Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jul 15, 2014

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

Thanks for joining me again for my favorite part of the work week.

As always, anything and everything related to politics is fair game. Let's do this!

Gohmert and Rand Paul's spokesman saying kids are invading Texas is a bit extreme. How do Republicans tone it down?

I've almost been a little surprised that the GOP hasn't caused more problems for itself on this (self-deportation, etc.) than it has.

I'm not sure the "invasion" comments rise to that level, but GOP leaders have to be a little concerned that the immigration issue being current again could reinforce their party's lack of action and decidedly unpopular stance.

Most to least likely to be in the Senate in 2015: Gardner (CO), Ernst (IA), Land (MI)

Ernst. Not really close, either. I think Iowa has emerged as something pretty close to a toss-up right now.

I'm skeptical they'll really have a good shot in Michigan come November.

Now what do we do for the next 4 years?

Read The Fix?

Does she need to win it in November, or is there a plausible scenario for her to win it in a runoff?

I suppose anything can happen, but I would think she needs to be right around 49% to have a chance in a runoff.

I would think the runoff would have even more favorable turnout for the GOP, barring a really impressive turnout operation by Landrieu and the Democrats.

Who would you rather be today -- Tom Cotton or Mark Pryor?

I still say Cotton, but I'm less convinced of that than I was a few months ago. I don't think Cotton has run a great campaign, despite outraising Pryor regularly.

We'll see what the next few months hold, but I think Pryor's campaign is doing what it needs to do to position itself to win. From there, it's about the national environment.

I heard everywhere that they're going down, but are the GOP's ratings going up? How low were George W. Bush's ratings at this point?

As for the Bush comparison -- he and Obama were on VERY similar trajectories until a couple months ago, when Bush's numbers really dropped (at the same point in his presidency).

Obama has actually seen his approval rating hold somewhat steady this year. What we're seeing drop, though, are some ancillary measures -- his leadership abilities, approval on issues like immigration and foreign policy, etc.

Which race will be closer: MN-Senate or MN-Governor?

I think Dayton and Franken have pretty similar numbers.

I feel like it's probably the Senate race, if for no other reason than that it's more nationalized.

I Predict: There will be a lot of talk about Derek Jeter.

As long as Chris Berman doesn't keep naming Minnesota cities when people hit home runs, I'll be OK.

Since he got kicked out, does he get to work as a lobbyist earlier than if the "retired"?

I think it's one year regardless of whether you lose or retire.

Otherwise, a member could theoretically get around it by throwing their reelection campaign and losing on purpose.

Who are the Democrats who run against these Senate Republicans in 2016: Toomey, Kirk, Johnson, Portman, Rubio, Ayotte, Grassley?

Keep an eye on ex-Rep. Joe Sestak and AG Kathleen Kane in PA and ex-Sen. Russ Feingold in WI.

As for Kirk, there will be no shortage of potential Democratic opponents if he runs again. This is Illinois, after all. 

The Democratic benches in Ohio and Florida are pretty bare. I think Ayotte is in strong position, and Grassley is probably a shoo-in if he runs again. He's quite popular.

I heard a bunch of whining about the weather for ASG festivities. Please defend your home state.

It's usually 90 degrees and oppressively humid in July. These people should consider themselves lucky.

Not for 2014, but what will the effects if FL & NC's redistricting lawsuit have for 2016?

I think that, at most, they would affect a competitive district or two in each state. As we saw in Texas last decade, re-drawing the map doesn't have to affect the entire map and isn't likely to shift a whole bunch of seats between parties.

Both maps will remain very strong GOP gerrymanders, in all likelihood.

Scott Brown released a statement yesterday calling for the kids on the border to be sent home and saying Shaheen supported "pro-amnesty" policies. That seems to indicate Dems are vulnerable on this, especially with white blue collar voters, no?

That's not a strategy I'm seeing many Republicans use, and I'm not sure the GOP wants to have a big debate about who is on the right side of the immigration issue. That's one that they have regularly lost in recent years.

She recently hopped on the impeachment bandwagon, which doesn't appear overly crowded with Republicans so far. Is there a drumbeat coming that we just can't hear yet, or is it strictly talk to rile up the base ahead of the mid-terms?

There have not been a bunch of Republicans joining Palin, but there's still plenty of time.

And a poll this week showed about one-third of Americans agreed with bringing articles of impeachment. Given that level of support, I'm not sure the issue will be completely ignored.

I don't think she's ever alluded to it, but I'd bet on Tammy Duckworth as of today. Suburban district and military background negate Kirk's profile. Throw in Hillary (likely) on the ballot, and she'd cruise to victory.

Duckworth was supposed to be an all-star candidate in 2006, though, and she lost one of the most disappointing races of that cycle. I'm also not sure beating tea party firebrand Joe Walsh by 10 points in 2012 was all that overwhelming -- considering it was a 58-41 Obama district.

I think she has a great profile if she can put it all together. But we need to remember that candidates are more than just paper. (Tom Cotton is another example of this.)

Also (and this came up in Gene R's chat) isn't Obama operating under a law passed by Congress and signed by W in (I think) 2008 that basically grants some level of amnesty to children?

What are the chances that there will be 20 podiums on a GOP debate stage in 2016, with the likes of Bolton, Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, and all the other non-serious, never-gonna-happen-candidates jumping in?

Unlikely. We're always surprised at who doesn't run more than who does.

