The Washington Post

Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 05, 2014

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

It's good to have you.

Before we get to politics, make sure to spend 1 minute of your time with this YouTube video. You can thank me later. 

We've got a bunch of big primaries this week -- on Tuesday, Thursday AND Saturday (!) -- and a bunch of incumbents could lose. Here's my take on that.

What else is on your mind? Immigration? Richard Nixon? As always, everything is fair game.

Let's do it...

Maggie Hassan v. Kelly Ayotte in 2016 -- does it happen?

No. I think Ayotte would be someone's VP in 2016 before she would challenge Hassan (who is quite popular).

It's probably time to give up the whole "Franken might be vulnerable" storyline. I know you're dying for Minnesota to be in the spotlight, but Nate Silver and company give it almost no chance.

It's certainly not one of the GOP's top targets. I was asked about it in the terms of dark horses that nobody really saw coming. Had I picked something more obvious, it wouldn't have really been a dark-horse race.

It was not a prediction that Franken will lose or is really vulnerable -- just that it's the most plausible race that nobody is really talking about.

How many stories have you written/read about Rand Paul's distinct ability as a Republican to connect to young and minority voters? Are you going to keep with that narrative after he ran away from DREAMers?

Saying that Rand Paul is attempting to reach out to minority and young voters is not the same as saying he is succeeding at it. I've seen plenty of stories in the former vein and little data to suggest it's actually working.

That said, he has the potential to appeal to young voters -- as his father did -- by virtue of the libertarian thing. As for minorities, that's a very tough slog for any Republican.

Does he run again in 2016? Does the governor run against him?

I said last week that I think it's more likely we don't see a Reid-Sandoval race than we do.

I think the combination of 1) Reid retiring and 2) Sandoval not running is greater than the chances of Reid and Sandoval facing off.

Reid would be an underdog, for sure. And if the Democrat that Reid is pushing for LG wins (Lucy Flores), that makes Sandoval's decision even harder, because his running for Senate would hand his governor's seat to Democrats.

So extreme that even Paul Broun's constituents won't elect him?

For more on Hice, see here.

He's the GOP nominee now, and it's a 63 percent Romney district, so I'm not sure how he loses.

Every time a Republican wingnut runs his or her mouth with some extremist viewpoint, doesn't it just play into Democrats' hands with respect to fundraising and GOTV campaigns? What ever happened to the concept of party discipline (which may well have cost the GOP the Senate in 2012, and could potentially again this November)?

There is no party discipline in the GOP. Especially among the tea party, it's every man/woman for himself. People like Jody Hice and Steve Stockman don't listen to their party leaders.

As for the GOP's Senate hopes being hurt by such things, we haven't really seen it so much from their nominees -- at least not in a game-changing way. There is still plenty of time, but the Akin/Mourdock moments still haven't happened.

I assume the questioner was asking about Maggie Hassan challenging Kelly Ayotte for her Senate seat.

You're probably right. I'm not sure I see it. Ayotte is pretty popular, and Hassan will only be in her second two-year term as governor. That's pretty early to get started trying to climb the ladder.

Whose political career is in worse shape right now?

Brown. Gillespie can lose and still win by running a good campaign. A second big loss in a row for Brown -- especially the way things are going now -- would be a pretty serious blow for Brown.

Aaron, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) declares that President Obama and the Democratic Party have launched a "war on whites" and it appears that The Washington Post supports his "beliefs" by giving him coverage that says "Maybe he's right, who knows?" When will The Post stop giving serious coverage to un-serious people? Many thanks!

I'm not sure what piece you are referring to. The only piece I've seen on this at the Post is from Jonathan Capehart, who does not take this position. 

Well, unfortunately for the nation, Jody Hice is no Mitt Romney. Isn't there a real risk to the GOP of enough Republicans in Hice's district finally getting fed up with ignorance and extremism like Hice's? He does have a Democratic opponent, correct?

He does have an under-funded Democratic opponent, but Democrats probably won't contest this race because they wouldn't be able to hold on to the seat for more than one term.

In addition, they would probably rather see this guy in Congress so they can use him against the GOP.

Does Tom Corbett need to get a dog so he'll have at least one best friend in Pennsylvania or should he start thinking about what he wants to be doing in retirement ?


Is your hairline more Nixon or JFK?

Congratulations on the most bizarre question today.

All I can say is I wish I had Martin Van Buren's facial hair.

Assuming that he does not run in 2016, do you see him endorsing anyone? If so, whom? He certainly could be helpful in fundraising.

I think he might try to move the needle for a more establishment-oriented candidate if he thinks it would help. I'm not sure his endorsement will be a big deal though -- unless it went to a really surprising candidate like Rand Paul or something.

Any thoughts on "celebrity" candidates and Clay Aiken in particular ? Are we likely to see more of this sort of thing or am I getting on the Kardashian bandwagon way too early?

Well, like a lot of celebrity politicians, Clay Aiken is very likely to lose. 

And I don't think we'll suddenly see a lot more celebrities running for office. They like to talk about it (looking at you, Baldwin), but they rarely take the jump. After all, being a celebrity is pretty cool; being a politician isn't.

Who's shoes would you rather be in -- Andrew Cuomo or Chris Christie?

In 2016? Christie. In 2020/2024? Cuomo.

Over/under July 2015 for a House vote on impeachment against President Obama?


How does a primary between Joe Sestak and Kathleen Kane shake out in 2016?

I don't know too much about Kane, but I do know there are a lot of Pennsylvania Democratic leaders who would prefer Sestak isn't their nominee again. I would expect a big push for Kane.

Which race ends up being more of a nail-biter -- Kentucky Senate or Georgia Senate?

Kentucky. There is a much bigger potential for a lopsided GOP win in GA. McConnell probably doesn't clear 50 percent by much regardless of what happens. His personal numbers just won't allow for it.

Break down the GOP field right now? Let's assume Jeb Bush doesn't run. Go.

Rand Paul: Biggest upside. Most versatile candidate. High flame-out potential.

Rubio: Best profile. Immigration is a weakness. Party will want him to succeed.

Perry: Not happening.

Huckabee: Might win Iowa, but not happening.

Jindal: Best resume. Needs an injection of charisma.

Cruz: Will be a factor. But probably can't win the nomination.

Walker: If he wins reelection. Sets himself up to be VP with decent campaign.

Ryan: Doesn't run.

Christie: More formidable than people think. Struggles with conservatives. Another high-upside/flame-out guy.

Say President Obama issues an executive order letting some of the undocumented immigrants have work permits. What is to stop the next Republican president from revoking the work permit? And since they have come out of the shadows to get a work permit (name, contact info, etc.), now it will be very easy for a Republican administration to deport them. This pretty much defines "unintended consequences" for President Obama's legacy.

I think rescinding work permits that have already been issued would be a VERY difficult thing for a GOP president. Once you give people something, it's very hard to take it away -- much harder than if it was never given in the first place.

I just don't see that happening. There could be lots of unintended consequences of a far-reaching executing action, but I don't think that's one.

I gave Webb money for his race against George Allen-the first pol I gave money to since McGovern's presidential run. Recently I have gotten emails from Webb's "Born Fighting" PAC in which Webb talks about getting involved in politics/public affairs again. Have you heard anything about Webb's intentions? Thanks.

He's going to Iowa and seems to be floating his own name. I'm not sure why he thinks he could win, though. 

If he wants a national future, does he need to get married?

Not today. I just don't think it's much of an issue in a country in which gay marriage now has clear majority support for a single person to be on a national ticket.

As a fellow Minnesotan who no longer cringes whenever she opens her mouth because nothing she says, no matter how bizarre, false, etc., really surprises me anymore, what do you think the end game is for her once she leaves Congress? In any event she certainly isn't leaving quietly...

I would expect her to do something similar to what Allen West is doing -- run some kind of conservative advocacy group/political action committee/be on TV/radio. That seems to be the usual dismount.

I think the question was in terms of whose scandal is worse?

I think it's too early to say. The NJ thing was worse from a public relations standpoint, but it still hasn't been tied directly to Christie. The Cuomo thing hasn't gotten as much pub, because he hasn't been leaning into a presidential run like Christie.

This "profile" nonsense is hilarious. He's basically already flamed out. The bigger flaw is that minorities don't vote for minorities without regard to policy. Ben Carson isn't beating Hillary any time soon, right?

The "profile" comment wasn't just about his race. He's also young, a good messenger (drymouth notwithstanding) and appeals to both the tea party and the establishment. If he could put it together, he has a lot of potential appeal.

Also, I would never compare him to Ben Carson in any way, shape or form. There's just really no parallel there.

He's currently walking a trapeze between the warring wings of the party, particularly on foreign policy. Which is greater: the chance he defers to the base/non-interventionists, the establishment/neocons or runs as a middle ground candidate?

I think he will try to run as the middle-ground candidate. If he has to choose, I think he goes establishment. He can't really out-tea party Paul and Cruz.

Meaning candidate most likely to get nominated and vp he's most likely to pick


The first half of the ticket is much harder to pick a favorite than the second half. For VP, Rubio and Walker make a lot of sense to me.

My money is on his being the nominee. (If Jeb runs, I'm betting on him, but I don't think he is running). A lot of top Republicans would do almost anything to keep Rand Paul from being the nominee. And there's a non-trivial chance that Scott Walker is defeated for re-election.

Maybe. I agree with the points on Rand and Walker.

I could see him endorsing Jeb but he's not running. According to "Double Down," Christie had huge issues with Romney's team so I can't see him endorsing Christie. My money's on Rubio.

Fair points. Someone like Walker would make sense for Romney too.

What would the Democratic nomination fight look like if Clinton decided not to run? What issues do you see animating Democratic primary voters? Single-payer? Marijuana legalization? Gun control? Higher taxes on the rich? Abortion rights? Something else entirely?

This is a great question. Economic populism would be a big one. Also, immigration.

Who, in your opinion, are the rising Democrats to watch around the country? We've seen Julian Castro ascend pretty quickly after his DNC Keynote. Any other young Dems. you see becoming serious players on the national stage?

To name a few:



Schatz (if he wins Saturday)

Joaquin Castro

Ross Miller

Tulsi Gabbard

Joe Kennedy III

Hakeem Jeffries

I believe Elizabeth Warren when she says she's not running but if, by some miracle, Clinton does not run, could Warren be persuaded?

I think she would have a hard time not taking a real, serious look at it. For now, she's trying to be gracious by saying "I'm not running." Maybe that earns some goodwill from Clintonworld in the event Hillary doesn't run.

Thanks everyone for coming out! Great questions and great points, all around.

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: