Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Dec 03, 2013

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

Hey all, and welcome back to the Ask Aaron live chat.

It's been a slow week so far, but we've still got plenty to talk about.

Scott Brown? (and Chuck Schumer?)

Chris Christie and immigration?

Biden in Asia?

Rubio in London?


The Supreme Court?

What's on your mind? As always, any and all things political are fair game.

What is Scott Brown doing? A. He's running for Senate in New Hampshire. B. He's genuinely undecided. C. He's probably not running, but is toying with the idea. D. He has no intention of running, but likes the publicity.

I tend to think it's B and maybe trending toward A. If he just wants attention, this is a weird way to do it. Why wouldn't he just toy with another campaign in Massachusetts?

I think he really liked being in the Senate and wants a way to be there for more than just one term. He was never going to be safe in Massachusetts. And why not roll the dice in New Hampshire and hope Obamacare is such an albatross that it brings people like Shaheen down?

Why would Scott Walker give Republicans a better chance at winning the White House than Mitt Romney did? He's further to the right.

Romney's problem was much more about authenticity and likeability than where he was on the ideological spectrum.

Yes, he took the self-deportation position, for instance, but otherwise he had a very moderate record.

If Republicans can't nominate anybody to Romney's right, they're in trouble. But I don't think that's the case. They just need someone who can sell conservatism better than Romney did.

New Hampshire is all politics. The people pay attention. Political culture is developed. How can Scott Brown plausibly walk into a state like that with ambitious politicians and an informed electorate and win?

Because he's a likeable moderate who actually has a claim to being from New Hampshire.

I'm as skeptical as the next guy when it comes to Brown running in NH two years after losing in MA. Itlooks crassly political and opportunist. But if anybody can pull it off, it's a likeble moderate from a neighboring state who can raise gobs of money.

I think he makes what would otherwise have been a third-tier race into a second-tier race for the GOP.

Are we sure it's safe to surround Rubio with so much water?

Too soon.

Hi Aaron, it's great to see your chat back on the docket. Is Harry Reid scheduling any confirmation votes before the Senate's holiday break? What is the latest word on that front?

We're expecting Janet Yellen to be confirmed as Federal Reserve chairwoman, and there could also be movement on Jeh Johnson and DHS and the D.C. Circuit Court nominees and Mel Watt.

With Scott Brown, there is the question of being a carpetbagger -- a charge that seems to be the kiss of death except for people who run for the Senate in New York where we have had Clinton of Arkansas, Kennedy of Virginia, Buckley of Connecticut and, one of our first Senators, Rufus King signed the Constitution as a representative from Massachusetts.

Carpetbagging isn't totally unheard of outside the Empire State. 

Elizabeth Dole had to move back to North Carolina to run for Senate.

And Jay Rockefeller launched his political career in West Virginia shortly after moving from New York in the 1960s.

If enrollment in the ACA starts climbing, do you expect Republicans to continue advocating repeal, which would entail potentially kicking millions of people off their health insurance? Or will they find some other means of criticizing the law?

It's a good question. I think Republicans will stick with this message no matter what, because their base demands it.

The question is at what point the scales tip against that strategy and Americans start to see it as frivolous and counter-productive. If the health-care law can right the ship and show some successes, then I think that's a debate we can have.

For now, even as polls show most Americans favor fixing or keeping the law as-is, I don't think supporting repeal is a liability.

Do political reporters realize that a lot can happen between now and Nov. 2014 (and even more between now and 2016)? Nobody has any idea, for example, how well Obamacare will work in ten months. Why keep writing piece after piece about it when so many issues are on the table now?

I think there's a difference between writing about how Obamacare is playing/working right now and predicting what it will be like in 2014.

Just because we write this stuff in the context of 2014 doesn't mean that we're predicting anything will happen in that election.

But -- and this is the key -- the way in which the law is viewed today and how the parties think it might affect the next election has a HUGE impact on how it is implemented and changed in 2013 and early 2014. To ignore that aspect and pretend electoral politics don't matter in this process is to do everyone a disservice.

If Hillary Clinton doesn't align herself more with the left wing of the Democratic Party, do you think she'll have some real competition for the nomination if Warren decides to run?

I think more likely than Warren is that it comes from someone like Howard Dean or Bernie Sanders. I just don't really think Warren will run.

In the case of the other two, I'm not sure either would stand much of a chance (it's plausible with Dean; definitely not with Sanders).

You said: "If Republicans can't nominate anybody to Romney's right, they're in trouble. But I don't think that's the case. They just need someone who can sell conservatism better than Romney did."  I agree that Romney wasn't a great messenger. But aren't they going to have to moderate on some issues, such as immigration, if they want to win a Presidential election? Wasn't that the conclusion of the autopsy?

