Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 12, 2014

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

Hey all, and welcome back to the latest Ask Aaron live chat. It's been a VERY slow news week, but we've got primaries tonight in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut, and plenty to talk about when it comes to last week's primaries, Hillary vs. Obama, and anything else you want to talk about.

As always, anything is fair game, so ask away!

In last week's chat, you mentioned that there is little discipline within the House GOP. How come? It seems even Tea Party types must care about things like committee assignments and office space, not to mention help with campaign cash. Is Boehner just incredibly reluctant to use the carrots and sticks at his disposal, or is Washington really that different these days?

A few things:

1) A lot of these members were elected as outsiders, and it's the surest way to avoid a primary challenge. So self-preservation sets in, and they stick with what works.

2) There aren't as many carrots as before -- particularly when it come to the biggest carrots of all:earmarks. Leaders still reminisce about the days when they could rangle votes with pet projects.

3) These members are a reflection of their party. The tea party rose as much in response to Obama as to what they saw as too much spending by previous GOP administrations. They are necessarily suspicious of the party establishment.

4) They didn't need help to get elected. A lot of these people were swept up in the wave of 2010. They didn't need establishment help back then, so they don't feel the need to get it now.

It's almost like something about their differences on Iraq has been litigated before. And she didn't exactly get blown out. Slow news weak = way too much attention to this.

I disagree. This is a former secretary of state directly criticizing the still-serving president for the foreign policy which she was involved in implementing. Her language was unambiguous, too. That just doesn't happen that much.

There are two upshots:

1) Obviously there are political implications for Hillary distancing herself in advance of 2016.

2) This makes it open season on Obama's foreign policy. Suddenly, the highest of high-profile Democrats is criticizing him for it -- and that lends credence to GOP attacks.

This wasn't a strength for Obama before, but it doesn't help as he tries to manage the situations in the Middle East and Ukraine.

In your recent article, you claim the complexity surrounding the Moreland Commission scandal in New York is Cuomo's best friend. What's complex about it? I (reporter in Manhattan) chalk the Siena poll up to voter indifference, not difficulty in grasping the story.

(Piece here)

Indifference and complexity certainly play hand in hand here. I could have used the first word instead of the second and still made pretty much the same point.

There are enough ins and outs (I confess to being a little slow to grasp precisely what happened, myself) that I think casual people just aren't even tuning it in and taking the time to understand it.

Are they indifferent? Yes. Is it complex? Yes. And that's a great combo for Cuomo.

Hawaii politics mystifies me, so answer these questions for me: Why was Neil Abercrombie defeated? And when will we know the results of the Senate primary?

1) Abercrombie was hugely unpopular, and from what I hear, it was a combination of a somewhat abrasive personality and a death by 1,000 cuts. It's not clear that there was one thing that sunk him. People just didn't really like that guy for a bunch of reasons.

2) Friday is the day the final two precincts are voting. It's basically over, with Schatz a shoo-in.

Are they ever coming back?

Only if Democrats re-take the House, which probably won't happen any time soon. If Republicans tried to bring them back, the tea party would break off and form a third party.

It looks to me like the Republican road to 51 is looking more likely, and the road to 55 is looking less likely. Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu look in deeper trouble, but Mark Warner and Jeanne Shaheen and Jeff Merkley look safer than they were a few months ago. Republicans have a better shot at Iowa than they did, but Michigan looks increasingly tough.

I would agree with this -- although I don't think Merkley and Warner were every really THAT vulnerable.

Certainly Shaheen has gotten away from the GOP, but that shouldn't surprise anyone considering she's always been popular. And Michigan is trending the same way, because I'm not sure Land is a compelling candidate. But Iowa looks better and Colorado is clearly on the map.

The GOP's ceiling without an actual wave election is probably 53 seats. If they get above that, something major happened.

Simpler explanation: Hawaiians *really* loved Sen. Inouye.

I tend to think stuff like this (and endorsements) matter somewhat, but that it's over-blown that this was a major factor.

Also, if Hawaiians *really* loved Inouye and wanted to make a real statement, why not elect the person he wanted to succeed him, Hanabusa?

It's very well-established that the "deepest red" parts of the country benefit the most from federal funding. Yet the people elect leaders who refuse this money. Admittedly, I live in California so maybe I don't get it, but I'm so confused.

I wonder if we might start seeing moderate Republicans running ads against these anti-earmark tea partiers pointing out all the funding their states have lost.

I still don't think it would work, though.

Where there any real issue disagreements in the Senate primary? Or was it just ambition and factional politics? And, while this is always awkward, how much of a role did ethnicity play?

Ethnicity is always a factor in Hawaii, but as the two races showed, people don't just vote along ethnic lines. One of the white candidates got 31%; the other got 49%. That's a pretty big gap.