There are a TON of legitimate potential candidates, but my guess is people will be surprised when someone like Rubio, Huck or Carson doesn't actually wind up running. More often than not, those folks opt not to jump in.

If you're trying to predict electoral strength by what Scott Brown is doing, you're losing.

He is struggling. That most recent Granite State poll shows NH voters don't really like him all that much. And that was always his calling card in Massachusetts. Even when he lost in 2012, voters still liked him.

Udall ahead by 7 points, yet handicappers call this a tossup. Also why are the Senate/Gov #'s almost identical?

I think some folks have called CO a toss-up, but I'm not sure it's the prevailing wisdom. I thought before and still do today that Udall probably has around a 67% chance.

As for Senate and GOV numbers being similar -- I think that's a reflection of our polarization. People are voting much more for the party than they used to.

Scott Brown hasn't done anything to make it a race in New Hampshire, yet people still view it as a tight race. What gives?

It's a swing state and he's a former senator. That's pretty much why.

In fact, it's pretty surprising how close he is given how much better Shaheen's numbers are. Clearly, if he can improve his image, he could make it a close race. But I think Shaheen is a strong favorite at this point.

It's a big deal for a lot of women who vote in presidential years but not as frequently in midterms. Don't underestimate it.

The question is whether they vote against Republicans for what the Supreme Court did. It might be clear to you which side the GOP is on in this case, but casual voters might not know.

If you were working for Nunn, who would you want to win the GOP Run-off?

Running against Kingston allows you to run against Congress, but businesspeople tend to have skeletons in their closet. I'm not sure that's the case with David Perdue, but that's what history shows us. Businesspeople are generally better candidates in theory than in practice.

I think, though, that Kingston is a pretty solid candidate who probably wins in a good GOP year. I'd go with the wildcard, Perdue.

Which is the more devestating loss? Eric Cantor or Brazil?

Oooh. GREAT question.

I'd say Brazil. Just amazing.

Is he term-limited? Do you think he'll run for Senate?

I think he's more interested in potentially running for president or being VP or a Cabinet secretary. 

Here's my take from last year.

If the GOP decides to impeach Obama after the Nov elections, what does that accomplish?

Catharsis?

Will Rep. Cuellar parlay his attention into a run for higher office? If so, what?

I don't think so. There might have been a time where he was in that mix, but he's VERY moderate and might have problems in a primary. And I'm guessing his recent anti-Obama crusade hasn't won him a lot of friends.

Who does a Tea Partier support if they are uncomfortable with Rand Paul on national security/foreign policy, Cruz or Rubio?

I think they could come around to a Scott Walker or maybe a long-shot candidate like Carson.

I don't see many other "pure" tea party candidates out there.

Who is the most likely VP pick for Christie, Rand, Rubio, Walker?

(Warning: Pure speculation ahead)

Christie - Walker/Rubio

Rand - Rubio

Rubio - Walker

Walker - Rubio

If the Republicans actually do it, will we see a reawakening from erstwhile Obama supporters (Democrats, Progressives, Independents), who seemed to have gone into hibernation right now? In other words, any sense of the backlash against Congress and what might result from that?

I think that's quite possible, and that's certainly the GOP's biggest impeachment-related fear.

The worst thing they could do is give those casual Obama coalition voters a reason to come out this year.

Is McConnell in real trouble or are conservatives going to turn out, hold their noses, and vote for him on election day?

He's definitely the favorite. I just think it's hard for a Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky to get from 45 percent to 50 percent.

There are a lot of states like this. On the blue side, there are Michigan and New Jersey, which have regularly gotten Republicans interested only to see their candidates hit a ceiling. It's just hard to see a Republican losing a 60 percent Romney state in a good year for the GOP -- no matter what his liabilities. McConnell is unpopular, but I'm sure there will be plenty of nose-holders.

What does she want? If/when Rubio's seat is open in 2016 she could run for that, but if/when Pelosi retires after 2016, she could also make a far less risky run for leadership. She's clearly ambitious but just seems indecisive about where she wants to channel that ambition.

I think the leadership track is a more natural fit for her, given how partisan she has been as DNC char.

That said, as I noted above, the Democratic bench in Florida is quite thin. And I'm guessing national leaders would be happy to have someone of her stature run rather than Kendrick Meek.

There was never a pure Tea-Party candidate running for President in 2012. Can there be one in 2016? How would they ever get out of Iowa?

Correct. I was using "pure" in a somewhat ironic manner. All of these things are relative, but there are some Republicans who just happen to earn the "pure" rating from tea party groups.

Are you excited that they chose Cleveland? Or do you wish it was Dallas?

Dallas in July is not for me. Cleveland rocks!

How extreme a public statement must he make before it costs him reelection? (His berating of Rev. Barry Lynn was beyond the pale, IMHO).

His district went 72 percent for Romney in 2012 -- one of the most conservative in the country.

He is going nowhere.

Any new polls between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott?

One recently showed Scott up 2. This will be a margin-of-error race for the next four months.

Which GOP candidate is spending the most time in Iowa?

Glad you asked! Answer: Cruz, Santorum and Perry.

See here

Is Al Franken able to get 50%+1?

He won with 42% last time, so this is a fair question. Maybe he'll get that key Dean Barkley endorsement!

If I had to guess, though, Minnesotans' affinity for third-partiers means the winner of this race might finishes below 50% again.

Joni Ernst or Mark Begich? Terri Lynn Land or Alison Lundergan Grimes?

Begich

Grimes

Thanks to everyone who came out today.

You know what? Let's do it again -- 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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