Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 11, 2014

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

Hello all, and welcome back to the Ask Aaron live chat, which is quickly becoming my favorite part of the week.

What's on your mind this week?

Obama going Between Two Ferns?

Ukraine politics?


The battle for the Senate

Today's special election in Florida?

Anything's fair game, so ask away...


I've noticed you and Cillizza both mention other Dems as more vulnerable than Hagan. Why is she in better shape than some of her 2014 colleagues?

I think that right now we are re-evaluating this. In large part, it's because her state isn't as red as Louisiana, Arkansas or Alaska.

But she's also been bludgeoned with outside spending, and it appears to have taken a toll on her. A recent poll showed her approval rating at just 33 percent, with 49 percent disapproving.  That's very dangerous territory, if it's anywhere close to reality.

Is there a senator who has kept his head down more over the last few years than Roy Blunt? Any Democrats who can challenge him in 2016? I doubt Jay Nixon will give it a go.

The Democratic bench in Missouri is pretty thin. Nixon is a popular governor and would certainly be their best hope, but I don't think he's terribly interested, and I think this is a state that is increasingly off the swing-state map.

For a guy like Blunt, I think it's a good idea to be quiet your first term.

We've seen Bill Clinton in Kentucky. Can we expect him to be making stops in North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana do help endangered Democrats there?

I would count on it. Obama can't really go to those states. Clinton is both broadly popular and a Southerner to boot.

I am sure the folks in Tampa Bay are holding parties to celebrate to end of the non-stop special election ads. I was only there a week and I was ready to kill some one after seeing those same 4 ads over and over and over.

Indeed, regular House elections don't have $10 million spent on them, and even if they did, it likely wouldn't buy nearly as many ads.

A special election is basically a Senate race shrunk to the size of a House district, with outside groups all clamoring to get a piece. an NIT matchup between Minnesota and Georgetown?

I still think we're going dancing, so I'll reserve judgement on this.

Last time the press gave the Democrats a mandate? 2006? Tea Party definitely got one in 2010, but Obama didn't in 2008 or 2012. Point is this: other than Iraq, the press never gives Democrats credit for connecting on issues, so a Sink win will be chalked up as insignificant; a loss and it's "Obamacare is an albatross!" stories galore.

I think Democrats certainly have more to lose than to win, especially since their candidate was so much better-known.

In addition, if the GOP loses, there's no easy answer as to why, other than that they had a bad candidate who was a lobbyist (which doesn't exist in every race). In Democrats' case, it's pretty easy to tie this to Obamacare (which does).

At least Floridians get to see more than one person. Rauner and his fleece vest are on the Chicago airwaves 24/7.

Floridians are familiar with this level of saturation from a self-funder too. It's called Rick Scott.

Is her job as the House Democratic leader hers until she doesn't want it, or do you think she needs to win back the majority at some point (obviously, not 2014) to keep it?

I can't see her being voted out of her leadership job. If Democrats really feel the need to transition away from her, I think she resigns.

I really don't know how she thinks she'll be speaker again any time soon, though. It's just so hard for Democrats to win bach the House on the current map.

Who do you see challenging him in 2016? He seems to have stepped out of the spotlight in the last year or two.

I think Feingold comes back to get vengeance. That would be a helluva race.

Rank from most to least likely to seek another term in 2016: Grassley, McCain, and Hatch?

1. McCain

2. Grassley

3. Hatch

Does he make the South Dakota race anything other than a sure GOP pickup? Or does he simply not have enough money or residual name recognition (hasn't been on the ballot since 1996) to make much of a difference?

This strikes me as more of a novelty campaign than a game-changer. You need money to be legit, and 18 years is a lot of time to forget about somebody.

Huckabee, Perry, Pence, Jindal, Kasich, Walker, Ryan, Santorum, Ayotte, Snyder, Haley, Portman. Best guesses.

Huck -- out

Perry -- in

Pence -- out

Jindal -- in

Kasich -- out

Walker -- out

Ryan -- out

Santorum -- in

Ayotte -- out

Snyder (?!?) -- out

Haley -- out

Portman -- out

Any word on turnout at the polls?

It's going to be very light in this district, because tons of voters vote by mail.

Plus, turnout reports are just so anecdotal, I try to ignore them.

Seen it yet? How many politicians did you have to sleep with?

Yes. And none so far.

tell me that Feingold will not run again. He is doing quite well for himself, and was purportedly stung after losing to Johnson.

I have heard something different. But my guess is that nobody really knows besides the senator himself.

You missed Jeb

Jeb -- out

Which real-life politician lives closest to the creed "A Lannister always pays his debts"?

Tom Coburn? Except the Lannister would be the United States government.

What are the most likely red to blue states for 2016 (if any)?

If any states go red to blue, I would be surprised. Obama pretty much swept the swing states, with the exception of North Carolina.

As for blue to red, I'd say:

1. Florida

2. Ohio

3. Colorado

You think both Paul Ryan and Scott Walker are out for 2016? Why? Are they aiming at 2020?

I'm not convinced that Ryan really wants to run for president more than staying in the House.

As for Walker, I'm pretty close to 50-50 on him. But I think after 3 tough campaigns for governor in 4 years, he'll maybe want to take a little break.

The more I think about it, the more I think Paul Ryan will win the GOP nomination. Rand Paul is flavor of the month (maybe a bit more) and Rubio is scarred from immigration. Ryan will be the last option for the donor class.

Unless Christie or Jeb Bush runs.

I live in Ohio and Kasich has done a lot of damage. He isn't popular. I doubt Ohio will vote red in 2016.

The polls disagree with you. The most recent Quinnipiac poll shows him with a 51% approval rating vs. just 36% disapprove. That's good territory for a swing-state governor.

