Post Politics Hour's Daily Politics Discussion

Chris Cillizza Political Blogger
Friday, October 26, 2007 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.

Chris Cillizza, political blogger was online Friday, Oct. 26 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

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The transcript follows.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning all...sorry I am a but late...under the weather (all that plane travel)....but let's get to it.


Alexandria, Va.: It seems to me that Davis dropping out of the Senate race is a net plus for Virginia Republicans. First, Republican in Name Only Davis is probably the only candidate who could hold his House seat next year. Second, Davis, as the more left-wing Republican candidate, would have been the weakest Senate nominee. (Despite the liberal myth to the contrary, conservative Republicans are always more electable than more left-leaning ones -- just ask re-elected presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and "losers" Ronald Reagan and George W.) Third, while Gilmore is not a perfect candidate (like Davis, his attempts to stab our troops in Iraq in the back hurt him with the patriotic Virginia electorate), Davis's exit clears the field for a more attractive conservative alternative -- like retiring Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace. Virginia Senate: Rep. Davis is Out (Redux) (, Oct. 25)

Chris Cillizza: Let's start close to home -- my home at least.

I can see your point on Davis but I disagree. Like it or not, Virginia is changing and that change is in the direction of Democrats. Northern Virginia is growing like crazy and the suburbs/exurbs are moving further and further out. Nominating someone like Davis -- a moderate with a base in Northern Virginia -- would have been good politics for Virginia Republicans.

Despite the chatter about Peter Pace I have heard no indication that he is interested in running. All Davis' exit did is clear the way for former Gov. Jim Gilmore who must find a way to convince voters that he is not yesterday's news. This was always a tough hold for Republicans with former Gov. Mark Warner as the Democratic candidate. With Davis dropping out, it just became a lot tougher.

A side note: Watch to see if Davis decides to seek re-election to his House seat. If he stays, he will hold it easily. If he goes, it will be another trouble spot for House Republicans.


Boston: What could Bob Kerrey do in the next six years that possibly could have the same impact on the country that an incremental Democratic vote in the Senate would have? Neb. Senate: Kerrey's Out, Who's Next? (, Oct. 24)

Chris Cillizza: Interesting question. To be frank, I was surprised that Kerrey took a pass. He was the one who first broached the idea of a return to politics and usually when that happens the candidate (or would-be candidate) eventually decides to run. I think Kerrey was effected by two main considerations: family and winnability.

He has a young family and a new life in New York City that he clearly enjoys. Uprooting all of that to move back to Nebraska likely weighed heavily on his mind. Second, with former Gov. Mike Johanns in the race this was an uphill contest even for someone as well known and well liked as Kerrey. Nebraska is a very Republican state and the prospect of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket probably worried Kerrey. The problem for Democrats in Nebraska is that they likely will wind up with a second-tier nominee at best, taking the seat off the table come next November.


Washington: Your latest blog on Mike Huckabee seemed to hit the nail on the head: Competent, likeable and decent. What do you think he needs to do to capitalize on his waves of attention, in order propel himself upward and gain more donors? Mike Huckabee: A Campaign of Starts and Stops (, Oct. 23)

Chris Cillizza: I honestly don't know. I think at the moment Huckabee is caught in something of a vicious cycle. He isn't regarded as viable by many donors and therefore has trouble convincing them to contribute to his candidacy. And, because he isn't raising enough money he has trouble being viable. I'm not sure how Huckabee squares that circle. His best hope is that he continues to move up in polling in Iowa and is seen as having a real chance at coming in second (behind former Gov. Mitt Romney).

If Huckabee does come in second in Iowa, he would likely be the story coming out of the state and would enjoy an infusion of cash from donors hoping to get on the bandwagon early. It's hard to see Huckabee really making a fundraising push until then. He didn't cultivate a national network of donors during his decade as governor (a major mistake for someone with an eye on higher office) and, as a result, had to start from scratch when he announced he was running for president.


Princeton, N.J.: Hi. Know anything about the congressman for New Jersey's 5th District, Scott Garrett? I got called by a hopeful Democratic challenger, Camille Abate, for a contribution. I told her the 5th is pretty conservative, but she says they are really antiwar. Are there really some conservative Republican districts that are so antiwar they'll go Democratic?

Chris Cillizza: A House question ... love it ... keep the coming.

Garrett was a conservative member of the state legislature who narrowly lost to moderate Rep. Marge Roukema in primary races in 1998 and 2000. Roukema stepped aside in 2002 -- because of, at least in part, the specter of another Garrett primary race -- and Garret won.

Democrats occasionally make noise about this race, arguing that Garrett is too conservative for the district. Maybe, but it gave Bush 57 percent in 2004 and has a real Republican tilt. If you're looking for action in New Jersey, watch the 3rd and 7th districts where Democrats are fielding serious challengers against GOP incumbents in swing seats.


