Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Aug 13, 2013

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

Hello all, and welcome to the latest edition of "Ask Aaron"!

Looks like we've got a good turnout today, so I'll just get right to it and try to answer as many of your questions as possible.

As always, anything's fair game. So ask away...

Will he ever be seriously challenged/defeated or is the Speaker position his for as long as he's in Congress?

I wouldn't put that past the House GOP conference, but it's no easy task to take down a sitting speaker.

I think it's much more likely he bows out before it gets close to that point.

Compare and contrast their personalities, ideologies, and political appeals.

Personalities: Rand Paul is more personable, but Cruz is the better speaker.

Ideologies: Paul is libertarian, while Cruz is more of a tea party guy. And there is a difference.

Political appeal: I think Paul has more upside as far as broad appeal -- including to some voters who normally go blue. I don't see the same with Cruz, but he could very well win a GOP presidential primary.

I think this polls (no pun intended) well in the abstract but is something that would frustrate people if they experienced long waits, etc. If you vote in the middle of the day and never wait, of course you wouldn't care. And, really, isn't it just a proxy Q for Ds & Rs like "direction of the country" polls?

I don't think Voter ID is problematic for Republicans. What might be is all the other stuff that's tacked on -- including in this new bill in North Carolina.

It's much harder to explain why you're reducing early voting and getting rid of same-day registration, which I would think poll VERY popularly. And then there's the fact that basically all of these proposals work to the GOP's advantage.

Right now I think he ends up being the 2004 version of John Edwards in 2016. I see him appealing to the hearts of the base, sticking around and doing well in debates, and ultimately being picked as Chris Christie's running mate. Crazy?

I'm not sure. I think in a running mate you don't look for someone who will rock the boat too much. Christie would need to pick a conservative, true, but I think it's much more likely he would pick Rubio, as long as Rubio doesn't completely alienate the base with his immigration push.

Apart from Rubio, maybe Jindal?

Should we place any importance on Anthony Weiner's remarks yesterday that seemed to imply Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016? Does her recent speech on voting rights support that interpretation?

Look -- I don't think Hillary Clinton knows for sure whether she will run for president, but you might as well be prepared if you do. And the speech helps.

And I don't think Anthony Weiner knows what her plans are, nor do I think Huma does. I think they have strong suspicions, as we all do.

What's his next step? Nobody thinks he's going from San Antonio Mayor to President/VP, so what happens before a national candidacy?

It's tough because he's from Texas. Does he wait for the state to go blue enough to run for governor? I would think it would be easier to win the governor's seat than a Senate seat.

I do think he needs that intermediate step in some way, shape or form. But he's got PLENTY of time. He's only 38. 

Do you want to bang your head against your desk when you see people focusing on where Matt Damon sends his children to school or what Ted Cruz's dad thinks about ObamaCare?

Sometimes. But actually, Cruz's dad got a great reception in Iowa, from what I hear.

I could easily see him as HUD Secretary. But not sure if that gets him to statewide office.

This is another potential route -- maybe an intermediate stop while he waits for Texas to get blue enough.

But he did just win reelection this year, so I'm not sure he can skip town for an administration job during Obama's administration. He would probably need to hope that a Democrat wins in 2016.

What do you think would have to happen for House Republicans to lose their majority in 2014 (in the short term) or any election ahead of another round of redistricting in 2020?

I think Democrats would need to win 54 percent of the popular vote nationwide and find some strong/moderate candidates in rural American -- ala 2006/2008.

How worried is Lindsey Graham over the challenge of Nancy Mace?

I don't know the answer to that, but he should be sufficiently concerned. South Carolina has a runoff, which means if he doesn't get 50 percent plus one in the primary, one of these candidates will face him head-to-head.

What we don't know is how formidable any one of these candidates is. Graham also had a primary challenge in 2008, but it fizzled and he won easily.

Did you watch House of Cards on Netflix? I just finished the first season and really enjoyed it. (This would be what Tracee Hamilton would call "and whatever else you want to talk about.") Is it an exaggerated but believable view of Washington or do you Washington "Herald" journalists just see it as ridiculous? Thanks for your insight.