Who's the winner from last weekend? Gov. Christie? Sen. Paul? Hillary?

The back-biting in the GOP has got to make Hillary's folks feel better about the race. The more the GOP fights over whether their past presidential nominees were too moderate, the better for Democrats.

How likely do you think the Voter ID law in NC is to inspire a backlash among Blacks and Hispanics there to turn out and vote for Kay Hagan in greater numbers?

That's the risk Republicans have run, and there's certainly a mobilizing effort afoot, led by NC NAACP head Rev. William Barber.

I think Democrats will really have to drive this issue home with advertising closer to Election Day and organizing in African American communities. Unfortunately for them, the state Democratic Party is in shambles.

What's the current number of peopl working for Cilliza these days?

There's 5 of us right now -- soon to be 7.

Some say a different guy was at CPAC. Has he really changed?

I think his message was a really good one -- appealing to the blue-collar folks in a way that other Republicans haven't.

Santorum is under-rated as a candidate because he's seen as such a social conservative first. If he can expand his appeal outside that, he can be a very good candidate.

Was it a mistake for Nunn to run in 2014? Should she have waited for the seat in 2016? Or is 2014 setting herself for 2016?

I think 2014 was a good opportunity, given the nature of the GOP primary.

And she can always use it as a springboard even if it doesn't work out. It's not like she was expected to win.

If he runs for president, do you think he will resign as governor first?

The only reason I think he would do that is so he could raise money from the financial servives industry. More on that here.

But for a guy who keeps saying how much he loves being governor, it sure would be odd for him to resign 1-2 years into his term.

How was the hot tub? Was it too hot or just right?

I don't get invited to these parties. I guess I'm not a part of the cool-kid crowd.

How does your group compare with the Nate Silver group profiled in TIME last week? Smarter, less nerdy, less fond of statistics?

Only slightly less nerdy. We still do like statistics; we're just not as sophisticated about them.

Assuming he doesn't run in 2018 won't Mia Love walk to his seat? She will probably be a two term member by then and her biggest competitor, Jason Chaffetz, will probably be too busy chairing oversight to make a campaign, right?

There are a lot of moving pieces here. I think Love would indeed be a player if she were a two-term congresswoman at that time.

Other candidates might include Dan Liljenquist -- maybe even Gov. Gary Herbert, who is extremely popular.

If the election were today, who would win the Governor's Seat? Scott or Crist?

I think it's pretty apparent that Crist would win today.

At the same time, I don't know anybody who's really calling him the favorite in November, both because Scott has gobs of money and because Crist's alliance with the Dem party is still a work-in-progress.

How many people actually show up at these? Who aren't reporters and/or bloggers?

Tons of people. Thousands. They fill up a huge ballroom at the Gaylord Hotel, and the halls are generally jam-packed.

Bruce Rauner or Charlie Crist?


Do you see former congressmen Dan Boren or Brad Carson or former governor Brad Henry, the only Oklahoma Democrats I know, ever running for office again?

I think maybe Boren, but Carson has already tried for Senate.

Henry's name pops up for Senate seats, and he's still pretty young (relatively speaking), so don't count him out.

The Mountian State definitely does not like Obama, but how does Hillary poll there? Would it be back in play in 2016?

I really doubt it, unless she adopts a vastly different policy on coal and climate change. I think this state is tough no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

When the dust settles, what do you predict the Senate will look like come January? I think 53-47 with the GOP in the majority (GOP wins West Virginia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Montana, and either Michigan or Colorado).

As of now, I'm giving Republicans:

West Virginia


South Dakota


North Carolina

That means the GOP needs to win one of Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado and Michigan to get to 51. That doesn't seem all that far-fetched, now does it?

What does she do after losing the Texas gubernatorial election?

If she loses, I think she continues to raise her national profile, maybe takes a role with the DNC or something, appears on TV, etc.

Then she hopes for the state to get bluer and waits for the right opportunity.

Does he waltz into the governor's mansion in 2015? Do voters simply not care about the madam scandal and hypocrisy of a self-proclaimed family values conservative?

He probably won't have a totally free ride. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) is looking at it.

But Vitter is very popular, and I'm not sure his opponents are going to go there by bringing up the scandal. Vitter already survived what was supposed to be a reasonably challenging reelection campaign, and the whole thing will be 8 years old by 2015.

What Democrat do you think runs against him in 2016, assuming he's on the ballot? Jack Conway appears focused on running for governor. Steve Beshear says he doesn't want to run for the Senate.

You've got to look at Ben Chandler, the former congressman, but the Democratic bench in Kentucky isn't deep, and a lot of these folks are more interested in running for governor. A federal race is tough, and Paul is reasonably popular -- moreso than McConnell, at least.

I think there may be some Democrats who take a flier on this, hoping that Paul wins the GOP presidential nomination. But even then, he might be able to clarify state law to let him run for both at once.

On a scale of 1-10, how concerned is the McConnell team about his re-election?

1 being the most concerned? 4.

Rick Santorum is so roundly disrespected here in his native SW Pennsylvania that if he starts to make any moves toward a Presidential candidacy again, many Pittsburghers will come out of the woodwork with the facts about the real Santorum.

They didn't feel like saying anything when he was legitimately challenging Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination in 2012?

Hi Aaron -- speaking as one Minnesotan to another, how is Franken looking eight months out from Election Day? I follow politics pretty closely, but I couldn't tell you who his opponent is or what he/she stands for. That would seem to help Franken, or is it way too soon to know?

GOP primary is still playing out, but establishment definitely wants self-funder Mike McFadden (R) to emerge.

I think this could be a late addition to the map, but certainly not on-par with Colorado and Michigan right now.

Thanks everyone for coming out. Another great live chat with many more questions than I could ever answer.

Let's do it again 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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