The Washington Post

Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Jun 18, 2013

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

Welcome everyone to the latest edition of the "Ask Aaron" live chat.

Lots of stuff going on over the past week, with much of it (again) centered around the administration. Just today, a CNN poll showed nearly half of people think the White House ordered the IRS to target to conservative groups.

As always, this and anything else is fair game. Immigration, guns, Senate races, etc.

Without further ado, let's get to the questions...

Assuming Cory Booker wins the special election and the general senate election in 2014, does that make him a serious contender in the veepstakes for 2016?

I think it will be hard not to include him in the mix. Booker is a talented communicator and would be the only African-American Democrat in the Senate. 

And as President Obama's two elections have shown, turning out black voters is hugely important for Democrats. Given that basically all of the leading Democratic contenders for president are white, it seems logical that they would look for some diversity on the ticket. And as of now, there aren't a ton of options, given how few minority Democrats are in major statewide office.

Does this end his presidential or vice presidential chances for 2016?

I think this just keeps getting worse, and I need to commend my colleague Roz Helderman for her great coverage on this issue.

Between this and the transvaginal ultrasounds fiasco in the state legislature (which probably wiped McDonnell off anybody's 2012 VP list), I think he's got real liabilities.

Does she have any and with whom? It seems to me that her statements are treated more like Donald Trump-isms rather than serious policy opinions but maybe she is more influential than one thinks. Why did Ailes bring her back?

That's a very apt comparison. I think she's much more in the Donald Trump camp -- a political provocateur who tries to be a politician at the same time. Her speeches these days are full of one-liners and relatively little in the way of policy proposals. 

That said, people are still interested in her. And I think she could continue to have a future in the pundit business. In fact, I think that's really what she was meant to do.

I guarantee you she doesn't draw as many eyeballs as she used to, but maybe at a discount she was worth it for Ailes to bring back.

I don't understand why no Republicans or Democrats are submitting legislation re: jobs. Repealing Obamacare and abortion seem most important to GOP, and immigration to Dems. Why is there no jobs bill?

Well we did have a jobs bill a little more than a year ago, and it passed, so I'm not sure how often they will take a new stab at such legislation.

It's worth noting, though, that as the abortion bill made its way into the new last week, the GOP leadership emphasized that they were still focused on jobs. The push for repealing Obamacare and the 20-week abortion ban are very clearly coming from the conservative wing of the party.

As for immigration, there is agreement among both parties that it needs to get done.

Could we see another push for a jobs bill in the coming months? Of course.

Does Booker overtake Pallone in Cash-on-Hand when FEC 2nd Quarter Reports come out in July?

He might, but I would say it's more because Pallone spends the money quicker than Booker will. Pallone needs to define Booker -- and quickly.

The good news is he's got $3.7 million with which to do it. The bad news is he's only got two months before the primary. 

I think it's clear Booker will outraise him in the coming weeks, but I would be surprised if Booker raised $3 or $4 million.

What's the latest on the race?

The best place for the latest is my colleague Sean Sullivan's piece on The Fix today.

Basically, Gomez has hung tough, but he hasn't gotten the backup that Scott Brown got in 2010.

I think a big reason is because Brown's win was hugely important -- effectively preventing Democrats from getting a 60-vote, "filibuster-proof" majority that (at the time) seemed like it was needed to pass Obamacare. The GOP did everything it could to stop that.

Gomez's race is more like a Seinfeld episode -- it's about nothing. It's basically the difference between the GOP facing a 53-47 or a 54-46 minority. And as Scott Brown showed, it would be tough for him to hold the seat in future elections.

I think GOP leaders just didn't see this race as being all that important or worth the investment.

Hey Aaron, Mead Treadwell jumped into the Senate race today. How competitive will he be against Begich? Will Joe Miller pose any kind of a primary threat? I can’t see outside groups supporting him after the 2010 fiasco.

I just really don't see Joe Miller being able to win the GOP primary -- unless it gets very crowded and lots of credible candidates are splitting the vote.

Miller has very bad numbers, even among conservative and Republican voters. In fact, a Democratic poll earlier this year showed Miller had a 35% favorable rating among Republicans, compared to a 46% unfavorable rating. That's really, really bad for someone of your own party.

I think that in the last three election cycles, Pallone has raised about $1 milllion per cycle, but the bulk of it coming from political action committees (PACs). Do you think that the funding dries up for Pallone over the next few months because PACs will either sit it out or donate to Booker?

Booker's status as the presumptive senator could very well have this result. Nobody wants to be on the losing side or create enemies out of future senators. The question is whether these PACs feel very strongly about Pallone or think Booker is bad on their issues.

The best thing that could happen to Pallone is to have whatever anti-Booker forces exist line up behind him and not Rep. Rush Holt. He needs to start scoring the endorsements of influential county chairs and getting their ballot lines (which are very important in New Jersey).

If he can't get that early momentum going, donors may count him out early.

But also don't forget: This is a guy who has been around for a while, and you don't stick around for a while and not make connections. He'll have his allies. The question is whether they go to bat for him.

Is it me or does he seems old fashioned compared to Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, etc.?

I do think there is a generational divide in the GOP -- very much the old vs. the new. It's been most evident in the battle between McCain and Rand Paul, but Bush is sounding a lot more like McCain these days.

While a guy like Rubio is very sensitive to alienating the right flank of the party, a guy like Bush almost seems disdainful of the fact that he has to cater to the Paul-ites and Ted Cruz supporters. His "chirpers" comment over the weekend was very illuminating.

The trick for any potential 2016 candidate is to appeal to both the establishment, "old-fashioned" Republicans and this new brand of more libertarian and tea party Republicans. It's a very tough thing to do. Rick Perry was supposed to be the guy who could do it, and we saw what happened there.

If anyone can do it among those people you mentioned, I think Walker and Rubio best fit the bill. But even Rubio is having a tough time balancing those interests in the current immigration debate.


What is he doing? I don't hear anything about him.

He got a very lukewarm/tepid response from the Faith and Freedom Coalition on Friday -- a group that used to be in his wheelhouse. I think he quietly bides his time in the House, stays quiet and waits for his next opportunity to run statewide again. He won his special election, but he's still got wounds to heal, and FFC showed that the luster is gone. Time will help, but he's not anybody's favorite right now.

If The Fix was Mad Men, who is Don? Would Chris be Roger?

Silly. Chris is obviously Joan. Everyone knows this.

I like to think of myself as Don and Sean Sullivan as Pete Campbell.

I know Begich's race is going to be tight, but the last time I looked, Begich had decent approval/disapproval ratings in Alaska. Are his polling numbers holding up?

Yeah, I think he's in pretty decent position, and as we've seen in recent years, Democrats can win Senate seats in red states.

If Republicans can put up a strong nominee without too much primary baggage, though, it's hard to see how the GOP won't be favored in a midterm year. That's a big "if," of course.

Does chatting with you constitute one article of the 20 free articles?

Here's a tip: If you sign up for a digital subscription, it won't matter! C'mon. You know you want to...

The Dems don't seem to have many waiting in the wings like GOP does. What are Tim Kaine's prospects?

This is true. It's been very interesting to see the GOP actually have the edge when it comes to young, up and coming politicians. 

All of this is cyclical, of course, and there are probably 2016 presidential candidates that we're not even thinking of right now. Someone mentioned Cory Booker, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Deval Patrick take a step forward -- or some Democratic governors like Delaware's Jack Markell or Missouri's Jay Nixon.

As for Kaine, I'm not sure I see it. He's a pretty agreeable and astute politician, but I'm not sure I see him as a Prez/VP prospect just yet. More likely that the other Virginia senator -- Mark Warner -- joins someone's ticket in 2016.

Despite very high survey ratings among Democratic and independent voters, it just doesn't seem to be catching on with as many House and Senate folk as it seems it should. Is it the "intensity" factor that hold back progress? Or is it essentially a losing issue in what should be a "jobs, jobs, jobs" environment? Maybe people get the often-espoused link between Sandy Hook and high-capacity ammo magazines?

I think this basically boils down to the fact that guns quite simply aren't a voting issue for gun control supporters. They're not nearly as passionate as gun rights supporters, and they won't vote solely on this issue.

Because of that, a senator like Kelly Ayotte or Jeff Flake can vote against the bill and not worry that it's going to affect their reelection bids much in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Had they voted for it, however, they would have incurred the wrath of gun rights supporters, who have been much more active and punitive with senators and congressmembers who vote against them.

In the end, voting against something 90% of people liked might actually have been the smartest political move for these senators -- as odd as that may sound. But it definitely wasn't an easy vote, either.

Thanks everyone for turning out for today's live chat, and be sure to tune in next Tuesday at 2.

We'll see you then.

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 summa cum laude 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, live in Annandale, Va.
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