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Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Political Blogger
Tuesday, March 6, 2007; 11:15 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.

Chris Cillizza, washingtonpost.com's political blogger, was online Tuesday, March 6, at 11:15 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

Read Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix

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.

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Chris Cillizza: Hello all ... sorry for the late start, but let's get to it.

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Louisburg, N.C.:

If I were running for office I would pay Ann Coulter to make this kind of remark about me -- it's a gift that will keep on giving. At the least the Edwards campaign should send her a dozen roses.

washingtonpost.com: The Long Fuse on Ann Coulter's Bomb (Post, March 6)

Chris Cillizza: Throughout her public life Ann Coulter has proven amazingly adept at drawing press coverage -- her comments about John Edwards last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference were no different.

Aside from the obvious personal slander, the event seemed like nothing but upside from the Edwards' perspective. Being vilified by Coulter is like a badge of honor among the liberal left, and Edwards used the comments to try and raise $100,000 in so-called "Coulter cash." Seems like a win-win.

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Florissant, Mo.: Now that the Obama-Clinton dustup is history, who would you say profited from it? Polls seem to suggest Barrack benefited most. And also, any clear winner from Selma?

washingtonpost.com: Clinton, Obama Link Selma March to Present (Post, March 5)

Chris Cillizza: Much of deciding winners and losers depends on where you stand.

If you happen to back Hillary Clinton, the back-and-forth onDavid Geffen's remarks served to take some of the shine off Barack Obama's "unpolitician" veneer, the dueling appearances in Selma showed she wasn't ceding the black vote to Obama, and the reception she received there showed that African-Americans are not uniformly behind him.

If you are Obama, the Geffen incident served to highlight the concerns many Democrats have about Hillary (and Bill) Clinton -- via every major newspaper and television network in the country. As for Selma, Obama delivered a solid speech that sought to tie himself directly to the struggles of the civil rights movement.

Who's right? Too early to know.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Do you see any candidate (in or out of the race) emerging as a conservative favorite in the GOP? Brownback did pretty well at the CPAC and Spartanburg straw polls. I don't think Duncan Hunter is going anywhere. I'm not persuaded that Gingrich will actually run.

Chris Cillizza: I think the two most likely beneficiaries of the current lack of a social conservative standard-bearer are Brownback and Gingrich. We've been saying for a while that Brownback is a dark horse in this race thanks to his strong conservative credentials and the proximity of his home state of Kansas to the first voting state in the country -- Iowa.

Gingrich is the only candidate other than McCain and Giuliani who regularly break double-digits in national polls, a showing that seems to suggest he might be able to emerge as the social conservative with the best chance of winning -- but Gingrich's well-documented problems in his personal life (he has been through several high-profile divorces) could complicate his case to social conservatives, even if he decided to run.

One quick word about straw polls: Beware! While these sorts of early ballot tests are great ways to fill the space between now and when real votes get cast, they typically are not predictive of the eventual winner. There are notable exceptions -- the Ames straw poll being the most obvious -- but by andlarge you should be wary of drawing broad conclusions from a single straw poll.

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Re: Edward's fundraising...: But the next question, as far as fundraising is -- Coulter's remarks notwithstanding -- aren't Obama and Clinton drying up money for everyone other candidate? I mean, how many really big donors are there who will put their money on a candidate who, at least today, is running a distant third?

Chris Cillizza: Great question. And one that I don't know the answer to.

AT the moment, the money race appears to be a three-way race between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Most neutral observers expect Clinton to raise the most money inthe first three months of the year, but don't be surprised if Edwards leapfrogs Obama.

Why not? Edwards purposely gave his donor base a break for the entirety of 2006 with the recognition that he would need a huge first quarter of fundraising to stay viable in a field that included Clinton and Obama.

We expect Obama eventually to raise more money than Edwards, but remember that the Illinois Senator is still putting together his national fundraising infrastructure while Edwards has had one in place since early 2003.

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Dryden, N.Y.: Comments on Sen. Clinton's "I am Woman. Hear Me Roar" campaign? Are there breakdowns on the generational nature of her planned appeal to women? Also, have you seen the 184/Clinton video circulating on the Web? It's a work of genius!

Chris Cillizza: Right after this chat I am headed over to an EMILY's List luncheon honoring Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One of the speakers? You guessed it -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There's no question that Clinton is proactively injecting her gender into this race. Each time I have heard her give her stump speech, she says that a lot of people wonder whether a woman can be elected president. "We'll never know until we try," she says to a roar from the crowd.

Focusing on her gender is a very smart strategy in a Democratic primary where more than half of the votes likely will be cast by women. While many women express some level of trepidation about voting for Clinton, the Senator's strategists are hoping that the chance to cast a historic vote overwhelms any concerns voters might have.

Check out The Fix this afternoon for a report on Clinton's speech to EMILY's List.

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Let's Not Get Carried Away Here: Rudy's only had one more divorce than Reagan. It just seems like "several" because you keep hearing the point brought up by left-wing commentators. Hey, maybe willingness to "fire" someone is actually a virtue in a president. I'm just saying...

Chris Cillizza: I was talking about Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice. And like I said above, it may not be a major issue with social conservatives -- but it could be.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: There's much whispering about all the opposition research that McCain and Romney have on Giuliani. What do you think could be the most damaging? And when do you think we are likely to see it?

Chris Cillizza: Well, there is whispering about the opposition research that every candidate has on every other candidate. In each campaign -- presidential, Senate, House and state-level -- the other side claims to have the silver bullet piece of information that is a race-ender.

Sometimes those boasts turn out to be true. Sometimes not.

For Giuliani specifically, I think his liberal social positions on abortion and gay rights are relatively well known and aren't likely to be that silver bullet. His business dealings after leaving the mayor's office in 2001 haven't gotten as much scrutiny just yet and seem to be ripe for deeper scrutiny.

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Freiburg, Germany: Some people think that the bad relationship with his son will hurt Rudy Giuliani more than his position on gay rights and abortion. What's your opinion on this?

Chris Cillizza: As I mentioned in the post above, I think it will be Giuliani's business dealings that are the focal point moving forward.

The situation with his son -- as played out inthe past few days in the media -- is not particularly helpful, but it's hard to judge whether it will be seen as some sort of window into Giuliani's private life or dismissed as the usual back-and-forth that goes on between father and son.

There's a lively discussion on The Fix right now on whether Giuliani can be elected president. Feel free to head over there and join the debate.

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Ames, Iowa: How vulnerable do you think Elizabeth Dole is in N.C.?

Chris Cillizza: That is a tough nut to crack.

Following her largely panned stewardship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2006, rumors were flying that Dole, who will be 72 on Election Day 2008, might retire.

Republicans quickly dismissed that idea but the rumors linger. Perhaps hoping to give Dole a polite push, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll last week that showed just 35 percent of those tested definitely would vote for Dole while 49 percent said they would consider voting for someone else or definitely would vote for another candidate.

Republicans didn't answer back with numbers of their own -- suggesting that the DSCC survey might not be far off base.

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New York: The Libby jurors have reached a verdict. You might want to run!

Chris Cillizza: Yes, folks, the verdict in the Scooter Libby trail is set to be announced at noon today, so I may have to bow out of the chat a few minutes early ... but let's get through as many questions as possible before then.

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Austin, Texas: Any comments on the political significance of the Libby trial in these last few minutes before the verdict comes down?

Chris Cillizza: Here's my basic take on the Libby verdict and its significance:
I think for most people the verdict, however it comes down, will reaffirm their predispositions.

If he is found guilty, those already predisposed to look unkindly on the Bush Administration will see it as one more example of allegedly nefarious actions.

If he is found not guilty, those who like the President -- and believe this was all gussied up by the media and Democrats -- will feel vindicated.

Either way, we'll know in five minutes.

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washingtonpost.com: Upcoming Discussion: Verdict in the Libby Trial (washingtonpost.com, 2 p.m. today)

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washingtonpost.com: Well, I need to turn on the TV and watch this verdict come down. Thanks for letting me arrive a few minutes late and leave a few minutes early -- I'll make it up in my next chat. And for the latest campaign news be sure to check out The Fix.

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