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Jim VandeHei
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Friday, August 18, 2006; 12:00 PM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post Congressional reporter Jim VandeHei was online Friday, August 18, at Noon ET to discuss the latest in political news.

Political analysis from Post reporters and interviews with top newsmakers. Listen live on Washington Post Radio or subscribe to a podcast of the show.

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Jim VandeHei: sorry for the delay, folks. just getting back from ohio, where i was talking to married moms. get your mind out of the gutter - it was for today's story.

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Arlington, Va.: Glad to see that there is at least one Republican who can profusely apologize for a racial slur. One of the Republican candidates for Katherine Harris' seat said some disparaging things about the ability of black people to swim. He sounded like an idiot, and he knew it. He apologized shortly thereafter. Did not blame it on a hairsyle, or his staffers. So, do you think George Allen was glad that the Ramsey murder blew him out of the headlines?

Jim VandeHei: i am certain george allen would love for this to blow over as quickly as possible. particularly when you are a strong favorite to win, you don't want to hand a great political issue to your opponent on a silver platter. i wonder how much of a political life the issue has. love to hear your thoughts on that one.

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Herndon, Va.: Listening to Tony Snow tell it, the economy couldn't be any better for the average American. Well, I have a child starting college this fall and we have just finished paying quite a substantial amount of money for his tuition, books, computer that meets the school's specs, software and so on. I also am having to stop contributing to my 401k because with the energy inflation, I am forced to now divert that money to gas and heating for this winter. My income is now less than my cost to live -- which is just average middle class. I also work in defense contracting and it is very possible we will not win our recompete since one of the bidders is a company that uses engineers from India and can underbid us by at least 40 percent -- and this will leave me (and others) unemployed at this wonderful time. Will it take a repeat of the 1960s riots before the media begins to report on the severity of our how average people are struggling to survive?

Jim VandeHei: first off sorry, for your economic struggles. i am not breaking any news hear when i report that it is tale of two economies in the country. if you make a good wage in a growth industry, you are doing quite well. the economy is growing a pretty healthy clip, the stock market is doing well by historical standards, the housing market is starting to even out but grew so much that many people have a nice chunk of equity in their home, and second home, and so on. but if you dont have stock, are not in an industry where wages are rising rapidly or pulled a lot of cash out of the the value of your house, times are much tougher. if you believe the polls, most people think bush has not done a good job on the economy. tony snow, i presume, is quite rich from his former profession, so he obviously falls into the first category. you, it sounds, fall into the later. the elections this year give you a choice at least at the margins: dems have promises to repeal some of the bush tax cuts; republicans vow to keep them.

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Biloxi, Miss.: Concerning Sen. Allen: I don't think someone can use such a word unless he knows what it means. It's not like you just pull that word out of thin air.

Jim VandeHei: passing along comment

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San Bernardino, Calif.: I am not from Virginia, but George Allen is a real buffoon. You asked about the shelf life about his gaffe. It may or may nor hurt him in Virginia... but in the "real world," the rest of America, he's toast. The man has a history of loving the Confederate Flag. Now he uses racial slurs! Adios George!

Jim VandeHei: more comment

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Iowa: I know that you were focused on security issues in your discussions with the Ohio soccer moms, but did you sense that some of the social issues that used to serve the Republicans well aren't going to work this time around -- thinking particularly of the stem cell research votes?

Jim VandeHei: i dont have a firm answer to that question yet. i have not talked to enough candidates and voters on that specific topic. what i can report is that ray meier, the GOP candidate in NY 24th and a self-described conservative, said wedge social issues are not working this year. my hunch is they work in some areas, not in others. stem cells offers a different dynamic. again, if the polls are right, this a rare instance where a social issue (and a medical one, too) are working for Dems. Seems to be a big issue in Missouri, but that is based on what i read and hear not anything i have seen firsthand. I was just in ohio, and sherrod brown, the dem candidate for senate, said he is starting to hear a lot more about it as he travels the state.

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Ft. Myers, Fla.: Speaking of Ohio, the hand-picked replacement for New is Padgett. She recently declared bankruptcy, blaming her failed business on a bad economy. Is this the best the GOP has to offer? A failed businesswoman belonging to the party responsible for a failed economy?

Jim VandeHei: let me talk about Ohio a bit. fabulously interesting state, politically speaking, this year. I was struck by how toxic the environment is there for Republicans. Mike DeWine, the incumbent senator, is in way more trouble than i thought and Deborah Pryce told me that "hands down" this is the toughest race of her career. Pause for moment to think about that: this is the fourth-ranking GOP leader in a seat she has won six times and captured almost 65 percent of the vote TWO YEARS AGO. her ties to bush are hurting her. her ties to GOP leaders are hurting her. but there is something else happening in Ohio: i dont know if it is the economic anxiety, or the state scandals, but the state seems like a bad place to be a republican right now. contrast that with nearby New York. I do not get the sense republicans are in as bad a spot there, including ray meiers, who is running in a very tough open seat. goes to show that politics are local in many different ways.

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Alexandria, Va.: As a Democrat, your article on the security moms was encouraging, but as a rational person the constant blurring of Iraq and terrorism was extremely frustrating. Your reporting seems to corroborate the poll results showing that a significant number of Americans still think 9/11 and Saddam were linked. Depressing!

washingtonpost.com: Republicans Losing the "Security Moms" , ( Post, Aug. 18 )

Jim VandeHei: i think the debate has moved beyond whether 9-11/Iraq were linked. it is now whether iraq/war on terror are linked. the problem republicans are having is that while many voters side with them on the idea that dems might be soft on security they are even more concerned about republicans pulling the country into too many wars. go the pew web site and look at their poll. they did a lot on the question.

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Roseland, N.J.: Just wondering, since you've been in Ohio. Ken Blackwell, the GOP candidate for governor, is getting trounced. Has he run a poor campaign, or is it just the field of play is so impossible for the state party right now?

Jim VandeHei: i did not spend time looking at this race, but every republican i talked to said strickland is a very, very strong favorite to win. blackwell is certainly hurt by the taft scandal in the state, republicans there said.

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Washington, D.C.: At what point does the president or his spokesman making an assertion that is starkly not consistent with reality rise to the level of news?

Jim VandeHei: when it gets printed, aired or talked about on radio or the blogs. i think the spokesman should be held to same standard of truth as any top WH official. he is after all there to provide the president's thoughts.

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Roseland, N.J.: Do you sense what's happening in Ohio is just a temporary phenomenon, attributable to the local scandals and the current administration, or could it signal a more lasting shift in voting patterns for the state?

Jim VandeHei: no clue. politics change quickly. remember, this was the state that gave bush the presidency in 04. i do think the current environment is attributable to current events, not structural shifts. then again, structural shifts are gradual and hard to catch in real time. how is that for a crappy non-answer?

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Alpharetta, Ga.: In talking to suburban married moms, how concerned were they about ethics, gas prices, and other economic issues? Or did you not hear enough to form an impression?

Jim VandeHei: one of the points of the story is that politics are starting to return to normal. this is third election since 9-11 and memories of that day are no longer shaping views as powerfully as concerns like 3 buck gas or flat-lining wages or high cost of school, etc. the latest pew poll found only two percent of respondents said terror is the issue they most want hear candidates address. that is way down from previous years.

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Boca Raton, Fla.: Why is every question you answer and reply to is critical of the Republican party?

Jim VandeHei: i am just answering them as they come. let my find some good dem bashing questions.

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Washington, D.C.: You're a writer. Why don't you use proper capitalization?

Jim VandeHei: i am writing as fast i as i possibly can to address as many questions as possible. IS THIS BETTER?

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Washington, D.C.: Do you miss covering the White House?

Jim VandeHei: NO

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Alexandria, Va.: It will blow over shortly. The press is too squeamish about race to let it last very long.

Jim VandeHei: passing on comment

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm still mystified that Post staffers are the last people in Washington to know that George Allen's mother is from Tunisia, where "macaca" is a derogatory term for people with dark skin. It has yet to be mentioned in any coverage, and as of Thursday John Harris professed to have "no idea" what Mr. Allen meant. Is he being disingenuous perhaps?

Jim VandeHei: Harris is a lot of things. Disingenuous, he is not. to show feeble minds think like, i had no clue of allen's ancestory. as a matter of fact, i have not examined the family tree of any of the 06 candidates yet.

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New York, N.Y.: I like the non caps. It shows you're not to far removed from your college days and, therefore, not hobbled by the thought patterns of so many of us. Stick to it.

Jim VandeHei: more fan mail..

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Ballston, Arlington, Va.: I love you. You're funny!

Jim VandeHei: better fan mail...now lay off the booze

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Carlisle, Pa.: Thanks for taking my question.

With the obvious (and growing) concerns with Iraq/Terrorism/Islamic Radicals policy of the administration why do some people still think that Condi Rice would be an attractive candidate in 2008?

She is a member of the Bush inner circle that gave us the War on Terrorism, made the decisions to attack Iraq instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan and is the administration point for the non-diplomacy with North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Jim VandeHei: people have nothing better to do in august than speculate who might be a good candidate some day. condi rice has been the flavor of the season. the reasons are obivous; she seems smart and very articulate, she is two-fer for broadening GOP appeal -- woman, minority. but she also quite moderate on social issues. i believe she calls herself mildly pro-choice. she might also call it the biggest obstacle to winning GOP primaries.

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Detroit, Mich.: Any insght on the continuing voting problems in Ohio? (you can write in abbr. if u like)!

Jim VandeHei: n

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Oxford, Ohio: So, do you think Allen considers his "incident" to be more like a fumble or a penalty? How much yardage did he lose?

Jim VandeHei: clever. allen likes fb metaphors and so do u

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Anonymous: Does the Washington Post editorial staff even read the newspaper... it seems like they have formed many of their determiniations in a small dark room devorced from facts that their paper daily reports.

Jim VandeHei: i assume they do. i will ask

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Okay, Dem Bashing FROM A Dem...:

Most Dems have morphed into Republican Lite...

I have to admire the Repubs...they do not take their base for granted as the Dems do and the Dems are quick to abandon their base.

But, thankfully, Lieberman's loss shows that does not work...any incumbent Dems should not get too comfortable in their seats...

Jim VandeHei: at last...

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Washington, D.C.: Are you weighing in on the debate going on in these chats about describing candidates as "anit-war" if they are opposed to the Iraq war? I'm just curious because there have been a lot of good comments from us chatters, and some fairly good/honest comments from the various Post chat hosts. Thanks.

Jim VandeHei: i have not followed the debate. I am pro antiwar. i believe our readers are sophisticated enough to know we are referring to a candidate who opposes the war. i do think we would all be better served if we better described each person's view of the conflict going forward.

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Syracuse, N.Y.: Answer to Boca Raton:

Look at the polls. Most people, a big majority, think this country is headed in the wrong direction and Republicans control all the levers right. There is no one else to blame.

Jim VandeHei: more comment

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New York, N.Y.: Take it easy there. I said I liked the non-caps, that's all. Very far removed from my college days.

Jim VandeHei: more

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Jersey City, N.J.: Hi Jim:

My question concerns this so-called "bounce" that Bush was supposed to get from the UK plot. Since the plot, only one poll out of 7, taken with at least one polling day after the plot was announced, has shown any kind of improvement in the President's approval numbers, and that poll (Newsweek) had a three point increase, which was within the poll's MOE. I know he got a big bounce in his terrorism approval, but that reads to me like the public is saying "yeah he handles terrorism well, but we STILL don't like him"

At any rate, my question is, now that the Media is not focusing like a laser on the UK plot, having considered a 10 year old murder case much more urgent, do you think it might be time to start saying that Bush didn't get any type of bounce from the U.K. plot?

Jim VandeHei: there have been at least four polls conducted post-foiled plot and there has not been a bounce. there has been an uptick in the number who support the bush terror policies (hence, the laser like focus on the issue). but no spike in approval of gop and Bush. this tells me that voter views are pretty locked in and that it will probably be harder for the gop to move votes on the terror issue than it was in 2004.

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Bethesda, Md.: I see the lefty brigade that dominates these chats have turned their ire toward George Allen today. Does this mean they have tired of taking swipes at Joe Lieberman? Or perhaps it has suddenly dawned on them that their typically ineffectual temper tantrums recently manifested on behalf of Ned Lamont -- a man who lacks the credentials to run for dog-catcher never mind the U.S. Senate and is currently losing in his three-way race to the incumbent according to recent polls -- will soon blow up in their faces. I smell Joe-mentum and victory in the air!

Seriously, isn't it quite possible the conventional wisdom is wrong once again and that a decent man with a sterling reputation with the broader electorate in his state is about to be returned for a fourth term, this time as an independent. Where he will be free, free at last to vote his conscience -- instead of just 90 percent of the time with the Democrats, a record not deemed good enough by some of his party's loony-birds??

What a story that will turn out to be. Your thoughts on the race?

Jim VandeHei: he is winning based on the latest poll. my only thought is how striking it is for republican leaders to tacitly endorse a democratic candidate who has opposed bush on most things other than the war. they see him as the lesser of two evils. if lieberman wins, however, he said he will return to the dem caucus and keep on voting against bush on many nonwar topics.

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Jim VandeHei: and so ends our almost-hour together. thanks for the questions and comments. enjoy your weekend.

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