Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Jul 23, 2013

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

Hi all, and welcome back this week.

On the docket today:

Bob McDonnell just offered a doozy of an apology:

As did Eliot Spitzer in his first ad:

Immigration is still in a holding pattern.

And a new WaPo-ABC poll shows hugely different reactions to the Zimmerman trial, based on race and partisan affiliation:

So what's on your mind? Ask away...

I've done some research on him and here is really nothing that stands out in terms of bills he's passed. Isn't that the more effective argument Cheney could make? Not that he's old, but he's been there 3 terms and hasn't accomplished much.

I would expect that to be part of her case, and I think it plays into the generational gap. She'll argue that he's past his prime and hasn't gotten much done, hasn't been outspoken enough for conservative values.

But this new PPP poll shows just 31% of people think she's a Wyomingite. That's a huge hurdle for her.

Enzi hasn't done much to endanger himself. I think he'll probably be fine -- but not for lack of trying on Cheney's part.

On a scale of 1-to-Santorum '06, how doomed is Tom Corbett's reelection campaign?

More like Specter '10.

We have a long way to go, don't we?

If there is one issue that divides Americans along racial lines, it is this kind of issue. It really is remarkable that 86 percent of African Americans think Zimmerman was guilty but just 33 percent of white Americans agreed.

But it's even more interesting how partisan it became. 70 percent of white Republicans agreed with the verdict, but just 30 percent of white Democrats did. In other words, it was almost as much a partisan issue as a racial one.

I know the media gets trashed a lot, sometimes it's unjust. My question is more the overall culture of political journalism today, and the example of the Cohen story. I don't understand why the whole daughter/not daughter thing was a story. Basically a reporter read his twitter account, saw a beautiful model and him were tweeting back and forth, and boom, we have a story. The question is why was he even asked? He is not married, and if a 25 year old bikini model wants to date a 64 year old bald man with glasses, why should anyone care? Thanks!

This is the one part of the story that gets left out: Cohen is single. So even if this woman was his girlfriend, he would have been just fine.

What Cohen has done is turned a small story into a huge one by handling it poorly, tweeting about it and continuing to grant media interviews for some reason. Plus he pulled that whole stunt with Cyndi Lauper that probably didn't help when it comes to his relationship with the press.

This whole thing could have been avoided in large part, but Cohen hasn't helped himself.

Who would you say is the biggest dark horse R and biggest dark horse D that you could envision being their party's nominee?

Republicans: Bob Corker

Democrats: Jack Markell (GOV of Delaware, for those unaware)

have not heard or read about the apology but saw that he repaid the money? Is that true and will that stop the fire at this point?

It won't stop the fire. But it is significant because he has been basically saying all along that he did nothing wrong. Now he acknowledges that he did, even if he still says he broke now laws.

This was getting into the territory where it could hurt Cuccinelli in November, and I think there was pressure on McDonnell to sort of put this to rest in one way or another.

But as the investigation continues, it's not clear he'll be able to do that.

Schatz or Hanabusa... who has the edge?

I think Schatz does. He's raising more money, is tighter with liberal and labor groups, and is the incumbent.

What Hanabusa has going for her: more Dem primary voters are Asian-American, and she has the blessing of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye's family.

But the racial element in Hawaii Dem primaries isn't always determinative, and I think Schatz is doing the things he needs to do to win. It will be fascinating though.

Still petitioning the editors to send me out there so I can sit on the bea...I mean, talk to voters.

Don't you think Corker is more likely to run for Governor of Tennessee in 2018 than for president?

Probably. But he's got a great reputation here as a deal-maker and has a fascinating life story (got into politics late, etc.). He would have to deal with the RINO label, but I think he'd be a very interesting candidate and might surprise people who don't know who he is.

If I was going to bet on the VA governor's race, I would put a nickel on McAuliffe. Maybe a dime. No more than that now.

This thing is like the 2010 2012 Virginia Senate race between Allen and Kaine. It will basically poll as a toss-up until the very end. 

Not to mention it's pretty boring so far.

Note that Bob Dylan is touring with Wilco and My Morning Jacket, Paul McCartney got a great reception at Bonnaroo, and the Rolling Stones went over well at Glastonbury. Just saying that Millennials don't seem to have a problem with Boomer icons. (And they do seem to like their parents, by and large).

Did you just compare Hillary Clinton to Dylan and McCartney? I think you did.

Look: I think the age thing is only an issue if there's a major illness involved at some point. Hillary is very clearly in good shape, has kept a vigorous schedule, etc. 

On some level, it's much more about how old you act than how old you are. McCain is/was pretty old for a nominee but still clearly had plenty of vinegar in him. Romney was relatively old too (just 6 years younger than McCain when he ran) but still looked and seemed like he was in his 50s.

Percentage chance that: he doesn't run for re-election he gets a primary challenger he loses his primary

Doesn't run: 33%

Gets a primary: 60%

Loses his primary: 33%

Rate what Jack Kingston's chances are for winning the Republican primary, and if he gets to the general eletion against Michelle Nunn

I really have no idea what the status of this GOP primary is so far. Four candidates makes it very hard to predict.

But the fact that he's far outraising his opponents is good for him. And the less formidable Handel is, I think the better for him (she had a bad quarter).

I think GOP leaders would feel happy with either Kingston or Handel, but not Gingrey or Broun. In a red state like Georgia, I'd give Kingston a 75% chance to start -- not knowing, of course, what kind of politician Michelle Nunn is.

What is the time frame for him to make a decision to take on Pryor? If he passes who else could jump in the race?

Cotton's allies like to point out that John Boozman didn't enter the 2010 race until January 2010. But given the GOP wave that year, he probably could have waited even longer.

Without that wave, I think it's best for Cotton to get in by the start of the 4th quarter this year. But that fact that nobody else is really stepping forward as Cotton deliberates gives him more lattitude. Plus, he's already raising good money for his House campaign.

But there's no time like the present. And Cotton hasn't run a lot of campaigns. I think he needs to get in before Boozman did.

Why is Paul Ryan not being talked about more in the upper tier of candidates running for president. He seemed to come out of his VP run well, unlike Quayle and Palin before him. I would think if he wants it 2016 would be his turn.

I think part of the reason is that he's not doing the kinds of things you would expect from a potential candidate -- getting out front on key issues (like Rand Paul and Rubio) and traveling to early states (though he is going to Iowa now).

I disagree that people think it's his turn though. He ran on a losing ticket. I don't think people necessarily blame him for that, but it's not the equivalent of, for example, him having run in his own right and finishing second in the GOP primary.

....and I don't even live in NY! Is there *anything* that will make him go away? Anything at all?

Unfortunately for you, he's not going anywhere.

Newly release statement from Weiner about explicit chats published on

"I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have. As I have said in the past, these things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress. While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me. I've apologized to Huma and am grateful that she has worked through these issues with me and for her forgiveness. I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption that this has caused. As my wife and I have said, we are focused on moving forward."

Probably the only constituency that might vote against Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary. Do you see any candidates emerging who will court this group?

It would be really interesting to see Elizabeth Warren chase after them. Beyond that, I think Howard Dean is the likeliest suspect. And he's said he'd consider another bid.

Seems like a fair number of liberals are up in arms about his record on "stop and frisk" and surveillance of Muslims. Is that enough to keep him from being nominated to head DHS? Good news for a less controversial figure like former Coast Guard head Thad Allen?

Also don't forget: Kelly has been pretty critical of the Obama Administration's NSA surveillance.

That said, both sides are now saying nice things about each other. So maybe there's something to that.

Unlike the other "scandals," the NSA seems to matter, at least a little bit, to the American public. Unusually in these polarized times, reaction isn't following party lines completely. There seem to be a fair number of liberal Democrats who are concerned. How would you assess the politics of the NSA inside the Democratic Party?

You're 100 percent right that this is the one scandal that cuts across party lines. The problem with that is nobody seems to know how to handle it. Anybody running on the GOP side needs to worry about alienating the foreign policy hawks. Democrats need to worry about alienating the administration.

I would expect someone on the left, though, to take a hard line against this and try to make it a real issue in 2016. Not sure who that will be, though.

Any chance Michelle Nunn is the Heidi Heitkamp of the cycle?

That's essentially what Democrats are hoping -- though I think the better analogy may be Joe Donnelly.

Basically, they need the right things to happen in the GOP primary and have an agreeable candidate waiting to take advantage.

What do you see as Rob Portman's likely next move? Potentially succeeding McConnell as Leader? Presidential run?

Still feels to me like he focuses on being a senator and then, if someone wants him, runs as their VP. Some guys just have a VP feel about them, and he's one of them.

So there's a 2/3 chance that the GOP nominee is someone else? Interesting.

I was thinking there's a 33% chance of a primary challenger beating him if they run. So 33% of 60%, plus another 33% = a little more than 50% chance the nominee is not Tom Corbett.

All highly scientific, of course.

Anything of note to report on the statewide races? Or is it pretty much over in July?

Frank Pallone (with more than $3 million in the bank) hasn't laid a glove on Cory Booker, and time is running short. I'm honestly shocked.

Your piece on the poll today Republicans don't know which way to turn - more or less conservative. But the poll also shows that more than 60% of Republicans want politicians to cooperate, or compromise. Does that provide some guidance?

This is an interesting number too, but it's at odds with other data I've seen, which has shown Republicans really don't want their party to cooperate/compromise. A Pew poll earlier this year showed just 36% of Republicans preferred their members "compromise" over "sticking to their positions."

It depends very much on how the question is asked. I think perhaps "compromise" and "cooperate" may elicit different reactions.

Either way, though, it's worth keeping an eye on.

Likelihood that what Christine O'Donnell REALLY wants is a well-paying gig on cable news, so to that end she needs to make candidate-noises to re-set her public profile?

Well she just tweeted that she's not going to run, so if that was her strategy, it's out the window.

I'm sure the NRSC is beside itself right now.

Thanks for coming out today. It's been fun, as always. You guys ask some great questions.

And make sure to stop back next Tuesday at 2 p.m. for the latest edition of "Ask Aaron."

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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