The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Nov 09, 2018

The Fix's senior reporter Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

And happy Friday from north of the border, where they exiled me after the election. There is curling on the TV, and people within ear-shot are saying "aboot" and "eh" quite a b it.

What's on your mind about the election past, and the one ahead?

What are the odds that Trump is impeached by the 2020 elections? Would this help him to be re-elected?

I'd say odds of impeachment are about 35%. I'm honestly not convinced it would be a negative or a positive, just because we're so polarized. I do think there are some conservative leaning voters who don't love him who might view that as a bridge too far, though.

If Nancy Pelosi had bowed out of the competition for Speaker prior to the elections, do you think that would've influenced any of the House races?

Maybe on the margins? Some are skeptical that these attacks matter. There is a reason Republicans have been using this attack for a decade and that so many Democrats shied away from endorsing her for speaker. Did it decide 5-10 races? I doubt that.

Shouldn’t we rethink the prevailing narrative about the election (mixed results) if Dems prevail in AZ and FL and end up with 40+ seats?

I've disagreed with that narrative from even before the results came in. It's not a mixed result. Democrats did very well, taking over a chamber we weren't sure if they could this decade. They had a hiccup in the Senate that owed almost completely to a ridiculously tough map.

Is the governors' results isn't it? The Dems made some big gains, which might now include Georgia. That could have a big impact on future elections.

The fact that they won in MI, PA and WI is huge for redistricting purposes. And I think we often lose sight of how important that is for control of the House going forward. 

The median House district went for Trump by 3 points even though he lost the popular vote by 2. That should change thanks to Democrats winning more control of redistricting (though losing FL and OH still stings).

A good primer from Christopher Ingraham here:

Hi Aaron. saw you on the CBC last night...hope you enjoyed your time in Toronto, and the event. Nice to see a discussion without people yelling and talking over each other...I believe the huge divide in the United States will last a very long time because i don't see any of the current crop of politicians who are capable of unifying the country. Do you think any of them can? if not, any under the radar people who might be able to do it?

Thanks! For those who don't know, I did a panel discussion and interviewed Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland with the CBC. The video is here:

A uniter? I'm not sure I see it. Obama talked a good game about it, and we saw how that turned out. There is just so much incentive for politicians to divide -- especially when our electorate is so polarized and it rewards base turnout over appealing to the middle. This doesn't change until swing voters start asserting themselves and demanding moderation.

There's a lot of talk about whether the President's appointment of Mr. Whitaker is legal given that he has not been confirmed by the Senate. Are you hearing anything about whether the appointment will be challenged and how? Thank you.

Candidly, I haven't done enough research on this. I'm not sure whether a challenge would have to come from Congress or could come from anybody filing suit.

Judging by the case laid out by George Conway and Neal Katyal, though, the case seems pretty compelling.

isn't releasing a doctored video the definition of fake news?

It's definitely propaganda. Fake news is usually at least disguised as news, which I'm not sure this would qualify.

Seems like the press corps owes that comedian who joked about how the Press Secretary to the President of the United States lies an apology...

The complaints weren't that she accused Sanders of lying; it was that a lot of it was done in coded ways that referred to Sanders's appearance and demeanor.

Technically can Joe Biden be the running mate of whoever gets the 2020 Democratic nomination?

Even Trump has said he was a good vice president!

It's unclear.

Do you think Donnelly, Heitkamp, and McCaskill were hurt by their votes opposing Kavanaugh?

It's difficult to isolate that vote, but I don't think it helped. It reminded voters in conservative states that voting for a Democrat in a federal system means Trump's next SCOTUS pick might not be confirmed. It was an incentive not to cross over and to basically vote as if it were a parliamentary system.

If House votes to impeach doesn't the Senate just say no and that's it?

Eventually! But first they ostensibly hold hearings and review the whole thing.

Reese’s Pieces or Peanut Butter Cups?!

Cups. Reese's Pieces are too easy to eat too fast.

Hi Aaron --- what are the odds? Might a shoe or two drop today about something? Mueller speaks? Mueller fired? Something else?

That's been the question! Did Mueller just hold something back because of the election, etc., and would it drop on Friday because that's the usual do.

All quiet on the DOJ front, though.

Will anyone else be leaving the Trump administration this afternoon? Who's going to be the next to leave -- Mattis?

There's definitely some short-timers in there; Trump himself has suggested as much. Mattis is high on the list of possibilities. But leaving now would also look like a clear rebuke of Trump sending troops to the border.

