Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 14, 2014

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

Welcome to the weekly Ask Aaron live chat, where you, well, ask ... Aaron ... stuff. 

So what's your mind this week?

Chris Christie and bridge-gate/nado/ghazi?

Florida special election?

Bob Gates's book?

House retirements?

The Supreme Court and abortion?

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


If Christie loses his image as the most "electable" Republican, how will that damages his chances of winning the nomination? Who would benefit most? Scott Walker? Jeb Bush? Marco Rubio?

If Christie loses the "most-electable" mantle, I think it goes to Rubio, most likely, but Walker could certainly compete for it. Rubio has definitely straddled both the tea party and establishment worlds, and being Hispanic helps his electability case, no doubt.

If Jeb ran, he would likely be the guy, but I just don't think he runs.

What's the latest on the special election in Florida's 13th District? If Alex Sink does win, how are the two parties likely to spin it?

GOP will say that she was much better known and had a leg-up in a sprint special election. She's also raised far more money than the GOP candidates.

Democrats will say that it shows the GOP's Obamacare attacks don't work -- assuming, of course, that the GOP uses Obamacare early and often, which I would expect.

With the seeming consensus on the Supreme Court that Obama, as well as Bush, abused the recess appointment power, how many nominees will need to be re-nominated and moved through the Senate? Even with no filibuster, will Republicans slow the nominations if the Supreme Court invalidates their previous appointments?

I won't pretend to know how many nominees might have to be re-nominated, but I would wager that Republicans would do what they could to draw out the process -- to make a point both about Obama abusing appointment powers and about Democrats having used the nuclear option.

I see that another House member (Bill Owens D-NY) has announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term. And this follows closely on the heels of several other retirements. How many more retirement announcements should we expect in the next couple of months? Is this partly a result of calculations as to the likelihood of a flip in control of the House/Senate?

This is certainly the retirement period, as parties prefer to get them out of the way early in an election year (and preferably during the off-year). There have certainly been a LOT in the last couple weeks.

I'm not sure these retirements reflect the likelihood that the House will flip. Given Republicans are much more likely to keep the House than lose it, one would think more Democrats would retire. So far, though, it has been more Republicans.

I think the story of the retirements so far is that there are a lot of disillusioned moderate members of Congress who just decide, enough is enough.

Even if it passes the Senate, which is a maybe at best, anything that is sent to the House is DOA, right?

You have to think so, right, given the GOP controls the House and there is very limited GOP support in the Senate?

About the only thing that has gotten more GOP support in the House than the Senate in recent times is the Murray-Ryan budget last month.

On UI, I don't think that happens again -- mostly because Republicans are so insistent that the extension is paid for. With the budget, at lease House Republicans could say it was an incremental step in the right direction.

Is this the most embarrassing thing ever tweeted by anyone?

I stand by it. I still like that song.

I don't get why you and Chris seem to put Jeb in the upper echelon of Republican candidates, assuming he would run. What is his constituency within the Republican party? It's not the tea partiers, it's not the social conservatives, and the party officials all want Christie, at least at the moment. And I think there is still so much baggage from his brother's administration that I think most people wouldn't even consider him on his own merits. Why am I wrong?

I think you are over-estimating how much of the establishment Christie owns. Yes, they like his prospects for winning, but he's not really tied to the establishment in the way the Bush family is. I think, if both ran, you'd see establishment types split between the two of them.

I think analysts like us don't penalize Jeb for his brother's presidency (1) because the Bush legacy isn't viewed as poorly as it once was and (2) because Jeb's style is far different from his brother's. It certainly wouldn't help, but I don't think it's disqualifying.

On a scale of Troopergate to Watergate, how much should and how much will voters care about this scandal? Will it prevent him from running for president, being nominated or elected president? Will it be so bad he has to resign as governor? Or will we all just shrug?

I like this question, but it's tough to answer.

IF Christie is implicated, I think his presidential prospects in 2016 are toast -- mostly because he's so completely denied it and would be branded a liar. I also think he would open himself up to being removed/resigning from office.

IF he is not, I think it's something that comes up in his presidential bid but, ultimately, winds up feeling pretty small. We almost ALWAYS over-estimate the impact of this stuff in real time.

Who is their darling for 2016? Who would be acceptable? Unacceptable?

Of course they love Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Probably Ted Cruz too.

Brian Sandoval (pro-abortion rights) would have big problems, and I don't think Christie will be a social conservative favorite either.

If Hillary Clinton runs, who else enters the race? I'm guessing that neither Joe Biden or Andrew Cuomo does.

I think Schweitzer still runs, and some other lesser-knowns. I also don't think O'Malley challenges Hillary.

Assuming that it doesn't happen, how important is that in the elections? There's bound to be more than enough commercial ready stories of people affected for various candidates and PAC's to capitalize on.

The Republican Party's base is a big fan of principled stands that just happen to play poorly with the broader electorate.

They are basically handing Democrats a cudgel on this. It's very hard to take away a benefit once you've given it to somebody.

You can argue about which side has the better policy on this issue; Democrats definitely have the better politics. 

I could see him parlaying a presidential run into a show on MSNBC. I guess that beats going back to Montana.

Your anti-Montana agenda will not stand.

I mean that a major political retribution scandal and abuse of public trust is considered as damaging as awkwardly drinking from a bottle of water during a televised speech?

I'm not sure who is saying that Rubio's swig was anywhere near as damaging as this. If they are, they're wrong.

Heard on NPR this AM that anti-ACA ads (doubling as anti-Shaheen ads) are already running in New Hampshire. Will they do much harm to Shaheen, and if so does Scott Brown stand a strong chance of defeating her in November?

I think these ads are all aimed at getting Brown into the race.

One thing's for sure: He needs Obamacare to weigh her down. I think they are trying to see if these ads can move some numbers.

Everyone seems to think he has no hope. (If you are old like me you remember that Dick Thornburgh, now a well respected ex governor, survived a tough reelection.) Do you see any path for him to pull out a victory?

There is always a path. All it takes is for the other guy/gal to be less appealing (Democrats have a VERY crowded primary, which could get nasty), or for there to be such a partisan wave that it keeps him in office.

That said, I think he's probably the most vulnerable incumbent governor.

Is there any sense that the political operation of the Democrats in the Congress and the DNC are privately rooting for the Unemployment Extension to fail?

Politically speaking, they benefit the long it takes. But I haven't seen any such evidence and would never assume such things.

How badly has the roll out of MD's health care exchange hurt Brown?

This could be the first real test of whether the flawed rollout(s) cost a Democrat a job. I encourage everyone to read this:

Lots of people these days are saying that, despite what seems to be overwhelming strength in the polls, Hillary could still lose the nomination just as she did in 2008. But who that might be interested in running has a plausible chance to beat her? I just don't see it, especially because there won't be a wedge issue like Iraq to separate her from the base. Particularly being out of office, she should be able to triangulate from here till 2016.

I'm with you on most of this. People like to look back and say nobody thought Obama had a chance, but the fact was that he was a sitting senator with a huge amount of buzz around him. Hillary was the favorite, but it's not like Obama was a nobody with no chance.

I don't see a similar figure waiting in the wings this time around.

The court (or at least some of the Justices) seems to think that Roe v Wade was a bit activist. What are the odds the current court makes any ruling on abortion that is anything other than exceptionally narrow? Does the defeat of the proposed late-term ban in Albuquerque (the first such ballot defeat) have any impact?

I'm no Supreme Court expert, but I think the Court's decision this week not to review Arizona's 20-week ban (which had been struck down) suggests it won't issue any major rulings on this issue.

That said, there are a lot of smaller regulations being passed by Republicans state legislators, and I'm guessing we'll see something come before the highest court before long.

If you had to bet you do you think will win the Republican Primary?

I can't claim to know on this one. There are basically five or six candidates with a shot, and no clear favorite.

Karen Handel is the best-known (thanks to her 2010 GOV candidacy) and has good numbers, according to a new poll, but she isn't the most conservative. David Perdue has a golden name.

I think Rep. Jack Kingston could surprise some people. He's been raising good money.

Ideologically, though, Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey won't let anyone get to their right.

Agree on the myth that nobody knew who Obama was, and no one thought he had a chance to win. in 2006 and 2007 his book was on the NYT Best Sellers List for over 30 weeks. He wasn't just well know in DC, he was a true celebrity.

I love it when questioners agree with me! :)

It's also worth noting that HRC polls MUCH more strongly now than she did in 2005 or 2006. And that, back then, plenty of Democratic officeholders had serious doubts about her as a general election candidate. You don't hear that now.

Maybe, but her numbers have DEFINITELY come down to earth since she left office as secretary of state.

I'm pretty convinced that, as soon as she launched a campaign, you'd see her approval rating drop to around 50 percent.

If the Obamacare roll-out problems are pretty well solved by November, how much of an issue can the Republicans still make of it, if voters are able to have gotten their health insurance through it by then? Methinks it becomes a pretty moot point for all but die-hard tea party types (who are a minority in much of the country).

It's important to point out that the rollout is hardly the only problem.

For example, the latest numbers show young people aren't signing up in as high a number as the administration needs. This could cause costs to rise, and if and when that happens, the rollout might seem like a relatively small issue.

All of this, of course, still needs to play out. But we're kidding ourselves if we think Obamacare's only problems are because of its Web site.

With Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, etc... seems like first term U.S. Senators are getting a lot buzz for the presidential bid (although the press seems more focused on Republicans and not going for some kind of balance). I know we have the recent example of Barack Obama, but before him, it was the common wisdom that first-term U.S. Senators are longshots and wondering if the press is OVERLEARNING the lessons of Obama's campaign of 2008?

Fair points. But longtime senators really aren't even in the mix, when it comes to potential candidates. I just don't know who besides these first-termers is even interested. John Thune, maybe? Even he is pretty young.

But remember, Mitt Romney had only served four years in public office when he was made the nominee. So it's not like Barack Obama is the first guy with limited experience to get nominated.

Thanks everyone for coming out!

We'll 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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: