Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 04, 2014

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

Hey everyone, and welcome to "Ask Aaron," where you guys get to ask me anything.

(With reasonable exceptions.)

What's on your mind this week?

Gay marriage in Kentucky?

Obama and Putin?

Sarah Palin's prescience?

Boehner's swagger?

The GOP's lead in Senate races?

The minimum wage push?

Matthew McConaughey?

Alright, alright, alright -- let's get to it...

Everyone has predicted that the Dems would be able to hang these issues around the R's in the mid-terms, it seems so far not to be worrying. Agree?

It doesn't seem to be the silver bullet that many people predicted, and I'm not sure why.

I think part of the reason is that the enthusiasm on these issues is much higher on the GOP side.

But I also think these are more long-term issues. Democrats need time to drive them home, and they need to put money behind ads to that effect. Right now, they aren't doing that; that'll change come September and October.

Does the gay marriage ruling or the Democratic governor's decision to appeal despite the AG declining to have any impact on Grimes? She is pro-gay marriage but I wasn't sure how all of this plays for her, if at all.

In the olden days (i.e. 5 years ago), I would have said this is uncomfortable for Grimes, because she has to take a stand on a position that might not be popular.

But in this case, even some red states are getting closer to embracing gay marriage, and this isn't even full legalization -- just recognizing other states' gay marriages.

So I'm not sure it's as awkward for her as it might seem.

It's too late at this point for Pryor to announce his retirement, right? It's either win by throwing a Hail Mary or lose, correct?

The filing deadline did indeed pass Monday, so he's in.

I'm actually hearing that Democrats are more concerned about Landrieu than Pryor. I think they are definitely the two most vulnerable incumbents -- aside from appointee John Walsh in Montana.

Republicans need to win all three of these, though.

With all of these judges taking it upon themselves to throw out state marriage laws (I'm for gay marriage, but the state legislatures should pass or fail them), this issue of gay marriage is probably going to the Supreme Court, right? If that is the case Anthony Kennedy will probably side with the pro gay marriage side.

These cases are definitely headed for the Supreme Court. The decisions in Kentucky and Texas are just precursors to that, really.

As for how SuCo will rule, I think it's clear in which direction this is headed nationally. But you should probably never presume how one justice will rule.

There seems to be no political win here for the President. There's no political will to use force, but that seems to be the only thing that Putin would respond to in this situation. Is there a face-saving way for the president here, and if not, how does this hurt his standing at home and abroad?

I do think you would perhaps see a more forceful U.S. response if the president's handling of Syria had been better -- i.e. more talk of potential intervention.

As it stands, it's pretty clear Obama can't get Congress behind using the military somewhere like Ukraine. Putin, I'm sure, knows this.

There are really too many ins and outs to know how this will shake out, but the shadow of Syria certainly hangs over this entire thing.

Are you plotting a coup to overthrow Mr. Fix?

You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Things seem to be falling apart for the Dems nearly everywhere, yet Franken seems to be holding steady. What gives?

Well we'll see. I think there are bigger questions about the GOP field in this state than in some other places.

I also think Minnesotans are more willing to give a big government programs a chance. They might not be as anti-Obamacare as a politically similar state.

The outcome of the Republican primary in Georgia, and the inevitable subsequent runoff, seems to me to be the most important one in the country. In recent weeks it's seemed like former SOS and Susan G. Komen exec Karen Handel has been gaining momentum, but with such a wide open field, it's really anyone's race. What do you see as the most likely runoff matchup and eventual nominee?

I think Paul Broun is the most likely tea party entrant in that runoff. On the establishment side, I think it's between Kingston, Handel and David Perdue.

And I would agree that this is likely the most pivotal GOP primary -- in terms of affecting the GOP's chances of winning a seat.

Cory Gardner or Bruce Braley? Thad Cochran or Terri Lynn Land? Gary Peters or Tom Cotton?




If Secretary Clinton doesn't run, who is the frontrunner for the nomination in 2016?

That is a great question. Polls would tell you it's Biden, but that's because nobody else really has that national name ID.

If Hillary doesn't run, the vacuum within the Democratic primary would likely be as big as the 2012 GOP field.

I also think you'd see lots of pressure for someone like Deval Patrick to run.

Even if McDaniels wins the primary, can Childers even get above 42% in Mississippi this year?


Childers easily won a 62% McCain district in 2008. Granted, that was a good year for the Democrats, but that's still pretty stunning.

None of this is to say "Childers would beat McDaniel," but Childers does have upside -- to borrow a sports term.

Gary Peters is more likely than Tom Cotton? What makes you say that. Pryor is in one of Obama's worst states, and has had personal issues the last few years.

I think Peters is a better candidate than people realize, and he'll eventually show that. Plus he's in a blue state.

I see Arkansas as more of a toss-up for now, by virtue of Pryor's incumbency.

Setting aside the standard "what the hell is he doing" question, doesn't all this flirting with the run put him in a really bad position if he decides against it? If he says no after all this time and very public dallying, he's going to have annoyed a lot of people who might otherwise have been happy with him running against Markey or Coakley in MA or simply staying home. PS. Do you share Cilliza's view that he wants to run for president?

I think he does hurt his brand if he doesn't run. This is a VERY long deliberation process, and if people think he was just  stringing them along, I think that hurts him.

On the flip side, he has made Democrats pay attention to  state they might not otherwise have had to.

As for your last questions: Of course he wants to run for president. Most senators do.

He seems to have an ideal background for a plausible Republican presidential candidate. On the other hand, his ill-fated foray into immigration and his recent attempts to ingratiate himself back into the far right don't seem to bode well. What is the insider view of him -- future superstar or lightweight?

