Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jul 29, 2014

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

Hey everyone. Welcome to the final July chat of the year. Next week, it's back to primary season.

As for today, we've got plenty of political subplots, including impeachment, Israel, immigration and various words that don't begin with "I," too.

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

Steve Israel has been more vocal on it than Sarah Palin has. I'm all for calling out radicalism whenever it manifests itself, but shouldn't the media be pointing out how much Dems are going out of their way to play this up?

Sure, we should definitely point out that Democrats are pushing this idea to raise money, and we are. But it doesn't exist unless some Republicans are pushing itand it has real support.

A recent poll showed 33 percent of Americans agree with impeaching President Obama. That's (likely) a majority of today's Republican Party.

If that support didn't exist, then this would be an issue that doesn't warrant our attention. But there is real support for this idea. And Republicans legitimately need to deal with it.

In 2010 it was Wisconsin. In 2012 it was North Dakota. What do you see this year?

I think if one race fits that mold, it's the state right between those  two: Minnesota.

Just like in Wisconsin, the GOP candidate is a lightly touted businessman, and the incumbent is popular but not overly popular and has a liberal reputation.

Chance that happens? Over/under 30%?

Under. Even if you grant that he has a 40% chance of losing (or higher), the GOP math to win the Senate becomes much harder if he loses.

Saw the leaked internal poll with him up 30. This means he's doomed right?

Hah. The Eric Cantor jokes will never get old.

It has been interesting to see some folks rally around Lamar's opponent, Joe Carr. But they seem to be a little torn between that race and Kansas.

I think Alexander is probably fine, but perhaps it will be closer than we once thought.

Obviously the methodology is suspect, and results like Rick Scott +6, Brownback +13, Begich +10, and Terri Lynn Land +1 back that up. But most other results seem in line with the other polling done, albeit a bit more favorable to the GOP. Do you give any credence to any of the polls done?

The other one that struck me as being really strange was Durbin being only +8 on Oberweis. There's just no way.

YouGuv does not meet our standards for polling and publication.

Is Terri Lynn Land overrated?

I think the expectations were set too high for her when she started that race raising a lot of money and was close in the polls. She has never been seen as a top-flight recruit, and I actually think Peters is a pretty talented politician. (He has won a swing district and beat a black Democrat in a majority-black district.)

Michigan was always going to be a state where Republicans were probably close but would have a hard time getting the victory. Hard to get over that hump.

Chance they're both in the Senate next year? Over/under 30%?

Well under. If Ernst wins in Iowa, I have a hard time seeing McConnell losing, and vice versa.

The print edition of the Post or Bobby Jindal's Presidential campaign?

Hey now!

Jindal is perhaps the best GOP candidate for president on paper. He needs an injection of charisma, though.

Why do you think none of the credible women in the GOP want/will run for the presidency in 2016? If any, who do you see as potentially (secretly) planning on running?

I think the one that seems most plausible would be someone like Kelly Ayotte. But she has a reelection campaign in 2016.

The other would be Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico. But she has made pretty clear that she's not interested. Too bad for the GOP.

Where would the race be if Dave Camp had entered?

I think either he or Mike Rogers would have had a slightly better chance than Land. But all of them would have been underdogs.

If Grimes wins, does it give other Dems hope that the state can be in play in '16? Maybe Stumbo for Congress against "insider" Hal Rogers?

I'm not sure Hal is going to be in jeopardy.

The biggest question -- one I asked on Twitter today -- is whether Dems mount a challenge to Rand Paul. Right now he wants to run for prez and for reelection. Do they give him a pass and hope he becomes the GOP nominee, or do that try to pick off an unlikely seat in the Senate?

Politico this week gave an early look at the wrangling already going on for Boxer, Feinstein and Brown's seats by the highest California Democrats. The top three in line, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and Antonio Villaraigosa, all seem to prefer the governor's mansion to the Senate. Do you see them declaring war on each other for it, or trying to divvy up the seats, and are there any Republicans who could put up a fight for any of the seats?

I think Newsom runs, because he stepped aside the last time. The question is whether the others defer to him. I don't think they do.

On the GOP side, the hope is and has been that Neel Kashkari can run a credible race against Brown this year and improve his stock for 2016. But California is a tough road to hoe for the GOP.

Does he even think about running for President (if he even gets past Mark Schauer)?


Assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and a male is the Republican nominee, does the latter have to choose a woman as his vice presidential nominee? Why or why not?

I don't think so. But I think there would be significantly more pressure to pick a woman or a minority running mate. There are more obvious options on the latter count.

He's up with an ad attacking Shaheen over the border crisis and saying she supports "pro-amnesty policies." Does his polling show him vulnerable on the issue in a primary or her in the general?

I can't really get a read on this. It's worth noting that he seems to be the only Republican candidate employing this strategy, so maybe others aren't seeing what he's seeing in the numbers.

Particularly black and Latino turnout. NC and CO are two races where the polling swings wildly based off differing estimations of the percentage of voters who will be Latino and black. If 2010 is 0 and 2012 is 100 in terms of minority turnout, where do you predict 2014 will fall?

1 or 2. There's really no reason to believe it will be closer to 2012 than 2010.

The one thing I will say is that Democrats really NEED black turnout in some key races, so perhaps they will have more incentive to focus on that aspect of things and it will pay dividends. But even then, we're not talking anything close to 2012 levels.

I was at his "working families" speech last week at Catholic University. Anyone who doubts he's running is kidding themselves. Every line in the speech is a poll tested precursor to a stump speech, including the way he eviscerated liberal policies for the poor and working class. But it was his handling of gay marriage, calling tolerance "a two way street," and condemning past discrimination against gays, and abortion, framing it as science and human rights issue, that were the biggest indicators he's already trying to navigate the primary and general.

Rubio is a very careful and strategic candidate, and he does well on his feet. Even when he was doing something that probably hurts him today -- pushing comprehensive immigration reform -- he made the case directly to the Limbaughs of the conservative world, and he did a good job.

And you're right that he almost definitely will run for president. But maybe it's not in 2016?

Does the Tea Party class of 2010 have nightmares about running with Presidential turnout?

The question is whether it's presidential turnout or it's the Obama coalition.

There's a good chance the presidential turnout of 2008 and 2012 won't look like the turnout of 2016. It might not be as scary, then.

Assuming the Senate turns red this year, what are the chances that it turns back to blue in 2016 (due to higher turnout and races more favorable to democrats)?

Probably right around 50-50.

I have always thought that one of the most enticing things for Grimes to get into the race was the prospect of running for Rand's seat which will likely be open in 2016 unless a Republican governor and state House is elected and the law is changed, all three of which are big ifs. If she beats McConnell, great, if not she is first in line in both parties for an open seat in a presidential year.

A good point. But McConnell's opponents tend to limp away from their campaigns (see: Lunsford, Bruce).

If Hillary doesn't run (I know, right) does Warren take her poll numbers and inevitability if she gets in?

No. She's just not nearly as well-known and experienced as a campaigner. She probably starts as the favorite, though, given the dearth of other candidates.

Most are taking his proposal as a sign he's not going to run. How would it play in the primary if he did? Seems to be getting very little criticism on the right. Relatedly, will Rubio's embrace of reform conservatism AND his immigration stance cost him?

I think Paul Ryan is less interested in setting himself up to run for president and more in trying something that will help his party and get something done.

If Ryan was focused like a hawk on running for president, we'd see him doing more things in that vein.

Aaron, I was really surprised to see you estimate the chances that the Democrats will retake the Senate two years from now as just 50/50. Isn't the GOP defending twice as many seats, and doing so in a presidential election year? I'd love to hear more about your reasoning.

The map is definitely good for Democrats, but it's not as good as the map is for Republicans this year.

A few things:

1) The top Dem pickup opportunities will be:




Those are three blue states, as opposed to the 6/7 that Republicans are pursuing this year.

2) I think Republicans in the many swing states up in 2016 have pretty decent numbers -- in addition to some thin Democratic benches in states like Florida and Ohio.

3) Republicans have some good pickup opportunities, in including Harry Reid in Nevada and Michael Bennet in Colorado.

4) We'll be at the tail end of Obama's presidency, and it doesn't appear that he'll exit as a popular president, if history is any guide. It's hard to see how Democrats have a great election if indeed they're coming off a dimly viewed presidency.

On the Dem side is there a chance that WV could get closer?

It's not outside the realm of possibility. But I think Capito would need to stumble pretty badly.

I think the whole hype over this happening is way overblown. With the possible exception of Toomey, who will be very well funded and likely benefit from a primary fight between Kane and Sestak, and Burr's seat, which will likely be open, no Republican seats are in immediate radical danger. Plus Republicans have Reid, who would be an underdog to someone like Heck and a huge underdog to Sandoval, and Bennet to go after as well

I think Kirk's seat and Johnson's seat would fit your definition of "radical danger," especially if Kirk doesn't run again.

What is the likelihood that a GOP Senate would never approve an Obama appointment to the Court? Is it any different if it's Scalia or Kennedy that are replaced over a liberal Justice?

The justice being replaced definitely matters, even if it technically shouldn't.

The general practice has been that the Senate approves the president's pick unless there is huge resistance. I would expect the tea party wing would prefer not to follow that precedent, though, which would be a very interesting situation, indeed.

Is it time for a credible third party challenge? How about a candidate that takes both parties to task for being beholden to big money? Does Ross Perot have a son?

That person needs lots of personal wealth and a desire to run a losing campaign. There are just so many things that need to happen to make that feasible.

Lucky for you, Ralph Nader is on the case.

You can get Sirius/XM (no I don't work for them) cheaper with a variety of channels than her $10/month site. Am I missing something?

Also: Netflix.

He's running behind Jerry Brown by only (as ironic as that sounds) about 20 points despite not receiving all that much attention and Brown's huge financial and name rec head start. Considering California's Democratic lean has only increased in the past couple years, is it not surprising that Kashkari seems on track to finish only a few points behind Meg Whitman, who ran in a much better year for Republicans?

That would be a major victory for him -- especially since Whitman was running in 2010 and Brown wasn't a popular current governor at the time.

This is the biggest reason I can't imagine Hillary having a coronation: debates. No one, including her, is going to want to see a lone podium on a stage with her just answering questions from a couple reporters. On the other hand if there are other candidates on the stage who actually want to win, as they likely will if they took the trouble of getting in in the first place, they're going to have to attack her. How do you see that shaking out?

There will definitely be people taking a run at her. The question is whether any of them are actually viable alternatives.

Clinton's supposed "inevitability" is as much about her as it is the other folks she would face.

Most big races will start to be decided as undecided voters start to break post Labor Day, particularly in states where the candidates are both currently in the low forties. What do you feel will be the biggest determinant in their decision on who to back? It's hard to see something bigger than their approval/disapproval of the president.

There is certainly a dearth of timely, big electoral issues right now. So either these campaigns become about Obama (as the GOP would like) or about more localized issues (as Democrats would like).

Obama is definitely a factor in all of this, though. If he's the prevailing factor, Democrats lose the Senate; no question.

It's worth noting that margins were as important as turnout in the Obama coalition. In addition to the fact that a lot of those lower propensity minority voters may not be motivated to vote by anyone besides Obama, you also have to take into account that Obama was unique in his ability to cobble together not just majorities but BIG majorities of minorities, upscale whites and young people. If in 2016 the GOP nominates a candidate who presents a better face to the party (such as Rubio) may also be able to cut into the margins of those majorities, and the Democratic nominee fails to turn out enough of them in the first place then the whole coalition collapses.

Very smart points, all.

Does the recent war (is it a civil war?) in Gaza have the possibility to cause a major rift in the Democratic Party?

I just don't see this as an electoral issue right now. It might be an issue with the donor class, but I don't think average voters care much until the United States is forced to play more of a role.

Do you think he's taking lessons from Mitch McConnell on playing nice/destroying the Tea Party? He is the next in line for a challenge from Mr. McDaniel.

I think McDaniel will have a hard time being taken seriously after all this, to be honest.

And I don't think Wicker has the same vulnerabilities that Cochran had.

Jim Tracy is going to win that seat right?

Incumbency still matters, so I don't think we should be pretending like Tracy is a shoo-in.

But you can bet national Republicans would sure prefer that he won.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. As usual, your questions and insights are great and help me do my job better. For that, I thank you.

And 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.
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