The Washington Post

Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 18, 2014

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

Thanks everyone for joining us for another edition of Ask Aaron.

So what's on your mind?

Ukraine politics?

The Illinois primary tonight?

The Florida special election last week?

Reince Priebus saying the 2014 will be a tsunami?


The 2014 map?

As always, anything is fair game. So ask away...

Chances he loses that primary? What's his fire-able offense besides length of time in office?

I'd say 25%. The danger for him is that he gets caught off-guard and doesn't really remember how to campaign hard and avoid gaffes.

His comments about the tea party early in the campaign just reminded me a lot of how out-of-touch Richard Lugar had become.

That said, I think the folks behind Cochran are much more prepared than Lugar's team.

If, after the LA runoff in Dec, the Senate is 50-50 who is the most likely member of the GOP to become independent & sit with the Dems (Collins?) or Dem to switch to the GOP (Manchin)?

Well if it's 50-50, Biden is the tie-breaker in favor of Dems.

But if Republicans were to pick off one Dem to get them to crossover, I would say it's Manchin. He's totally unbeholden to his party. He won on his own popularity, and he comes from a VERY conservative state.

All of this, needless to say, is hugely hypothetical.

Assuming neither Gingrey nor Broun wins the primary in Georgia, which candidate will be more competitive come November: Monica Wehby or Michelle Nunn?

That's a tough one. I tend to go with open seats as being more competitive, and Nunn is raising a bunch of money and has a great name for her state. I still say it's her.

But Wehby is worth watching.

Recent poll showed John McCain as the least popular senator in country, mainly due to his unpopularity with Republicans. Given his age and the likelihood of facing a dogfight in both the primary and, if he makes it, the general, all in a presidential year when Dems will likely target the state, I don't see the point for him. Do you see him calling it quits?

I don't think he would be seriously challenged in the general election in 2016. That's too early for Democrats to go for that state at the presidential level.

And I think he feels pretty good about his primary prospects after destroying J.D. Hayworth in 2010.

Now that it seems the flight continued to fly for hours after the radar signals were lost, why do people still assume it crashed into the ocean? Shouldn't they be searching for hidden runways where it could have landed?

This seems to be an emerging theory, notably pushed by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.).

McCaul says the plane could effectively be packed with explosives and used as a giant bomb.

Okay Minnesota boy, is it true in Minnesota it's called "Duck, Duck, Grey Duck" instead of "Duck, Duck, Goose"?

100% true. I thought people were crazy when I saw them play "Duck, Duck, Goose" for the first time.

The left trying to paint Paul Ryan as a racist.... what is the main reason behind this?

Because they see him as one of the most electable Republicans in 2016, no doubt.

Ryan needs to be more careful, but his problem is emblematic of the GOP's larger problems talking about things like women's issues. They need to figure out how to address this stuff.

Pro-Shannon group’s poll shows him closing on Lankford

This might be the most underrated primary of 2014. Keep a close eye on it.

I thought in Minnesota they said, "Duck, Duck, Loon."

Loons are too beautiful to be involved in children's games.

One thing a lot of people in the media have overlooked is the effect of incumbent gubernatorial races on that state's senate race. In Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan there are very competitive senate races and gubernatorial races that the incumbent is, to varying degrees, favored to win. Given voters' natural aversion to ticket splitting, this could have a potential big effect on the fight for the senate, no?

I'm not sure there is really such thing as a "natural aversion to ticket-splitting."

I think people don't split tickets in large part because they are just plain partisan. Among the few who are in the middle, I think there are plenty of folks who like the idea of splitting their ticket if they like candidates from each party.

I'm not sure I see it playing a huge role in these races. But if it did matter, the biggest beneficiary would likely by the GOP Senate nominee in Iowa.

The more I think about it the more I realize how much trouble she's in. Not only does she have to win as a Democrat in Louisiana, hard enough, she has to do it in a midterm year, and then A MONTH AFTER. No way she'll get a majority on the day of the election which means it will go to a runoff and if her base of black voters even turns out in November, they're sure to drop off even more for the runoff. Why is her race not considered at least Lean R by most forecasters?

It is definitely inching away from toss-up and towards "lean Republican," as our own Sean Sullivan wrote yesterday.

And your point about the dropoff in African-American turnout from general election day to the December runoff is well-taken. I'll have to chase down some numbers on that.

But I'll also say that Demorats have to be worried about black turnout in November, too. Keep those numbers close to 2012 levels will be hugely difficult.

How much is her endorsement worth anymore? Obviously less than 2010 but the highest propensity primary voters still like her alot

The new poll in the Oklahoma GOP Senate primary shows her favorable rating there at 75%.

The question from there is whether anyone who is voting is actually affected by that.

I think, in the case of someone like T.W. Shannon, it's something akin to the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" that this guy is, in fact, a strong conservative. I think it helps -- though not nearly as much as it did in 2010.

Everyone seems to think that he is a dead man walking. But if this is a wave year for the R's, could that save him, or is he to far gone?

His numbers looks really, really bad, and the fact that he's from a nominally blue state doesn't help.

I think we need to differentiate between a wave year and a SENATE WAVE year. Republicans can win the Senate with only a slightly favorable environment, thanks to a very favorable map. I'm not sure that would buoy a whole lot of vulnerable GOP governors.

