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Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com political blogger Chris Cillizza

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Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Political Blogger
Tuesday, December 19, 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.

washingtonpost.com Political Blogger Chris Cillizza was online Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 11 a.m. ET.

The transcript follows.

Read Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone. Six shopping days left to get your favorite Post politics blogger a little something special. (I kid.)

Let's get down to business.

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Rockville, Md.:"The Fix remains skeptical that Giuliani, who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, can win a GOP nominating process dominated by conservative voters."

Just a year ago a well placed elected Republican said just abut the same of McCain - who had helped him get elected. Times change and the urge to have a winner is very strong.

Chris Cillizza: The big difference between Giuliani and McCain is that the former is far to the ideological left of the conservative base of the party while the latter is slightly to their left.

McCain is pro-life and always has been. While a perception exists among base voters that McCain is not sufficiently conservative, his record in the Senate shows that he is far more of a conservative than Giuliani.

Nominating McCain might require conservatives to hold their nose; nominating Giuliani would require them to go against some of their deepest held convictions.

Can it happen? Of course. Is it likely? No.

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washingtonpost.com: Giuliani the Un-nominatable?, ( Dec. 19)

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: One of the things that constantly surprises me about Washington political reporters when they mull over a possible Giuliani run is how they constantly (willfully?) neglect the well-grounded opinions New Yorkers have about their former mayor. We who lived under eight years of his mayoralty know him best -- and he's not universally beloved in his home town, as you seem to think. His "my way or the high way" management style, his volatile relations with African Americans, his psychodramas played out in front of us all, and especially his complex role in the September 11th tragedy . . . all add up to a more controversial and less heroic figure than, say, a Beltway journalist might suppose. Michael Bloomberg's popularity stems in no small part from how well he's positioned himself as the anti-Rudy -- Bloomberg is deferential, diplomatic and a skillful manager, leading by consensus, whereas Giuliani was high-handed, self-indulgent in personal as well as public matters, and unwilling to tolerate dissent from others in city government.

Your thoughts?

Chris Cillizza: Well, I think that in any city as large and diverse as New York City there will inevitably be a variety of viewpoints on the success of Giuliani's tenure as mayor.

But, the overwhelming majority of Republicans see Giuliani's time through the lens of Sept. 11, 2001 and his response to those terrorist attacks. You can disagree with the idea of reducing his mayoralty to one day but for all practical purposes that's what is likely to happen.

I also think Giuliani gets considerable credit -- deserved or not -- for cleaning up New York City. That image as a strong leader with a proven record of turning around a city is a powerful one that Giuliani would be wise to play up in the nomination fight.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I don't particularly think Giuliani is a strong leader or a good manager, but I'm a Democrat who think this country has been jerked way too far to the right. I think that if Giuliani got the Republican nomination, and even the White House, it'd help move this country back to the center, particularly on the social issues I believe have been hijacked by the Christian right. Is this what many conservative Republicans are afraid of? That he will make social liberals like me happy.

Chris Cillizza: There's little debate that Giuliani has the potential to be a very strong general election candidate given his socially liberal views on abortion, gay marriage and immigration.

But, can he get to a general election with those views? Presidential history over the past three decades would suggest he can't. But, modern presidential politics has also never had a figure like Giuliani -- the triumphant symbol of a nation attacked but resilient. September 11 has massive amounts of cultural currency and Giuliani is the single person most closely associated with the event and its aftermath.

Can that connection overshadow his social positions in the minds of conservative voters? It's too early to know.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Chris,

So if Giuliani runs, does he try and do a Mitt Romney like flip-flop on the conservative's social issues?

Chris Cillizza: Actually, I think Giuliani has a few ways of appealing to social conservatives despite his own personal views on these hot-button issues.

One idea, which was suggested to me by South Carolina Republican operative Jim Dyke, is for Giuliani to come out in support of federal judges who are pro-life and opposed to the expansion of right for homosexuals. Judges are a flashpoint among movement conservatives and if Giuliani made clear that he would back judges in line with the beliefs of the base rather than his own, he could well insulate himself somewhat from being labeled a liberal.

Giuliani also could seek to paint himself as a libertarian rather than a liberal on social issues -- de-emphasizing his social positions and when asked insisting they were not something the government should be involved in regulating. While that is far from a perfect response to criticism from the right, it might convince some libertarian-minded conservatives that he is one of them.

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Baltimore, Md.: Re Giuliani's candidacy: If he becomes more of a possibility, you can expect to see a lot of stories that look deeper into his September 11 leadership--and especially into the shortcomings of his administration in terms of preparedness that arguably led to the great loss of life among first responders. (Lack of radio communication protocols, etc.)

What really bothers me about Giuliani and 9/11 is what bothered me about Bush being perceived as such a strong and dynamic leader in the wake of the attacks. The unspoken truth is, anyone with an ounce of sense and a gram of political capital comes out a winner in such a dire situation. Defiance and determination are easy to show--planning and follow through ain't.

Chris Cillizza: Several Republican operatives suggested to me in the course of writing this story that Giuliani's best chance at the nomination was to announce as late as possible in hopes of avoiding heavy scrutiny of his tenure as mayor.

It's a fascinating argument. Knowing he can raise the money to be competitive, does Giuliani wait until the fall of 2007 to formally enter the race in hopes that he can run a three month campaign and win in Iowa? Or does he announce early next year with the belief that the chatter about his past won't eventually amount to much?

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Washington, D.C.: With a front loaded primary schedule; can Giuliani raise enough money to stay competitive?

Chris Cillizza: I think that Giuliani is one of three candidates in the field who shouldn't have any problem paying the price of admission (between $50 and $100 million) for the primaries.

His fundraising base in New York City is a strong one and his reputation as America's Mayor coupled with the high esteem in which many Republican fundraisers hold him should guarantee that Giuliani is competitive financially.

There's a fascinating story in the Houston Chronicle today that details a recent Giuliani trip to Texas to cultivate donors. The story also hints at Giuliani's plans to mimic the Bush "pioneers" and "rangers" fundraising model using a baseball motif.

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washingtonpost.com: GOP hopefuls cast eye on Texas cash, ( Houston Chronicle, Dec. 19)

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Thanks for joining us again for this chat...

Great story on Giuliani. Question about the Presidential primary / caucus schedule. Now that so many non-southern states have moved their primary/caucus dates up, will this reduce the influence of the south in selecting a candidate (I recall that Super Tuesday was originally set up to give southern states a stronger role in the selection process).

Chris Cillizza: The primary schedule is one of the great mysteries when it comes to covering presidential politics in 2008.

What we know for sure is that Iowa will hold the first Republican vote and New Hampshire the second. After that it gets more confusing.

South Carolina is likely to hold its GOP primary on Feb. 2, the same day that Florida is considering for its primary. And a bill is in the New Jersey legislature to move that state's vote up to Feb. 5.

Obviously, if New Jersey moved up it would be a major boon for Giuliani as it would afford him a strong opportunity to win a state early in the process and prove his viability.

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Saint Paul, Minn.: Given that the majority of Republican primary voters are very conservative and the 2 leaders on the republican side are less conservative mavericks - McCain and Giuliani, does this leave an opening for a Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback that they would not otherwise have?

Chris Cillizza: Yes.

That said, McCain is doing everything in his power to position himself as the center-right candidate in the field rather than the center-left candidate.

In a weird way, the presence of Giuliani in the field allows McCain to present himself as the conservative -- but not too conservative -- alternative to Giuliani on the left and Brownback/Huckabee/Gingrich on the right.

I am not convinced that conservative voters are ready yet to buy Romney as one of them. He, too, is probably best served by trying to paint himself as a center right candidate in between the two poles I describe above.

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London, UK: Bah! Enough Giuliani talk! Let's talk about Bayh and what this means to the Democratic primaries. I still am rooting for Gore to join (and hear from a lot of people on the ground that this is not an uncommon sentiment)

Chris Cillizza: Ok. Now seems as good a time as any to end the Rudy debate. But, feel free to continue it on The Fix where you can find the story from today's Post on Hizzoner and more.

I've written a lot about Bayh's decision to step out of the field -- both in The Fix and in the paper.

I think his decision came down to a calculation of whether his chances at winning the nomination justified spending the next two years of his life on the road in an effort to do just that.

His answer seems to parallel my own thoughts. The reality is that in a field likely to include Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama as well as former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, there isn't much oxygen out there for other candidates.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards are all well known national figures and also have strong support in early primary and caucus states. There simply aren't all that many undecided voters this time around, meaning that any candidate not as well known as the Big 3 will need to quickly consolidate undecided voters behind his or her candidacy if he/she has any hope of seriously competing in Iowa and beyond.

Obviously, a candidacy by Al Gore would turn the Big 3 into the Big 4 and might even push one or two of the other candidates aside. Gore is a heroic figure on the party's left and would have little trouble building the organization and raising the money to compete with Clinton.

But, Gore continues to give no indication that he is interested in running. Until we hear a Sherman-esque "no" from the former Vice President we won't be entirely convinced but for now we are taking him at his word.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Why is there a general assumption that Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination? It seems that anyone who likes her is only halfheartedly supporting her.

Chris Cillizza: I disagree.

While there are plenty of people in the Democratic Party who are lukewarm to the idea of nominating Clinton, there are multitudes of other who love the idea.

For those people who suggest Clinton simply can't win the presidency in 2008, I say "phooey."

First of all, it is far too early to make any hard and fast conclusions about who can and can't win the White House in two years time. Second, I believe that there are a lot of silent Clinton voters out there -- women who might not normally support Democrats or even plan to vote against her if she is the nominee but who will go into the voting booth and be unable to resist the chance to cast a historic vote for the first credible woman running for president.

I am not saying Clinton will win the presidency (or the Democratic nomination for that matter). But the idea that she CAN'T win in November 2008 is ridiculous.

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Long Beach, Calif.: Wouldn't Al Gore make a Democratic candidate stronger if he were to be announced beforehand as an environmental advisor, or a prospective EPA head?

As a candidate, he's damaged merchandise, don't you think?

Chris Cillizza: As always, the question about Gore is who would he be as a candidate?

I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" over the weekend and found Gore to be engaging, bright and appealing.

But, in his political campaigns he has tended to be a willow blowing in the wind (Naomi Wolf, alpha male, people vs the powerful etc); a pandering politician that never seemed to make a real connection with voters.

Those urging Gore to run insist he has broken free of the shackles of party politics and would run as his true self in 2008: an unrepentant liberal and lead critic of Bush and his policies.

If he followed that blueprint, Gore could make a compelling case in the primaries.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you think of the latest Newsweek polling that has Clinton beating McCain (by a significant margin)?

Chris Cillizza: There have been a few questions about the Newsweek poll (conducted by Princeton Survey Research) that shows Clinton beating Giuliani, McCain and Romney.

I think the numbers while encouraging for Clinton should be taken with a grain of salt.

The sample is of 1,000 adults. A typical political poll tests those registered to vote or ideally those likely to vote in a given election. Sampling adults takes in the views of folks who may not even be registered to vote and therefore skews the numbers a bit.

I'd like to see a poll of registered or likely voters showing Clinton leading the top three GOP contenders before I would be comfortable drawing any long-term conclusions.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey, Cillizza!

Thanks for the chat and the Fix!

Who's the one sleeper candidate for '08 that we haven't heard of yet? We've got Vilsack, but is he the next Howard Dean? What about on the GOP side? Anyone out there we should be watching who's not on our radar yet?

Chris Cillizza: Last name basis. Ok.

As for the dark-horse, I am not sure I have any great ideas.

I had previously mentioned Bayh as my Democratic dark horse --yet another sign of my incredibly limited predictive abilities.

For a while now I have said I think Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback could have a surprisingly large role to play in the nominating process on the Republican side. I'm sticking to it.

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Rockville, Md.: Happy holidays for you and your family!

Chris Cillizza: And to all of you too.

It's been a whirlwind 13 months or so since I joined the Post and I am finally taking a few days to catch my breath and get ready for the 2008 election as well as make sure I get my wife and parents some really good Christmas presents!

So that's all until the New Year for me. Look forward to chatting in 2007.

Chris

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