Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Apr 08, 2014

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

What's on your mind this week?

Democrats' turnout problems?

Jeb's immigration comments?

Philadering politicians, Part 1,654?

The possibility of the battle for the Senate going to a runoff?

As always, anything is fair game (within reason, of course), so ask away...


-Jeb Bush on immigration
-Rand Paul on foreign policy
-Ted Cruz and the government shutdown
-Chris Christie and Bridgegate


You can rank these problems both among elites (officeholders, donors, activists, etc.) and among rank-and-file voters.

Among "elites" (from largest -- No. 1 -- to smallest -- No. 4):

1. Cruz/shutdown

2. Rand/foreign policy

3. Christie/bridge

4. Jeb/immigration


Among GOP voters:

1. Jeb/immigration

2. Rand/foreign policy

3. Cruz/shutdown

4. Christie/bridge


Among all voters:

1. Cruz/shutdown

2. Rand/foreign policy

3. Christie/bridgegate

4. Jeb/immigration

We're desperately in need of some real talk here: The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. It has been illegal to pay a woman less than a man for working the same job for five decades. The whole "women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes" meme is based on outdated data about women vs. men workers as a whole, not women vs. men who work the same job. That means it is affected by the fact that women are more likely to drop out of the workforce to have kids, less likely to work dangerous (and higher paying) jobs, and less likely to seek out pay raises and promotions in the workplace. All the Lily Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act do is make it easier to sue. Isn't it thus just a blatant example of the media neglecting its duty to be impartial informers of the public?

It's easy to blame the media, and the media can always do a better job. But part of the GOP's problem is that it truggles to enunciate these kinds of things and is afraid of even trying, for fear of further alienating women voters.

The White House knows this, which is why they are pushing this so hard.

The question is when Republicans can find a messenger on these kinds of issues that they can trust. They don't have that messenger yet.

So, I'm taking Jeb's comments as a giant middle finger to the far right in the party. Am I wrong here?

Yeah. He even set it up as such, noting that his comments were on video.

He's either:

1) Not running for president

2) Running for president as an unapologetic pragmatist who's not afraid of needling the tea party.

I tend to think the former.

Why do political reporters keep saying this is a problem for him? Every poll shows that there is virtually no difference between the views of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents on foreign policy, with all of them favoring a non-interventionist approach, or at least a less-interventionist approach than Bush and Obama. It would seem Rand Paul's foreign policy would not only not be an impediment, but a big asset, no? Particularly in chipping off young voters from Hillary, a certified neocon.

Rand Paul's foreign policy is an asset to the extent that he's defined as non-interventionist.

Where it stops being an asset is when video starts popping up with him accusing Dick Cheney of invading Iraq to benefit Halliburton. I know that's not an uncommon belief among some, but it's certainly not a majority opinion or anything close to it.

As our own Jaime Fuller noted this morning, the foreign policy issue matrix is hugely important. If it's a 2008-like situation where Americans just don't want another war, his foreign policy could be an asset.

But if he's defined more by theories like the one's his father has espoused, then he's in trouble in the general election.

How much credence do you give to the DCCC's recent polling saying Tierney is way out ahead of his challenger, Seth Moulton (64-17, 20 up in the air)? DCCC has disapproved of the challenge, despite Tierney's near loss last time.

It's not surprising at all to see an incumbent up big against a little-known primary challenger. Polls this early in the primary are basically only good for measuring the incumbent's strength.

I'm not sure Tierney's problems hurt him much in the Dem primary -- unless the national party decides it wants a different nominee.

If she wins Wolf's seat, does she become the front runner to take on Kaine in 2018?

I honestly think that Mark Obenshain might still have some claim on this and also that Ed Gillespie is positioning himself. 

If Gillespie runs a credible campaign against Warner, I think he is seen as the frontrunner. And he and Comstock come from the same circles, so I doubt they'd run against each other.

It was widely agreed upon that Mitt Romney missed his Sistah Souljah moment in Winter 2012 when he failed to repudiate Rush Limbaugh's Sandra Fluke comment. Which 2016 contender (excluding Bush, because he won't run) do you see as most likely to stand up to the GOP base in a similar instance?

Chris Christie, if he runs, for sure.

Apart from him, I think it would be someone like Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal -- basically whoever decides they are going to try and win the race with establishment support.

David Perdue or Karen Handel, Gary Peters or Cory Gardner, Thad Cochran or Mark Pryor




It is statements like that about Cheney and Haliburton that make me think that many GOP insiders would do almost anything to keep Rand Paul from becoming the nominee.

This is an undersold aspect of things: The GOP establishment is fine with Rand being 1 of 100 senators. They would not be so fine with him being president.

But they tried to stop him in Kentucky and failed.

Lots of hypotheticals, so bear with me. If Jeb were somehow elected and if he was still for immigration reform like his brother, would the House Republicans go along with it? (They wouldn't be giving President Obama a victory.) Or are the House Republicans so against it that they would defy another President Bush on the subject.

I do think a GOP president pushing immigration reform would give it a much better chance of passage.

And you don't even have to be conspiratorial about it and say that it's because they don't like Obama. Part of it, I think, is that they would feel more comfortable having it implemented by a Republican president.

Who is the natural candidate for immigration hardliners. Obviously not Jeb or Rubio. But Paul, Walker, and Christie have had pragmatic tendencies, too. Is it Cruz then? I have a very hard time seeing him becoming the nominee.

I'm not sure there is an immigration hardliner, so to speak. In 2012, it was more about who was too soft on immigration (Perry), and everyone else was kind of a default conservative.

But your point is well-made that a lot of GOP candidates are at least giving lip service to moderation on immigration. (It's because they want to win in the general election.)

How much trouble is McAllister in re: reelection?

If he had built up a little more incumbency, I think he would be in OK shape -- provided nothing else comes out.

But he's only been in office 5 months, which means people will probably be just as happy to get someone else in there.

Also, remember that in Louisiana, he could face a runoff with another Republican, in which Demcoratic voters can vote. In that situation, I think he's in big trouble.

Will Governor Crist or Scott be in charge of Florida this time next year?

I would prefer not to bet on either of them. This might be the most expensive race between two guys that neither of their parties trust in history.

How big a drag will it be on the Democrats in the midterm? Does the 7 million take the edge off? I know that Republicans hate it, but where are the independents?

Independents definitely lean against it.

The polls show that even among supporters, though, their support is relatively tepid.

The reason Obamacare is an important issue is because it motivates the GOP base -- and I'm guessing some indepdendents too. It doesn't generally have the opposite effect on Democrats.

We saw the Democratic party moderate significantly in the early-mid 90s to attract more of the general electorate. What do you think it would take for the GOP to do the same?

I think the GOP would need to lose the 2016 presidential election before their base would consider allowing the party to moderate.

Three straight losses in presidential elections has a way of making you reevaluate yourselves. Democrats lost three straight before the 1990s.

When I heard the news, it barely registered as a story. It's interesting that this behavior has become so common. Also, how many congressmen are now scouring their offices looking for hidden cameras, cell phones, and laptops?

Part of the reason it wasn't bigger news than it was is he's a relatively obscure congressman. Another part is that all we know right now is that he kissed a woman who isn't his wife.

In the annals of sex scandals, a kiss is about as mild as it gets. That's not to say it isn't wrong; just that this doesn't rank high on the scale of salaciousness.

How many and which Senate seats would the GOP pick up?

I would give the GOP:







and maybe AK.

For those counting at home, that's 6-7 seats, and the GOP needs 6 for a majority.

Which of the likely Republican candidates could stir Democrats out of their 2016 torpor? Obviously none of them, not even Jeb, arouse the kind of antipathy that W did, but who might light a fire under them?

I think Ted Cruz would make Democrats long for George W. Bush. He would definitely motivate Democrats to show up.

Apart from him, maybe Rand Paul. And maybe Chris Christie, who wouldn't be shy about being combative with Democrats.

I think it remains a problem for Democrats, but I do think the chances of a catastrophic outcome, i.e. the program never getting off the ground, have diminished a lot. Repeal also looks very unlikely, too, especially since Republicans would have to "replace" it with something equally controversial. That's not the same thing as the ACA becoming popular, though!

All good points.

There is the possibility that other things could happen -- Robert Gibbs said the employer mandate probably wouldn't survive -- that could cause further problems and might keep the repeal folks animated. But once people start enjoying stuff like coverage for pre-existing conditions, etc., it becomes hard to take that away.

In this case, the wronged husband is speaking out, and not in a conciliatory fashion, regarding the office canoodling.  That hasn't been a feature of most past political indiscretions, so may not bode well for McAllister's future.

Here's the CNN story this references.

I think you're right. If McAllister indeed wound up ruining a family, one member of which speaks out publicly, that's a very significant variable.

