Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Aug 20, 2013

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

What's on your mind today?

Ted Cruz?

Defund Obamacare?


The English Premier League?

As always, anything and everything is on the table...

I have an intense interest in the fraternal Senate society. If you were to rank the top three to five "workhorses" in the Senate and highly regarded for their efforts, regardless of party, who would they be?

Off the top of my head: Grassley, Baucus, Schumer, McCain, Hatch.

You said birthers weren't making a legal argument about Obama, but they claimed Obama wasn't eligible because he was born to a foreign-based father and an American mother not in the United States. This is exactly the situation with Ted Cruz, and they aren't upset because they like Cruz. That's hypocrisy.

My point in the piece (which can be found here) is that the birther movement spent so much of its energy on saying Obama lied about where he was born.

If it had just been making a legal argument about having one citizen as a parent rather than claiming a vast conspiracy, it probably wouldn't have marginalized itself so much. But so much of the movement is/was about Obama lying about his birthplace. Without proving that part of it, the legal argument didn't even come into play.

This is the key difference. Nobody is accusing Ted Cruz of perpetrating a vast political conspiracy.

Would NBC and CNN really be all that unhappy if the RNC wouldn't let them broadcast Republican Presidential debates? It's not as though a network can sell ad time during a debate. And how are the ratings for such debates? I'd guess that, e.g., a couple extra hours of "America's Got Talent" or "The Voice" would be far more profitable for NBC.

Actually there have been ads during debates, and debates have steadily been climbing in the ratings.

Apart from that, though, it's a prestige thing. Hosting a debate makes CNN and MSNBC and NBC relevant to the political discourse.

It may not be a huge money maker, but it's definitely something that media outlets (including the Post) want to be involved in.

Too easy to play keep away when a team is ahead by 2 (sometimes just 1). This makes games boring.

That doesn't both me. If it happens, the other team just needs to be more aggressive. They have as many people out there as the other guys do.

What does bother me about soccer is ties. Can we do something about this, please? (And yes, I know this is cliche of me.)

Not Durbin?

He would definitely be up there. I was just spit-balling.

I have been watching and do like it. However, the whole no playoffs thing I don't get. If you have the 8th best record with 10 games left, and have no chance of inning the championship and no chance of being kicked out of the league, what are you playing for?

At least it's better than American sports, where last place teams almost have incentive to tank at the end in order to improve their draft position.

I absolutely LOVE that the last-place teams get kicked out and other teams move up to the EPL. So whereas only about one-third of NFL teams are actually playing for something at the end of the year, it's probably more like 40-50 percent in EPL.

Plus I love that every regular season game matters that much more.

Why is Senator Cruz only dealing with the Canadian citizenship issue now? Why not have cleared it up before?

It's an interesting question. This guy is, after all, the former solicitor general of Texas and a Harvard grad. If there was someone who is aware of the law, it's him.

He says that his mother told him he had to claim Canadian citizenship, and he never did so he thought it was moot.

Does the RNC have a point? None of the candidates in 2012 were advocating for banning contraception, but they were grilled about it in one debate. The fact is most moderators lean left.

Debates in general aren't terribly helpful for either party. The Obama-Hillary debates weren't exactly a lovefest either.

I'm totally fine with people accusing the media of bias, but I think the bigger motivator for moderators is making news. And more conflict=more news.

In the defense of moderators, though, they are merely trying to get politicians who are trained to not take firm positions to do just that.

Much has been written about the lack of bipartisanship in Congress. Do you ever see that changing or is this the new normal?

I think the polarization of Congress is a reflection of the polarization in American society. Unless and until there are more swing/truly independents voters, Congress will continue to be polarized.

A big reason for this polarization, I believe, is increasing interest in politics and where people get their news. More than ever, people can readily get news from a political viewpoint that reinforces their own.

Because of this, I think the trend of polarization continues.

How high does he rank on your list of most likely Republican nominees? It sure seems like he is running.

He's got to be in the top 5. For a few reasons:

1) There is no getting to his right -- on basically anything.

2) He's got a great profile: Young, Hispanic, great speaker.

3) The base loves him. Don't underestimate the power of buzzworthiness in today's GOP. And Cruz has it.

Ties in futbol are better than penalty kicks to end the tie. Still can't believe that the World Cup does not keep playing until a goal is scored. If the NHL can play all night in the playoffs, so can the World Cup.


Say what? It was throughout politics. Remember Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh, Obama's "war on religion," etc.? Also, Santorum had weighed in and said contraception was not OK. Taken together, it was perfectly reasonable to ask what the candidates would do.

I tend to agree with this. It's not like the contraception issue came out of nowhere.

What's the deal with the new PPP poll? Is Kasich really in trouble?

He was and then he wasn't. In fact, Kasich experienced one of the biggest resurgences among governors over the past couple years.

This seems to be the first poll that suggests his approval rating has dropped back down. We'll wait to see whether other polls confirm the result.

How depressing. We have NO chance of Congress getting anything done, ever?

I'm not sure I'm saying that. But it's much easier as a legislator to vote against something than to vote for it, and that goes double when your party is perfectly willing to unseat you in a primary.

I have often wondered how Huma has held up after the further cascade of Weiner's compulsions. She basically seems to have been MIA after the first press conference. I wonder about her continued viability politically, and also if there are personal reconsiderations.

She has always been very behind-the-scenes, so it's not out of character. But after what she did at the press conference, it seemed like that might change.

My guess is that she made the calculation that her husband faces such long odds that it's not worth ruining both of their political futures. I think she made a bad call though by being at that presser.

I live outside of Buffalo, and the media is making a big deal that our Governor is not tagging along with the preident on his Upstate tour Thursday. Is there anything to be read into this, or is this due to its August, and there is nothing else to talk about.

