Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Apr 15, 2014

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

Thanks again everyone for coming out. It's been a slow news week on the political front (hello recess!), but there's always plenty to talk about.

What's on your mind?

Neil Abercrombie's #oops moment?

O'Malley's big 2016 entree?

Alex Sink bowing out in FL-13?

Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising?

The immigration discharge petition?

Kathleen Sebelius's exit?

What else is on your mind? We like to keep these discussions open-ended, so have at it...


With Pryor's recent string of good polls, who is the new most-endangered incumbent?

I think it's probably appointed Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.).

As for those who have been here longer than a few months, it's definitely Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. But she has a strong new ad (that, for what it's worth, includes staged footage of a hearing).

Iowa GOP Senate

Georgia GOP Senate

Pennsylvania Dem Gov

California Jungle

Joni Ernst

Karen Handel

Tom Wolf

As far CA -- do you mean governor? Then definitely Jerry Brown.

Taking into account a state's propensity for election night disasters (looking at you Florida), having far flung populations (Alaska), any necessary runoffs (Louisiana, Georgia) and the closeness of the individual race which Senate race will we know the result of LAST?

I think it's Louisiana. I addressed this in a post last week.

It's just very likely that this race is headed for a runoff, given Landrieu seems quite unlikely to get more than 50% (something she has only done 1 out of 3 times) and the three reasonably well-funded GOP candidates -- Cassidy, Maness and state Rep. Paul Hollis.


If she were to start moving against a run, when would we start noticing that shift?

That's a GREAT question. The thing is that she hasn't been all that active on the campaign trail, except for giving the occasional talks. And all of that could really be chalked up to her promoting her book.

I think there will be plenty of discussion about whether she's talking to staff, etc. If that's not happening shortly after the 2014 election, you'll start to see the talk shift to whom Democrats would turn to next.

NRA endorsed Thom Tillis today-- Chamber has said they will, too. Think the GOP can avoid a runoff there?

The good news for Tillis is he needs 40%-plus-one, rather than the normal 50%-plus-one. The bad news is that the most recent poll showed him well shy of that, with two other candidates pulling a decent number of votes -- Greg Brannon and Mark Harris.

That poll has Tillis at 27 percent, with more than one-third of voters undecided. He'd need to take at least 13 percent of that remainder.

I think it could be close.

What's the endgame for Cruz? I happen to believe he'll do his six years and then leave to run Heritage. Could he possibly run for Governor?

I think he stays in the Senate for longer than that, even if he doesn't run for president in '16. He seems to enjoy his role more than DeMint did.

As for governor -- given Abbott is likely to win this year, that wouldn't be open until at least 2022, and possibly longer.

As of now, percentage likelihood that she (1) runs, (2) wins the nomination, (3) become the first Madame President?

1. 65 percent

2. 50 percent (if you include the chance that she doesn't run)

3. 25 percent (if you include her not running and losing primary as options)

Has Bridgegate ended his love affair with big GOP donors? I'm beginning to wonder if he might not run at all. I'm sure he'll always want to, but if he can't raise the money, and the scandal won't go away....

He might be their guy just by default. Given the general consensus is that Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush probably won't run, the choice is probably between Walker and Christie.

And I honestly think this bridge stuff might seem a whole lot less important next year, when these decisions really matter. That's provided, of course, that no other shoes drop.

I've always been skeptical of Scott Brown's chances. Nothing has happened since his announcement to change my mind. How would a defeat affect his political career?

I think that would be the end of him for at least a few years -- unless he came really close to beating Shaheen.

The thing about New Hampshire is that the GOP bench there isn't exactly teeming with talent. They routinely struggle to recruit for the governor's race, for example. If Brown runs a solid race and loses, maybe he can stick around. 

A presidential election without Uncle Joe would be a shame. Would he get (or want) Obama's endorsement?

Of course Biden would love it. But I think Obama would stay out of it if it was Biden vs. Hillary. Otherwise, he probably backs one of them.