Hasn't been a whole lot of talk on this, but it's worth examining.

It's tough because I haven't actually seen many of them debate.

I'm guessing Christie would be a strong one. He doensn't tire and he can make news without putting his foot in his mouth.

Apart from him, Walker strikes me as a potentially good debates.

I don't think Jeb would be. Every time he speaks these days, he seems to make the wrong kind of news.

Obviously Jeb can win this for the GOP. Can any other candidate beat Hilary here? Obviously Rove and Priebus know that the party is irrelevant nationally without it.

I don't think the GOP should pick a candidate according to just Florida.

The fact is that, if Hillary somehow remains as strong as she is nationally, winning Florida won't matter. She needs to come down across the board for anyone to have a chance. 

As long as the national race is competitive, I think Florida is competitive.

It would be similar to the bill that clinton signed re: welfare reform.  It was a compromise, but because it was a Dem doing it people sort of thought it was okay.

Yes. But the counter-example is the first Bush's attempt at immigration reform.

An openly gay man (Dan Innis) and a Hispanic woman (Marilinda Garcia) are running in competitive primaries for New Hampshire's two congressional districts against better funded opponents. This got me thinking: Ought the GOP have a Crossroads style super PAC simply devoted to advancing minority and female candidates in primaries? Seems like it would help their image a lot

There is a little of this starting, with a new group devoted to helping these gay Republicans.

It's not sponsored by the national party, though, and I think that's a little tougher needle the thread. The GOP's platform, after all, is all about equality of opportunity. Favoring anybody in a primary is a tough sell.

Between now and then, does the party begin to take the lessons of last year's "autopsy report" seriously?

If it didn't really happen in 2013, I don't think it happens before 2016. Memories of 2012 fade, and especially if the GOP does well in the 2014 election, the appetite for reforming the party will be gone.

Erratum: But the counter-example is the SECOND Bush's attempt at immigration reform.

Thanks for the fix. We're already losing count of the Presidents Bush.

Who's winning the Adelson Primary? Not Rand Paul, I'm guessing.

I think it's Christie all the way. Tough on foreign policy is what it's about.

You can take his problems (immigration, Common Core) seriously, and still not see them as any more disqualifying than the baggage that all the other candidates carry. There is no perfect Republcan candidate.

I agree. And I don't like the idea of disqualifying people this far out. Things change and 20 months is a lot of time.

That said, I don't think Jeb is as gifted a communicator as he needs to be. And I'm not sure he has the fire in the belly. Those are two of the must-haves for any frontrunning candidate.

Considering how little success Adelson's 2012 support was able to buy, does it really matter?

Adelson's 2012 money didn't matter as much as it could have because it went to a candidate who had a pretty low ceiling.

If that money went to someone with a viable chance of winning, it would have much more impact.

Note that Jeb got to talk to the *really* big shots. And Christie caught some flak for using the phrase "occupied territories."

Fair points. But I don't think Jeb runs. And I think Christie wins by default after that.

Is there anyone in recent political history to compare him to? His wonky, technocratic profile (not to mention his race) seem to put him in a category his own. It's sad but Americans tend to prefer "have a beer with" candidates less than smart guys who are less charismatic

He's certainly one of a kind. I think he either catches the race by storm or is a total non-factor from the start. 

I think, more than anything, he's a top contender for VP.

Aaron, Your refusal to post anything that questions your own world-view renders your comments into the the realm of vapid irrelevance. Just thought you would like to know.

There are lots of questions on this board. I try to get to as many of them as I can -- even from people who aren't all that fond of me or the media in general.

I'll continue to strive to do a better job of this.

How many of those races run the risk of a Republican candidate prone to sticking his foot in his mouth about women issues?

It's really hard to predict something like that. I think the GOP sees the biggest risk of something like this in Georgia or if the tea party candidate wins in a state like Mississippi or Kansas.

Since you think Republicans are taking the Senate, which side of the party is going to lead? Do you think they'll stick with the old-timers like Boehner, or will they go full tea-party in both chambers?

I think the GOP caucuses in both chambers will stick with the establishment guys. There isn't majority support for a tea party type in either chamber. Yes, a lot of time members will go along with the tea party on given votes, but most of them aren't really OF the tea party.

And the fact is that it's rare to have a candidate for top leadership come from anywhere except leadership -- where they're establishment types.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. There were lots of great questions, as always, and I could stay here and answer them for another 30 minutes if I had the time.

Well 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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