Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Feb 18, 2014

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

Thanks everyone for coming out. What's on your mind this week?


Democratic retirements?

Obamacare and 2014?

The new Democratic Koch brother (from another mother)?

The Olympics?

Mitt Romney's goodwill tour?

The fifth anniversary of the stimulus?

I know it was a holiday weekend, so this feels more like a Monday than a Tuesday, but that doesn't mean you all shouldn't have some great questions!

Let's get to it...


What he has done to demand attention every time he opens his mouth...other than providing good quotes?

1) The good quotes help. Certain politicians know how to make news whenever they speak, and he does it.

2) People read it. As with his dad, there is plenty of inherent interest in what he does -- even the small stuff. And when people are interested in what a politician says, we're more apt to write about it.

3) He might run for president. Yes, I know, it's only 2014. But he's clearly angling for it. And as with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, we're going to continue to watch everything he does.

...might be the worst. I don't need to hear every reporter compare himself or herself to every situation portrayed onscreen. It's supposed to be somewhat realistic-of course there should be similarities to your own experiences.

People in DC are fantastic at being self-important. And any time someone takes an interest in your little world, it's hard not to compare it to your own experience.

You don't get that people outside of DC see things differently. They don't see the red-blue divide as clearly. They split tickets. This explains why you got way ahead of yourself in the "Franken is doomed" narrative.

Firstly, I have never, ever said Franken is doomed or anything of the sort. Ever.

I have suggested that it could -- potentially, if things turn out a certain way -- be a competitive race, which is a far different thing. I think you're referring to when I noted that Obama's approval in a new Minnesota poll is 43%.

We know people don't vote a straight party line, but the national environment matters in Senate races. So, to the extent Obama is doing poorly in Minnesota, it opens the door to Republicans, despite Franken's solid numbers. It makes it conceivable, and nothing more.

A good example of this is the Massachusetts Senate race in 2012. Scott Brown was still popular when he lost, but it was Massachusetts. The national environment mattered.

Republican outside groups have now invested $2.6 million in Florida's special House race. Doesn't this massive investment run the risk of making the narrative about how they blew a race they outspent Dems on instead of Democrats losing a race based on Obamacare?

I think spending by the end is going to be close enough where the discrepancy won't be a major storyline. As much as the GOP outside groups are spending big, the actual GOP candidate is not. Alex Sink is outraising David Jolly by quite a bit.

Could the rash of retirements from senior House Dems be a good thing for the future of the caucus? Seems like there has been a backlog in the leadership/chair positions and this could allow some younger members to take the messaging lead. Would like to see Becerra and Van Hollen get more responsibility.

I think a changing of the guard can be a great thing for any party or any joint effort, really. Fresh blood brings fresh ideas and the possibility of broadening appeal.

That said, the people who are in front of Van Hollen and Becerra are still around (Hoyer and Pelosi). Until that changes, it's hard to call it a real changing of the guard.

Is it possible that, as has happened before, the libertarian candidate wins the votes that separates Jolly and Sink (like happened in VA gov race)?

It's quite possible. In fact, this happens quote a bit. See here.

But I would caution that this DOES NOT mean that the libertarian would swing the race. In the Virginia governor's race, for example, polling suggested the race would have wound up about the same without Sarvis -- both because people would have stayed home and because he also stole McAuliffe voters.

I think Libertarian candidates steal more votes from the GOP, generally, but probably not by as much as a lot of people think.

Any polls come out before absentee ballots went out?

Here's the most reliable one we've seen yet: Sink up 7.

It was nice seeing Meryl and Charlie win the gold last night, but the camera went to the Canadian team who looked like characters out of "American Hustle!"  Is there a new film begging to be made here?

Meryl and Charlie are probably my favorite people at the Olympics -- mostly because they've skated together for 17 years and he looks like Jeff Daniels' character in Dumb and Dumber.

Who's your favorite President NOT born in February? (This excludes William Henry Harrison, too)

TR. Not close.

Lots of talk these days about Democrats trying to insulate themselves from health care attacks by sticking to the "fix not repeal" mantra, an approach that I am shocked the media has not called out for being both wrong on policy and politically. Firstly, the law is made up by a series of interlocking, interdependent parts. To change one part affects the others, often negatively. Secondly, even if the electorate was comprised of voters who favored a fix over repeal, a big if especially in a midterm, aren't they going to trust Republicans over Democrats to fix it anyway? It just seems like a short-sighted, illogical strategy. Am I wrong?

I think polling actually does show people favor fixing the law over scrapping it, and they actually don't favor Republicans when it comes to fixing it, either.

A December Post-ABC poll showed that 62% of people disapproved of Obama's implementation of Obama, but when you asked them who should be in charge of it in the future, people chose Obama over the GOP 42-37.

So you can argue that it's harder (from a policy perspective) to fix the law than repeal it, but generally speaking, this is a viable electoral argument from Democrats.

See more here.

Eugene Robinson likes the Biatholon (Skiing and Shooting). Mine was snowcross. What's your favorite winter sport that you only watch once every 4 years?

I agree with you on snowcross. The other one is short-track speed skating. The best.

Bros love Teddy Roosevelt.

True statement.