Then again, if he's unpopular enough, neither of them will probably want it -- ala Dubya in 2008.

If you had to pick the 5 most likely House seats to flip R and to flip D, what would they be?

Off the top of my head:

Gary Miller's (R) seat in California (retiring)

Jon Runyan's (R) seat in New Jersey (retiring)

Ron Barber's (D) seat in Arizona

Nick Rahall's (D) seat in West Virginia

Joe Garcia's (D) seat in Florida

Who is more likely to run for the GOP presidential nomination?

Jeb. But I don't think either of them is very likely to.

What do you think that the Democrats need to do in order to maintain control of the Senate this year? Which races do you think are the most volatile?

The firewall is Kay Hagan and Mark Begich. I think they can lose Pryor and Landrieu and still hold on with a 50-50 Senate. But if they lose either North Carolina or Alaska, I think it's a done deal.

Do you really see Handel winning in Georgia? She's underfunded and trailing in the polls. Really all she has going for her is Palin's endorsement. What's her path?

Her fundraising has been pretty poor. But if she makes the runoff, I think you might see a rallying effect -- especially if she faces tea party guys like Broun or Gingrey.

She does have the advantage of having made the runoff with Gov. Deal in 2010. I also think it helps that she's the only woman in the race, against four men.

But nobody in that race is a clear favorite or anywhere close to even a 33 percent chance of winning. It's such a crap-shoot.

To me this race is THE bellwether of 2014. It'll show whether a strong, charismatic GOP candidate can conquer a state that has been a microcosm for the country's demographic changes, and the potency of War on Women and Obamacare attacks, which both hold immense importance for 2016. Thoughts?

I think that's a fair assessment. But I see Colorado more as a tip-of-the-iceberg kind of thing. If they win there, it's been a very good election in which Scott Brown might win, Ed Gillespie has a chance, etc.

Do you think all the talk about outside spending against the Democrats has been overblown? Recent polls have shown Pryor, Hagan, Landrieu, and Begich in close races despite the massive ad buys against them

Yes, they are in close races, but a lot of them are in the low- or mid-40s. And when you're an incumbent, that's not great territory.

I think it kind of misses the mark to talk in terms of how close the polls are. Incumbents aren't usually tied or behind this far out, period, because they are so much better-known than their opponents.

That's not to say they're sunk. But a tie goes to the challenger this early.

You said 2. 50 percent (if you include the chance that she doesn't run) 3. 25 percent (if you include her not running and losing primary as options) So you are saying that, if Hillary wins the nomination, she is only 50/50 to win the general, even with (i) the Democrats'well-publicized structural advantages, (ii) the historical factor, and (iii) the apparent lack of unifying Republican candidate? What is the big countervailing factor -- fatigue after 8 years of Obama?

Part of it is Obama fatigue. Part of it is that the country is so 50/50. Yes, Democrats have a better Electoral College map, but it's not clear that they'll be able to get the Obama coalition out again.

I also think Hillary's popularity at this point is a little bit over-sold. Once that race heats up, she'll be right around 50 percent approval/favorability again -- just as the GOP nominee likely will be.

Percentage of the vote Scott Brown would have to win to achieve a "moral victory."

Percentage of the vote Ed Gillespie would have to win to achieve a "moral victory."

By a "moral victory," I mean a showing that would impress political insiders.

For Brown -- losing by less than 4-5 points.

For Gillespie -- losing by less than 8-10.

You've stated several times that you don't think Bush will run. What's the basis for your opinion?

He doesn't like to campaign, and having the fire in the belly is so hugely important.

He also doesn't seem to be terribly disciplined in his messaging. Either he's trying to affect the debate with little regard for his own future (see "act of love"), or he's being careless with his choice of words.

He just doesn't seem to be doing the things he would be doing if he was really angling to run.

There was a comment either here or in Boss Fix chat that Gov. Haley isn't winning any popularity contest in SC. Since I don't follow SC politics, except when hiking, what is up?

It's really been that way for her for much of her tenure. And if you look back at the 2010 election, it's not like she had a huge resounding victory, either. Despite the strong GOP environment, she won 52-48.

I'm not sure exactly what explains it, but I do know that dealing with that legislature is no walk in the park.

She'll have a tough race this year against the same opponent.

I saw it on MSNBC this morning. It was hillarious! Any chance that it will actually see air time in Boehner's District?

For those unfamiliar, behold "Electile Dysfunction."

The opponent only had $1,600 in his campaign account at the end of the year, so I doubt this one is going up on TV -- or if it us, a very small buy.

But it is cut for TV at exactly 60 seconds.

Your gut feeling, do we see a bill that's signed by President Obama? Or is going to be signed by President Clinton?

Is neither an option?

I really doubt this gets done during Obama's presidency -- at least anything major. If the GOP re-takes the Senate, I think they'll prefer to wait and see if they can win the White House and then attempt it.

Have you ever been blinded by one of Chris Cillizza's Checkered Shirts?

Routinely. I'm sending him my optometrist bills.

Everyone in Westeros is a suspect, but who do you think poisoned Joffery?

Didn't Sansa pick up the chalice at some point? Maybe she did it because Joffrey was making fun of her husband (oh and the whole his-family-beheaded-her-dad thing)?

Aaron, Aaron, Aaron. W was a pariah in '08 because, oh let's see, he launched a catastropic invasion and war for no reason, drove the economy off a cliff, and presided over the Katrina disaster. Obama has made a lot of political mistakes, but how can you possibly compare the two presidents in that way? C'mon.

People can make their own value judgments about Bush vs. Obama. My point was that their approval ratings at the same juncture of their presidencies have been very similar.

The fact is that if Obama's approval rating is south of 40 percent in 2016, I'm not sure a Democrat is going to be pining for his endorsement in the general election.

Is Kathleen Sebelius likely ever to run for elective office again? Or will she become, say, a university president?

I would think winning office in Kansas is completely out of the question. I think university president or something like that is a MUCH more likely landing spot.

You and Cillizza are in a steel cage. Only one of you can leave. Who is it, and why?

The Fix watches more wrestling than I do, but I did master the Lion-Tamer when I was a teenager.

Let's make it happen. We'll do it for charity!

Ending Spending, a semi bright star in the constellation of conservative super PACs, is running ads against both Michelle Nunn and Phil Gingrey in Georgia. Thinking with my House of Cards induced paranoia, I'm wondering who must be behind this and what their motivation is. Who benefits the most from Gingrey losing votes? (My guess is either Kingston or Handel wants to push him out of the conservative-but-not-crazy runoff spot)

Doesn't Paul Broun benefit most? Gingrey is the other tea party-ish guy in this race. If his credentials are undermined, I think it helps Broun get that runoff spot.

What do you think are the current chances of another Bush v. Clinton election?

Given I said 50% that Hillary is the nominee, maybe 10%?

Has McAllister done any real damage to Vitter?

It's an uncomfortable situation, for sure. But we're still 19 months from Election Day in the governor's race.

Prove me wrong: By this time next year, when it has become clear neither Ryan nor Bush will run, and Christie is proving incapable of stopping Paul and/or winning the general, Rubio/Jindal/Walker will emerge as the choice of the GOP donor class as someone who can bridge the gap between the establishment and grassroots.

"Bridge the gap" -- I see what you did there.

I think that's a plausible situation. I do think the GOP establishment rallies around SOMEBODY if it looks like Paul is a frontrunner. And you're right that someone like Walker or Rubio might be better at wooing both sides of the party moreso than Christie.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. We had our best turnout ever today, and there were lots of great questions -- more than I could get to, unfortunately. I hope to get to more of them next week.

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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