Yep. Definitely an August story. This Cruz stuff wouldn't be such big news, either, unless there was a sizeable news vacuum.

In the early primary/caucus states, where will he be strongest and weakest? I'm having a hard time seeing a path for him to the nomination, although the same can be said about all of the other likely candidates.

I think Iowa and South Carolian are tough for him, given the Christian conservative influence. His decision to sign the ban on gay conversion therapy, for instance, probably doesn't play well with this group.

But I do think his style appeals pretty universally, and even Mitt Romney almost won Iowa last year -- something that was dubious at best.

Partisanship makes sense. Why should I vote against a candidate who shares, and will vote, my views -- and in favor of one who doesn't?

It's totally rational for people who are conservative to vote Republican and people who are liberal to vote Democratic.

The difference now is that there are fewer and fewer people without a political "home team." I think, more and more, people are choosing teams and then adopting their positions on a whole host of issues, which solidifies the polarization.

What % do you give for him resigning before his term is up?

It only happens if he does it do avoid criminal prosecution. So the odds depend entirely on that.

The fact is George Stephanopoulous (former Clinton advisor) asked Romney over and over on the subject. Maybe if Wendy Davis were not given a standing ovation at the National Press Club, I would think the national media did not have an agenda on social issues.

For what it's worth: The vast majority of guests at National Press Club events are not members of the press, but people who paid for a ticket.

I wasn't there that day and am not aware of what you speak of, but I would wager that the people applauding were not wearing press badges. That would be a fire-able offense for people like me.

If I had to bet today, I'd have Christie-Rubio vs. Clinton-Kaine. Weird thing to keep an eye on: Of top 5 tickets for Dems, VA Senator (& fmr Gov) on 4 of them. Very high on Kaine and Warner.

I think you're right; both Kaine and Warner have great appeal as VPs. And I think they benefit from the fact that there aren't a whole lot of VP options in the Mountain West and Midwest.

Given that the next Democratic nominee is likely to be from the Northeast, it would have been best for them to pick from the Mountain West or Midwest. Not a whole lot of options there, though.

You and Prince vs. The Fix and Otto Porter--who wins?

Game: Blouses.

Just Beltway hype or a really bad sign for the Cooch that Gilmore's guy would work for the Democratic candidate?

I doubt that many people really care. But there's got to be an interesting backstory there.

Toomey. Write it down. Not as extreme as Paul and Cruz (see: guns), not Christie (a plus for a lot of the base), and holder of tax reform bona fides.

I'm not sure that I'm with you on this. My dark horse is still Bob Corker.

I think most of the House issues are due to a lack of bipartanship. I guess we will have to wait for 2020 positions of power if we are likely to have any change. Would we all love to see neutral state panels draw up district boundaries? Doubt if it would every happen.

It's not out of the question that a few more states would adopt this by 2020. Redistricting reform does very well on the ballot, and if there's money behind such efforts, we could see some more nonpartisan maps being drawn.

What's going to be really interesting is whether the amendments passed in Florida will result in the GOP-drawn maps being struck down, or whether they turn out to be pretty toothless.

How about either of the Senators Udall or Gov. Hickenlooper?

Hick has fallen on hard times. And while I think Udall (I assume you mean Mark, not Tom) is well-regarded, I'm not sure I see him as a VP type. About the only national issue he has made a push on is surveillance.

Hopefully his health is fine. If so, do you see his next move is to run for Governor of Delaware in 2016?

I think so. Coons is up in '16 and is relatively young. Carper is up in '18, when he will by 70.

But the 2016 GOV race will be an open one with Markell being term-limited.

If Harry Reid decided tomorrow to retire, who would take over as majority leader, Durbin or Schumer? My sense is Durbin deserves it, but Schumer got many D senators elected in 06' and 08'.

The consensus these days is that it would be Schumer. I'm not sure Durbin will ever be Democratic leader.

Then why do they have 472 of them.

Because the candidates/parties don't want to say no to major networks that want to hold debates.

This move by the RNC is a very creative way of limiting the number of outlets that are candidates to hold debates.

Career over?

When members of your own party start calling on you to resign, it's probably time to do it.

What plausible 2016 matchup would potentially have CA go red and TX go blue?

None. Texas may get competitive in the coming years, but it's not happening yet.

As for 2020, 2024, etc., Democrats would likely need a compelling Latino candidate to win Texas. Latino turnout remains very low.

I'm not sure what Republican could win a GOP primary and carry California. Not even the Ghost of Reagan.

I have not seen a poll in a while. Where does the race stand at this point?

This will be within the margin of error until Election Day. I just don't see any reason that it would be otherwise.

What about as a VP candidate? He IS from the Midwest.

When I say Midwest, I mean Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, etc.

Illinois isn't exactly in that same category of states that you want to draw from to appeal to Middle America.

A lot of Republican senators get away with being obstructionist because of a potential TP challenger, but a challenge still has to be plausible. The campaign has to come together and the candidate has to pass a certain threshold.

It's a fair point. The vast majority of Republicans (like 90-95%) don't face significant primary challenges and have nothing to be afraid of.

But politicians are, by nature, self-preservationists. They will do anything to avoid even the possibility of being in that other 5% that does get a strong challenger. Because, why risk it?

Is this trending up or down right now?

It's flat and still very low.

I agree race will be close. Who has been hurt more: McAuliffe over his green car investigation, or Cooch by his association with McDonnell/Star Scientific?

I think that until there is a smoking gun in either case, it's probably all the same to voters. Most people just don't play close attention, and the only thing they know about each of these cases is that there is some kind of controversy.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. Another spirited recess discussion.

You know what? Let's do it again next week. See you here at 2 on Tuesday.

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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