Anonymous: The Iowa Democratic caucus is Jan. 3. When is the New Hampshire primary? What states follow New Hampshire? Do you have a link for the schedule? What's the schedule for Democratic debates? Any scheduled for between Iowa and New Hampshire? Give a link to all scheduled debates if you can. All about: the 2008 Democratic primaries | the Democratic debates (Wikipedia)

Chris Cillizza: The primary/caucus schedule remains a work in progress but things seem to be shaking out now. My best guess is that Iowa's caucuses (Republican and Democrat) are on Jan. 3 and New Hampshire's primary in Jan. 8. That gives the candidates very little time to recover if they slip in Iowa -- making Iowa all the more important in selecting the identity of the party nominees.

While more than two dozen states have moved their primaries up to Feb. 5 in hopes of having more say over the nominee, it's a real possibility that we know the identity of both major party nominees before the end of January.
And you know what that means -- a nine-month general election.


Washington: What impact do you think Chuck Norris's endorsement of Mike Huckabee will have on the presidential race? The Trail: Huckabee Nabs Coveted Chuck Norris Endorsement (, Oct. 22)

Chris Cillizza: Well, I've read that Chuck Norris' tears can cure cancer (the only problem is he's never cried). So, Huckabee's got that going for him, which is nice. In truth, Chuck Norris' endorsement has no influence that I can see. Sorry to all those "Walker, Texas Ranger" fans out there.


Clifton, Va.: As an independent, I would have voted for Davis over Warner -- close call, but Davis gets my vote. Warner vs. Gilmore? Warner. Pace? Please, he is too reactionary and conservative for Northern Virginia! His comments on gays will come back to bite him big-time. The Virginia Republican Party needs to realize that times have changed and reactionary home-schooling Republicans cant win statewide elective offices. By the way, I am pro-life and against the death penalty, and W is right on national security

Chris Cillizza: Thanks, Clifton. I think you are indicative of many Virginia voters; it's the reason why -- with Davis out -- this race almost is assured to hold the No. 1 spot on the Senate line for the entirety of the cycle.


Austin, Texas: Chris, any thoughts or polls on John Cornyn in Texas? He doesn't seem to be well-liked amongst his constituents, including me. I would love to see someone take him on.

Chris Cillizza: Cornyn dodged a major bullet this week when wealthy attorney Mikal Watts (D) took himself out of the race. Watts had already dumped millions of his own dollars into the race and had pledged to spend much more.

Without such a free-spender, it's hard to see Cornyn losing. He's got two things going for him: Texas is a very Republican state and it's also a huge state meaning that it's hard to get known as a political candidate. Watts would have solved his name ID problems with a single check; state Rep. Rick Noriega, who now looks like the likely Democratic nominee, doesn't have that luxury.

With Watts in, this was a dark-horse race. Without him, it's a blowout.


Anchorage, Alaska: When you guys discuss Ted Stevens's takedown you only mention one guy: Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage. But the Republicans have others in the wings that might blow him off course, as well. Anchorage banker David Cuddy comes to mind. So does former Senate President Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove. These two are Republicans who have served in the legislature. Given 20 minutes, I probably could come up with 20 names from both parties. Why do you guys just phone this one in? Stop letting the Anchorage Daily News do all of your work for you. Thanks. Capitol Briefing: Alaska Democrats Try to 'Retire' Ted Stevens (, Oct. 23)

Chris Cillizza: I am sure there are a ton of worthy people who are/might consider running for the Senate against Ted Stevens, but I know for a fact that Mark Begich is the preferred candidate of both the state and national Democratic parties. And for good reason: Not only is he the mayor of the state's largest city, he also carries a well-known last name, as the son of late Alaska Rep. Nick Begich (D).

If Begich runs, I think the Democratic party would do everything they could to clear the primary field out for him. That doesn't mean they would succeed, but it would be tough for anyone to match the name ID, political base and fundraising capacity of Begich.

That said, I'm not sure if he ultimately does it. Stevens has been badly damaged by his ties to the Veco scandal in the state but remains a daunting political figure. Begich seems content to wait and see how the legal proceedings surrounding Veco play out before making a final decision.


Arlington, Va: Collins, Smith, and Coleman: Tough incumbents. Collins is in the more liberal state facing a pretty tough opponent, but is the most liked among the three. Smith is still somewhat popular, but facing only a second-tier opponent. Coleman isn't well-liked, but likely is facing a polarizing opponent with high negatives. If you had to guess, how many of these seats do Democrats pick up? You don't even have to guess which ones!

Chris Cillizza: Great question. I would throw New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu (R) into that mix as well. All four GOP incumbents sit in states carried by the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 which makes them ripe targets.

Sununu is clearly the most vulnerable of the group as he faces former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Judging from the body language of national Democratic strategists I would probably out Smith as the next most vulnerable; polling shows voters don't have a firm view on the incumbent and are more than willing to consider and alternative. Collins and Coleman are tougher nuts to crack. Both are quite savvy politicians who understand the challenge before them. But, if 2006 taught me anything, it's that a national environment that strongly favors one party can overwhelm even the most capable of incumbent campaigners.


Arlington, Va.: Isn't Huckabee likely to run into trouble with moderates because of his statements (paraphrasing) that if there's a conflict between the Bible and science, he will side with the Bible? He may be a friendly guy and seem harmless, but I find these sorts of statements pretty chilling.

Chris Cillizza: Remember that moderates are not the key constituency in a Republican presidential primary -- and, to the extent they do vote, I would assume it's for either former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani or Sen. John McCain.

Huckabee's hope is that social conservatives decide that they want one of their own as a serious contender for the nomination and propel him to a second place showing in New Hampshire. All the rest is meaningless if he can't win, place or show in Iowa.


Anonymous: Was Shays's performance at yesterday's Secretary of State committee appearance a sign of an upcoming retirement announcement? Democrats, the War and Shays's Rebellion (Post, Oct. 26)

Chris Cillizza: Shays has hinted at retirement already this cycle -- telling Republican House leaders that if he is not guaranteed the top spot on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee he will retire.

Shays has faced two serious fights in his swing 4th District and has another real race shaping up this time around. He is a very unorthodox politician, so reading his mind is a dangerous chore; he could well decide that being a Democratic target every two years is simply not worth it and step aside. If he does, Democrats would be favored to win the district which went for Kerry in 2004.


New Orleans: Any ideas on who will be running for Jindal's open seat? Jindal Wins Louisiana Race, Becomes First Indian American Governor (Post, Oct. 21)

Chris Cillizza: The name I keep hearing is former Gov. David Treen. Treen, who will be 80 in 2008, has been around Louisiana Republican politics forever and served as governor from 1979 to 1983. No matter who runs, this seat will be kept by a Republican.


Tampa, Fla.: There has been a lot of buzz in Florida about Gov. Crist's potential vice presidential candidate status. What are your thoughts on his popularity and his chances of being selected as a vice president.

Chris Cillizza: Florida is almost certain to be a key general election battleground, so if the veep pick is aimed at helping the nominee win a state then Crist could well be in the mix.

To be honest, the Republican veep pool is still wide open because the presidential race for the GOP is so uncertain. Giuliani would be looking for very different things in a vice president than Mitt Romney or McCain. So, until it becomes a little clearer who the GOP presidential nominee is going to be it's hard to speculate smartly on the second in command.


Atlanta: Chris, thanks for fielding our questions. I've enjoyed watching you on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. Sometimes I get annoyed when Chris Matthews interrupts his guests and sometimes it seems that there can be a good deal of animosity. Is this the case, or do you all go out for a beer after the show?

Chris Cillizza: Chris is a really good guy. With him, it's what you see is what you get -- on and off the air. He and I get along really well because we both really love politics -- the nitty gritty of it from the presidential race all the way down to an alderman's race. And thanks for watching.


Re: Cornyn: "Austin" doesn't speak for the rest of Texas. We love Austin, but it's kind of like the stoner cousin we go visit every now and then for a good time before going back to our responsible lives.

Chris Cillizza: Hilarious. As someone who has married into a Texas family I am always cautious about the fissures -- politically and otherwise -- in the state. And, let me just say: Go Aggies! Whoop! 


Baltimore: Who's your pick for No. 2 in the Iowa GOP caucus? Giuliani doesn't spend much time in the state, Thompson doesn't have much of an organization and Huckabee doesn't have any money, but somebody has to finish behind Romney.

Chris Cillizza: I think it's between Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. Both are spending significant time in the state and see a second-place finish as a way to catapult themselves into contention in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond. While anything's possible in politics, I don't think either Giuliani or McCain is spending any real time in Iowa or think it is essential to their path to the nomination. And barring some sort of wild swing, Romney looks like he will win the state.


Louisville, Ky.: Is Liddy Dole safe now? Someday an openly gay person will be elected to the Senate; I doubt that North Carolina will be the first. Jim Neal, Democratic Challenger to North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Says He Is Gay (AP, Oct. 23)

Chris Cillizza: I think Jim Neal could make the race competitive but it's hard to see him getting over the top against Dole. He is totally unknown and is going to have to raise and spend millions just to match Dole's pre-existing name recognition. Neal does have considerable personal wealth and has said he will spend from it in the campaign. That will help, but Dole is more formidable than people (especially Democrats) give her credit for. I bet she get under 55 percent, but it's hard to see her dipping below 50 percent.


Arlington, Va.: Right -- my point on Huckabee is that if by some miracle he were to win the Republican nomination, he would do poorly in the general, as he wouldn't appeal to independents and moderates.

Chris Cillizza: Okay, gotcha. I think if you told Mike Huckabee today that his biggest problem would be reaching out to moderates as the Republican nominee, he'd be a very happy man.


Chris Cillizza: Folks that's all I have time for today. I am going to get a warm cup of tea and curl up with The Fix for the rest of the day. If it's as nasty where you are as it is in the District, I suggest you do the same. Have a great weekend.


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