What's the best pun you've seen made on their names?

The latest ad from American Crossroads is titled "Sunk."

The headlines if Jolly wins will be atrocious, I guarantee you.

Were you old enough to remember Harding & Kerrigan? What did you think of it at your tender age?

I do remember the whole thing, and I recently watched the great "30 for 30" documentary on it. Definitely worth the watch.

I remember distinctly thinking, "Figure skating? Who cares?"

Have Wendy Davis's flip-flops (and later denials of her flip-flops) on a 20-week abortion limit and concealed carry essentially sunk her candidacy? I haven't seen anything that indicates that she has any momentum whatsoever against Gregg Abbott.

I think this whole episode shows how difficult her task is.

She needs to be the liberal hero to raise big money, but that's the same thing that's going to prevent her from winning in still solidly red Texas.

I think her pivot took place a little earlier than people expected. It's certainly a very delicate needle she's trying to thread.

Do you think at that GOP caucus, they decided, "Just pass the Budget and other bills and take off quickly for the campaign trail"?

I think you are giving the House GOP a little too much credit for planning what they do. I think it's much more of a seat-of-their-pants operation, and the rank-and-file surely don't just do whatever the leaders tell them to.

But it does almost seem like they are increasingly concerned with their 2014 prospects.

The American bobsled was designed by BMW. The winning Russian short-track skater comes from South Korea. Just about all of the Hockey players work in the U.S. and Canada for the NHL. What's the point with national teams these days?

I love it. There's nothing better than representing one's country. But I do have a little problem with the Viktor Ahn thing and the BMW Bobsled.

I also don't think we should let Virtue and Moir train with Davis and White. Can we deport them along with Bieber?

Why is this race so important? Is it just that it's early and nothing else is going on?

Yes. These early specials are always over-analyzed -- especially the ones in swing districts like Florida-13.

At the same time, they are good for something, in that the parties can test different messages. But it's just one of 435 districts, so it's hard to know whether those messages will translate everywhere else.

If there's nothing else in the news, this special election will be a BFD.

This is the mantra of your fearless leader, Mr. Sir Fix. What would be the most fun election race you can imagine? Think hockey, not figure skating.

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul. I just think it would be fascinating and a great proxy for the larger GOP  civil war -- or whatever you want to call it.

I never bought the argument -- still going around -- that, "Everyone will remember the Clinton drama and not support Hillary because of it."

It's one thing if she brings up those times, but when it's someone else -- Rand, Reince, et al -- they look like desperate people who can't focus on issues affecting voters' lives.

The problem with bringing up the Clinton years is that they are actually remembered pretty fondly. Bill is as popular as ever, for example.

There was plenty of bad stuff, including the Lewinsky scandal, but I'm not sure how much people really want to re-litigate that. The fact is that people would love to have the economy of the Clinton years right now.

I don't really buy the "Clinton fatigue" idea.

But why is Obama at 43 approval in MN? Is it because he's not progressive enough?

I was surprised at the difference between Obama (43%) and Franken (55%). You usually don't see much difference between a low-profile senator and his party's president like that.

I don't really think it's because progressives disapprove of Obama. That's not something we're seeing in other states right now, so I'm not sure why it would be the case in Minnesota.

It could, in the end, just be an odd poll.

Really, how many factions are there? TP, Establishment, Libertarian, RINO?

There's really three -- the establishment, the tea party and the folks in the middle trying to decide whom to align with. Libertarians overlap with tea party but not competely, and "RINO" is generally a derogative term for the establishment folks who are a little too moderate.

I personally bet that even if Iowa goes to Hillary, NH will go for someone else just to be contrary

The Granite Staters seem to like to do that. They don't want us to forget about them.

If you were elected, what perk of the office would you most like?

The Marine One helicopters. I always wanted my own helicopter.

Yay or nay?

Yes, please.

How do you expect to run when even your own mother doesn't want you to be President?

Well, she's not really saying he's not qualified -- just seems like she doesn't want the family to go through all that stuff again. And I can't really blame her after her husband lost reelection and her son left on such a sour note.

What's the purpose of Mitt's new PR push? Surely he's done with elective office and he's hardly in a position to play king maker.

I'm trying to figure that out right now.

I honestly don't think it's crazy to think he could run again. These people always say they won't, and then they get bored.

Is there anything at all that would cause immigration reform to be passed by this Congress? I'm not hopeful given that I thought there would be some gun control measures enacted after Newtown and nothing happened.

I still don't think so. Even though there was a time where it seems like there was some progress, there are so many details that needs to be ironed out, and I just think there will be at least one thing that stops this effort in its tracks.

But even if Alex Sink does win in FL-13 special election, there's still no real chance that Republicans lose the House in the mid-terms, right? So, why is it a BFD?

I was saying it would be a BFD mostly because it will be over-hyped. Wasn't saying I think it's justified.

And you're right that a Sink win probably doesn't mean much. I think Democrats have more to lose in this race.

Like Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game (circa 1998), NBC can't help but show him at every event and hospital room! Are we sure he hasn't had the KGB surgically alter agents to look like him?

Or Katharine Webb at an Alabama game. Somebody call Musberger.

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.
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