Look: the GOP has big future problems when it comes to the Latino vote. But as for now, in 2016, it doesn't preclude them from winning the election. It's not like Romney got blown out because Latinos were one-third of the vote. They were about 10% of the vote.

I really think that a more capable candidate who took the same positions as Romney could very well have won the 2012 election.

None of this is to say the GOP doesn't have work to do. It can't cede basically all of the Latino and African-American vote for decades to come. But it's not disqualifying in 2016, so I'm not sure you'll see a more moderate GOP nominee.

What does the NRA think about his record on gun control?

This isn't really a question, but I wanted to let you know that I included "My question was answered in three recent 'Ask Aaron' chats" on my resume.

I cannot recommend this ... enough.

CW now is that Republicans will take up comprehensive immigration reform after the filing deadline to avoid more TP challengers. If history means anything, won't Republicans be frightened by their base flocking to their primary challengers regardless of how viable they look in a general election?

First, I'm not sure that's the conventional wisdom yet, though it's certainly an interesting theory.

I think the thinking is that most incumbents won't face primary challengers at all (most of them don't, usually), and thus can vote however they want.

This ignores two things though: 1) many of these members disagree with comprehensive immigration reform on principle -- not just because they're worried about losing, and 2) they could still get primary challengers in 2016. The next election is never THAT far away.

Republicans seem to be on the rise in Colorado, and Sen. Mark Udall looks possibly vulnerable, but his leading opponent is Ken Buck, who threw away a Senate race in 2010. Are any other Republicans looking at the contest?

This is something of a forgotten race. There are a couple state legislators on the ballot.

The national GOP basically wants anyone not named Ken Buck to win the nomination. From there, they need a really good environment.

Once Jon Karl and all the other smart-aleck media types stop tying up the website maybe real people looking for a policy will be able to get online.

Yes, the media should really stop testing out things that the government provides to see if they work. Sounds like a plan.

Are you ready to rescue the Vikings at QB yet?

I think Matt Cassell has us covered for now. Next year: Marcus Mariota.

America agrees that Congress sucks. Can you name four current members of Congress, one from each party in each chamber, that you'd like to clone so stuff would get done and partisanship would be reduced?

I've asked this question of folks who know the chambers better than I. Here are some folks they cite:

Senate GOP: Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker

Senate Dems: Dick Durbin, Mark Warner

House GOP: Tom Cole, Charlie Dent

House Dems: Steny Hoyer, Gerry Connolly

Hi Aaron -- next time a smarmy commentator asks about your QB, ask them how their Skins QB is doing. Which senate race would you follow if you had to pick one and why?

It's got to be either Kentucky or Louisiana. Louisiana because I think it's pivotal for the majority and because the state's politics are fascinating, and Kentucky because it's the Senate minority leader in both primary and general election trouble.

I'd feel awfully well with Nunn running against a crazy conservative. At a minimum, it would force Republicans to divert some resources.

For sure. Georgia isn't much/any redder than North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana, and the GOP has managed to lose those states with bad candidates in recent years.

What do you see as Christie's biggest obstacles to winning the GOP nomination?

Can you please confirm my hope/sense (not sure which it is) that the Obamacare disaster is fading a little as an issue? I don't think this could have been worse if they put "heckuva job Brownie" in charge of the rollout. Do you think the issue will have legs by the time of the midterms (among the persuadable middle, not tea partiers)?

I'm not sure it's dying down yet. There are still major questions about the information on the back-end that is being sent to insurers, for instance. If the information continues to be incomplete or duplicative, that's an even bigger headache for people than some Web site problems.

Imagine going to the doctor, submitting a claim and having it rejected because the insurer doesn't even know that you have a policy. Scary, right?

There are still oodles of pitfalls here. For now, there's a bit of a lull in the bad news for the adminstration. But a lull doesn't mean it's fading, necessarily.

I don't understand all these scared moderate Republicans. Won't the Democrats offer them the asylum of changing parties? Then, come the election, they'd get the Democratic vote, and certainly some significant percent of fed up Republicans who realize they had no choice?

Party-switching is a last-ditch effort for politicans, not simply something they do whenever it's convenient.

And the recent history of party-switchers is not a good one. Rep. Parker Griffith (D to R-Ala.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R to D-Pa.) both lost primaries in 2010, Charlie Crist lost the Senate race that year, and Lincoln Chafee's party switch didn't exactly do him much good this year.

The problem is that Democrats will still want to run someone who is with them on their issues -- not just someone who happens to vote with them on immigration or some other issue.

It's a very difficult political trick to pull off.

How should I get over being rejected by a girl?

Spend more time reading Post Politics and The Fix. She was no good for you anyhow.

Thanks everyone for coming out.

We'll see you next Tuesday at 2.

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: