Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Jul 16, 2013

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

Thanks all for showing up this week. We've got lots of good stuff to talk about.


-The nuclear standoff in the Senate (predictably) fizzles

-Brian Schweitzer takes a pass on Montana

-Rick Perry's half-retirement, half-presidential exploratory committee

-ongoing abortion battles

So what's on your mind?

I'm a Democrat and embarrassed of the Democrats' short term wisdom in the Senate. Why would they threaten to take away the rights of the minority just when it looks like they might lose the Senate next year?

I cannot figure this out for the life of me. Schweitzer's decision over the weekend not to run should have been a huge reality check for Democrats that their majority may be short-lived.

My best guess is they knew that and maybe were just bluffing (?). We have yet to see what the final deal looks like and who got more out of it, but these kinds of things always come down to who can bluff the best. I'm not sure Harry Reid ever thought he was going to actually go nuclear.

As we've noted, this has happened to many times before, and we have yet to actually invoke the nuclear option.

It's possible that the Senate could flip in 14', 16', and 18'. 2016 the GOP has to defend twice as many as DEM seats, opposite for 2018. Any prediction on that?

We're seeing the results of the series of wave elections in 2006-2010. Dems won good chunk of competitive states in 2006 and 2008, which meant the 2012 and 2014 maps very much favored the GOP. The reverse is very much true in 2016, when the GOP's 2010 gains will come back to haunt them (in a way).

My guess is eventually things even out and we don't have so many slanted Senate maps. Having so many waves back to back is very rare.

Even if Enzi were to retire, would Liz Cheney clear the field? Seems that there would be a ton of republicans, who have lived in the state for more than 5 minutes, who have been waiting a long time to run for that seat.

I don't think she would. I think people would accuse her of some form of carpet-bagging. And in these states where the primary is basically the general election, it is very difficult to clear the primary field. There's always going to be somebody who will run against you, no matter who you are.

What kind of "show of strength" (in polling, fundraising, etc.) does Rick Weiland need to get the DSCC interested in the race?

I think we may very well see Democrats make a renewed push to get someone else in this race. I don't think they see Weiland as the guy.

I really don't know who that is, but the fact that Weiland raised just $105,000 last quarter is troublesome for Democrats.

Is this finally the election that her luck runs out? It seems there are a ton of Republivans that could run, but they would all rather be Governor.

So far, Rep. Bill Cassidy is the guy, and nobody seems anxious to run against him. That's very good for the GOP, considering that in Louisiana, runoffs are a one-month sprint (after Election Day, no less).

The more the GOP can rally around one guy (or gal) and that one guy (or gal) can focus on Landrieu for the next 18 months rather than for one month, the better for them.

And you're right that the open governor's race has to be seen as a better option for some ambitious Republicans. But if Sen. David Vitter runs, I'm not sure he'll face much opposition either.

He only has a half year left. It's unlikely he will resign, correct?

It's definitely much less likely, given how little time he has left. If Republicans knew he was going to be around for another two years, they would probably be much more concerned about what's going on.

But his problems are growing quickly, and Republicans need to be wary of how they could rub off on Cuccinelli. If they start to see Cuccinelli paying a price, that's when they start pushing for McDonnell to step aside. Case in point: the New York Times story yesterday about Cuccinelli's ties to Star Scientific.

That said, I still don't think we're at that point yet -- or really close to it.

So what is the problem with making them TALK if senators want to filibuster? Maintain the rights of the minority, while making it less easy to just throw around "filibuster" at everything.

The merits of this argument aside, as a political junkie, I would LOVE to see them be forced to talk.

And the fact is that, if Reid wants to make Republicans actually talk, he can do that. But keep in mind: That's not always in his interest. Yes, liberals may like the idea of forcing Republicans to defend their filibusters, but given how little people pay attention to Congress, I'm not sure it would have the desired effect.

As it stands, both sides generally like the filibuster and like that they don't have to talk in order to do it. They just don't like how much the other side is using the filibuster. That's why we're not seeing the talking filibuster.

Is Denny Rehberg kicking himself for not waiting two years to run for senate?

It wouldn't be unthinkable for him to jump into this race, but I think he damaged his brand last year.

Hindsight is always 20-20. In 2012, he was running against a Democratic senator in a presidential year. Mitt Romney carried the state by 13 points. That was a pretty good opportunity too.

So Greg Abbott is running for governor in 2014 instead of Perry. I have heard him and he looks like a soft-spoken, with a closer and kinder approach to Hispanics. What % of the Latino vote did Perry win in 2010? Could Abbott improve it?

Perry was no slouch when it came to the Latino vote, taking 38 percent of it in 2010. (That's good by these day's standards.)

When Bush ran for president, though, he took as much as 49%, according to some estimates.

In other words: Texas Latinos are different from Latino voters in other states. They tend to vote more Republican.

As for Abbott, I don't think he's got much to worry about in the general election; the primary is where it's at.

Will whoever wins the Republican primary in Michele Bachmann's district bear the burden of a certain degree of anti-GOP backlash just because of Bachmann's litany of controversial statements?

I think perhaps the reverse is true. Whatever troubles Bachmann had were because of her rhetoric, and her replacement as GOP nominee will likely appear more reasonable because of it.

Also, keep in mind: Bachmann kept winning. If she didn't lose the seat herself because of her outspoken and controversial style (which is nothing new), why would she sink the new GOP nominee?

Is her decision not to run for governor a sign that she is going to challenge Kirk in 2016, or that she does not want to go to jail? (see what I did there)


I've always seen her as a governor more than a senator, but the Kirk race in 2016 has to be tempting.

Madigan is basically the new Dick Blumenthal. She keeps running for attorney general and passing on other opportunities. But eventually, Mr. Blumenthal found his way into the Senate. I imagine Madigan will move up the ladder at some point in the coming years.

John Thune ran two years after a very tough contentious race and won. I would think Rehberg would have a easier path than Thune did.

A very fair point; the two situations are pretty analogous. But I don't think people blamed Thune a whole lot for his very narrow loss to Tim Johnson in 2002.

Rehberg, by comparison, underperformed expectations against a first-term senator and didn't run a great campaign.

I still think he would be the favorite if he jumped into the race, but GOP leaders may push for someone else.

Carl DeMaio (R) is running for 52nd district in California. Is he likely to win? It'd be good for the party, with further inroads in San Diego County where there barely lost in November.

This is a really good recruit for Republicans, and a winnable race (Scott Peters is the incumbent, but he had a close race with Republican Brian Bilbray). In addition, we just named DeMaio to our fundraising winners in the second quarter:

Last time, just barely. If she'd run again in '14, she could well have lost. I'm wondering if there's a sea-change starting against tea-partiers, Senate filibusterers and their ilk.

For Bachmann, I think it was more about her presidential run. As a Minnesotan, I'm not sure I'd want to vote for somebody who has spent the last two years telling everyone within earshot that she's actually an Iowan.

Which do you think is a better pickup opportunity for the Republicans? Do you see any of the candidates or potential candidates in MI as legitimate after Rogers, Miller and Camp took passes?

I still think Michigan is the better opportunity. It's just much easier to win an open seat these days than to defeat an incumbent -- much less a popular incumbent like Shaheen.

Plus, the GOP bench in New Hampshire leaves plenty to be desire these days -- arguably moreso than Michigan.

I think Terri Lynn Land is a serviceable candidate. And there are some reports of other candidates getting in. We'll see how it shakes out.

I will say that Gary Peters is a very talented politician; I think he's easily the odds-on favorite in this race.

The Kentucky senator has already been in California (I guess he's running for 2016). Will we see him in blue-swing states like Oregon and Washington where, I think, he can win some libertarian votes that mainstream Republicans couldn't?

This is a really interesting question. There are a number of libertarian-leaning blue states out there that Paul could potentially compete in. First among them would be Oregon, which acutally was competitive in 2000 and 2004. Washington might be next.

I'd also point to two swing states with sizeable libertarian bents -- New Hampshire and Nevada -- which have both been trending away from the GOP in recent years.

How much chance would she have of winning a GOP Senatorial primary in Alaska in 2014? Or have enough Alaska Republicans turned against her to doom her chances?

She would certainly have a decent chance, given that race is going to be crowded. But she's hurt her brand statewide, and I think she would be a significant underdog against Mark Begich.

Rest assured: GOP leaders DO NOT want her in this race. She's more of a threat to win the primary than Joe Miller.

Does Nunn enter the race? If so, does that make it a tossup, or, closer to a tossup depending on who the GOP nominates? Do you think the experience of GOP candidates imploding in winnable Senate races help Dem recruitment in Red states?

1. I think so. But people didn't think Grimes would run, and she did. And people thought Schweitzer would run, and he didn't. So you never know.

2. It would make it closer to a toss-up, but not quite yet. I think it would be a toss-up if Broun or Gingrey won the primary, but lean GOP if Kingston or Handel win.

3. Yes. Joe Donnelly knew Richard Lugar was in some primary trouble, and his gamble paid off. Chris Coons reaped a similar benefit by simply throwing his name in the basket when nobody else would. In Georgia, there is a very distinct possibility that Broun or Gingry wins the nomination. If you're Nunn, you like those odds, even if it means you could face a very uphill race against one of the other two.

I just read a NYT piece about life being gay in Wyoming, Wasn't this state libertarian? To what extent.

Libertarian is very much a relative term. Wyoming's brand is very conservative, while Vermont's is very liberal.

Here's a good illustration of this, from the Cato Institute:

I can't tell if people are more nervous about being in it, or being left out.

Being left out. I don't think Tammy Haddad or Ken Duberstein were too sad to see what was written about them.

Thanks again to everyone for a great discussion. This chat is turning into a highlight of my week, and I hope it's the same for you guys.

Until next week...

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: