The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 16, 2019

The Fix's Aaron Blake discusses the latest in politics and campaigns live with readers.

Sorry for a bit of a late start! Let's get right to it.

Any idea why he's sticking to the presidential race at this point? It seems like a lost cause. Maybe he's hoping to wow everyone with a September debate performance? I'd think now would be a good time to turn his attention to the TX senate seat...

If I had to guess, it's a combination of a few things:

1) Raw ambition. Once you catch the bug, it's difficult to give it up.

2) The odds of winning a Senate seat are lower this time. In a presidential year and against Cornyn, I think his odds are lower than they were against Cruz.

3) He doesn't dislike Cornyn as much as Cruz. In fact, during the 2018 campaign, he often played up how he would work with Cornyn.

4) He can't entertain a Senate run, period. If you're running for president, you have to say you're all in, or your supporters won't support you. He simply can't say the Senate is a backup plan, even if it might be one day.

Every time I hear that, I think of “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” which is an old Yiddish adage often translating in English as, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Am I alone in that? Also what the difference between an adage and a proverb?

You might be one of the only ones! I think it's actually a great slogan, especially as a contrast to a president who seems to launch from one whim to the next.

If you are going to buy an island, why Greenland? Why not Cuba?

I think we know the answer to that. Have you seen how BIG Greenland is? It's downright YUGE.

I woke up this morning and heard DT telling his followers that they had to vote for him or their 401k’s would collapse. As it happens, i’ve been moving my 401k to a mutual fund company over the last few weeks. It’s been a frightening experience as every other day the market swings wildly because DT has dropped another idiotic threat or incoherent tweet. I’m sick of being vulnerable to this irrational presidency. I believe the tag line of his old reality show was “You’re Fired !” It’s time for him to go

Yeah, I'm not sure this is the week I would make the 401(k) argument. But that's just me.

Why would we want to buy Greenland?

I mean, I can see an argument for its strategic value, given its size and location. And that seems to be what they thought in 1946, when there was a serious bid to purchase it.

You must read this AP story. It might challenge your preconceived notions!

The New York Times writes that Democrats are worried about Warren surging because they think she's too far left for the general election. Should they worry?

I did a big piece on this!

The short answer is that there are reasons to be concerned about her electability, but I think she's too easily caricatured as the latest Massachusetts liberal to run for president. Her populist appeal could really help with turnout, even if she isn't as beloved in the middle as Biden.

Which of the Democratic candidates gets the Academy Award for acting like they enjoyed the food at the Iowa State Fair?

I've got news for people: The Iowa State Fair isn't that great. You want a real state fair, you head up north to Minnesota, starting next week.

The person who did the worst was definitely Tim Ryan, who said his favorite concession was the Busch Light.

Is there fried cheese at the Minnesota State Fair?

It's called a "cheese curd," and yes, it's everywhere.

Of the big 5 Dem candidates (I'm including Buttigieg), how many could you see as a viable and willing VP?

Not Biden and probably not Sanders, given they don't add diversity to the ticket and are older (which isn't usually something you want in a VP). The other three make a lot of sense. I think Buttigieg will have to prove he's got staying power and gravitas though. 

You gonna be there? Spend some time at the MPR booth, perhaps? There's always some good political trivia one of the days.

I wish! When the kids get a little older, that's definitely when we'll go back to Minnesota.

When and where is it? (And does it have a Butter Cow?)

Aug. 22 through Labor Day, right near downtown Twin Cities. 

It does not have a butter cow, but it has one better: A beauty pageant in which the winner has their head carved in butter. It's called Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

Seems people are pretty certain about the nomination and just to for context, the big Hillary Clinton email server story didn't break until SEPTEMBER of 2015 so we aren't even there yet in this cycle.

Things will change a lot. They tend not to change much in the first few months, because not everyone is tuning in.

Hi Aaron—thanks for taking questions today. So Beto disses the Senate and goes for it, even though he doesn’t have a chance (then again, the same thing was said about Trump). Do you really think he would have a chance against Cornyn? Aren’t we overplaying this TX goes blue business just a bit?

I'd give him maybe a 20% chance of winning that Senate race. Cornyn isn't as divisive as Cruz is, and in a presidential year, it will be harder to buck the top of the ticket. I still think Trump carries Texas by at least a few points, unless he gets blown out nationally.

The thing, though, is that Democrats need to put races like that in-play if they want to win back the Senate. They have to win red states.

Seems like Trump will have two reasonably credible challengers for the GOP nomination. No doubt he would use the same flame throwing tactics that he used last campaign. What I wonder is, will a primary challenge help Trump's reelection chances by further firing up his base, or will it hurt his chances by sowing disunity and fatigue within the party?

I don't see it having much impact. These candidates won't pull enough of the vote to make it a real contest, unless something drastically changes.

The higher bar for the next Democratic debate means that quite a few candidates will not qualify. At last count, only nine candidates are on the list, with the potential of two or three more joining them. I can't see much of a path forward for those who do not reach the podium, but what about the lower-tier people on the podium? Do some of these people decide to run for Senate or other offices rather than continue the fight? or do they soldier on and hope for a miracle?

I think the Hickenlooper exit is telling. If you're not going to make that debate stage, what's your argument? Moulton, etc., will find it very difficult to continue.

But if you're on the stage, I'm not sure why you'd drop out. Steyer is just getting started, for instance.

Has the NRA gotten Trump to forget his promise of Background Checks for all gun purchases?

I think Trump repeating his "gun doesn't pull the trigger" line last night in N.H. shows where this is heading. It was a huge applause line. He was probably never going to do anything; now I'm convinced of it.

Hi Aaron, Thanks for taking my question (s). How does Hickenlooper's probable entry into the Colorado US Senate race affect the Democrat's chances of taking the Senate in 2020--and, if Beto runs against Cornyn, what affect do you think that will have the Dem's chances?

I'm not 100 percent convinced Hickenlooper would be a shoo-in for the nomination. He ran to the middle in the prez race, and Andrew Romanoff appears to have plenty of money. I do think Hick would probably be a better general-election candidate. I think it's pretty close to a toss-up either way. Gardner is tougher than some people realize, but Dems will probably carry the state at the presidential level.

So, if Beto stays in the presidential race and, as expected, loses and is not tapped as VP, doesn't that damage his prospects going forward? Most of the shine from his Senate run has rubbed off. What does he do?

Wait to run for governor -- especially if Abbott retires. Probably more winnable than a federal race.

How many Democrat Candidates will qualify for the September Debates? For the October ones? What will they do if there are more than 10?

Steyer is on the verge of qualifying, which would be the 10th. If there are more than that, they have 2 debates (again). 

Since his numbers nationally are rising, can pundits just let this play out for him? Do they not realize that if he has special powers in Texas those would apply if he’s the Dem nominee even more than if he’s a Senate candidate with, say Warren as nominee? That his pull through will be greater for the Senate seat if he’s at the top of the tickets?

His number are not rising. But he does have until December to switch if he wanted to.

I like Beto and hope he stays in and people shouldn't just willfully ignore him saying he won't run for Senate now, but to be fair, he did say during the midterms he wasn't going to run for the presidential nomination regardless of the outcome of election day 2018 so I get why it won't die completely even if won't happen.

Yep. And Rubio said he wouldn't run for reelection. And Obama said he wouldn't run for president. And Gillibrand said she wouldn't run for president.

It happens. When politicians start sticking by their words, we'll start taking these denials at face value.

I wish people would stop wondering why he wants to do this. He wants to put his name on it. He literally said a few months ago that George Washington was dumb not to name Mount Vernon after himself because that is how you get remembered. Someone please remind him that Jefferson's big land buy was called the Louisiana Purchase and that Johnson bought Alaska. Neither got to name the land purchase after himself.

I'm guessing that name change wouldn't make it through Congress. (I assume Congress would determine this?)

Would greenland be a new state? Would we get a new flag?

It's got only 56,000 people, so making it a state would be pretty tough, I think. That's 1/10 the size of Wyoming!

Given the political polarization of the country, and the emphasis both parties have of getting their base to vote, does it really matter who's the Dem nominee? If getting base to vote wins the election and if the Dem base is riled up, won't they vote for a yellow dog as long as it's the Dem nominee? So why worry about Sanders or Warren being too liberal? Won't voters go into the voting booth and focus on the "D" next to the nominee's name?

The thing is, there is no such thing as JUST a base election or JUST a referendum on the incumbent. All factors matter; it's just a matter of figuring out what matters more. There are fewer swing voters these days, but they could still decide the election -- just as turnout and base-motivation could.

What do you think the chances are that the Democratic primary ends up being decided at the national convention? And has it gone up or down over the last few months?

I still think very unlikely. These things tend to get pared down in the first few states. The fact that there are a million candidates now doesn't really impact that. (Plus, you have to get a certain threshold in each contest to win any delegates.)

How much is Trump tied to the economy at this point? I know all President's are to a certain extent, but it feels like he has gone out of his way to take credit for the good economy such that a contraction/recession would really stick to him. Do you think that would be enough to dampen enthusiasm among his base?

There is little question it would cost him support if we have a downturn/recession. But two points:

1) It would probably cost him less than other presidents, given the devotion of his base, and ...

2) He can't really afford even a small defection, so the loss would likely be crippling for his reelection.

Start a chat on time. Typical Marxist who needs a cup of tea and crumpet


So, what are the comparables? Iceland? Labrador? Ireland? We better get an inspection before the purchase is finalized.

Northwest Territories is the closest comp, according to a real-estate person I talked to.

God no! There are too many minuscule states with outside influence already.

It sounds like it also leans left there, so not sure the GOP would sign off.

That's 15% or about 1-in-6 has to vote for your candidate to get any delagates. Also, Democrats don' have "Winner Take all" Primaries.

Winner take all helps guard against contested conventions, though. That and the reduced influence of superdelegates makes a contested convention more plausible.

Wouldn't a Marxist have vodka and borscht?

Say what you want about the tenets of Marxism; borscht is delicious. (And vodka isn't bad either.)

Who is someone that isn't currently running for president that you could see as a potential VP nominee?

Sherrod Brown

Gretchen Whitmer

Chris Murphy

Shouldn't a Marxist be having tea and pierogies?

Also delicious -- or maybe it's just that I haven't had lunch yet?

Do you think it would behoove pundits to not look gleeful and elated as they speculate about the possibility of a recession and how it would hurt Trump (seemingly clueless to the fact that it would hurt so many of their fellow Americans)?

I think people are inferring too much "glee" from journalists talking about an increasingly realistic possibility.

"God no! There are too many minuscule states with outside influence already." This statement probably send up exactly why Dems can't make inroads into Trump's base. Big city folks thinking everyone else is beneath them.

Also, this idea that population differences are something new and are increasingly unfair ignores the fact that it's been like this for a long time. In fact, there used to be even BIGGER differences between the biggest state and smallest state.

Has there / will there be any polling amongst the electorate, or specifically Republicans, to see how people feel about Trump telling a foreign ally to bar entry to 2 elected House representatives? Is this just more meat for his base? Will Republicans just roll their eyes at yet another shattered "norm" and say its "Trump being Trump" or does this move the needle at all?

I'd wager this is probably one of those things that just doesn't really move the needle at all.

That's all for today. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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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