Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Feb 11, 2014

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

Are we supposed to believe Boehner's immigration comments on Mondays, Wednesday, & Fridays or should we believe him on Tuesday, Thursdays, and weekends? Because he just can't ever say anything consistent on the subject.

NOTHING is more illustrative of the fine line Boehner has to walk on this than his messaging.

The fact is that, if he says they can get something done and sounds too positive about it, conservatives will mobilize against it in a big way.

He needs to balance that with keeping people interested and working on the issue. The best course  is not to oversell it or get anybody too excited/upset.

Thanks for doing these chats. Why in the world is Rand Paul talking about Monica Lewinsky? Is this red meat for the base? I just don't quite get the strategy.

I really think that he thinks this is a good way to beat back the whole "war on women" charge agains the GOP -- with the helpful side effect of potentially hurting a 2016 presidential opponent.

It's basically serving notice to Hillary that, if she runs again, it's going to be no picnic.

With the benefit of hindsight, were all of those stories about a strengthened Boehner a little premature?

I don't know. One week he looks strong. One week he looks weak.

I'm not sure I agree with the conventional wisdom that this is a big loss for him. The fact is that the tea party wasn't able to assert its will, and he didn't have to deal with another showdown over the GOP seeking some kind of concession. I think that's a win for him.

If Christie is out for 2016, who will the Republican establishment turn to ?

Most obvious answer: Jeb.

Next most obvious answer: Scott Walker or Marco Rubio.

Hi Aaron -- thanks for taking questions from a fellow Minnesotan today. As an experienced observer of all things political, where do you think Bridgegate and its related investigations is going? Is it fair to say that Christie is weathering it, or is it too early to say? Also, much has been made of the fact that various Republican governors appear to be keeping their distance from Christie. What does that indicate, if anything? And of course the big one -- where does the current state of things put him relative to 2016?

I really think it's too early to be counting Christie out of anything. Yes, this is bad. But we still don't know of anything that ties him to the actual plot.

Until/unless that evidence materializes, I think he's still a 2016 player.

As for other Republicans keeping their distance -- I think that's the politically safe move. Nobody wants to have a photo of them embracing someone in the midst of a scandal -- just like no red-state Democrat wants to have a photo of them with Obama.

So dumb. Women don't like using mistakes of a husband to attack a wife. And more broadly, it's completely backward-looking. Hard to run against Hillary if she can call you out for being stuck in the past.

Fair points. But he's been pretty careful to say that it's not necessarily a knock on Hillary.

I think this is a blip on the radar in the long-term.

Tell your boss he needs to adjust better. He still thinks Christie is unscathed unless Christie goes to jail or something. His governance is an issue even if he's not indicted.

Sorry. I'm with the boss (Cillizza, not Springsteen) on this one.

I think that, unless he knew about this or somehow is shown to have tacitly encouraged such behavior, this doesn't sink him.

These things always seem worse than they are in the eye of the storm. People who are talking about the end of Christie's political career are getting ahead of themselves.

Is his speakership on the line? Would the Tea Party members just refuse to work with him (in addition to Democrats)?

I think it's way too early to say anything like that. But the next 24-48 hours will say a lot about whether there will be an attempt to go after him.

With the Senate Conservatives Fund calling for his removal, it's now up to other tea partiers to decide whether they want to help. I don't see a movement forming yet.

I get the Clinton bashing, but does he run the risk of the reverse result? That is, people feel sympathy for Hillary and give her their vote? I mean, it's not a reason to vote for or against someone, but among the non-tea party, non-right, that's not going to go far, is it?

I don't think the people who could actually be swayed by this issue are even consuming the news. It's inside baseball and posturing in advance of a potential 2016 matchup.

Each one of us needs something--anything--that makes us want to get up and go to work in the morning. I struggle to think what that something might be for John Boehner at this point? What in his job brings him joy these days?

Merlot and cigarettes?

Just kidding.

How about being the second most powerful person in the United States? No matter how diminshed people say he is, he still basically controls what Congress passes.

There's also the matter of the GOP potentially taking over the Senate after the 2014 election. That's worth sticking around for.

Hahaha. When have they ever worked with him?

This was the answer I should have given.

But actually, a few of them are starting to sympathize with Boehner. Witness Justin Amash and Raul Labrador calling for a clean debt ceiling bill.

Which benefits Democrats in November more -- Boehner succeeding on this vote, or tea-party types obstructing him?

If the tea party can somehow prevent the clean debt ceiling bill from passing, that would be the best thing for Democrats in November.

Of the following, who is most likely to lose their primary: McConnell, Cochran, or Roberts?

Cochran. I think Chris McDaniel is maybe the most viable primary challenger out there, and he's got a lot of help.

I'm calling it now: Begich will be reelected. Even though it goes red in presidential elections, Alaska's electorate doesn't seem as tied to Republican candidates as other red states.

It does seem a bit like Montana in that regard.

Also: It's not nearly as red as folks think, and it's one of the few states to give Obama more of the vote in 2012 than in 2008 (41% vs. 38%).

What was better - Wrestlemania 5 (Hogan v. Macho Man) or 6 (Hogan v. Warrior)?

Assuming no one gets 50% during the primary, which 2 of the candidates are most likely to get to a run-off?

It's just so hard to say right now, but my guess with be Paul Broun and either Karen Handel or Jack Kingston. Establishment then lines up behind Handel/Kingston and tea party behind Broun.

You said: If the tea party can somehow prevent the clean debt ceiling bill from passing, that would be the best thing for Democrats in November. How would you see this playing out that would help the Democrats? Are you saying Democrats will benefit if the nation defaults? Even as a Democrat, that doesn't sound too great! Or how else do you see it playing out that would benefit the Democrats?

The question was about November -- i.e. the election. I just think another case where the tea party pushes things to the brink would help Democrats hold the Senate. Polling shows the GOP would pay a much bigger price.

You're not allowed back into Minnesota if you keep complaining about minor snowstorms.

Did I complain?

Watching Christie flail about in the throes of Bridgegate, I wonder if Bill Clinton would have survived impeachment if there had been blogs, Twitter, TMZ, etc. in the days of Monica-gate? Maybe he was lucky (as usual) that those were relatively low-tech days?

This is a good point.

Christie also suffers from being in a state with a very active political press corps. Most governors don't have to deal with nearly as much scrutiny, because the newspapers in their states have cut back so much on political reporters.

Is there any precedent for this career arc: (i) posing naked, (ii) winning a Senate seat, (iii) losing same Senate seat, (iv) getting pictured shirtless, and (v) running for a Senate seat in a different state? Even ignoring the disrobing aspects, is there any precedent? And how strong a candidate is he as a recent loser carbetbagger (to ask a serious question in an ever-so-slightly leading manner)?

There is definitely precedent for senators representing more than one state, but I'm not sure if any of them did so after losing in the first state.

That's a great question. I will look into it and follow up.

As a side note: One former senator represented THREE states. Carpetbagging much?

It's probably safe to assume that the postponement yesterday of yet another component of Obamacare will not be the last. Do you think the individual mandate will be delayed by executive order this year?

Doing so, I think, would be catastrophic for the health care law, and they'll do whatever they can to avoid it.

For now, the changes haven't really been game-changers in the court of public opinion. Delaying the individual mandate would be a game-changer.

Will you watch Jimmy Fallon? Or Seth Meyers?

Whoever moves his show to 9 p.m.

Why on earth would she even WANT to run in 2016? She'll be what, early 70s I think, and decades spent in the public eye must be exhausting. And the job is so thankless! Is it an ego thing?

I truly believe people in public life are just so driven that people like you and me can't relate to them. I can't imagine why anybody would want to run for president, ever.

How come only Cantwell and Cole signed this letter? I want the name changed yesterday, but I can't imagine that the Washington football team feels any pressure when only 2 of 535 members of Congress sends a letter.

I think it's just serving notice that, if they don't do it themselves, there could be some involvement from Congress. Fair warning, essentially.

Seemed to work for Vladimir Putin!

For the win!

Another potential parallel: He served in two different offices -- prime minister and president.

One reason Begich would be re-elected is that Alaskans, like Hawaiians, Montanans and the people of other small states, like Senators with seniority. Begich has decent seniority and will, should he be re-elected, jump at least six spots. He will be at least 43 spots or better than anyone who replaces him and that's important for small states which have fewer chances to amass seniority in the House.

I disagree slightly. I'm not sure one term of seniority really tips the balance in the mind of a lot of voters. It would be different if he had been here for three or four terms.

I think that on a more idealistic level, some people believe they really can make a difference for the better.

Fair point. The things you have to go through to actually accomplish that, though, are beyond my comprehension. And then you get there and you can't do one-quarter of the things you hoped/promised to.

It all strikes me as a horrible experience to put oneself through.

Who is actually going to run against her? And what is most likely to happen -- she wins in Iowa and New Hampshire and then they drop out? Good thing at least the Republican race will go on for awhile.

It's been a long time since an open primary was a coronation. I would be VERY surprised if Hillary didn't at least face some drama.

Only half-kidding when I ask if that reader was alive during Clinton's impeachment? The 24-hour news cycle was taken to a new level during it. It was such a circus that Twitter probably would've only helped (Twitter arguments from defenders).

I do think the internet brings things to a whole different level, though. It's made stories that were once not part of the dialogue a part of a dialogue.

Do you see any candidate who might be able to deliver an early knockout blow? Which one might it be? I can't think of one would be likely to play well in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

I think winning both Iowa and New Hampshire is very difficult for any Republican and will be for a long time. Just such different electorates in a very divided party.

James Shields who represented Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri in the Senate did so before the direct election of Senators by the voters took effect. If you were a party stalwart, you could get a Senate seat anywhere provided you had the money or the influence. It would be more interesting if it occurred after the direct election of Senators took place.


Putin kills dogs, we put them in dog shows. We win. USA! USA!

This says it all. Now if we could just beat them in figure skating.

Isn't the point of Sen. Paul's comments regarding Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton has questionable judgment since she stood by her husband throughout the Lewinsky/Flowers/Jones/Willey/et. al scandals?

Perhaps. But that's a very hard case to make, and if he ever took it that far, I think he'd find himself in big trouble.

It'd be sad for a state so deeply involved in politics to resort to a losing candidate from another state.

Brown does have longstanding ties to New Hampshire. and it's not like his 2012 campaign was a disaster. He still left office as a popular senator; it's just very hard to win Massachusetts as a Republican in a presidential election year.

Thanks to 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.
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