Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Nov 12, 2013

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

Hello all, and welcome to the latest edition of "Ask Aaron," the live chat in which you ... well ... ask Aaron stuff.

What's on your mind this week?

* Chris Christie's big win and 2016 prospects

* Obamacare rollout

* Terry McAuliffe is the governor-elect of Virginia. Who-da thunk it?

I think this week is more of a free-for-all. So ask about whatever...

Are any moderate groups (like No Labels) doing anything to prevent the 2014 mid-terms to not become a referendum in which the only choices are "I Love Obamacare" and " The Tea Party will Save Us"?

I haven't seen anything of the sort. The fact that No Labels essentially crashed and burned in 2012 is telling.

It's very hard to be the party of the middle (and thus more casual) voters.

Does McAuliffe's victory make it more likely that either Tim Kaine or Mark Warner ends up as a VP pick in 2016? McAuliffe could appoint a Democratic replacement.

It certainly doesn't hurt. But keep in mind, President Obama picked Janet Napolitano for DHS even though she was replaced by a Republican (Jan Brewer), so it's not like it's a total deal-breaker.

I imagine whoever the Democratic nominee is will pick whomever they think will help them win. They don't really care if it costs their party 1 of 50 governorships.

Serious about running in New Hampshire or not? The Massachusetts governor's race always seemed more plausible to me.

I totally agree in re: running for governor vs. N.H. senator. In the governor's race, he's got an open seat. In the Senate race, he's got both a popular incumbent and the carpet-bagging thing.

I think Brown would have started the governor's race in a really good spot. He was popular even when he lost to Elizabeth Warren.

My only thought is that he really liked being a senator. 

Rate the percentage chances that she: (1) Defeats Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. (2) Actually enters a presidential primary. (3) Successfully uses "presidential buzz" to gain attention for herself and her causes. My answers: (1) 0.000001% (2) 10% (3) 60%

1. 10 percent

2. 25 percent

3. 99 percent

Have you ever met anyone who honestly prefers Joe Biden to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee? Why?

The polls suggest there are more people who approve of Congress than prefer Biden to Hillary Clinton.

I think Biden will be a player if he runs, but I'm not sure people are totally comfortable with the idea of him being the No. 1. He's not terribly popular.

Rate these 2014 Senate Democrats in order of the likelihood they'll be defeated: Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Jeanne Shaheen.

1. Pryor

2. Landrieu

3. Begich

4. Hagan

5. Shaheen

Virginia Republicans talking about Ken Cuccinelli challenging Mark Warner: A sincere belief that K.C. could upset Mark Warner, or at least give him a serious race OR A secret hope that K.C. getting thrashed 65%-35% by Mark Warner would get rid of him for good.

I'll go with (c) complete and utter delusion.

It would be a good recruit because they won't find anyone even close to that qualified to run against Warner. He's too popular. But Cuccinelli will never do it.

Who is a non-TP, non-Christie alternative? Cruz and Rand Paul types never win, but if Christie has peaked too soon, who fills the void as an establishment choice? Please don't say Scott Walker is mainstream on par w/McCain and Romney.

No obvious ones come to mind.

Bob Corker?

Scott Brown?

Jon Huntsman?

Rob Portman?

I'm not sure any of them will run and/or could win, but these are the ones that come to mind from that side of the party.

I think he's Rudy 2.0 because of the love from the New York media. Not big with GOP primary voters.

I disagree with the Rudy comparisons. Rudy is much more moderate/liberal than Christie has ever been, and New Jersey ain't New York City.

Rudy couldn't make himself into a viable presidential candidate; Christie can. Not saying he will, but he wouldn't crash and burn like Giuliani.

Assuming that Mark Herring wins the AG's race, could Mark Obenshain still be a viable candidate for governor in 2017? Who else would be plausible GOP candidates? Bill Bolling or Tom Davis would be obvious possibilities for moderates, but who would conservatives back?

I think Obenshain could definitely still be in the mix -- especially given he outperformed Cuccinelli and Jackson and the fact that Republicans wouldn't have any statewide officeholders.

I don't see a lot of statewide material in the Virginia GOP delegation, and their candidates have to come from somewhere.

I think Christie's greatest vulnerability is if a strong mainstream conservative emerges (Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush), who is also seen as a plausible general-election candidate. Pretty easy to see GOP primary voters picking any one of those over Christie. with his guns/gays/immigration/Sandy apostasies. Walker's an evangelical, to boot. His best scenario, by contrast, is facing Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but no other major candidate. As far as I can tell, most GOP officeholders loathe Cruz and would do anything to stop him from becoming the nominee. He looks like a terrible general-election candidate, too. I don't think there's the same animosity toward Paul, but his foreign-policy views are still a little outside the GOP mainstream. I think against either man, most GOP insiders would back Christie.

All good points. There's a reason that Christie is going with the "just win baby" theme: he needs Republican primary voters to have that be their top priority.

If it comes down to him against Rubio, Walker, Jeb or Ryan, I think Christie can still credibly argue that he's the most electable of that crew.

All of that said, the pragmatic wing of the GOP isn't exactly a majority these days.

Are you emotionally prepared for Joe Mauer to be a subpar hitter at his position?

Subpar?? He competes for/wins batting titles. You're crazy.

It's so obvious that the Virginia electorate does not have a huge problem with Bob McDonnell from an ethics perspective and generally likes him. I'm a Democrat and disagree with 100 percent of his views, but I feel the same. We don't really have any ethics laws to speak of, and what did he do for Star Scientific, anyway? Do you think the DOJ takes public opinion into account or will they indict him anyway? If so, when?

Predicting what the DOJ will do is very, very tough. But you make a good point that McDonnell has weathered the storm in large part because of an agreeable personality.

You can never totally discount public pressure or lack thereof in these decisions, but one would hope such politics wouldn't factor into the process.

More important constituency for this bubble: Liberal activists who want to push Hillary Clinton farther to the left OR Bored reporters fearful of a no-news Democratic presidential contest

I'd say it's about 50/50. I just don't think she's all that interested.

She kind of fell in to running for Senate. People who run for president need to love politics and want to do it 24 hours a day, and I just don't think she does.

I know it's early, but do you see the Braves likely move to Cobb County playing out in the 2014 elections in GA? Cobb County's Gingrey's turf, and Nathan Deal may get questions about why he was so supportive of the Falcons stadium deal but stayed silent on the Braves. It's probably a little too localized, but I've already seen comments from state, local, and federal politicians on it and it's a topic that will come up given the gravity of the move. Given it's taxpayer funding, I could see it coming up in the R Senate primary, and perhaps in the race to succeed Gingrey in the House. I know you've seen this fight in Minnesota - curious how these issues play out more broadly speaking.

Candidly, I've never watched these stadium battles too closely, but they are certainly among the most contentious in local/state government.

And if you're talking about a GOP primary, I can certainly see somebody crying foul that taxpayers are footing the bill for spoiled professional athletes and their owners.

Cheney or Enzi?

Still think it's Enzi. I'm not sure what his major conservative sin is.

Is he going to luck out and face a diluted primary field or is there someone who could seriously knock him out?

The field is diluted, but there's also the all-important runoff. As long as Graham is held below 50 percent, he faces a one-on-one runoff with the other top vote-getter.

His vulnerability is really undersold. A recent poll showed fewer than half of South Carolina Republicans like him.

Because he's not conservative enough, or because he's too conservative?

I would hazzard a guess that it's almost exclusively because he's not conservative enough. He's been out-front for conservatives on stuff like Benghazi and abortion, yes, but the immigration stuff is toxic, I think.

Any chance he could come back after being out of politics and make noise in a presidential race as a reasonable elder statesman?

I don't really think so. He had his chance to run in 2012 and he passed on it. I'm not sure what would change that would make him want to run in 2016.

Being president of a university is a pretty good gig, I hear. And he has certainly taken to it.

Couldn't Democrats crush Republicans in 2014 or 2016 with the promise to raise the national minimum wage?

I don't think it's enough of a priority for most people who support it. I think it's a lot like comprehensive immigration reform, in that the people who actually would have their votes swayed by it are the vocal minority that opposes it.

Stop tweeting and answer questions! :)


I need more questions from you guys!

I feel that our biggest issue is not even general elections. Its that we have created a primary system that caters (or almost forces) extreme candidates. Can anything be done to lesson this threat. I would think a push to make all primaries not restrcited by party registration (like in VA, where you can vote for 1 candidate, but choose which election you want) would be ideal.

The other big push that I think we'll see more of is for top-two primaries, like they have in California and Washington state.

Here's more on this from our GovBeat team (well worth the read).

Democrats have pretty good recruits in West Virginia and Montana. How would you rate their chances of holding those Senate seats?

I like their chances better in Montana.

But keep in mind: Democrats have won Senate races in a lot of red states in recent years -- including Montana and West Virginia in some difficult years recently.

Any members of Congress have famous relatives other than Fred and Kate Upton?

Former congressman Nick Clooney (D-Ky.) was George's dad. 

And, of course, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) was once married to Sonny Bono.

It's hard to tell whether it's dead or still has a chance to pass. Do the right circumstances still exist for it to be able to pass?

I'm still hugely skeptical. Unless Congress faces overwhelming public pressure and/or a deadline, it just doesn't get things done these days.

With immigration, there is neither.

Rank these senators in likelihood of their losing a primary: Alexander, Cochran, Graham, McConnell, Enzi. Could Democrats pick up any of these if the incumbent goes down?

I think Cochran, Graham and McConnell are clustered pretty close together. Lamar and Enzi are a little safer, IMO.

And the only state where I think Democrats could pick up the pieces and win is Kentucky.

Does Russ Feingold have a future in electoral politics?

I think so -- if he wants it. I don't think people hold a 2010 loss against you, and Democrats don't exactly have a huge bench in Wisconsin, as their recruiting in the state's governor's races has shown.

Do these business groups and establishment types knock off any Tea Party Republicans other than the obvious ones -- Amash, Bentivolio and DesJarsis?

Amash is the big one. Bentivolio and DesJarlais wouldn't lose because they are tea partiers; they would lose because of other issues.

I do think the establishment needs to start knocking off people like Amash in primaries. It would send a message that you can pay a price for not being a team player. But attempting it and succeeding are two different things.

The Alabama runoff last week was a good first step for the establishment/Chamber of Commerce.

When does he have to start making movements if he wants to make a serious presidential run?

I think right after the 2014 election is go time if you're a Republican.

Bob Dylan, Prince and....Paul Bunyan?

Bunyan isn't really a Minnesota.

The other two besides Prince and Dylan would be Judy Garland and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Is he at risk of losing his reelection battle?

You can't rule it out, but he's remained in decent shape since his recall win. I think this is a second-tier target for Democrats.

And, of course, Mary's current husband is the grandson (great-grandson?) of the famous Connie Mack of baseball. I've always wondered, is Mack's name actually Cornelius McGillicuddy IV, or did someone in the family legally change it to Connie Mack?

Great point!

And, yes, his name is actually Cornelius McG.

Thanks all for a lively conversation.

Hope to see you next Tuesday at 2 p.m.!

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: