Post Politics Hour
Wednesday, November 9, 2005; 11:00 AM
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washingtonpost.com political columnist/blogger
The transcript follows.
Chris Cillizza: Good morning and welcome to the post-election chat. I spent last night in the Post newsroom monitoring results in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere. Obviously, Democrats are rejoicing today with a handful of celebratory press conference all around Washington. Republicans are a bit more morose as they were looking for a win on which to start anew after a disastrous last few months politically. Let's get to the questions.
Jacksonville, Fla.: Why is the national media painting this as a major setback for the GOP headed into the 2006 elections? To the average observer, it would seem that the "tide of change" supposedly sweeping the country isn't really anything more than media hype. After all, nothing changed hands last night, right? In fact, reforms in Ohio--supposedly the state in the most upheaval--failed miserably, so why slant in the story we are being fed? Is the media creating a story where there is no story?
Chris Cillizza: I am not sure the "national media" is responsible for spinning last night's results. Democrats are working overtime to try and tie what happened in Virginia and New Jersey last night to their prospects for 2006 -- a ritual that the winning party goes through in any off year election. It remains to be seen whether these races are a litmus test for next November. Remember that in 2001, Democrats won the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia only to struggle through losses in the 2002 midterm elections. What last night's election did seem to prove is that President Bush is not the unalloyed benefit to Republican candidates he once was. He appeared on Kilgore's behalf on Monday night in an attempt to push the GOP nominee across the finish line -- an effort that came up well short.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Many people have brought up Warner's popularity and centrism in discussing '08 ambitions. You've traveled in Va. What are his abilities in terms of campaigning, giving speeches, and things like that? Evan Thomas mentioned that Clinton, Bush, Reagan actually enjoy campaigning whereas Kerry and Gore don't. It's important to keep in mind Iowa will probably play an important role in 2008, and campaigning is pretty important in those caucuses.
Chris Cillizza: For 2008 watchers, the big story coming out of Tim Kaine's victory last night was the likely bump given to Mark Warner's presidential ambitions. When I traveled with Warner and Kaine a few weeks ago, I was frankly surprised at how good the outgoing governor is on the stump. He was back-slapping the men, hugging the women and kissing the babies with a natural ease that he definitely did not have when he first ran for governor in 2001. It remains to be seen whether anyone can match the financial and institutional might of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 but Warner clearly has the political skills to be in the conversation.
Washington, D.C.: How much affect do you think the negative Kilgore ads had on the outcome? Some are saying the public in Va. responded in favour of Kaine because of them. Is this a good sign for campaigns in the future, or are we stuck with negativity forever?
Chris Cillizza: In talking to Republican operatives in the last few days, a number of them said they thought the Kilgore campaign had overplayed its hand on the death penalty ads by bringing the specter of Adolf Hitler into the mix. The ads certainly didn't help Kilgore and may have hurt him in some of the outer northern Virginia suburbs where Kaine piled up his winning margin. As for the future of negative ads, they are here to stay. While ins some cases (and Virginia may well be one) they backfire, by in large voters say they hate the ads but wind up being influenced by the messages they send.
Santa Barbara, Calif.: Whenever someone posts a question starting with "why is the national news media/right-wing media/liberal media doing so-and-so that is clearly out of the line with the mainstream American values... (insert whatever act du jour here)", I pretty much immediately jump to the conclusion that the issue is not the media, but the person posting who's peeved at not finding any newspaper to agree with his or her position!
Chris Cillizza: Thanks for posting, Mom. On a serious note, I do believe the media is unfairly maligned for their alleged biases. Take a look at comments section of my political blog -- The Fix -- on any given day. I get accused of being a right wing conservative, a liberal apologist and everything in between -- all in the same day!
Curio, US: What happened in Ohio? The 2004 presidential race was very close, so surely there are some Democrats in Ohio. Why was the redistricting reform measure--which was sure to benefit Democrats--so resoundingly defeated?
Chris Cillizza: The resounding defeat of all four Ohio measures pushed by a coalition of liberal would-be reformers was somewhat shocking as heading into election day at least three of the four looked likely to win. The Ohio redistricting proposal loss was likely due to the difficulty in trying to explain something as complex as redrawing legislative ands Congressional lines to voters. For Democrats who believed any warm body in Ohio would beat a Republican next year, these results should give them pause. Sen. Mike DeWine (R) remains a major target but -- at least for now -- the political environment in Ohio doesn't seem to be the "throw the bums out" mentality that many expected.
Long Island, N.Y.: Is it fair to say that the lame duck portion of Bush's presidency started this morning on Imus when JD Hayworth said that he would not want the President to appear in campaign commercials for his re-election bid next year?
Also, do you think St. Paul's Democratic mayor regrets endorsing Bush in 2004?
Chris Cillizza: One of the more interesting trends to watch over the next year will be where and win President Bush pops up on the campaign trail for Republican candidates. In the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans were falling all over themselves to bring Bush into their states in hopes of his political magic rubbing off on them .That is not likely to be the case in 2006 if the political environment remains in its current state. I'm not sure we will see Republicans running away from the President but they aren't likely to be tying themselves closely to him either.
Scotts Valley, Calif.: Hi Chris. As a long-time Democrat far from DC, I'm concerned that the party still seems consumed with being "anti-Bush" rather than any visionary program that could excite and rally voters. The most obvious one to me would seem to be an "energy independence" plan--say over 10 years. I mean a really comprehensive World-War-II-like "war effort" plan--getting kids involved, universities, inventors, big business, etc. It would have a tremendous impact, would give everyone a way to "fight back" against terrorism, leaves the oil-addicted Republicans on the sidelines, and benefits the economy enormously. Until the Dems can show they can take us in a new direction that catches people's imagination, other "passions" (like those of the religious right) are going to carry the day. What do you think?
Chris Cillizza: I think Democrats recognize that in order to capitalize on the positive political climate they will need a specific plan of action to bring to voters. This has been promised by Congressional leaders like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the last several cycles and what they have wound up putting forward are a handful of vague proposals that gained little actual traction. Party insiders suggest that the 2006 plan, expected to be unveiled sometime in the new year, will be a detailed blueprint of where Democrats will go if returned to the Congressional majority. The jury is still out.
Arlington, Va.: What effect do you think yesterday has on George Allen? Allen was campaigning heavily for Kilgore and voters seemed to go with Warner's coattails instead of Senator Allen's. Does this hurt Allen's presidential hopes?
Chris Cillizza: Good question. While George Allen was a loyal footsoldier on Kilgore's behalf, he had much less on the line in terms of his national ambitions than did Mark Warner yesterday. Allen appeared in ads for Kilgore and was a frequent presence at the candidate's side at rallies in the race's final days. But, Allen never pushed all his political chips into the center of the table on this one. The Kilgore loss doesn't help Allen in the eyes of political insiders but I don't think it really takes any of the bloom off his rose either.
Washington, D.C.: Chris,
Do Democrats really have to talk about "their faith" to get elected in this country? Some have said that Tim Kaine's overt references to his faith were important in his sound defeat of his opponent--but then, he may have mentioned it only to defend himself against Kilgore's ill advised negatives on the death penalty. My point here is, "Is the US really going to go the way of Kansas and make embracing a 19th century theology a sine qua non for electability?"
Chris Cillizza: I am not sure that Democrats HAVE to talk about their faith to win elections but I think they need to be comfortable with where they stand in relationship to their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).Tim Kaine talked about his Catholic faith because it is a part of why he decided to run for office. He seemed comfortable with the role religion played in his life and that ease was transmitted to voters. Too often Democrats fall into the trap of trying to wear their religious beliefs on their sleeve even if they are more private about their faith. I think John Kerry fell victim to this during the 2004 campaign .The reality is that in order to get elected either statewide or nationally, a candidate (Democrat or Republican) will need to address the question of religion's role in public life. There doesn't need to be one set answer for Democrats but they need to know the question is coming and give an answer from the heart. Voters are keen judges of candor in their politicians.
Katy,Tex.: If, a mighty big if, one figures a 3-4% switch in the electorate, a la Kaine's win, would that be enough of a switch to return us to divided government next fall? In other words, are there enough Congressional or Senate seats within a 3-4% margin for the Dems to gain control of one of the chambers?
Chris Cillizza: That will be the debate of the next year. From my vantage point, a House majority remains out of reach for Democrats right now although until filing deadlines start closing later this year it's anybody's guess as to how many seats Democrats can really put into play. The Senate is a more doable proposition for Democrats although it too remains an uphill fight. In order to take the majority, Democrats must oust a handful of Republican incumbents in places like Montana, Missouri and Arizona -- not exactly an easy proposition.
Chris Cillizza: Sorry folks I need to end the chat a bit early. Lots going on today and I am running to a news conference at the Democratic National Committee on yesterday's election results. Please make sure to check The Fix today and every day for the latest in political news and analysis. Thanks for all the great questions!
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