Post Politics Hour

Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com political blogger Chris Cillizza

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Chris Cillizza
Washingtonpost.com political blogger
Friday, December 7, 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, washingtonpost.com political blogger, was online Friday, Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

The transcript follows.

Read Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix

Get the latest campaign news live on washingtonpost.com's The Trail, or subscribe to a podcast of the show.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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washingtonpost.com: Disagree with Chris Cillizza's latest rankings of the hottest 2008 House races? Submit your own here.

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washingtonpost.com: Disagree with Chris Cillizza's latest rankings of the 2008 presidential candidates? Submit your own here.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning all ... let's chat!

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Anonymous: What has the reaction been from the big-wigs in the Religious Right (Richard Land, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, etc.) toward Romney's speech?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the question.

If I could summarize it, I would say it has been largely positive.

But, that shouldn't be terribly surprising given the thrust of the speech -- religion has a role to play in informing the decisions made by the commander-in-chief.

Where evangelicals tend to differ with Romney is over the specific tenets of Mormonism, which the former governor (smartly, I think) avoided.

I'm not sure yesterday's speech has any major impact on the race. For all the hype surrounding it, the speech was pretty standard fare for a Republican presidential candidate.

If you went into it liking Romney and unconcerned about his Mormonism, you left feeling the same way. If you went into it with doubts about Romney and his Mormonism, it's unlikely to left the speech with those doubts resolved.

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South Bend, Ind.: Given that Edwards never really has done much organizing in New Hampshire (he finished something like fourth in 2004), how much of a bump should we expect to see for him if he manages to win Iowa?

Chris Cillizza: Several questions in this vein.

There's no question that Edwards has spent the vast majority of his time and resources in Iowa.

If he doesn't win there, then the race is over for him.

If he does win, however, the Edwards' campaign hopes that the momentum (and press coverage) he would earn as a result would boost his numbers in Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

We're skeptical. A win in Iowa doesn't always translate into a huge boost in New Hampshire and beyond. Remember that Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) won Iowa in 1988 but was unable to capitalize on that early victory.

It's hard to know what impact the compression of the calendar will have on the power of momentum in this race. Because there are just five days between Iowa and New Hampshire does that mean a win in Iowa is more powerful? Or less? We can argue both sides.

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Alexandria, Va.: How would you rank the the ground organizations in the Iowa Democratic race?

Chris Cillizza: Great question.

On the Republican side, that's easy. Romney's organization if by far the best funded and most effective. That was demonstrated in Romney's Ames Straw Poll victory and we have no reason to believe that organization has gotten anything but stronger in the intervening months.

For Democrats, it's a much more complicated question.

All three of the top candidates -- Edwards, Obama, Clinton -- have spent massive amounts of time and money on their organizations in Iowa and a case can be made for each of them.

The most underrated Iowa organization in Iowa belongs to Edwards. His operation is incredibly well organized and has the benefit of having done this three years ago for the candidate.

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Washington: Was that you on MTV the other day? Anywho, what did you think of McCain's performance? Personally I thought he came across as generally very stiff and extremely condescending towards younger generations. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: The Fix: McCain Joins MySpace/MTV Presidential Dialogue (washingtonpost.com, Dec. 3)

Chris Cillizza: Thanks, Mom.

Yes, it was me on MTV. I am a co-moderator of the MTV/MySpace presidential dialogues. McCain was the third candidate to participate and the first Republican. (Obama and Edwards did their own forums earlier this fall.)

If you haven't checked out the McCain dialogue, I would recommend you do so. Not only do you have the unique opportunity to see my in a blue corduroy jacket (tragically hip) but you also can see an hour's worth of in-depth question and answer with McCain on a issues like the war in Iraq, stem cell research and education.

I actually thought McCain did quite well for himself on Monday night. I know the students at Southern New Hampshire University came away impressed and the thousands of folks online seemed to warm to McCain and his positions as the hour went along.

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Washington: It is looking increasingly possible that Huckabee could win Iowa outright, despite Romney's massive financial and organizational advantages in the state. Given Romney's intense focus on the Iowa caucuses, does a loss there effectively end his candidacy, or do you see an opportunity for him to recover?

Chris Cillizza: I have been trying to figure that put for a few days now.

Romney has invested so much in Iowa that it's impossible to see how anything other than a first place finish there is good news for his candidacy.

But, Romney's numbers have held up rather nicely in New Hampshire despite Huckabee's Iowa surge (Romney led by 17 points in the Post New Hampshire poll released this week). What we don't know -- and this goes back to something I said earlier in this chat as it related to the Democratic field -- is what impact Iowa is going to have on New Hampshire.

If Romney loses Iowa, do New Hampshire voters jump off his bandwagon? Or do they seek to make Romney the comeback kid?

I wish I knew.

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Claverack, N.Y.: Good morning Chris. Always eager to hear your take on things. I'd like to ask you to expand on something you said in The Line today that, frankly, I didn't get. You ranked Rudy No. 1, but concluded by saying his campaign had come to the conclusion they had to win New Hampshire or South Carolina to be viable. But if that's true, then isn't Rudy not viable? It seems like there's only two scenarios here: Romney wins Iowa and steamrolls all the early contests, or Huckabee wins Iowa, New Hampshire becomes a death match between him and Romney, and all the oxygen leaves the room for the other candidates until February. With Kerik, and with Judi Nathan's uniformed dog-walking service still thick in the air, how can Rudy possible win any of the early states they now think are essential for survival?

Chris Cillizza: I would add at least one another scenario that is more pro-Giuliani: Huckabee wins Iowa and then Rudy wins New Hampshire.

While Huckabee's numbers have soared in Iowa, he remains mired in single digits in New Hampshire. Why? New Hampshire Republican voters tend to favor fiscal conservatives (Rudy) over social conservatives (Huckabee). And while Huckabee is from far off Arkansas, Giuliani hails from New York, which shares quite a bit culturally with New Hampshire.

So, my guess is that if Huckabee does win Iowa, he will focus much more of his time on South Carolina than New Hampshire. That would leave Romney, Giuliani and McCain to duke it out in the Granite State. And, I do think Giuliani has a decent shot of winning that three-way.

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Washington: What exactly has Bill Richardson done recently for you to move him up in your rankings? The guy barely speaks, and when he does he has nothing to say other than trumpeting his varied experience.

Chris Cillizza: It wasn't the easiest decision to move Richardson from fifth to fourth on The Line.

I agree that his campaign hasn't shown anything in the way of momentum of late. But, every poll I've seen puts him in a solid fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Given that, it's hard to rank him below Sen. Joe Biden, which is where I had him last month.

That said, keep an eye on Biden. He might surprise some people on caucus night.

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Football analogies: Mike Huckabee is to Mitt Romney as Todd Collins is to Jason Campbell. Discuss:

washingtonpost.com: Backup Collins Steps to the Front for Redskins (Post, Dec. 7)

Chris Cillizza: Not sure what I can add to this. It did make me laugh though.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Has anyone heard or seen Fred Thompson lately?

Chris Cillizza: No. If you noticed, I dropped Thompson entirely from the Friday Line this week and put Rep. Ron Paul on it.

Thompson's numbers continue to fade everywhere and there seems little urgency on the part of the candidate or the campaign to change the dynamic.

Thompson seems content to roll out policy proposals and appear on conservative talk radio and talk shows. That's not enough to be elected president.

It's an amazing rise and fall. And, while Thompson's people insisted that the comparisons with retired Gen. Wesley Clark's 2004 campaign. In fact, Clark's campaign at the moment looks likely to be the more successful of the two -- he did win the Oklahoma primary after all.

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Suburban Maryland: I know you have talked about this a bit, but could you discuss whether redistricting could mean a large swing after the 2010 census, and how likely that is? Perhaps as an add-on to your governor's races line there could be a section on the current/projected makeup of the statehouses and how likely they are to protect incumbents or go for partisan gains (with redistricting, down-ballot voting, etc.). Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: That is a great idea.

The truth is that the 2008 gubernatorial cycle is very slow with just 11 races up.

Of those, a handful will be truly competitive; Democrats will make serious runs at incumbents in Indiana and Missouri while Republicans think they have chances at open seats in North Carolina and Delaware.

But, come 2010, governor's race will be front and center. Both national parties are already preparing for the glut of races and the crucial impact they will have on the 2011 redistricting.

I am getting excited just thinking about it, a fact that just reaffirms my status as a total political junkie.

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Washington: I don't follow my home state politics enough; is there anyone running against Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma who stands a chance? Even in the primary? It seems like everyone back home can't stand him, and yet he always manages to get re-elected.

Chris Cillizza: Inhofe is someone who often comes up in early discussions of potential races but who rarely faces a major test.

Our guess is that that cycle will repeat itself in 2008. The likely Democratic candidate is state Sen. Andrew Rice. Rice, who is his mid-30s, seems to be running this race to elevate himself for future statewide contests down the line rather than with any realistic expectations that he can beat Inhofe.

The truth is that Oklahoma is a solid Republican state -- especially at the federal level -- and only a special kind of Democrat even has a chance.

Looking down the road, Rep. Dan Boren -- son of former Sen. David Boren -- is probably Democrats' best statewide candidate, along with outgoing Gov. Brad Henry.

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East Lansing, Mich.: I am totally baffled by the state of our congressman, Mike Rogers of Michigan's 8th District. He is an unrepentant supporter of Bush and really breaks with him on very few issues. He seems much more tied with the Republican Party than his constituents. Yet with a skeptical Lansing and university liberal-leaning East Lansing, he marches on unscathed. He beat Democrat Diane Byrum four or six years ago, I believe, by only 250 votes, but continues to sail through his re-elections. At this point I don't know if he even has a Democratic opponent. Is there something I am missing?

Chris Cillizza: Yes. Redistricting in 2001 drastically changed this seat in Rogers' favor.

It's still not a Republican stronghold -- President Bush won it with 54 percent in 2004 -- but Rogers is a very strong fundraiser and a savvy campaigner, which makes him tough to beat.

If and when Rogers decides to run statewide, this will be a very competitive race. Until then, he should be fine.

A brief note about the 200 race between Rogers and Dianne Byrum. In the history of me covering congressional campaigns, that was the single best race I can remember. Two terrific candidates in a total toss up district.

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Indiana: Morning, Chris. I just wanted to comment on the new Candidate Quiz you guys have up. A few people commented on it Wednesday, but after checking it out, I saw that neither Biden or Kucinich were options! Why did you guys fail to include them? Even if you chose the top five polling candidates, it would have been Biden over Dodd. This is a bit disappointing, especially considering that on Wednesday someone said they changed their vote based on the quiz. This is a really powerful tool and I was disheartened that it was done unfairly. It seems most mainstream media focuses on the "big-three," thus leaving no room for other candidates to break in. This was your chance to help the democratic process -- and I feel like you blew it.

washingtonpost.com: From the Choose Your Candidate quiz's "About This Quiz" section: "Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson chose not to reply to all of the questions. But since Thompson and Giuliani are both polling in the top tier of GOP candidates, we included issue stances for them based on the candidates' public statements, speeches and information on their campaign Web sites. We did not choose to research and prepare responses for a short list of second-tier candidates who also did not respond: Democrats Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich, and Republicans Alan Keyes and Tom Tancredo. We have invited the candidates who have not yet responded to join the quiz at any time by answering our issue questions."

Chris Cillizza: A question and an answer on our new Candidate Quiz, which, if you haven't checked it out, you need to.

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Washington: Of all The Post's online content, I think I enjoy The Fix the most. How many districts did the Democrats win in 2006 basically because of corrupt/sleazy incumbents (Pennsylvania's 10th) or former incumbents (Texas's 22nd), and can they reasonably expect to hold any of them? Should they even bother, or would resources be better spent on seats in districts more amenable to a Democrat?

Chris Cillizza: As always, complimenting The Fix will get you every where.

There are a handful of districts where scandal handed Democrats win in seats that should be Republican strongholds.

Pennsylvania's 10th, Texas's 22nd district and Florida's 16th are the ones that immediately jump to mind and all three will be tough hold for Democrats.

Of course, recent electoral history has proven that winning an open seat is a far easier task than defeating an incumbent no matter the underlying demographics of the seat.

So, while these races are tough holds for Democrats, I believe it would be a mistake to simply write them off either.

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Chris Cillizza: Folks, that's all I have time for today ... we are getting down to the wire in the presidential race so make sure to check The Fix for frequent updates.

Thanks for sharing an hour with me and have a great weekend.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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