Since being elected, Al Franken has pursed a policy of refusing interviews with national news outlets, limiting himself to local newspapers and radio. It seems to be a successful policy, based on his favorability rating now (compared to how he squeaked by in the election). While I know that you don't like politicians refusing interviews, I'm wondering if you know why more politicians don't take Franken's apparently successful approach to dealing with the media. Thanks.

As much as it kills me to say, I think it is the way to go -- especially for someone like Franken.

You can bet there would be all kinds of coverage of the former SNL star if he were on TV and doing all kinds of media. Eventually, that would probably hurt him back him.

Franken's Minnesota colleague, Amy Klobuchar, employed a pretty similar strategy in her first term, but is starting to come out of her shell a little more now.

Do you see him pulling out all the stops to help Pryor win in November?

I think so. He did a bunch for Blanche Lincoln in 2010, though, and that didn't do much in the general election.

I believe it passed the senate, is there any chance that it gets through the house?

There's always a chance, but anything that struggles that mightily in the Senate is going to have a tough time in the GOP-controlled House.

At the same time, it's easier for Dems to blame Republicans now, since it's totally in their hands. Expect a full-court press.

If/when Republicans take the Senate, McConnell will definitely be majority leader. But will Cornyn, Thune or Blunt get any challenges?

Most likely. People don't generally get leapfrogged for leadership positions.

That said, it might be good if they can install a tea party favorite like Mike Lee somewhere in leadership. It would be a goodwill gesture.

The question from there, though, is who gets bumped. And nobody wants that.

I agree it's really underrated especially considering Shannon's uniqueness as a candidate. Do you see any of the big Republican primary messrs (like Club for Growth) backing him?

All eyes are on the Club. They don't like Lankford, but they haven't gotten involved yet. 

The two things that keep them from getting involved is if they don't like Shannon or don't think he can win.

It seems like every month or so, a new story emerges from the Snowden documents revealing new spy programs (both domestic and international). Do you think the NSA issues will impact the midterms or presidential election? If so, how? (Dem base stays home, GOP fired up, etc.)

I don't think it plays in the general election as much as the primaries. I think, particularly in 2016, you're going to see some interesting debates within the GOP and Dem presidential primaries about this very topic.

I get the feeling that nobody in the WH seems to care about the situation in Crimea. Am I crazy to think that our guys and their guys are buddies and the media is making a big deal about a piece of land already full of Russians?

There is ALWAYS a whole bunch of posturing when it comes to this stuff.

I think it's a legitimate question to ask whether Russia getting Crimea is an acceptable outcome for the West. If they stop there (as Putin said they would today), I don't see there being the motivation to create some kind of big clash. There is just so much war-weariness -- especially in the U.S.

Do you see his maneuvering pay off so that the current governor doesn't challenge him in 2016? Or was 2010 a perfect confluence of events that cannot be duplicated? It's not like Sandoval has a national future for Republicans since he's pro-choice.

2010 wasn't a PERFECT confluence for Reid. He still had to run and win in a very strong GOP year.

That said, he'll be arguably the top GOP target in 2016 (the only other real target is Bennet in Colorado), and the GOP bench after Sandoval is so thin. Whether Sandoval runs will play a huge role in determining whether Harry Reid's career comes to an end.

The past two weeks have been marked by a pretty public display of optimism by conservatives, especially after the Florida special. Karl Rove talks of taking the Senate like its a foregone conclusion and Reince Priebus today predicted a "tsunami" in November. Is this just shameless (and very premature) football-spiking or are they trying to do something more like motivate their base and demoralize Democratic voters?

It's a little bit of everything. I would say:

1) Things are definitely looking better for the GOP when it comes to taking the Senate

2) The FL special has to be a little encouraging -- or at the very least least validating their optimism

3) BUT, there is a huge amount of time between now and November. Anybody who says they know what's going to happen in seven-plus months is either fooling themselves, a partisan cheerleader or should really get into a more lucrative line of work.

Are you developing a cough so you can call off on Thursday and Friday?


Is there any data that shows that Obamacare opposition was the driving factor to Jolly's win?

This stuff is all so subjective, and there are no exit polls. So it's just so hard to say.

I would say, though, that I'm not really sure what else would help him overcome the Social Security privatization and lobbyist stuff-- apart from the slight GOP lean of the district. All of that considered, I think Obamacare helped him somewhat -- but again, this is very subjective.

Could you see Biden getting the nomination, even if Clinton runs, because to attack him, is to attack the Obama administration, so the base may rally around him to show support for the Pres?

I don't think Biden sinks or swims because of the Obama adminstration. I think he's on his own, in large part. And I have a very hard time seeing him get the nomination.

Why did she not try to run for the Gov mansion again? She almost won in a bad year 4 years ago, and Crist seems vulnurable to a strong Dem challenge in the primary. Now she loses a congressional election and her career is over.

I think a GOV race was too big for her, and she kind of knew it. She needed something more low-profile, and this was a good opportunity.

Even though she was close in 2010, there wasn't much anxiety for her to challenge Rick Scott again.

I'm assuming Hilary and Jeb run. They, along with Mitt, will have run after being out of office for a few years. Do you think this will be a trend going forward? It seems that being out of the media spotlight is really good for one's public preception.

I wouldn't assume Jeb runs, but I do think taking a break and being out of the spotlight for a while helps.

Romney's health-care law and his general flip-flopping were much less of focal points this time than they were last time around.

Time heals all wounds.

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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