I think anybody who sees Hollywood portray their workplace will find something wrong with it (and often a lot of things). I didn't view House of Cards as some realistic depiction of Washington or the Post; I viewed it as entertainment.

If I were a female reporter, however, I might feel different.

These problems will eventually take care of themselves, won't they? Weiner will lose his primary, and Filner will be pushed out of office.

Yes and (probably) yes -- unless it comes out that other people besides Weiner and Filner knew about what was going on and didn't say anything. Until that happens, these scandals stay pretty isolated.

I never saw it and the hype actually is a turn off. Same thing with Mad Men, The Wire, and Game of Thrones. Am I the only one who thinks fans need to chill and not sound like cult members in their insistence that people watch those shows?

Nothing worse than the person who is SO offended that you haven't watched their show. I don't like Mad Men, get over it.

That said, I thoroughly enjoy the other three. :)

Holder's announcement about mandatory minimum and the court decision overturning "stop and frisk" in NYC calls attention to one of the underrated shifts of our time: the dramatic decline in crime since the early 1990s. Having lived through the 1970s and 1980s, I can tell you pervasive the fear of crime was during those years. The decline in crime has affected the politics of guns, drugs, prisons, the death penalty, civil liberties, urban life, even race. People aren't afraid so much anymore. Now, if the crime rate ticked back up...

Amazing how much society's views about law enforcement change as they feel safer. I think we're seeing a similar phenomenon when it comes to surveillance and terrorism.

What would be a good % for Booker tonight? Any deeper numbers/demos you'll be looking at?

If he gets to 60, that will be a very good night -- especially in a four-candidate field with two sitting House members.

But it's all pretty moot. Barring major scandal, he's going to be the next senator from New Jersey.

Keep an eye on his performance in South Jersey, which doesn't know him as well. If he does well there, as I think he will, it's the icing on the cake for him.

Nothing on TV this time of year so I went back and watched the Democratic Convention speech by Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio. Reminded me of the convention speech by a no-name 2004 Illinois senator who would be president in four short years. Any chance that Hillary gets beat by another no-name in the 2016 primaries?

People say Obama came out of nowhere in 2008, but he didn't really. He was a sitting U.S. senator and had tons of buzz around him.

It's not quite the same with Castro. As for who else could "shock the world," I'm not sure there's an obvious answer besides maybe Elizabeth Warren.

Any idea where he is headed? He has said he's leaving politics and heading to the private sector when his term ends. Then I read somewhere that he just brought in a new director for his PAC. What's up?

I have no idea, but something tells me he's not done with the public sector.

Can you see him jumping into the Governor's race in 2017, even if he has only been in the senate for 3 years? The bench for both the R's and D's seem very thin.

I think Cory Booker was made for the Senate. If he runs for another office in the coming years, it's president.

I think that would probably require an unpopular Republican in the White House. Or *maybe* a Democratic landslide in a presidential election.

Good point. I totally agree that Democrats probably don't win back the House unless a Republican wins the White House in 2016. You need something to vote against to have a wave election, and nothing better to vote against than a president of the opposite party.

How do you expect Republican presidential aspirants to handle this issue? The public is increasingly pro-SSM, but the GOP base is still firmly anti.

I think Republicans will say that they prefer it to be a state issue and that federal government shouldn't be involved. You're already seeing some take that position, including Rand Paul.

It allows you to be a federalist and personally against gay marriage -- kind of a middle ground.

But I don't think it will be very long before a major GOP presidential candidate with a chance to win supports gay marriage.

Is this a sign he is going to run for president, instead of trying to win reelection in 2016?

Maybe he takes the path Rick Santorum should have taken in 2008. Get out before you lose.

One thing we do know: Johnson's reelection campaign will be VERY tough. I don't think he can do with Rand Paul is likely to do, which is run for president and then seek reelection if he's not nominated.

If they hold their losses to a minimum in 2014, I could imagine the Democrats taking the House (by a tiny margin) if they win the 2016 presidential election by a substantial margin. But they'd almost certainly give it back in 2018.

Right -- even if they can win the majority, it's going to be very tough to hold. And they will likely have enough moderate/conservative Democrats and such a slim majority that it will still be tough to pass legislation.

I expect GOP candidates to spend a lot of time defending opponents of SSM against the charge that they are "bigots." Easy rhetorical point, easy applause line.

This too. Republicans are going to have to do something to make their opposition to gay marriage palatable to independents who may back gay marriage but are somewhat squishy on it.

Does the firing up of the base (and $) from impeachment talk by the House GOP outweigh the damage to the brand with independents?

No. The GOP has plenty of things to get fired up about. I don't think anyone thinks talking about impeachment is a winning strategy -- except perhaps a dozen or so House Republicans.

Is he the new Bachmann? His own district disagrees with him on immigration but he seems to be talking on behalf of a different segment of his party. I imagine he'll fundraise well from far-right conservatives from outside of Iowa just like Bachmann raised tons of $ nationally.

I saw that poll too.  I think it's a little more nuanced than it may seem.

But I take your point that both King and Bachmann have held down nominally competitive districts in spite of some pretty strong rhetoric.

I also think that people under-estimate King. He says some things that don't help with indies, but like Bachmann, he doesn't come across personally as an angry conservative.

Does Pelosi remain minority leader in 2015 if the Dems fail to win back the House? Or will there be a revolt and it go to Hoyer?

I think the job is Pelosi's as long as she wants it. The liberal wing of the party is more dominant when Democrats are in the minority, and she's got lots of loyalty built up.

who are you thinking about as a running mate? (and you know she is)

Mark Warner? I would say that she should probably pick someone from the Mountain West, but Hickenlooper is struggling a bit in Colorado, and I don't think she would pick Schweitzer.

I think it is more likely that when Pelosi finally retires, the leadership goes to someone much younger, like Chris Van Hollen.

I do love the idea of a leadership fight between two Marylanders -- Van Hollen and Hoyer.

Should she be elected mayor of NYC, do you see her becoming a national figure?

As Rudy Giuliani showed, being mayor of New York City isn't a great platform to take the step on to the national stage. And I think that goes double if you're a Democrat. 

Quinn is also a pretty divisive and outspoken political figure. I don't see her as someone national Democrats would want to put out there.

A) Kristie Noem B) Liz Cheney C) Nancy Mace D) Kim Handel

1. Handel

2. Cheney

3. Mace

4. Noem

Do their Senate runs raise their profiles in any signifcant way? Are they going to raise $ better, get on better committees, get more attention for legislation?

I don't think so. I think they gave it a shot, realized they weren't going to succeed, and laid off the gas pedal.

I doubt any of us (OK, maybe The Fix will) will remember who ran against Booker in this primary 5 years from now.

did Jeff Bezos give you?

Nothing yet. Must have gotten lost in the mail.

Like Bloomberg, she fits a particular milleu -- affluent white Manhattan liberals -- very well. Not so much anyone else.

Bloomberg's potential appeal in a presidential race was very limited for this same reason.

Nobody outside New York City relates to New Yorkers. Giuliani came as close to bridging the gap as I think he could, but even he ultimately failed.

I guess there's a possibility that Bob Menendez retires in 2018. So maybe Rush Holt could run to replace him. But that's a long way away.

Or maybe Cory Booker becomes somebody's vice president.

If President Obama has lost the Kardashians, he has lost Middle America....

First Matt Damon, now KimYe. I wonder how Honey Boo Boo feels...

Everybody seems to have a bone to pick with Putin: Snowden, gay rights, Pussy Riot, Syria, etc. Who are the "Russia hawks?" Are there any "Russia doves?"

Something tells me being a "Russia dove" isn't exactly a winning political stance.

I have to cut out just a little bit early today.

Thanks to everyone who showed up. I know it's recess and politics isn't on everyone's mind. But you guys always have good questions.

Until 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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