Is using doctored footage against Costa a bridge too far, even for SHS?

It should be. Even if the video was taken from somewhere else and THEY doctored it, you'd expect the White House to be more careful. You put your credibility on the line when you rely upon sources like InfoWars, and you should always be judged accordingly.

Maybe this is why I think it's a mixed result. I always expected the Democrats to take back the House. These things ebb and flow.

That's the counter-argument: presidents often do poorly in midterm elections, so why is this one special? Was it a rebuke of Trump or just voters, as they usually do, voting for a check on the chief executive?

Not a fan of his work but that was way over the line. Does this kind of stuff worry you personally?

I'm not in the arena publicly as much as these TV people or even White House reporters and those attending rallies. So I always feel bad complaining. But it has occurred to me that it just takes one person to take it too far.

That's a cheap shot. He installed Republicans in his Cabinet and tried to recruit more. He made a good faith effort on the "Grand Bargain" with Boehner only to have it spat back at him by the Tea Party rubes. And it wasn't the Democratic leadership boasting about not working with him on anything.

That's a fair point of view. I'd argue that the president has the bully pulpit, and if the country doesn't come together as they promised/aimed for, that's a reflection upon them. Republicans were almost reflexively opposed to him, yes, but it's not like he was powerless to point that out and rally the American people to the Democrats in opposition to the obstruction. It didn't happen.

Forgive me for my ignorance. How often does redistricting occur? Is there a standardized timeline?

There is technically no requirement, beyond that it happens after the Census -- which takes place every 10 years in 2000, 2010, 2020 -- because the population shifts must be accounted for. But there is no prohibition on a state doing it mid-decade, and some have.

What was the biggest shocking outcome on Tuesday night for you?

Democrats winning in that Oklahoma House district, along with the size of Mike Braun's win in the Indiana Senate race.

Why do political parties have to play to their base? An NPR analysis said that if Larry Hogan were to run for president, he'd have to swing a hard right. But he seems like a middle-of-the-road type of guy who I, a dyed in the wool liberal, could even see myself voting for if the Dems put up someone disappointing. Is the miserable government we got solely a product of the fact that only the extremists vote in the primaries?

Because you have to win a primary first! Larry Hogan never would. Neither would Charlie Baker. But they can do it in their states because GOP voters/officials there recognize the need for a pragmatic nominee.

Primaries are dominated by more extreme voters -- even moreso than the party as a whole. And as I said, until swing voters assert themselves and require moderation, the incentives or very much in the opposite direction.

What do you know that we don't? Should I be packing?

Have no fear! I'm in the airport and coming back.

Do you think Tim Pawlenty could have beaten Tina Smith? I was surprised he ran for Gov. Vs. Senator.

Don't think I could have seen him overcoming that 10-point gap in this environment. A neutral one? Quite possibly., is she running in 2020?

She is!

(For reelection.)

I'm in Ohio and I thought Cordray would win. And if we're not a swing state anymore the annoying constant ads go away right?

It's almost like as Virginia has gone blue-ish, Ohio has gone the other way.

I will say this about Tuesday: to the extent Ohio and Florida are being tough for Democrats to crack, even in a good year, their presidential map is getting tougher.

Is Florida really a purple state? It seems so much more red than purple. Blue seems like a pipe dream.

Quite red at every level besides president. Part of that is the relative strength of the state parties; part is that Republicans have redistricted themselves into power -- and prevented Democrats from building a bench.

Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow both won by about 6 points, while Bob Casey won by 13 points. All were viewed as more or less safe as Republicans focused on other Senate races. What do you glean from the relatively poor results of Democrats in Ohio and Michigan, compared to Pennsylvania?

My guesses: Part of it was Barletta was a weaker candidate. Part of it was Pennsylvania has bigger urban, Democratic areas that can come out strong on a good night. Part of it was Ohio is trending red. 

I suppose I should stop trying to find logic in the president's statements. But I am seriously confused as to how he could say "I don't know" the person he literally just appointed to acting AG. What is the goal in that?

1) It was in response to a question about whether he talked to Whitaker about Mueller beforehand. Trump is trying to say he didn't secure a loyalty pledge, but what he said just isn't plausible.

2) It occurred to me that maybe he sees this whole thing going poorly and doesn't want to own it if it blow up.

And everyone have a great weekend. Try to avoid politics for a couple days, too.


In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is a senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. 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 lives with his family and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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