Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Dec 10, 2013

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

Hey everyone and welcome to the latest edition of Ask Aaron.

So what's on your mind?

Steve Stockman?

Chris Christie?

Nelson Mandela and "The Selfie"?

Everything's fair game, so ask away...

Is there a sense that this time congress is really not going to pass it? Or are they bluffing?

It's always hard to know whether people are just holding out till the last moment or are genuinely willing to blow the deadline.

Before the government shutdown, I would have told you that, 95% of the time, it's all talk.

Now, I'm not so sure.

That said, the experience of the shutdown will make GOP leaders more gun-shy this time around. I don't think they want to risk a bunch more tough headlines -- especially as Obamacare continues to weigh on the Democrats.

I feel like I should say something nice about Minnesota to get my question answered. Kevin Love is awesome!

Anyway, the potential 2016 vice presidential fields are very interesting. Seems like the GOP nominee will have a ton of options in part due to their success in 2010 and governor races in general. Conversely, it doesn't feel like Hillary Clinton will have the same amount of options if she is the nominee. She probably needs a male at least 8 years younger than her for demographic balance. Outside of both Virginia senators, who are five prospective VP candidates for her?

Here's my list of potential VPs for Hillary (in no particular order):

1. Mark Warner

2. Deval Patrick

3. Cory Booker

4. Julian Castro

5. Amy Klobuchar

It was a really difficult list to put together. I don't see a bunch of clear options.

Do you foresee marijuana ever being decriminalized on a national level? Have a guess how soon? 5 years? 10 years? Never?

I think it's quite possible, but I don't see if happening as quickly as it did for gay marriage -- a parallel lots of people like to draw.

Gay marriage was such a personal and important issue for so many people, because it affected their ability to marry. Marijuana isn't quite the same thing (aside from medicinal, which is a different issue).

I think politicians are going to be hesitant to embrace recreational marijuana untill it's much more overwhelmingly popular. Basically, they need to be concerned about looking like they are out of touch by voting against it.

It makes it or not? And why do WP columnists (Rubin/Sargent) care what groups like Heritage Action think? Why not just ask the people who actually vote in Congress? There are only 535 of them in the whole United States and they all have receptionists who answer the phone.

Groups like Heritage Action matter because there are lots of Republicans in Congress who are worried about running afoul of them.

You can complain all you want that we give these groups too much attention; the fact is that they matter plenty as long as Republicans continue to allow them to hold such sway.

If and when Republicans start ignoring them and not toeing the line, then we'll treat them accordingly.

What percentage do you estimate for the probability of another federal government shutdown? Who would more likely benefit from it, Congressional Democrats or Republicans? (I'd guess Dems)

I'd say about 30 percent.

Republican leaders really don't want to go down that road again, but the fact is that their base is what made them hold out as long as they did, and I'm not sure the base is just going to give in the next time around without a fight.

In fact, I think if you asked the conservative base whether the Defund Obamacare strategy was worth it, they would probably say that it was.

I'm appalled that some Americans are giving heat to Newt Gingrich for writing in support of the late Nelson Mandela, and to Ted Cruz for attending the memorial service. Are these gestures likelier to hurt Newt and Ted, or to lead to conservative scorn of the extremists?

I think it just more generally hurts the Republican Party. As long as Cruz and Newt are still praising Mandela, they shouldn't be held responsible for what Facebook commenters say.

My guess is this will all be forgotten pretty quickly, though.

It sounds like the budget committee is close to a deal, but does that really mean anything? We've been to this place time and again and the GOP leadership caves to the tea party. If the House just passes a clean CR, with sequestration intact, won't the Dems be forced to sign on or else be blamed for a shutdown?

That last question is an interesting one. Democrats, after all, pushed for the clean CR last time.

I tend to think that the side that is perceived as asking for the (bigger) changes is the one that gets more blame. So during the last fight, the GOP got blamed because it was asking to Defund Obamacare, while Democrats were asking for the clean CR.

If the roles are reversed and the GOP is asking for the status quo with sequestration cuts intact -- sequestration, by the way, isn't as unpopular as people thought it would be -- I think Democrats would feel pressured to just accept it.

Any sense if he will be punished by the base for working with a liberal like Murray?

I certainly don't think he's the conservative hero he once was. And I don't think that's necessarily about him changing as much as it is about the GOP changing.

Conservatives are already coming out en masse against the budget framework. I would expect that it doesn't do much for Paul Ryan's 2016 primary prospects.

Why isn't he #2 on your list? Every argument you could make for Mark Warner you could make for Kaine. And he's already been vetted for VP In 2008. He seemed comfortable serving as DNC chair during Obama's first two years -- a VP-like position, in that he was expected to follow the White House line.

All fair points. I think Warner is just generally seen as prez/VP material. Kaine is certainly a very capable messenger and has shown he can do it on the national stage.

One issue: He was very much out-front in pitching Obamacare. Is Hillary going to want someone like that on her ticket? I know it's too early to say for sure that Obamacare will be an issue, but it's quite plausible that it will be.

I'm intrigued you didn't include Tim Kaine on your list. Is he too much of an Obamanite or did his stint as DNC Chair somehow disqualify him? Any thoughts on Martin Heinrich as a potential dark horse?

I'm not sure I see it with Heinrich. He's still very new and hasn't carved much of a national profile.

But if he plays his cards right, he's certainly got the kind of profile/look that Democrats would love to promote.

Patrick seems pretty adamant that he's going to leave politics for good. Although I guess the offer of a VP pick could change his mind. Booker has attracted more drama lately than a VP pick usually should experience.

It's amazing how being asked to be VP changes somebody's calculus. The fact is that Patrick has a very good reputation, and if Hillary came calling, it would be a very difficult decision.

As for Booker, I agree that he hasn't had the smoothest of roads so far, but nobody on this list is nearly as buzz-worthy as he is -- with the possible exception of Castro.

Size up that Cochran-McDaniel primary?!

It's really hard to say this early on, but I think it's hard to think this won't be at least a somewhat competitive race. Incumbents that have turned aside primary challengers in recent years have generally been pretty ruthless about it and very much on top of things.

Given Cochran's drawn-out decision making process and slow fundraising start, I'm not sure how prepared he is for the onslaught from conservative groups that awaits him.

We just don't know how this is going to turn out, do we? I can come up with a half dozen likely scenarios, most of them somewhere in between "clear success" and "clear failure." It has already dropped out of the headlines for now, although I'm sure it will return.

Agreed: we just don't know. But the fact that it's not faring well right now suggests that's a more likely outcome than everything being peachy.

We'll keep an eye on it, of course.

When does he make jump from the Delaware AG office? Senate or governor?

Tom Carper will be 71 years old when he faces reelection in 2018, so that's an option. 

Gov. Jack Markell will wrap up his second term in 2016.

So govenor is the more near-term option, but governor of Delaware isn't exactly great for building a national profile (if that's what Beau wants, which I'm not yet convinced of).

Is Cornyn significantly vulnerable to a challenge from Steve Stockman?

I'm not sure Stockman has the following that is required to pull this off. He's certainly very conservative -- perhaps the most outspoken person in all of Congress -- but he doesn't turn that into fundraising like a lot of these guys do.

Stockman is also getting a very late start and, in Texas, that's tough.

Also, I'm not sure what Cornyn's big sin is -- besides being a member of GOP leadership.

Thanks everyone for coming out!

We're ending today's chat just a little bit early. But don't worry, I'll be back next Tuesday at 2 to answer all your questions.

Have a great 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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