Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Feb 04, 2014

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

Hey everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of 'Ask Aaron.'

What's on your mind today?

Chris Christie?

The debt ceiling?

Keystone XL?

Retirements (Rob Andrews is the latest)?


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

Any Republicans looking to tie up business with the debt ceiling again?

The most interesting story of the day, for me, is our new reporter Robert Costa's short item quoting two leading House conservatives urging Boehner to do a clean debt ceiling increase.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) isn't exactly that kind of guy you expect to tell Boehner not to press the issue.

The fact that he and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) urged Boehner not to push too hard suggests to me that this might not be such a big fight after all.

He's asked if he knew about the lane closings while it happened and he vehemently denies knowing about it beforehand. Which wasn't alleged. How long before he's forced out?

Well, Christie also said pretty clearly that he didn't know anything about the lane closures until early October, when the Wall Street Journal first reported on the controversy.

I'm not sure he's playing as much of a semantics game as you might think he is.

The fact is if Christie knew about the lane closures at the time, it would pretty clearly contradict his past statements and cause him huge problems -- up to and including (potentially) his current job.

Robert Costa is awesome. Rumor has it that his salary is the reason Amazon Prime is going up $40.


Whatever we're paying him, it's worth every penny.

Gut feeling, does immigration reform get passed this year?

A week ago, I would have said no, period.

Now, I'm not so sure. Obama and pro-reform groups have shown a real oppenness to something that doesn't include a path to citizenship but instead a path to legal status, and that's where I think they needed to be if they want to get something done this Congress.

All of that said, there is so much left to iron out, and I'm not even sure conservatives will be OK with a path to legal status. It might be easier to swallow, but it'll still be tough to swallow.

There are a huge number of details to sort out, and I'm sure there will be lots of fits and starts. This is far from over, but it's got some hope now.

With the Waxman and Andrews retirements, are there any grumblings that the House Dems need new faces at the top?

I'm not really hearing this yet, but I do think there is a generational shift underway in the Democratic Party.

So many of their leaders are so old, and at some point, I think that hurts their brand a little bit.

Cillizza made this point when it wasn't clear whether Pelosi would step aside after the 2012 election. I think it's well-taken.

What is your take about the Oklahoma open senate seat? It'd be very interesting for the GOP if Shannon won...

I think this is an undersold story. There are a lot of people who are very high on House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who would be the second black GOP senator if he won.

I've said before that I think he'll either be a huge story, or Lankford will win this seat in a walk because Shannon will never get close. It will be interesting to see which it is. Shannon is still young, so the onus is on him to run a good campaign.

At this point, does it even matter when Christie knew about the closures? In politics, perception is reality, and the perception among much of the public now is that he is corrupt. Not much can change that. Am I wrong?

Perception is reality ... until that reality is clearly defined.

For now, people don't know what happened, and many assume that Christie did wrong. I'll concede that point.

But if and when the investigations are completed, we'll (hopefully) have a much better idea about whether he bears responsibility.

At that point, the perception of the unknown becomes less important and the final narrative begins to take over, I think.

Of course, it's possible that the investigations don't exonerate him but still leave it in a grey area. In that case, I think he still pays a price, but maybe not as much as people think.

I just can't see anyone but Jeb Bush as the Republican candidate. Everyone else has so many flaws. Your thoughts?

The GOP does have a tendency to nominate the "safe" pick. That was McCain in 2008 and it was Romney in 2012. If Bush ran, I think he would be the safe guy.

But I also don't think Bush is without flaws -- starting with his last name.

But you're point is well-taken. He's the one Republican who really fits the mold in a way the others really don't.

As a dedicated political junkie, I receive emails from interest groups across the political spectrum. This morning, I received one from the Senate Conservatives Fund attacking McConnell on the basis that he is not as electable as Bevin, and that his nomination would put the seat in danger for Republicans. Do you see this as a legitimate line of attack against McConnell going forward, especially if more ideological attacks fail to gain traction?

This, I believe, was in response to a Rasmussen poll that showed Bevin doing better against Grimes than did McConnell.

I think it's a valid line of attack. The fact is that McConnell doesn't have good numbers, and he really shouldn't be in any danger in a state that went 60 percent for Mitt Romney.

That said, who is to say the Bevin would be better? And open seats are notoriously unpredictable.

I think Bevin would have a better chance of winning the seat easily in the generally election, but McConnell probably has a better chance of winning it overall.

That's a long way of saying I think McConnell is the favorite but that he's never going to win by a huge margin.

If Pelosi were to step down, whether after 2014 or 2016, who would take her place? Surely a younger member, and either a woman or minority, correct? Maybe Becerra or Wasserman Schultz?

Well, Steny Hoyer (who isn't exactly a spring chicken) would be next in line, for now.

After that, I think you have to look at his Maryland colleague, Chris Van Hollen, alongside folks like Becerra, Joe Crowley (N.Y.) and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.).

If Republicans win the Senate next year and choose to pass immigration reform through a GOP Congress, do you see that as making a bigger dent in their status with Latinos then if they were to just pass it this year in a split Congress?

It the GOP controlled both chambers, I think they would be more tempted to do less on immigration. With a Democratic-controlled Senate, I think they have a better chance of passing something that moves the needle and puts the GOP back on the radar of Latino voters.

That said, they wouldn't be getting all the credit for it.

Would the thought of a Bush-Clinton Presidential contest just make everyone tune out? (Especially if the tickets are Clinton-Kaine and Bush-Walker.)

Another way of looking at it: By 2016, a Bush or a Clinton won't have been on the general election ballot in 12 years.

Maybe people won't be so tired of them at that point?

What on earth did those AZ Republicans think they would accomplish in censuring John McCain for his allegedly liberal stands? I'd think it would make him even more determined to run again.

I think they were serving notice that they'll support a primary challenger against him in 2016.

But, you're right. McCain has pride, and he's not going to be forced out by anyone.

I'm a Dem who sort of laughs at the way outsiders view campaigns. Acela liberals are in for a rude awakening when Sandra Fluke gets crushed by pols with a base.

I honestly don't think she has much of a chance -- particularly in an area where Democrats like Wendy Greuel have been building up their political bases for years and years, waiting for Waxman to step aside or for an open mayor's race.

A magic genie tells you 2016 will be a matchup between Scott Walker and Susana Martinez and Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Who wins?

The GOP would be VERY well-served to get Martinez as someone's running mate, but I don't think it happens.

I'll play the game, though. I think, in that case, Walker-Martinez has a real shot. I'm just not yet convinced that Walker has the gravitas.

Yeah, you always plead the Fifth when you have nothing to hide. Not just trying to delay.

Yeah, the fact that three people have now pleaded the Fifth in this whole mess leads one to believe that laws were probably broken.

Lost in the perpetual coverage of 2016 is an interesting little fact: no one seems to have any idea who Rand Paul would pick if he were the nominee. My guess would be Nikki Haley. He needs someone conservative (check), preferably a woman or minority (double check), and someone outside Washington (check). What say you?

I think that could be a good pick, though Haley isn't very popular in her home state, which might be concerning.

I think Paul makes the pragmatic pick (he's more pragmatic than people give him credit for) and goes with someone from the GOP establishment. I don't think he picks a Mike Lee-type. Who would that be? Maybe Scott Walker? Someone like that?

Does Joaquin Castro have the "stuff" to be a national figure in the party? If so, where is his future? Senate, Texas Governor, Clinton Cabinet? Or is his brother a better choice?

I expect we'll be hearing more from both of them, but Joaquin appears to be more interested in the federal/legislative track, while Julian is being talked up as a potential GOV candidate down the line.

Thanks everyone for another great chat.

We'll see you next week!

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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