Ask Aaron: This week in politics

Oct 22, 2013

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

Hello all, and welcome back to "Ask Aaron."

After a lengthy, shutdown-induced hiatus (we were busy manning the Post's unceasing live-blog coverage), we're back to take your questions on all things politics -- including (but not limited to) the shutdown.

So what's on your mind?

A few ideas:

The Post's new shutdown poll

*'s glitchy launch

* Chris Christie's gay marriage decision

* John Kasich's Medicaid decision

* John McCain (maybe) running for reelection in 2016

Ask away!

Is the battle between Chris Christie and Ted Cruz going to be the best battle for a nomination ever? The 2008 fight between Clinton and Obama was a great battle between two heavyweight candidates, but there wasn't really a substantive difference between them except on Iraq. In contrast, Cruz and Christie have fundamentally different views on almost everything. I can't wait for this to get started. I also wonder if the other potential candidates are going to realize early on that there isn't enough oxygen left with those two in the room.

A Cruz-Christie matchup would indeed be epic. As I wrote Monday, it would be not only a clash of policies but also of general governing philosophies.

And nobody epitomizes the two extremes of that internal GOP debate like Cruz and Christie. While Rubio and Rand Paul both have very conservative records, neither has been as absolutist as Cruz. And while other governors have shown pragmatic streaks, nobody has done it as much -- and as unapologetically -- as Christie.

That said, I don't think they would crowd out other candidates. I'm sure there's a sizeable space in the middle for people who aren't comfortable with either approach.

When do the press and lots of Democrats start to realize that Christie has more in common with Republican ideology and policy than his reputation suggests?

This is a guy who has often been mis-classified. When he first came in, people said he was a tea partier. Now people think he's a moderate.

I think he's neither. I think he's a conservative with a sizeable pragmatic streak that most other conservatives are afraid to emulate in today's GOP.

Scott Walker would never win a general election for President. He was bought and paid for by the Koch Bros. and was swept in during the Tea Party wave. And, sorry, but voting against a recall does not = voting for the person. He's way too radical to win when things are about even and people are paying attention. Media should stop hyping him.

I don't think anybody is calling him a Cruz- or Christie-level candidate. And you're right that it's very hard to recall someone.

But if this guy manages to win three GOV elections in a blue-leaning swing state, while also having a strongly conservative record, how can you ignore him?

Who has the brightest future in Republicans politics -- Ken Cuccinelli, Bob McDonnell, or Bill Bolling? Or have all those bulbs burned out?

Well, I guess it's Cuccinelli by default, because those other two are done for. But that's not to say Cuccinelli has much of a future. Losing to Terry McAuliffe is something Republicans won't soon forgive him for.

Accurate pollster or not?

We've always had a cautious approach to automated polls from anybody. It's just hard to have a great poll when you can't use cell phones.

And this post from Nate Cohn gave me even more pause.

Prediction on the results? Does the streak end? Democratic sweep?

Hard to see how McAuliffe doesn't win right now, but there are still two weeks, and my guess is lots of people are just tuning in.

Does Brian Schweitzer really think any Democrats will support him after leaving them in a lurch in the Montana Senate race?

I don't think that hurt whatever chances he had. It may cause hard feelings with some establishment types, but that was never his crowd to begin with. Schweitzer keeps close counsel.

That said, I don't think he had/has much of a chance.

Where does the Montana Senate race stand with the Democratic Lt. Gov. jumping into the race?

We'll have to see how the LG looks as a candidiate; he's got a good bio.

On the GOP side, freshman Rep. Steve Daines is also something of an unknown quantity.

Since the state leans red and it's a midterm, though, you've got to give the GOP the edge. But Montana isn't as red as most people think. Obama only lost it by 3 in 2008, and it's got 2 Democratic senators and a Demcoratic GOV.

If Chris Christie runs for president in 2016, do you think Bruce Springsteen allows him to use one of his songs as a campaign theme? If so, which one?

Call me crazy, but I can see The Boss coming around and supporting Christie -- at least in the GOP primary. 

This is one of the great unrequited love stories in American history. It has to have a happy ending.

The song would be "Land of Hope and Dreams."

Christie has dropped the gay marriage appeal for New Jersey. How much impact will that have on his support among social conservatives? This on top of his past support for abortion rights has him looking more like Romney...

Our latest WaPo-ABC poll showed 59 percent of Republicans oppose gay marriage. I can see that number creeping much closer to a bare majority by 2016.

The problem for Christie is that the anti-gay marriage folks are much more active -- and they matter a lot in Iowa and South Carolina, in particular.

Any idea why he's calling it quits?

I am dumbfounded. This is a guy who was on a path for House GOP leadership. He was only in for two terms.

Secretary Clinton gave a bunch of Shermanesque statements that she was done running for office. Now the door not only seems open, but wide open. How can I ever trust again?

This won't make you feel better about it, but I'll still say it: Lots of politicians deny they'll run and then change their mind. (Or maybe they lied about their intentions in the first place. I'll let you judge.)

The lesson of it all: Take their pronouncements about future campaigns with a couple grains of salt.

If the administration can't fix the glitches or coding problems or whatever it is in the next few months, what happens? Republicans seem to be gunning for Secretary Sebelius's job. Do you foresee a delay of the individual mandate?

I'm not sure how you enforce the individual mandate if these problems persist for a long time.

Jay Carney seemed to keep that option on the table at yesterday's press briefing. I don't think it was a coincidence that he refused to rule out an individual mandate delay.

That said, doing so would be such a collosal acknowledgement of defeat for the Obama Adminstration that they will resist it at all costs.

Yoo-hoo, Aaron! Did you forget your chat? Or are you here answering reader questions and just forget to hit the "Send" button?

It seems the Obamacare website isn't the only one with glitches. The chat should be visible now...

Is Kim Guadagno the heir apparent to the republican nomination for governor in 17'?

I think you also need to keep an eye on folks like Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.). But the GOP bench is not deep here. There aren't a bunch of Chris Christies waiting in the wings -- as evidenced by the GOP running Steve Lonegan in the Senate race.

Has there ever been a more disdainful endorsement of a candidate than the Star-Ledger's of Christie? They may as well have said "we think he is scum, but he's going to win so go with him"...

For those who haven't seen it, here it is:

I've seen more half-hearted endorsements: McCain for Bush in 2000, for example, and Huntsman for Romney last year.

Have you ever seen a worse performance by your squad? Embarrassing.

It was like re-watching the playoff game last year with Joe Webb at QB. Just painful.

There is no other explanation, right? I mean, many people think McAuliffe is a joke, but he is socially liberal. That has won out and proves Virginia is no South Maryland.

I would be careful about drawing too many conclusions from this very strange race with two one-of-a-kind nominees. I'm not sure this is an endorsement of McAuliffe's liberalism as much as a repudiation of Cuccinelli's brand of conservatism.

The reason McAuliffe is running on those issues is because it's a big vote-getter in Northern Virginia and Cuccinelli has staked out some not-so-helpful positions in that regard.

This is still a purple state -- maybe the purest purple state in the nation.

Did you ever have new software put on your computer by your IT person and it worked perfectly at first? I have never had this experience, so it was hardly surprising the ACA website was bedeviled.

(Devil's advocate:) What if that IT person had months to prepare and it was a hugely important program that determined whether you would be able to do your job or not? If it was THAT important, I bet he or she would have it figured out by the time you needed it.

Did you need something to take your mind of last nights MNF Game???

You buying?

I predict he runs for Governor in 2017. The senate seems incredibly boring, and he can be booked on "Morning Joe" every morning if he wants being in the NYC area.

I disagree. I think Booker was made for the Senate. He'll have a huge platform there.

Plus, I think his goal is to be president, not governor.

What are the odds on another Federal government shutdown?

I'd put them at 30 percent. GOP wants to avoid this at all costs, but the leaders aren't exactly in charge of their party right now.

What is the old saying? The greatest retirement home in America is the United States Senate? Do you think he runs in the end? If anyone is more primed for a primary challenge, it is him.

I think he runs if he's able. And given his mother is still quite sharp, I think that's probable.

McCain seems to me to be re-invigorated by this battle for the soul of the GOP. I can't see him retiring as long as Ted Cruz is on the ascent.

Plus, 80 (which he would be in 2016) isn't all that old in today's Senate.

Any states that were gerrymandered after the 2010 elections likely to switch partisan legislature and gubernatorial control and be regerrymandered? I'm thinking of the Texas scenario after the 2000 census with the between-census party flip in its legislature. PA or Ohio, perhaps?

Someone may try it (though it's rare), but they first have to win back control of the legislature on those partisan-drawn maps -- not to mention the governor's seat. That's a tall order in Ohio, where the GOP has huge majorities. In Pennsylvania, it's much more doable but still not easy.

My guess is it doesn't happen. Yes it happened in Texas, but Texas is Texas.

None, divine or otherwise for the Tea Partiers or their fellow travelers. By this time next year the electorate will be so excited about the Kimye wedding that the shutdown will be a distant memory.

I tend to think you're right. The polls show this was a huge problem for the GOP, but the vast majority of Americans weren't personally impacted by the shutdown (just 22% in our poll), and a year is a massive amount of time.

In the end, will people vote against the GOP because the government was shut down for two weeks, or will they base their decision on how successful Obama has been? I tend to think it's more the latter.

We tend to over-sell the importance of what's happening right at the moment and forget that people have selective memories.

How does Al Franken look for reelection? Given all the other seats Republicans are trying to win, it seems like he isn't being focused on.

The GOP has a wealthy guy -- Mike McFadden -- running there, but it's certainly a second- or third-tier race. The GOP bench in that state just isn't great, and the people who would have been instantly formidable -- Pawlenty, Norm, Rep. Erik Paulsen, for instance -- quickly passed.

Why does the press care what Ted Cruz says when he loses all of his fights? He is one of a 100, no more, no less. Why does he have a microphone outside of Texas?

Because there are a bunch of House Republicans (and some Senate Republicans) who were following his lead. When they stop following his lead, he will merely be 1 of 100. But that hasn't happened yet.

I have been hoping for a long time of a true split in the GOP between the 'Progressive Conservatives' and the social/Tea Party wing. Any chance with the McCain-Cruz war?

It's going to happen in some way, shape, or form. The question is who takes up the mantle for the more moderate side and when. Nobody has really been willing to go up against the Cruzes of the world.

Christie sounds like he just might do it, starting with his comments about libertarianism in Aspen a couple months back. But he's still a governor who doesn't wade into all the national issues of the day.

Nah, it's about the brand. Voters will make a choice and they'll view the GOP brand in the same way unless it takes a marked turn. Not likely with primary season yet to come. Then campaign ads and GOTV will remind people about the shutdown.

The GOP brand has been held in lower regard than the Demoratic brand for a long time. It's really a matter of degree.

But your point is well-taken. To the extent that this colors people's perceptions of the GOP going forward, it hurts the party.

Your boss has him 4th on the Republican line and Larry Sabato has him 1st in his initial Crystal Ball for the Republican Primary.

That's a bold move from Mr. Sabato. I'm comfortable with Walker being in the 4-6 range.

Wrong, if they would just not enforce the Hastert rule, they could pass a budget right now. It's the extremists on both sides that are shutting down the government, and Speaker Boehner is to blame for listening to those extremists.

If Boehner just started violating the Hastert Rule willy-nilly, he would be unseated as speaker and the House GOP would install someone who will abide by it. And then we're right back in the same situation.

Thanks everyone for coming out. It was a very lively chat, with some great questions.

Let's do it again 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.
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