There is a long history of white candidates versus Asian-American candidates in Hawaii Democratic primaries. And that's not a coincidence.

Does Gov. Walker have a Primary Challenger? What about his opponent?

Mary Burke faces state Rep. Brett Hulsey, but it's not expected to be close. Walker us unopposed.

The real GOV primaries are the GOP races in Minnesota and Connecticut.

I think it's much better for Hillary to avoid being classified as too liberal because no one will beat her for the nomination if she runs. Blunt the GOP attack. In the short-run, isn't it good for Democrats in 2014 if the Obama coalition remembers why it voted for Obama in the first place?

Here's what I don't understand: Was Clinton's problem that she was viewed as too liberal? I'm not sure that was the case.

To me, this feels more like her seeing some tough situations in the months/years ahead, and she doesn't want those to be plastered to her resume. She's saying she would have done it differently, thus she doesn't own what happens.

I know she said "No means No!", but would a draft movement get her in?

If Clinton doesn't run, she has to take a look at it. I don't think a draft means much of anything, unless it were to get HUGE.

What's his political future if Hillary runs? He seems like more of an appointed-office guy to me -- maybe Attorney General?

That's the most logical post for him. He takes a two-year break after the 2014 election and potentially joins a Clinton administration.

He's still a young man, too, so lots of opportunities are out there.

A friend and I discussed a poll the other day. He wanted to know if it was legit. What are the tell-tale signs of a good/bad poll? Name maybe the top 5 if you can?

1) No cell phones

2) It's automated/IVR

3) It's online-only

4) Small sample size (under 400 for a state, 1,000 for a national poll)

5) Slanted questions (which happens more than you might think -- check the actual questions!)

Hi Aaron -- who would Franken most like to face come November and why? Least like to face? Or given that he seems to be in a pretty solid position for re-election, for the moment, at least, does it really matter?

It's pretty apparent he's going to face businessman Mike McFadden, who was the choice of the GOP establishment.

I just got back form Milwaukee, and I didn't see much political ads, except for a County Sheriff Race. Is there a storm to come over the horizon?

Oh, it's coming. Walker's race is looking more like a toss-up. There just wasn't really a primary.

Good piece on this here, from Sean Sullivan.

Wasn't this one of the things that kept Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) from getting totally blown out of the GOP primary by Chris McDaniel?

Yeah it was certainly part of his argument, and we're seeing it creep into some incumbent reelection campaigns. But I'm still not seeing challengers use it.

Our Californian correspondent is kind of missing the point of being anti-earmark. Tea Partiers are trying not to "get theirs" but to have the country borrow and spend less of China's money. The logic is that if the US spent less, taxes would be able to decrease, and people would have more of their own money to spend the way they want to spend it. I know that's difficult for some to believe, but that's the goal.

I think we sell people short when we suggest that their votes are/should be 100 percent about self-interest. I think there are plenty of people who vote for what/whom they think are best for the country as a whole and not just themselves.

On the Democratic side, I would note, there have been a whole lot of rich people calling for increasing taxes on the wealthy. That doesn't help them personally, but they still promote it.

Surely there's some middle ground between "the bridge to nowhere" and total gridlock. Is the real problem Boehner, his troops, or something else?

Not really. The tea party got its ban on earmarks, and it's not going to back off and open the door to them. It's just not a feasible move for GOP leaders right now.

Am I crazy to take Patterson (on the Vikings) as my #2 WR in a 16-team league? We use 3 WRs and I think he'd be a steal. You're connected to Minnesota. Would Patterson let me down?

I tell you what: I'm a little excited about Teddy Bridgewater. And even without him, Patterson was a monster in the final few weeks of the season last year.

I'd take him as a No. 2, as long as you draft a No. 3 shortly thereafter. Could pay off big.

I wish we could make a collective card and send it to him right now. I know some people might be annoyed but I think it's wonderful to see how so many people of different ages and backgrounds were entertained by him.

If we don't celebrate great talent like Robin Williams, I'm not sure what our country is striving for. And you're right, he united generations, which is pretty rare in show business.

I don't get why Hillary would be criticizing the president now. Once she has the nomination, and he has given a great speech at the convention, sure. But why now? It doesn't seem to be to her advantage to alienate him or his staff or his supporters right now.

It's much easier to plant that seed today and watch it grow than try and do it with four months left in the 2016 campaign.

If things go South in Iraq, it's much easier for her to say, "I told you so two years ago."

What is an Iggy Azalea? Is it poisonous?

I don't know what this is, and it's my goal never to learn.

All over the news, but how much are candidates talking about it? If they are, what are they saying?

They aren't talking about it, really, but it's certainly a tense situation right now, and it has the potential to become a very important issue.

Thanks to everyone for some great questions.

Enjoy your August recess, 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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