Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jun 10, 2014

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

Welcome back, everybody.

It's primary day again, but we can talk about anything you guys want.

Let's do this!

What happens to his presidential chances if he wins re-election by a narrow margin, e.g. 51 percent? Would that diminish his standing in the eyes of Republican activists?

I think it definitely wouldn't help, just like Jindal being unpopular back home wouldn't help.

One thing I will say for Walker, is that his recall is probably the race that matters more than anything. The fact that he won such a high-profile race so big probably overshadows even a middling 2014 reelect.

This stuff matters most when wooing establishment support, which Walker would want to do.

She's now led in three straight polls. Obviously this is a post-primary bump and comes before the inevitable air assault, but this does indicate a level of competitiveness above what most people expected, no?

I wouldn't be surprised to see folks calling this a toss-up very soon.

The big question for her is raising money. If she can match Braley, there's no reason this isn't one of the most competitive races.

I would say, though, that I think of Iowa as a swing state with a slight blue lean.

Can't say that the public response to the Bergdahl affair has surprised me in that: (1) It has fallen strongly along partisan lines. (2) Republicans are following the story a lot more than Democrats and Independents. The story is a natural for conservative media. By contrast, many Democrats and Independents don't seem to care at all -- large percentages report having no opinion of the matter.

I just posted this: "Why the Bowe Bergdahl deal is a political loser" http://wapo.st/1kMP4RW

I think this is a case where the opposition is going to be VERY motivated, but the White House is going to have a tough time finding motivated allies.

Sounds a lot like Obamacare, doesn't it?

While you may not be as insane a sports guy as Fix, will you be following any of the tournament?

He loves soccer more than me, but I think we're both pretty big sports fans. In fact, I started out in journalism covering sports.

I love the World Cup -- and pretty much anything in which people are representing their countries. I'll be watching more of this than my wife would prefer.

Iowa certainly is a quintessential swing state, so it's not shocking that an open Senate race would be competitive. It's worth noting that Bruce Braley's "lawyer" gaffe doesn't seem to have hurt him all that much. Most of Ernst's gains have been from winning over undecideds -- presumably consolidating Republicans -- not from winning voters away from Braley.

One thing to remember on Braley, too, is that it's not like he's a statewide officeholder. He was better-known than Ernst, but he's got some ground to gain with undecideds too.

This will be a fun race.

Mike Rounds is the overwhelming favorite in November, but there are two third party candidates running as well. Larry Pressler probably has some residual goodwill as he runs a quixotic campaign. Conservatives were not overjoyed at the prospect of Rounds and tried to coax Krist Noem to enter the race. Why shouldn't Democratic super PACs throw some money around to prop up the conservative third party challenger since it's dirt cheap to advertise in South Dakota?

Because it probably wouldn't work and they have bigger fish to fry. I think the presence of Pressler might have opened things up for someone like Herseth Sandlin or Sen. Johnson's son, but Rick Weiland is running a pretty liberal campaign.

Also, in re: Pressler -- I would note the Rasmussen poll that showed him at 18 percent. I think he probably fades, though, given his lack of funds and the fact that voters tend to stray from third-party candidates when it's clear they don't have a chance to win. History has shown that.

Surely someone ... SOMEONE in Obama's circle looked at the plans for the press conference and recognized how the optics would be ridiculed by the right. I know this is all in hindsight, but still...

The White House can be quite an insular place.

I'm wondering if whoever set that press conference up ever read Michael Hastings' piece. My guess is they didn't.

Where and what sports did you cover?

I wrote at the University of Minnesota and did a lot of freelancing/stringing for the Star Tribune and ESPN -- Twins, high school stuff, etc.

If elected, who will be the next Congressional rising stars for the GOP (DeMaio? Love? Shannon?) and Dems (Nunn? Grimes?)

I think Nunn would be for sure. They like her a lot. Grimes would always have to worry about her reelection in Kentucky and I think would be more careful.

On the GOP side, definitely those three you mention. I think Lankford would be too, if he can beat Shannon, BTW.

Here are some others, from our 40 under 40 feature.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607

In case folks haven't read it...

Does Graham get to 50%?

I think so. Polling shows he's close, and there are TONS of undecideds to get him over the top.

Why would Grimes have to worry more than Nunn? Kentucky Dems own most statewide offices and Clinton carried the state twice.

I think Georgia is a better state for Democrats in 2020 than Kentucky is. Presidential election year means higher African-American turnout, which is a huge factor in Georgia. Plus, Georgia is trending toward a swing state.

Pryor, Begich, Landrieu: Put in order of most likely to least likely to lose in November.

1. Landrieu

2. Pryor

3. Begich

Rick Perry ran into trouble in 2012 over his immigration stance, which was more in line with former President Bush's. Now the Texas GOP seems to have abandoned that position and taken a stronger deportation stance. Will this cause more of a shift among Latinos in the state?

There is always that risk. People don't realize that the Latino vote in Texas is more pro-GOP than elsewhere -- something that I think undercuts this whole idea that Texas might turn purple sometime soon.

But certainly something like that could make that happen a little faster.

You mean the same one Republicans could've read too before tweeting support for Bergdahl?

Fair point.

I would submit that planning a press conference involves quite a bit more forethought than a tweet or even a press release, though.

Do Democrats have a viable path to reclaiming the House majority in 2016 with population shifts and God willing, a favorable political environment?

The population isn't shifting that quickly, and they've got a very tough map.

That said, if they are going to win back the House, it's much more likely in a presidential election year than in a midterm. Their coalition right now is much more favorable in presidential years.

Do any Republican candidates or outside groups go "birther" against Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential race?

It's possible. But I'm not sure how much traction it would get. I don't think Cruz being born in Canada makes people question his loyalties or really much of anything.

Who runs against him in 2016? Who would be the strongest candidate for Democrats?

Russ Feingold is the most obvious potential opponent. Rep. Ron Kind's (D-Wis.) name always comes up too, but he might have difficult in a primary because he's a moderate.

Why don't we see more presidential candidates pledge to serve only one term?

Because they all want to serve two.

Listen, people who run for president have healthy egos and want to be remembered as great presidents. How many great presidents do you know who served only one term? (And we're not counting assassinations...)

Does he waltz into the governor's mansion?

Waltz? No. Is he the favorite? Yes.

Keep an eye on Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), who has been biding his time for a while and should be ready to run.

Do you think Obama voters are going to be Democrats for life, the way Reagan voters stayed with the GOP, or do they simply like Obama and will be up for grabs in 2016?

I think the two parties are two polarized for such a phenomenon to reoccur. Reagan won those Democrats because they were conservative-leaning.

I don't think Obama won a whole bunch of liberal Republicans (to the extent they exist), and even the ones he did I wouldn't say are Democrats for life. There's really no reason to believe that.

What are we, Mexico?

Also: Virginia.

Who wants to start out as a lame duck from the start?

That's a great point too. People who don't like you will just wait till you're gone. That's not an option if 8 years is on the table.

Who wins that primary race? Sestak ran a great race that just couldn't overcome the political environment in 2010, while Kane looks like the future for Democrats in Pennsylvania, and that Senate seat is the only promotion that looks open to her.

I think the Democratic establishment rallies behind Kane (they don't love Sestak), and if she can run a strong race, she's the favorite.

BTW -- I cannot wait for this race.

A year ago, when Nancy Mace got in the race everyone thought Graham was vulnerable. Now, Mace is hardly polling and Graham looks like a shoe in. What happened?

He was always vulnerable given who he is. I don't know anybody who ever thought he was going to lose -- even when Mace got in.

The opponents in this race just never really caught fire.

Is he running for re-election? Who would you see jumping in if he doesn't?

I think he does. If not, every member of that state's delegation seems to be positioning for it, given their voting records: Schweikert, Salmon, Franks.

And if Martha McSally beats Barber this year, expect to hear her name in the mix too.

Who is most likely to still be Governor next year?

My gut says Scott.

Will there be a Fix group for the ESPN WC picks? Note: CC said he would but hasn't yet :(

Just asked him. He said he will do it today or tomorrow.

In my opinion the most under-asked question in American politics: Will he run even if Clinton runs?

Maybe just to position himself for VP?

When's the last time Republicans approved of >50% of anything Obama did? I keep this in mind when analyzing polls. Some Democrats peel off (like with NSA), but there's basically a built in 50% disapprove in everything, no matter what Obama does. Grain of salt, Aaron.

So just because 50% of people consistently oppose Obama, that means their opinion doesn't mean anything?

Even if you think there is an "automatic" opposition, I don't think it's 50%. I think it's probably closer 40% -- the true partisans.

Also -- one area that the 40-50% opposition never materialized: gun control.

Let's be honest with ourselves. He had some internal polling that scared the bejeesus out of him and decided to go full out nuclear

Let's be honest: This is the smart thing to do.

I independently went through the possibilities and then asked some Dem activists. General consensus is Tim Kaine would be an awesome running mate for Hillary.

I think Kaine will get lots of attention -- no matter who the Dem nominee is.

Does any major Democrat even challenge him? Their Ohio bench is pretty thin, he's cut a moderate profile, and he'll be very well funded.

It's Ohio, so someone will step forward. It's just very rare for anyone to get a free pass in a swing state.

But you're right, the Democratic bench in Ohio is somewhere between bad and not good. Remember Lee Fisher?

I'm not sure that this story stays in the headlines for that much longer. Conservative media will push it -- but they push everything. Unless there's something really shocking that comes out, I doubt that people will be talking about it at the end of the summer. (The "didn't notify Congress" issue has substantive importance, but it's not the sort of the thing that most people care about). I agree that it's unlikely that it's ever a political winner for Obama.

I disagree slightly. I think the salaciousness of the story is just too irresistible, and people want to know more. In addition, there will be congressional inquiries, etc., giving this life.

It might not be a huge story, but it's interesting enough that the media will definitely keep an eye on it.

Who is more likely to be holding public office next year?

Coakley, by a lot. She's the favorite.

If the Dems lose control of the Senate, will Harry Reid step down? Will he be challenged for his post?

I think it's much more likely Reid steps down if they lose the Senate.

That said, they would have a GREAT chance to win it back in 2016, given how favorable the map is and the turnout will be. And that's not nothing.

James K. Polk. Won the Mexican war, achieved all his domestic campaign pledges, stepped down.

Every rule has an exception.

But I would argue that being "better than James K. Polk" isn't exactly the goal of Hillary Clinton or anybody else who might run.

Thanks for coming out, everyone. As always, this is my favorite time of the week. You guys have lots of great question and great ideas.

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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