Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Jul 30, 2013

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

Welcome all to the latest edition of "Ask Aaron."

It's been a little slow this week on the politics front. A few topics to peruse (or ignore):

-Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul: The primary before the primary

-Defunding Obamacare and the GOP divide over it

-NC abortion law signed into law

-Bob McDonnell returning his gifts

Oh, and what about some guy named Anthony Weiner?

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

So if Weiner drops out (or just becomes a non-factor), who benefits?

I think it might be the biggest boon to Christine Quinn. She's the other candidate in this race with real liabilities and a high unfavorable rating.

Maybe if Weiner gets out, the people who are willing to vote for people with some baggage will gravitate towards her (?). It also could help her potentially get to 40 percent and avoid a runoff by reducing the crowded field -- though I don't really see anybody acccomplishing that right now.

In the end, I think, there will be a runoff that doesn't include Weiner, so it probably doesn't matter if he's in the race or out of it.

Are Democrats concerned that the Weiner circus, Quinn's unpopularity, and the fact that De Blasio may be to liberal for even NYC, could open up an opportunity for Joe Lhota?

I'm not sure too liberal is too much of a problem in New York.

I do think there is creeping concern that someone -- particularly Quinn -- could open the race up for Republicans. And don't forget: New York has elected lots of GOP mayors in recent years. So we shouldn't pretend like it won't happen.

It's up to Lhota to make himself into a viable option. And we'll see. For now, though, he's way behind anybody he might face -- including Weiner.

Its a local race, but NYC Mayor is the equivilant of a governor race, will the DNC and RNC be heavily involved?

I would be very surprised. It's a big city, yes, but I'm not sure Republicans see much value in electing a Republican as mayor of New York City.

Given the odd circumstances and electorate, I'm not sure anybody would see it as a sign of GOP momentum -- which is really why parties get involved in such races.

Rank in order of which candidate would be more likely to defeat Nunn.... Handel, Kingston, Broun, Gingrey?

1. Handel

2. Kingston

3. David Perdue (new candidate)

4. Gingrey

5. Broun

After his "cubicle" speech flopped, Plan B was to hold out for a run-off and hope another scandal hits his opponent. How's that working out?

You're giving them way too much credit, as if they actually have any plan at all (!).

If they had any sense, they'd realize this is over. Nobody is defending Anthony Weiner and I'm not sure what his constituency is to even get to a runoff.

At this point, I think the calculation is that he has no political future either way, so they might as well press forward.

The only way he drops out at this point is if he finally realizes that what he's doing hurts his wife's political career and/or gets prevailed upon by Clinton World. He's dragging them through the mud.

As of now, is the safe money still on Walker to win reelection?

I think he's pretty safe right now, though hardly bulletproof. Democrats have a recruiting hole that is going to be tough to fill, given Walker's strong showing in the recall election.

Any thoughts on the NSA surveillance bill that nearly passed the House? Unusual both ends-against-the-middle coalition.

Yeah it's weird (some would say refreshing) to see something that doesn't break along partisan lines these days.

If you had told me two years ago that nearly half the House would vote for something defunding the NSA's phone record collection program, I would have called you crazy.

Libertarianism is certainly on the rise in both parties, and I think it's a direct response to unhappiness with Washington. It's a natural response, really. But while it manifested as the tea party four years ago, it's happening on both sides this time, because neither side is getting much of what they want.

We'll see where it goes from here. Right now, it feel more like a spark than a fire. But it could grow.

Have there been any polls taken on the enthusiasm between Democrats and Republicans? My sense is while Mcauliffe is up, he does not excite the base, and Cuccenelli's supporters would walk through a blizzard to vote for him. Do you agree with this, and that enthusiasm will be more important this year?

Enthusiasm is always important in Virginia GOV, because there are no federal races on the ballot.

And I think your point is right; Cuccinelli appeals to his base in a way that McAuliffe doesn't. The way McAuliffe counter-acts that is by making Cuccinelli look so unpalatable that Democrats show up and independents vote for the blue team.

At what point does Ron Kind take the plunge and make a statewide run? Is he looking at Ron Johnson in 16'?

I think that's the most logical move for him. He's entertained the idea of a statewide run before, but has been careful.

The problem for him is that he's a moderate, which means he probably needs a clear primary field. He didn't get that for the open seat in 2012 when Baldwin ran, and it might be tough to get in a state with a sizeable and active liberal base in Madison.

Do you see Democrats using abortion to energize the base? Warner and Kaine ran as moderates on the issue, and Mccdonnell was firmly anti-abortion. Have the demographics changed that much that the state has flipped dramatically on the issue?

They will and have used it -- but only in Northern Virginia, where it will help them turn out their base and maybe swing some middle-of-the-road suburban women.

In Virginia, there are really two advertising strategies; one for NoVa nad one for the rest of the state.

Is the reason why there are all these draconian laws being put through in the red states becasue they hope Justice Kennedy will side with them before another Supreme Justice dies? Or is it all Kabuki Theater?

They're doing it because it's working, and this is their chance to pass these bills. Lots of states are controlled by Republicans, which is why we're seeing abortion and Voter ID. Activists recognize that they won't have such control forever, which is why they are being agressive (and quite successful) in pushing those issues.

What is required to remove him from office?

Folks are already collecting signatures for a recall

They need to get signatures from 15% of registered voters by Sept. 26.

One complicating factor: Apparently, there are two separate recall efforts right now.

Once again, a recall is no small task.

Democrats took such a hit in 2010. Is there a game plan to get out more of their voters? I get it that it won't be as good as 2012 or 2008 for them, but can the numbers be substantially different for them in 2014?

2010 was a bad year if you're a Democratic field director. It's hard to turn people out when you've got complete control. It's much easier to get people to vote against something.

In 2014, Democrats will push the idea of GOP obstruction early and often, because they know it's the way they get their voters out.

Mesa Pizza or Annie's Parlour?

Leaning Tower of Pizza? Sorry, I can't help it, it was right next to the school newspaper.

How much do you think the spate of Voter ID laws will affect the 2014 elections, and in which states in particular?

I don't generally think it's a big issue for most voters, but I would expect Democrats will use it to try and mobilize African-American voters, who are the one group that DOES care GREATLY about this issue.

States where that could actually matter: North Carolina (strict new law, sizeable African American population), Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas.

What the current odds that she'll recant and run for re-election?

2%. When you've got ethics problems, the best solution is to quietly go away. And she will.

She also said in her retirement announcement that she thinks 8 years is enough time for a member of Congress. So she would have some explaining to do.

Every cycle seems to produce a few upsets. Any incumbents that appear safe now who you think could face trouble a year from now?

Keep and eye on Democrat Nick Rahall in West Virginia. Republicans are getting a Democratic state senator to switch parties and run against him. He comes from a very red district but has gotten a pass in recent elections.

On the GOP side, John Kline (Minn.) has a much tougher district (it went narrowly for Obama) after redistricting than most people realize. If Democrats can somehow recruit a good challenger against him, it's a winnable seat. And the same goes next door for Rep. Erik Paulsen -- particulary if Democrats can recruit former WCCO anchor Don Shelby somehow. I don't think he'll run, but he's a big name in the Twin Cities.


Is he going to run in MT? And compare him to Rick Berg, who looked like a lock and lost in ND in 2012.

Yes, Daines is a freshman just like Berg was. But being a freshman doesn't mean you are a bad candidate (like Berg was) or that you will have a very quality opponent (like Berg did). Daines has more to prove than your average House member, but the comparison is too easy to make. We'll just have to see.

Indeed, we could very well see two House GOP freshmen run for and win Senate seats this year, in Daines and Rep. Tom Cotton (Ark.).

Have you guys done a list recently of the top contenders for the Republican nomination? I really have no clue who would be at the top -- it seems that Rubio has taken a big hit (among Republicans) for his leadership on the immigration issue, and the other possible top candidates all seem to have glaring weaknesses, at least from the perspective of the Republican electorate: Bush (his name); Christie (too liberal, pre-election cuddling with Obama); Paul (isolationist/anti-defense); Ryan (too wonky). Can't wait for this to get started.

Ask, and you shall receive: Our latest 2016 GOP rankings, as of last week.

You're right that basically every one of these candidates has a liability or a potential liability. But I think much of that has to do with today's GOP, which really forces its members to pick a side. Rubio, more than anybody, has straddled the middle between the conservative grassroots and the establishment, but he was forced to take a side on immigration. Christie has taken a side too, against Rand Paul and for bipartisanship. Paul's side is well documented, though even he tries to be careful.

Basically, if you want to be in the news and be a GOP leader today, you have to take some risks.

And the one guy that was supposed to be all things to all Republicans -- Rick Perry -- turned out to be nothing to anybody.

I'm sorry but Weiner's sexting is just a 21st century version of the creepy old guy in a dirty raincoat that hangs around playgrounds and shopping malls. Didn't his 15 minutes end 20 minutes ago?

Polls shows this guy had a legitimate shot at being the next mayor of America's biggest city. So I'm not sure why people begrudge the media for covering him like the serious candidate that he was.

Yes, it may be overkill at this point. But just a few days ago, some polls showed this guy in the lead. Let's not pretend like he's some gadfly.

Do you think that if Michele Bachmann didn't have the ethics problems she has right now, she secretly harbored the chance to take on Al Franken in order to gain a bigger platform after the whole presidency thing fell apart last year?

I don't think she would have run for Senate either way. These tea party members of Congress don't need the Senate to increase their profile; they already have it in the House.

A good example of this is Steve King. Why would he run for Senate when he already has plenty of influence on the issue he cares about (immigration) in the House. He would just be risking his platform for a roughly equal one where he's last in seniority.

Should they bring back Larry King to host a debate? If not, how about Bruce Springstein?

Dual moderators: Bruce Springsteen and Naomi Judd?

I saw a recent poll that had Tom Folley besting Dan Malloy in the race. What accounts for this? I thought Malloy got a bump after Newtown.

Malloy seems to have a ceiling that isn't far above 50 percent. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but he's never been popular in that state.

Both this race and the rematch in South Carolina are intriguing to me. Both states have a clear partisan lean but feature rematches of very tight races with incumbents (Nikki Haley in SC) that aren't popular.

Has Steve King finally stuck his foot in his mouth too much to win in November?

No. He's said lots of stuff like this before. And he beat a pretty formidable and well-funded opponent -- former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack -- pretty easily in a district Mitt Romney carried by 8 points. I think he's pretty safe.

Thanks everyone for coming out to today's "Ask Aaron." It's always a great discussion, and today was no exception.

Tune in next Tuesday at 2 p.m., where we'll do it all over again...

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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