- maybe from the tea party. For whip, you've got to have Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the mix.

– April 29, 2014 2:31 PM
Q.

Republican Emily's List

Is there a Republican version of this powerhouse group? It seems to me they would do well to try to get one if there isn't.

A.
Aaron Blake :

Susan B. Anthony List is kind of the Emily's List of the right, and it has taken a bit of a step forward, but it doesn't have the same reach.

– April 29, 2014 2:32 PM
Q.

Grimm

Has he displaced Barber as House incumbent most likely to lose?
A.
Aaron Blake :

I'm not sure that it was Barber before (could have been Rahall), but Grimm is No. 1 now, yes.

– April 29, 2014 2:32 PM
Q.

Midterm coalition

You said:  "The problem Democrats have is that they have such a good coalition for the presidential election (and specifically, for Obama) but such a bad one for the midterms. So in 2008 and 2012, it works in spades; but in 2010 and 2014, it looks like a huge loser. But the Democrats did great in the 2006 midterms; it was only 2010 that they lost (so, at this point, a sample of one)."  How at this point can we say that the Democrats have a bad coalition for midterms, as opposed to merely concluding that the party that holds the White House normally loses in midterms?

A.
Aaron Blake :

Good question. The reason I say this is because Obama's big wins were due in large part to African American votes, Latino vote, young people and unmarried woman. All of these groups are notorious for their low turnout in midterm (and non-Obama) elections.

So while that coalition worked in the presidential elections, it looks much less solid in midterms. Democrats might still do OK in the end, but their voting coalition is still much better constituted for presidential elections than midterms.

There is a little bit of the fact that presidents struggle in midterms in general, yes. But if you look at the specific groups that made Obama the clear winner, they quite simply can't be counted on in 2014. And to the extent that Democrats didn't expend their coalition among more regular voters in 2008 and 2012, that could hurt them in 2014.

– April 29, 2014 2:36 PM
Q.

Immigration

If reform doesn't happen, can the GOP stand to benefit in 2016 and make the case that the only way it could pass is with a GOP president trusted to enforce the law?
A.
Aaron Blake :

That's a very process-oriented argument, and it would also put them in the position of having to pass something, which would still be difficult.

I don't think that's an argument they'll make.

– April 29, 2014 2:37 PM
Q.

Prove Me wrong

If Carl DeMaio and Barbara Comstock win this November they will immediately start being courted to run for Feinstein and Kaine's seats in 2018, respectively.
A.
Aaron Blake :

Comstock, yes. Though I think someone like Rigell might also be in the mix.

DeMaio, I think, would be hard-pressed to make the statewide leap in just four years. It's still just so hard for GOPers to win statewide in California, and he's still under 40, so he's got time.

– April 29, 2014 2:39 PM
Q.

Mead Treadwell

Assuming Tillis wins his primary and Gingrey and Broun are left out of the run-off, is the next project of the GOP establishment getting him to drop out?

A.
Aaron Blake :

It might be kind of moot by that point. Sullivan is quickly gaining control of this race.

I think the bigger test for the GOP is getting the right candidate in Iowa. It's looking like Joni Ernst has the momentum, but a lot has yet to play out.

– April 29, 2014 2:41 PM
Q.

A Dem/Rep failure on Election Day would be....

Factoring in House, Senate, and governor wins/losses

A.
Aaron Blake :

As of now (and I reserve the right to adjust these)...

Dem fail:

Losing 8 Senate seats, 12 House seats, not gaining any GOV seats

GOP fail:

Winning fewer than 4 Senate seats, losing House seats, losing 4 GOV seats

– April 29, 2014 2:43 PM
Q.

Karen Handel

Just heard about her this week, didn't even know she was running. She's an intriguing candidate, to the right of Kingston and Perdue and the left of Broun and Gingrey. But do you think she could beat either of the two (far better-funded) other candidates in a runoff, and wouldn't her Komen record hurt her in a general?

A.
Aaron Blake :

I think Kingston and Perdue have the money, but Handel in that case would be the conservative alternative and would likely draw tea party support.

I think it's a pretty competitive runoff no matter who is involved.

– April 29, 2014 2:47 PM
Q.

Establishment Out of Step?

Am I wrong to think that a lot of the "establishment elite vs. grassroots activists!" coverage tends to gloss over the fact that the former aren't really direly out of step with Republican voters? Neither Lamar Alexander nor Lindsay Graham are running from their fairly pragmatic records, John Cornyn was re-nominated, and none of the three other incumbents identified as potentially in danger (McConnell/Roberts/Cochran) seem likely to lose at their respective nominations at this point.

A.
Aaron Blake :

I don't think this was ever about these guys being out of step with the GOP, so much as the tea party wing demanding purity and not liking candidates who even associate themselves with the establishment.

At the same time, these guys' records are NOT as conservative as the Ted Cruzes and the Mike Lees, so there are some real differences.

– April 29, 2014 2:50 PM
Q.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), as Senator Broun?

Aaron, what do you think the chances are of Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), obtaining the Republican Party nomination for senator and, if nominated, his chances for election in November? As you might already know, Broun has publicly stated that he "knows, for a fact, that the earth cannot be more than 9,000 years old" -- a view which, according to conservative columnist Michael Gerson, should automatically disqualify Broun from ever holding public office. Broun's chances? Thanks for taking my question!

A.
Aaron Blake :

Broun has raised very little money, and the Club for Growth, which could have been his knight in shining armor, never got on-board with him.

He's just not really much of a factor right now.

– April 29, 2014 2:52 PM
Q.

2008/2012 vs. 2010/2014

You just said "the more they spurn the 2008/12 coalition to grow the 2010/14 coalition, though, they risk jeopardizing their chances in presidential elections" - all things being equal do you think the dems would prefer to have the white house or have control of congress?
A.
Aaron Blake :

You always take the White House -- unless you get veto-proof majorities in Congress, in which case you always take that. (But that's rare, of course.)

– April 29, 2014 2:55 PM
Q.

Hawaii

Brian Schatz seems pretty in control of that primary. What do you make of Mufi Hanneman's independent bid for governor?
A.
Aaron Blake :

Neil Abercrombie is not popular. I would be reasonably worried if I were him, even as Hannemann's electoral record isn't great (losing to Abercrombie in 2010 and a congressional primary in 2012).

– April 29, 2014 2:56 PM
Q.

Aaron Blake :

Thanks everyone for coming out. A great discussion, as always.

We'll see you next Tuesday at 2.

Q.

 

A.
Host: