Post Politics Hour

Chris Cillizza political blogger Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza Political Blogger
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; 11:00 AM

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. Political Blogger Chris Cillizza was online Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

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

The transcript follows.


Chris Cillizza: Big news on the presidential front this morning as Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist (R) announced he would not run for his party's nomination in 2008. Since becoming Majority Leader after the 2002 elections, Frist struggled to unite his party and reconcile his presidential ambitions with his role as party leader. As a result, he dropped from the first tier of candidates about six months ago and would have had a very difficult time rejoining that group.

Nonetheless, his departure frees up a number of money men who had committed to his campaign as well as some top staff talent.

Without further ado, let's get to your questions.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Hey Chris--welcome back!

How likely is it that we will see a 3rd or even 4th party candidate in the 2008 Presidential race? If McCain or Giuliani win the nomination with a more "moderate" approach, couldn't a conservative nominee like Brownback get in? On the Democratic side, would a liberal like Gore or Edwards get in if Hillary Clinton took the nomination? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: I still think there is time for the field to expand -- although not much.

Right now, it is clearly a two-person race between Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.). Other people like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee have a chance to join that top tier but for one reason or another haven't yet.

Then you have the longshot candidates like Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter etc who would need a number of things to break their way to be truly viable.

Who else is sitting out there who could be viable? I know a lot of people believe Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) would be a good choice but real questions remains about his place in the field. A governor is always a possibility -- Pawlenty in Minnesota and Perry in Texas get mentioned -- but both seem unlikely.

So, can another candidate get in to the GOP field and be viable? Yes. But can we find one at the moment? No.


Rockville, Md.: Chris, besides former Governor Evan Bayh, the Democratic field for 2008 seems to be lacking in the "executive experience" ranks. Could you rank the following (D) governors in order of their likelihood of jumping into the fray? Ed Rendell (PA), Phil Bredesen (TN), Brian Schweitzer (MT) and Jon Corzine (NJ). Thanks!

Chris Cillizza: And now for the "who else" question on the Democratic side.

Ever since the departure of ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner from the Democratic field earlier this year, there has been chatter concerning the need for another governor (preferably a southern one)in the field.

The most obvious fit is Bredesen who was easily re-elected earlier this month to a second term. Bredesen also has the added benefit of being incredibly wealthy (more so than even Warner) -- a fact that could make a late start in the presidential race a non-issue.

But, Bredesen is a policy wonk not a political guy and we continue to hear little from him or his people about a run for president. He will likely be on a lot of VP short list.

Schweitzer is another one who is mentioned for national office but probably is better suited as a potential VP choice than a top of the ticket guy in 2008. He clearly has an eye on bigger things, however, and I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to run nationwide at some point.

Neither Corzine nor Rendell have any realistic chance of appearing on a national ticket.


Waterville, Maine: Chris,

What are your sources and political instincts telling you about Barack Obama? I found his book to be insightful and very articulate, almost poetic in parts. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's book was BORING. Whether their stylistic differences in writing translate to charisma (or lack thereof) on the campaign trail is the key question. Personally, I (a liberal Dem) find Obama to be a much more compelling candidate than Clinton, but I wonder who would be more viable in a national election. Your thoughts?

Chris Cillizza: With every day that passes, I become more and more convinced that Obama is leaning toward a run for president.

Last Monday he delivered a speech laying out his foreign policy vision -- including the redeployment of troops in Iraq. That sort of speech would be entirely unnecessary in his role as the junior Senator from Illinois but entirely necessary as a potential presidential candidate.

Word out of New Hampshire is that Obama is headed up there to thank Democrats for their work in the 2006 election. And don't forget that he made several stops in Iowa over the last few months of the midterms.

We hear Obama allies are already making preliminary calls to recruit staff. This looks like a go.


Rockville, Md.: What's the latest in Duncan Hunter's bid for the White House? The more I look at the field, the more he seems like the only "meat and potatoes" conservative in the bunch. Is he doing anything to get his name ID up?

Chris Cillizza: Good to have Congressman Hunter on the chat.

Hunter is attempting to position himself as the natural heir to the political legacy of Ronald Reagan in the presidential field. While he may well be a conservative in the Reagan mode, Hunter has little organization nationwide (or in key early states) and even less name identification.

To bolster both, he needs to raise money in the millions and it remains to be seen whether he can do that. At the moment he is the longest of long shot candidates. As I have said before, however, things can change rapidly when it comes to presidential politics.


New Brunswick, N.J.: Does the bigger Republican money find a place in their hearts for Giuliani? He is revered here in the Northeast and I am surprised that the party wouldn't be looking for his potential crossover appeal given that the "go to your base " strategy seems a bit like the modern version of the Maginot line as an idea whose time has passed.

Chris Cillizza: Giuliani will be a test case of the conventional wisdom about what type of candidate can win a Republican presidential nomination.

In the last 30 years, no GOP candidate who favored abortion rights, as Giuliani does, has won the nod. He also has other potentially controversial positions on issues like gay marriage and gun control that seem to be out of step with the Republican base.

At the same time, never before has a candidate run for president with that "above politics" profile that Giuliani currently enjoys as a result of his handling of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Can he hold onto that image amid the rough and tumble of a political campaign?


Arlington, Va.: Chris, although he's leading popularity polls, does Giuliani honestly stand a chance at winning the Republican primary given his liberal positions on social issues (pro-choice, supporter of gay rights, gun control)? Additionally, the usually reliable Christian bloc of the Republican base has become so disillusioned, I can't see them backing Giuliani. Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: See previous answer.


Baltimore, Md.: Rockville left out Bill Richardson. Is there anything you see holding him back from grabbing the center should Hillary Clinton not run?

Chris Cillizza: In the most recent Friday Presidential Line on The Fix, I ranked Richardson as the 5th most likely Democrat to win the nomination -- behind Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Bayh.

I think a candidate with the resume of Gov. Richardson certainly belongs in the conversation about the 2008 nomination but continue to hear concerns from Democrats that he is simply not disciplined enough to run a campaign under the national spotlight. At the moment, that question is unanswerable.

_______________________ The Fix's Friday Line: The Friday Line: Return of the Presidential Rankings, ( Nov. 10)


Princeton, N.J.: The Republicans have to defend a lot of Senate seats in '08. How many are up for grabs? Who should worry?

Chris Cillizza: The 2008 cycle should (and I emphasize "should") be a good one for Democrats.

Republicans must defend 21 seats while Democrats have just 12 to defend.

I ran through the 10 most vulnerable seats up in '08 on the Friday Line last week but here's a quick Cliff's Notes.

Most Endangered R Seats: CO, MN, MS, NE, NM

Most Endangered D Seats: LA, SD, MT

_______________________ The Friday Line: A Way Early Look at the '08 Senate Races, ( Nov. 17)


Chevy Chase, Md.: Chris,

Is there any truth to suggestions that Mark Warner may not be running for president out of concern that certain personal qualities will come out in a national election that would not otherwise come out in a statewide race? Do you think that he may still be interested in John Warner's seat in the Senate?

Chris Cillizza: There's no question that Mark Warner is Senate Democrats' dream candidate in 2008 if John Warner decides not to run for a seventh term in two years time.

Mark Warner remains extremely popular in the state and would likely enter an open seat race as a slight favorite against Rep. Tom Davis (R) or whoever Republicans eventually nominate.

As for why Warner dropped from the presidential race, I've heard lots of rumors and no facts. So, I won't repeat any of the rumors here. Let's take him at his word that the decision was motivated by family considerations.


Washington, D.C.: Another factor in Bredeson's favor is that, though he's governor of Tennessee, he grew up in Connecticut. I know that was a bit of an issue when he ran--and won--for mayor of Nashville, but I can't help thinking that the fact that he "gets" both the south and the northeast, AND has experience as an urban mayor as well as of the governor of a still fairly rural state has to be and advantage.

Chris Cillizza: Is that the Bredesen bandwagon I hear starting up?


Pottstown, Pa.: Chris:

I think you're missing a few women who could be credible candidates for 2008 with all due respect to Clinton - there are a few good possible candidates from both sides of the isle don't you think ?

Chris Cillizza: Absolutely.

Among the women who I have heard mentioned as national candidates (either president or vice president):

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D)

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)

I am sure there are others but these are the most prominent.


Biloxi, Miss.: Chris,

You think the Republican Mississippi Senate seat is up for grabs in '08? Have you been to MS lately?

Chris Cillizza: If -- and that remains a big IF -- Sen. Thad Cochran (R) decides not to run for re-election in 2008, I do think Mississippi can be competitive for Democrats under the right circumstances.

First and foremost, the party would need to convince former state Attorney General Mike Moore (D) to run. Moore is widely seen as the most popular Democratic politician in the state and the only one with a truly realistic chance of winning a general election.

Remember that Mississippi has one of the largest black populations (36.2 percent) of any state in the country and that African-American voters are among the most reliable Democratic voting bloc. With the presidential race likely to drive turnout through the roof, it could create the right circumstances for a Democratic takeover.

It's far from a sure thing but also not something to rule out either.


Anonymous: Re: Bredeson

A fake Southerner from Connecticut?

That sounds vaguely familiar. Perhaps that could work? Your opinion?

Chris Cillizza: Remember that Mark Warner had Connecticut ties too....

And that The Fix is from Connecticut and bears fierce loyalty to his home state.


North East, Md.: Everyone seems to have forgotten John Kerry. He's talking like he's going to run; do you think he is in the top tier, is a long shot, or has no chance?

Chris Cillizza: I am not sure whether Sen. Kerry is going to run. Most people I talk to (inside the Beltway types) would prefer he didn't.

While I think Kerry did a very solid job of recouping his image following the 2004 election, he undid much of his good work by his joke/not a joke in the final days of the midterms where he seemed to insinuate only uneducated people wound up in Iraq.

That gaffe reminded many people of why Kerry came up short in 2004 and why they don't want to give him a second chance in 2008. Not since Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 have Democrats nominated the same person in consecutive presidential contests. Kerry at the moment seems unlikely to break that streak.


Bowie, Md.: Does Steny Hoyer have any ambitions beyond his current post? Has he ever considered a presidential run in a few cycles, or is he too old?

Chris Cillizza: I think Hoyer would love to be Speaker some day but recognizes that Pelosi controls a solid majority of the caucus votes right now.

Hoyer's demolition of John Murtha, who had the backing of Pelosi, was a strong show of force on his part and should serve as something of a wake up call to Pelosi.

But, for the moment, Hoyer is likely content in his role as the second ranking Democrat in the majority.

A presidential bid is a non-starter, which I think Hoyer would tell you if you asked him.


Arlington, Va.: Why do you spend so much time talking about presidential candidates in 2008? First of all, we barely know where these candidates stand on issues and it's rarely talked about. Second of all, I can think of hundreds of more pressing matters that should be covered.

Chris Cillizza: Again, as I have said many times on The Fix and on these chats, my goal is to cover the nooks and crannies of campaign politics -- from the House to the Senate and governors as well as the presidential.

From its inception, The Fix has cast itself as one-stop shopping for political junkies. If you are a policy junkie or a science junkie or a celebrity junkie, the Post and offer plenty of great insight and analysis for you.

So, if you aren't interested in the back and forth of politics, The Fix is not your site and I am not your guy. Of course, if you love politics like I do, then get ready because we're in for a wild ride.


Harrisburg, Pa.:"Not since Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 have Democrats nominated the same person in consecutive presidential contests."

Well, that will be news to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton!

Chris Cillizza: Touche. I should have noted that the party had not nominated the same candidate in consecutive elections after he lost the first one since Stevenson.



Transplanted Nutmegger in Boca Raton, Fla.:"And that The Fix is from Connecticut and bears fierce loyalty to his home state."

....and the President's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a Senator from Connecticut..

Chris Cillizza: Yes...and there are many other famous people from Connecticut. Eli Whitney for one.


Jackson, Miss.: Regarding Mike Moore and the senate in Mississippi. I think Haley Barbour recognizes Moore's threat, and has been attacking Moore's pet project, an anti-smoking education group that has been funded by the tobacco lawsuit settlement which made Moore's name. Around here, Barbour's move to cut state funding for the group is seen as an attempt to weaken Moore. I'm not sure Moore is so viable anymore. The Republican bench here is long, and is quite short for the Dems.

Chris Cillizza: A voice from Mississippi..

If Moore is weakened, I still believe he represents Democrats' best chance of picking up this seat in 2008. That is, of course, only if Cochran decides not to run.


Pittsfield, Mass.: So are you leaving

Chris Cillizza: I am not. I plan to continue writing The Fix straight(and writing regularly for the paper as well) straight through 2008.

So, spread the word. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. And look for The Fix to be THE go to site for news and analysis about the 2008 campaign.


Chris Cillizza: That's all folks. Thanks -- as always -- for the great questions. Enjoy the rest of your week.



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