The Washington Post

Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jun 03, 2014

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

Welcome back everyone to the latest iteration of the Ask Aaron live chat.

Lots to talk about today.

1) It's primary day in eight -- count 'em eight -- states. Biggest subplot: Thad Cochran

2) We've got a new WaPo-ABC poll

3) We just finished the Republican Leadership Conference

4) Bowe Bergdahl

5) EPA proposed rule

So what's on your mind? As always, anything's fair game.

In your opinion, what makes someone like Cochran risk ending his career with a loss, rather than retiring on top?

You don't get into this business unless you have a healthy dose of pride and self-confidence. Nobody wants to look like they were forced out by the young up-and-comer.

McDaniel was already in the race, so Thad had a choice -- have some people think he was forced out or risk it all on another campaign. We'll see if it paid off.

Why hasn't your cancel notice been posted yet?

Because IT'S ON. That's why.

Last two weeks fell victim to (1) vacation and (2) technical problems. We should be here every week from here on-out.

If Cochran goes down, what percentage do you give the Dems in taking this seat?

20 percent. If Democrats can somehow get African Americans to turn out for Travis Childers and/or McDaniel does something bad, this is potentially in-play.

Childers, we shouldn't forget, won a 60-plus-percent McCain district. That's highly unusual.

But it's still Mississippi.

What would it take for the DNC and other groups to get the Democratic electorate motivated to vote this cycle? Outcome is pathetic for both parties in the primaries but the Dems are conceding the Senate if they don't get out the vote in November.

This is a great question.

I think you'll see Democrats pushing a few messages:

1) The GOP is obstructing on issues like immigration

2) War on women

3) GOP opposition is based on race/Voting Rights Act/Voter ID

All three of these are targeted at a very key Democratic voting group that could stay home.

Whether the combination will work, of course, is another question. It's much easier to run a campaign on one thing -- i.e. Obamacare.

The last three polls have shown Joni Ernst at 36, 34, and 34%, meaning theres at least some chance she doesn't clear the 35% threshold. Even if a convention is triggered though, I still see her getting the nomination. Firstly, she will be far ahead of any of her competitors and will have the moral right to say it ought to be hers. Secondly, Terry Branstad took over the state conventions with his supporters in the spring. It seems the nomination is hers no matter what, right?

For more on why we're talking about all this stuff (35%, etc.), see Sean Sullivan's explainer post here.

I think you make a good point about the state party having been reclaimed, to some degree, by Branstad supporters.

As for her primary vote share making her the convention favorite, though, I'm not sure that matters as much. The convention folks have a habit of not necessarily siding with the primary electorate. They like their prerogatives, and sometimes asserting them means going in a different direction than conventional wisdom.

But, yes, she'd be the clear favorite.

What is his future? He seems to not want to run for president, Senate, or governor. Will he run for leadership in the House, or simply retire and make a lot of money?

Ways and Means Committee chairman is a pretty sweet gig. And he has lots of time for other stuff down the road.

If no one gets 50%, it goes to a runoff. Who would benefit from this?

Conventional wisdom is that challenger picks up the "other" votes, so if Cochran does face a runoff, he'd better be pretty close to 50.

If someone votes against Cochran today, it stands to reason they'd do it again next time, right?

Thad Cochran wins his primary or Joni Ernst clears 35%?


If this year is like 2010, could Ernst upset Braley?

Of course. She could upset him even if this isn't like 2010. This is Iowa (swing state), and if she's a good candidate -- which was the big question going in -- this could pretty quickly be a toss-up.

Braley has had his stumbles, don't forget.

That Doctor dude almost beat the Canadian in the straw poll. Any chance this will reflect caucuses in 2016?

In a word -- no. It's a straw poll.

Per Post/ABC poll, 58% of Americans think the Obama administration covered up Benghazi, 51% of them support additional investigations, and per Gallup 78% of them think Obamacare will make things worse or not make a difference. These are pretty huge findings, no?

They are all good for the GOP, but they are also pretty consistent with other recent polling.

On Benghazi, I'm not sure these are game-changers as much as lending credibility to further discovery. People think there are questions to be asked, but it's not necessarily a huge mark against Obama or Clinton at this point (which our poll also shows).

On Obamacare, I think you have a great point. I wrote about this today -- the fact that there are very few people who think they will personally benefit from Obamacare. Even among supporters, only about half think it's good for them. That's not a voting issue.

Is Chris Cillizza secretly hoping that Ernst will win, so he can post her pig castration video over and over?

You might think that. I couldn't possible comment.

Is he really as damaged as everyone is saying?

Republicans are scared of him as their nominee. He touted Rob Schneider's endorsement on TV today, and he's responsible for this.

Who are you picking in the Wayne Gretzky-former teams Series? Rangers or Kings?

I don't follow any league that thought Minnesota was unworthy of a pro hockey team.

What's the most obscure race you'll be looking at tonight?

Former congresswoman and ex-labor secretary Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) is running ... for the L.A. county board of supervisors. I don't believe I have ever watched a board of supervisors race -- much less one featuring a former CABINET official.

There have been several women GOPers recently (Handel, Steelman, FL House women) who couldn't advance out of primaries because they didn't have the resources to compete financially. How do GOP women get better at fundraising? Seems like national infrastructure like Susan B Anthony or House GOP women's efforts just aren't helping enough (unlike, say, Emily's list for the Dems).

The GOP definitely has something of an old-boys network, and it has been harder for women to penetrate that and raise money. Ernst was slow at the start, even.

I think you're seeing the national party looking to promote more female candidates. And if they give them their blessing earlier, the money might flow a little easier.

I'm assuming you are unaware that the Wild play in St. Paul?

I stopped paying attention when the North Stars were run out of town. So disgraceful. It's like moving the Dallas Cowboys out of Texas.

Any interesting races other than Thad's?

I really like ex-Rep. Gene Taylor's (D, now R-Miss.) comeback attempt.

He's trying to beat the guy who beat him the in the general election in 2010, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.). Big question tonight is whether he makes the runoff.

How late will you be up?

Midnight-ish. We have a young person, Jaime Fuller, to cover California in the wee hours.

Oh, and we'll be live  blogging over at Post Politics. So stop on over...

Who is more likely to get the nod for Governor in 2018?

Early edge to Kamala.

What's this about a 34% primary having to go to a Party Convention? What are they, Utah?

It's really bizarre.

But I guess it's been invoked so rarely that it's probably done the job it was supposed to -- prevent candidates with little primary support from advancing.

When I see something like this, it makes me think this issue will be playing out for a while. How big do you think this will get?

I think it's a major issue. This is about presidential prerogatives, negotiating with terrorists and an alleged deserter. In other words, Congress is interested, foreign policy folks are interested and the military is VERY interested.

There are just so many facets ... and on top of that, the Bergdahl family is just so mysterious that I think questions will persist for a long time. This will live on.

I must say, I'm surprised that Charlie Cook has Walker listed as a toss up. I never thought he would coast to victory, but in an R year I assumed he would win with ease.

I think Democrats are pleasantly surprised with Mary Burke. That said, I don't think it's quite a toss-up. I definitely give Walker a slight edge.

Give a % to his chance of reelection?


He probably does not make the runoff right?

Really hard to say. But there are three candidates in that race with decent money. I think that increases the odds.

I find it funny that Republicans are bent out of shape about the prospect of him winning. I'm guessing that Mahatma Gandhi could run on the R line in CA and still lose by 30 points.

There is a little of that. Kashkari would be a huge underdog too.

But in a state where Republicans are hoping to recover and compete in the near future, having a guy like Donnelly lead your ticket could risk hurting the brand.

Hey, it wasn't the fans, it was the owner! His wife threatened to leave him if he didn't move. And you got a new team back pretty quickly.

But they are called the Wild. I mean, the WILD?!

I can't tell the difference between the Democrats running in next week's Virginia primary - any good places to look?

Don't you ever cancel again. Have you seen The Fix's live chat? There's like six questions about TV shows and Starbucks for every one about politics.

I'm going as quickly as I can.

In fairness to The Fix boss, he knows a lot more about pop culture, music and soccer than I do. I couldn't give a music recommendation if my life depended on it.

Oh, and I don't drink coffee.

Is it still a scandal?

Is and will be for quite some time.

John Oliver took an amazing stab at this issue on Sunday night. However its highly technical at its core and people get bored by it. Republicans are lining up for it because Obama clearly had a hand in nominating the person who made this choice. The DNC has clearly been bought off by Comcast. Considering they are literally the most hated corporation in the country (worse than GM and B of A) can the GOP use this in their favor? Hatred of the oil companies is mainly from the left, but hatred of your cable provider is universal.

I think that's a tough needle to thread. It's just such a dense, dense issue. Doesn't lend itself to 30-second ads AT ALL.

BTW, here's John Oliver's take for those interested.

A guy who disses hockey.

I absolutely love hockey. College hockey.

This is still a safe Republican seat ... correct?

Yeah. Davis needs a big screw-up from Abbott to be competitive here.

It's just not a top-tier race, no matter how much the left loves her.

Interesting and overlooked bit of news: Karen Handel endorsed Jack Kingston in the runoff. Not really a surprise considering how much she clearly despised Perdue after the whole high school graduate thing, but do you think there's any quid pro quo for future races going on here? Handel came real close to governor and then pretty close to senator, I doubt she's done with politics.

She might not think she is, but two primary losses and a lot of eager Republicans on the Georgia bench means she's probably on the way out.

She just couldn't really raise the money. Between that and her losses, I think a third attempt would be tough.

That said, it never hurts to be friendly with the next governor!

65%? Really? I haven't seen a poll with him up more than 3 points since Gardner got in

It's certainly no slam dunk. But incumbency means something and I think Udall is a capable politician who fits his state.

I'm not sure anybody thinks this is a 50-50 tossup at this point. Gardner has to prove some things.

Cory Garnder or Joni Ernst? Alison Lundergan Grimes or Terri Lynn Land? Monica Wehby or John Walsh?

All three of these are very tough. I would lean (very slightly) toward Ernst (because of open seat), Land (same reason) and Walsh (because of incumbency).

Do you see any GOP statewide candidates nabbing a majority or close to a majority of the Latino vote in their state this year? Greg Abbott, Susana Martinez, and Brian Sandoval seem the most likely

Sandoval is the big question. Dems didn't put up a big-name opponent, but he only got 33% of Latinos last time -- even as he won in a blowout.

Martinez got 38%, so she would need a big improvement too.

Abbott I wouldn't expect unless Davis totally flames out.

AR polling seems to be all over the place. What is happening there and what are Pryor's odds of victory in November?

I think this is a toss-up, has been a toss-up, and will continue to be a toss-up. I don't think Pryor ever actually led by 10 points, despite those two polls.

Seriously, shouldn't the White House have foreseen that trading a possible deserter for several terrorists would likely blow up in their faces? How clueless are they?

They really should have done more to inoculate themselves from criticism -- starting with telling the Intelligence Committee members beforehand. You lose Dianne Feinstein, and this become a much tougher deal.

It's hard to see how they didn't see this becoming a big deal. Maybe they did and they still just did it. But if they didn't see it coming, they need to look hard at themselves in the mirror and probably hire and outsider or two..

McDaniel v. Cochran. How does it shake out? Does Childers have more than a puncher's chance against McDaniel? (I assume he has no chance barring some sort of major scandal and/or health scare if GOP nominates Cochran).

In the primary -- we are hearing everything from Cochran wins by high single digits to McDaniel wins without a primary runoff. Split the difference and I think we're headed to a runoff.

If he loses, how much can be attributed to the fact that he has been in Washington for 4 decades, and voters want a change?

Look at the other incumbents who have been pushed out by the tea party -- Bennett, Specter, Lugar. What do they have in common?

The only relatively youngster was Murkowski.

Couldn't they have waited until after the election to put this out?

Might have been a good idea.

Thanks everyone for coming out. I'm glad we could get back to it after 2 weeks off.

We'll be back 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.
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