Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Aug 26, 2014

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

Welcome back, fellow politics junkies!

As always, this chat is a catch-all for any and all political questions you might have. So feel free to mix it up.

Let's get to it...

Does a Republican takeover in the Senate actually make a Democrat-controlled House after 2016 more likely?

I'm not sure I have seen that theory. I would say that Democrats will have a GREAT chance to win the Senate right back in 2016, given targets in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Just as the 2008 Dem wave gives Republicans lots of opportunities this year, the 2010 GOP wave gives Dems lots of targets in 2014.

The House, on the other hand, will be pretty tough for Democrats to win back anytime this decade.

With Sarah Palin passing on running for president in 2012 and Paul Ryan perhaps leaning away from running in 2016 - when in presidential politics was the last time all these VP candidates chose not to run and does the VP spot really carry any incentives?

The VP slot definitely carries incentives. Whether Paul Ryan runs isn't a reflection, I don't think, of him not having a chance. I think he would. But he seems to have other priorities too.

And he is certainly better-positioned because he was the VP nominee.

As far as a former VP candidate not running in their own right the next time around, I'm not sure it's that uncommon. Jack Kemp didn't run in 2000, for example.

Of the GOP's three openly gay House candidates, Carl Demaio, Richard Tisei and Dan Innis, who do you see as most likely to win?

DeMaio is running in the most winnable district, but all three of them are rated as toss-ups by the Cook Report right now.

Innis, for what it's worth, still has to win a primary against ex-Rep. Frank Guinta, so that probably knocks him down a peg as far as most likely.

He was endorsed this week by the Union Leader, quite a feat considering its conservative nature and his status as an openly gay candidate. Do you see any potential for him to upset Guinta? He seems like he would be a stronger candidate against Shea-Porter anyway.

Welcome to the Dan Innis chat!

While I haven't see polling, I certainly wouldn't rule it out. Guinta is not seen as a juggernaut, and Innis has had plenty of money behind him, including from a one-candidate super PAC.

For electability, I think you could make a case for Innis. After all, Guinta lost by 4 points in 2012 to someone (Shea-Porter) who is not seen as a great campaigner.

Aaron, I recall that, in previous years, female senators had agreed not to campaign against one another regardless of party. I suppose it was a way of emphasizing the need for women in the upper chamber. This morning I saw that Sen. Ayotte was featured in a Scott Brown ad in New Hampshire. I may have missed it in past elections, but has that agreement gone by the wayside?

Here's more on that pact.

Perhaps the pact is more about not attacking one another rather than not campaigning against one another. There's a difference, and Ayotte in the ad only says nice things about Brown -- not mean things about Shaheen. 

I was in Northern Florida recently and was amazed to see ads attacking Rep. Ted Yoho from the right. For whom is he not sufficiently "conservative?" He's a pure Tea Partier. What did he do to draw a primary challenge?

Well, the guy who's challenging him is actually quite the character. Did you know what LARPing is?

I don't think his campaign is a reflection of conservative disenchantment with Yoho, at all. It's just a guy trying to do what he thinks he needs to to win.

Which Senate seat do you think is the 6th seat to fall to the GOP (hypothetically). NC, IA, AK, CO

I change my mind often on this, but right now it's Iowa. I just think incumbency matters more than we realize, and that's a swing-state open seat.

DC seems to be writing Quinn's political obit but he's closing on Rauner. Call me crazy, but I think political leanings of IL straighten out Quinn comes all the way back to win.

I would NEVER write off Pat Quinn. The guy finds a way to win, and it's AMAZING that he didn't face a serious primary.

That said, he is REALLY unpopular. They basically need to turn Rauner into Thurston Howell III, which it sounds like is the goal.

Whats the likelihood of WV Democrats "coming home" to support Tennant in the WV Senate race? Democrats have a huge advantage in registration in WV.

10%? There's just not much reason to believe this is a close race right now. It's definitely more attainable for Democrats than South Dakota and Montana -- especially given that Democratic tradition in WV -- but I feel like national Democrats would be trying harder there if thought they had a good chance.

Do you see them dying down in future elections? Or are they here to stay?

They definitely stick around for a while -- until donors stop giving to them. Right now the primary industry is well-funded, and consultants are going to give people what they'll pay for.

When the funds dry up, the movement will too.

There seems to be a lot of fluidity on where the 2016 general election stands at the moment. What say you on a generic Republican (because apparently that's a thing) facing off against Hillary?

Republicans probably wish they could have run Generic Republican in the 2012 presidential race.

Here's my take on 2016, which I see as a toss-up.

How do you feel about Matt Cassel starting for the Vikings?

Best of three/two bad options. He's a good placeholder for Bridgewater, who I am OK with seeing take reps on the bench for now. Too many rookie QBs cast into the fire too early, and I think it ruins them.

I think the media's need to report on the "right now" and newness, dealing with the press teams and seeing the ads puffs up the challengers in primary season. Someone like Ernst strikes me as an implosion waiting to happen but is a mirage because she beat other challengers.

I can see that argument about Ernst -- given the impeachment talk, etc. -- but I've thought that before about candidates who never wound up imploding.

Earning the nomination means the national party sends a whole bunch of consultants to make sure you don't say the wrong thing. That helps a little-known state senator like Ernst, who has never experienced such scrutiny.

Hey Aaron, thanks for the chat. I live in a state bordering Kentucky and am catching ads from Grimes v. McConnell race. Grimes' ads are hitting the fact that McConnell has been in Washington too long. McConnell's ads seem to be his bringing home the pork to Kentucky. Do you believe that these themes will have any impact or will the candidates need to adopt other themes?

I think that's pretty much the race, right there. It's both of them taking the same argument -- in Washington too long -- and putting the best spin on it.

I live in Dunk City, Florida, (ask Cillizza about it) and I just voted against two incumbent Republicans in their primaries -- not just because I don't think anybody deserves reelection this year, but because they got so negative during their campaigns (both this season, and the primary to replace Trey Radel) that I soured on them. Calling a staunch conservative a liberal because he voted for a negotiated state budget that included taxes just isn't the way to go about it.


"When the funds dry up, the movement will too." The sun will run out of fuel before the Koch brothers run out of money to finance their "Tea Party." Next question?

The Koch brothers organization isn't really a tea party thing. It's become the GOP establishment.

The question was in reference to tea partiers running primaries against incumbents/establishment candidates.

Resolved: multiple Democratic House challengers, especially those that announced following the government shutdown, have as their goal to run a credible campaign to set themselves up to run again in 2016, when conditions will be more favorable

It's possible. But I think House candidates get less credit for solid-but-losing campaigns than a lot of other candidates do.

If you're running in a toss-up race and it's not a wave year (which this isn't), you need to compete and win.

Several anti abortion groups are doing a tour this week promoting their proposed ban of abortion at 20 weeks. Most of the polling I've seen has shown pretty strong support for the measure, even among women. Will it become more of a presence on the trail, in the vein of the partial birth abortion ban?

Certainly not to the extent of the partial-birth abortion ban. Republicans have also been pretty reticent to make this a campaign issue, knowing that it will lead to talking about other social issues and women's rights.

I think the lack of dialogue on this is really a testament to the waning influence of social conservative groups. They have been beaten down on gay marriage, and now that can't even fight for a popular 20-week abortion ban.

To me, the big unasked question of this election, and the only one that really matters much, is whether Democrats' efforts to turn out young single women, Latinos and blacks will work. They are spending tens of millions on the effort, in the form of the DSCC's Bannock Street Project and other efforts, so clearly they see the importance of the task. How likely do you think the effort is to succeed, and where do you think their constituencies' turnout will fall, on a scale of 2010 (1) to 2012 (10)?

I don't know that it's the ONLY question that matters much, but it's certainly huge.

It's hard to say how likely it is to succeed, but so far there doesn't seem to be too much progress made on getting these demographics interested in the election. That said, the polling is a little old, and things can change.

I really don't know what these voters are going to get excited about, though.

Hi Aaron -- of the three times daily e-mails I get from the Franken campaign, every other one now seems to reference the fact that it's a single digit race. Does that match your take, or is that just fund-raising strategy?

Yes and yes. Never, ever take fundraising e-mails seriously. They are full of lies and half-truths.

But it's probably high-single digits.

Sorry, but the "handshake is a game-changer" sort of column is what's wrong with political coverage. Who in NC is going to be influenced by that?

Images do matter. And now Republicans have one.

Nobody is saying this is the end for Hagan, but there is a reason politicians in similar situations studiously avoid such photo ops with the president. And it's not because they're too busy.

I heard you came from Minnesota. What's your favorite Hot Dish?

Green Bean Hot Dish, all the way.

Which are the races to watch tonight? Which underdog might make it?

The GOP primary for Arizona governor is the big one, along with some competitive House primaries in that state.

Sean Sullivan has a great preview.

Top 3 characters and episode?


Groundskeeper Willie

Dr. Nick

Monorail episode

Disappointed that "House of Cards" lost?

Nah. Definitely not the best show on television, even though I like it.

I thought True Detective would win, honestly. Doesn't Vince Gilligan have enough Emmys??

Fluke poll, or actual trend?

I have a hard time seeing why he suddenly closed to within 2 points, honestly. That said, I don't think he was necessarily down by 12 last month, either.

"I really don't know what these voters are going to get excited about, though." Once Michael Brown's murderer is given a "get out of jail free" pass, there will be such a violent and justified reaction to it that the response to it will make the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King look like a walk in the park. When people have nothing, they have nothing to lose.

I really just don't know that Ferguson is a voting issue. Are Democrats going to take up the cause of the protesters in order to get black voters to the polls? I doubt it. Are African Americans concerned about Ferguson going to see any real remedy by going to the polls and casting votes for Mary Landrieu/Kay Hagan/Mark Pryor? Hard to see that, either.

Who is more likely to be governor after this year?


Chris Hayes openly wondered on Twitter how Hillary could not have issued a statement on Ferguson. I don't see much of an upside with her doing that. What about you?

Given her standing as a major political figure and potential 2016-er who will rely on the votes of African Americans if she were to run, it might behoove her to say SOMETHING.

There's certainly not much upside to weighing in, but there might be downside to being silent for too long. She doesn't need to take sides, but complete silence is conspicuous.

What role will it play in Nov.?

Well, my answer a few weeks ago would have been not much. But with the ISIS situation leading to American involvement, that's the point at which these issues become politically pertinent.

I still don't think it's dominant, but it's an issue now.

Thanks again to everyone for coming out. Some great questions for our last August chat.

Let's do it again 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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