It really oscillates between the two.

He does have the best personal profile of anybody in the GOP field, but he's also got something to prove when it comes to his political gravitas.

I can see him being either the next GOP savior or a total bust come 2016, and I'm not sure there's a whole lot of in-between.

Whither Stockman? Is this the end?

The most bizarre Senate campaign from a sitting House member that I've ever seen.

How worried should Ayotte be from a possible challenge from Maggie Hassan in 2016? Do you think she will run for president instead of re-election?

I'm not sure I see Hassan as her challenger. Hassan will only have been in office four years and will have run for that office twice (two year terms in the Granite State).

Ultimately, it depends on whether she prefers being governor or senator. These days, most prefer the former.

Do you think Rubio, whether he runs for president or not, could face a tough re-election for the senate in '16? Could someone like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (an obvious name) take him on?

The Democratic bench in Florida is VERY thin, but I'm not sure I see Wasserman Schultz as the right candidate.

Also, Rubio has pretty good numbers in Florida, and I think he's tough to beat if he can over-perform other Republicans among the Dem-trending Cuban-American community (of which he is a member).

So what do you think could be the silver bullets that help Democrats hold on to the Senate in the 2014 elections? Besides running against foot-in-mouth Tea Party Republican candidates in the November elections (cf. Mourdock, Akin, Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle).

That's certainly the most likely instance.

The other I would keep an eye on is the economy. Say what you want about the recovery's rapidity; polls show more and more people think things are headed in the right direction (the most since 2007 in today's new WaPo-ABC poll).

If signs take a turn for the better over the next several months, I think Democrats probably keep the Senate, regardless of Obamacare.

The lefts enthusiasm for her has seemed to die down. Is this attributed to her biography issues, or the fact that Texas isn't ready to turn purple yet?

I think it's the latter. She did a good job of striking while the iron was hot, but sustaining that requires her opponent to make some pretty serious errors. 

The whole Ted Nugent thing wasn't pretty, but I don't think it matters come November.

Huh? There was overwhelming opposition on both sides of the aisle to using force in Syria. Obama should've done more?

My point was that he set the red line, and then when he asked Congress to back him up on using force, they turned him down (or rather, were about to).

I think everyone knows what would happen right now if Obama asked for a use-of-force resolution for Ukraine. That's why that's not really an option at this point.

Doesn't the Florida Democratic bench begin and end with Kathy Castor? I-4 corridor Democrat. Daughter of the woman who nearly won the Senate seat in 2004. I'd think she's the one Democrats look to win a statewide race in the near future.

She is certainly in the mix. I think apart from her and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), though, you don't really have a potential statewide candidate in the delegation.

Why are Democrats more worried about her? I always figured if she was able to win in a horrible environment like 2002, then she was pretty much a sure thing in LA.

I think a big reason is that the state's demographics are different than they were in 2002 thanks to Katrina.

Between 2000 and 2010 Censuses, Louisiana had the smallest amount of population growth among African Americans in the country (besides DC).

It's also worth noting that Arkansas still has a Democratic Party, while in Louisiana, it's basically non-existent.

Is he the guaranteed nominee for Governor? I keep hearing him say he was welcomed in the Republican Party of Reagan, a line that might work with general election voters, but not primary dems.

The big rumor is that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) jumps in if Crist stumbles.

I think some in the Democratic Party establishment would probably be OK with an alternative, but the bench -- as I said -- is so thin.

I'm not sure if he'd be interested, but Austan Goolsbee could be a good candidate if he decided to run in IL.

I've wondered the same thing, seeing him pop up on the cable shows from time to time.

If Bennet can win in 2010, how could Udall lose in 2014?

Bennet had Ken Buck as his opponent. Cory Gardner is a significant step up for the GOP in the candidate department.

He doesn't want to be in the House Leadership, or the Senate, and he probably will not run for President (I think). Could you see him retiring in the next 5 years to make some real money?

Potentially, but I really do think he cares about the issues he's fighting for, and maybe that keeps him in Congress for a while.

And you can do a lot of very significant things as Ways and Means committee chairman.

Do chats count against my monthly article limit? What about hitting refresh? Or clicking on the same article twice?

I don't believe the chats count, but I'll check and make sure they don't.

I want you guys to get me every week for free.

What effect is the Koch Brothers ad spend in North Carolina having on the Senate race there? When does the GOP select its challenger for Sen. Hagan?

Keep an eye on this. Americans for Prosperity is dropping a TON of money on Kay Hagan, and it already seems to be hurting her numbers. (Elon poll this week shows her approve/disapprove at 33/49.)

Tough year under Richard Pitino. Never understood running Tubby Smith out of town.

We're just not a program that will compete for a Big Ten title. So we hire former Kentucky coaches and the sons of former Kentucky coaches.

And do we really think that if Richard has some success, he won't just bolt for a better program?

It's sad, really.

Unless you are a potted plant, you are human and feel one way or the other about certain hot button issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) how do you keep from letting those show in your work?

Nobody is without bias; that's just a fact. In everything they do, journalists need to constantly evaluate whether they have been fair to all sides, and I try to do that.

For me, it all comes down to this: I'm much more interested in helping other people make clear-eyed decisions about their own political beliefs than espousing mine. It's more important for me to facilitate that discussion than take part in it. I think that's a very valid civic duty.

Please rank the most annoying voices of the following: Ted Cruz, Chris Cillizza, Bill simmons.

Gilbert Gotfried.

Have you thanked a pancake for the service they perform to our country today?

In honor of National Pancake Day, I bring to you the comic stylings of Mr. Jim Gaffigan.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. We had some great questions today, as always -- but especially today.

See you next Tuesday at 2 p.m.

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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