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Post Politics Hour
washingtonpost.com's Daily Politics Discussion

Chris Cillizza
Washingtonpost.com Political Blogger
Friday, February 1, 2008 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, Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone.

What a week! Florida's primary on Tuesday night followed by back-to-back California debates on Wednesday and Thursday.

Did we mention that Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards became former candidates this week as well?

And tomorrow night, MTV, MySpace, and The Associated Press will host a super presidential dialogue featuring Sens. Clinton and Obama as well former Gov. Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul. It runs from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on MTV. And, you guessed it, The Fix will be one of the moderators. Check it out.

With that gratuitous plug out of the way, let's chat.

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Washington: I read your column on potential running mates and I have to say, after last night's debate, I'd bet big money that Clinton and Obama will both be on their party's ticket (not sure of the order). Before last night I would have assumed Clinton would stay in the Senate and look for a leadership position, but the two of them seem much happier working as a team than as rivals.

Chris Cillizza: I really debated whether to include Obama on Clinton's list of potential veep picks (and vice versa) when writing the Friday vice presidential Line.

Ultimately I left the two off of each others lists because while I do think Obama might consider taking the vice presidential slot under Clinton, it's hard for me to imagine her doing the same if Obama is the nominee.

Obama is still young (mid-40s), and if he does come up short in this primary process, I could see him signing on with Clinton in what would be a truly historic ticket.

I have a much harder time seeing Clinton agreeing to serve as Obama's vice president. My guess is that if Clinton lost the nomination she would head back to the Senate and begin positioning herself to be majority leader at some point -- a post many observers believe she was made for.

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Fairfax: Chris, love The Fix. The recent post you had about possible vice presidents didn't include Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. I would think given his strength in a swing state that he could be an interesting vice presidential selection. Do you see him as a possible VP candidate?

washingtonpost.com: The Fix: The Line on Running Mates (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 1)

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the kind words about The Fix. Let me make a quick point on the vice presidential line: If I included every politician mentioned as a potential veep, The Line would be 15,000 words long. So, I try to list only those who seem to be the most in play at the moment, with the understanding that things likely will change drastically between now and when the pick is made.

Rendell, who endorsed Clinton last week, is certainly worthy of a mention -- but it seems to me his time in the national spotlight has passed. He is a bit on the older side, and I think Clinton would be looking for someone younger if she winds up as the nominee.

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Austin, Texas: Won't either Clinton or Obama probably feel the need to pick a white male as their running mate?

Chris Cillizza: I think that's a legitimate question that I honestly don't know the answer to. If either Obama or Clinton feels the need to go that route, my guess is that John Edwards would be the first person considered.

For Clinton, Evan Bayh, Ted Strickland and Tom Vilsack also would be in the mix. For Obama, Tim Kaine -- the governor of Virginia -- would be an intriguing option.

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Re: Veepstakes: You said that you are not sure why Clinton would agree to be Obama's VP. I'm not sure why he would ask her. This isn't a knock on her, it's just that she doesn't bring anything to the ticket that he really needs. She's not going to be a good balance on the "experience" issue. If the situation were reversed, the one thing he would have going for him as a possible vice president is his following (and massive fundraising abilities).

Chris Cillizza: Good point. One thing I would say is that by picking Clinton I think Obama would make a symbolic bridge between the Democratic Party in the 1990s and today's Democratic Party.

I also think Clinton would bring considerable gravitas to a ticket, and put to rest questions of whether Obama is experienced enough for the job.

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Waterville, Maine: Hi Chris, I am a big fan of The Fix in Maine. What do your sources and your "gut" tell you about momentum for the Democratic candidates? It would seem that Obama has some momentum now, but will it be enough for him to emerge as the co-front-runner Tuesday night, or will Clinton capitalize on the Hispanic vote in the West to become the undisputed front-runner? Lastly, do you have any reason to believe Edwards will endorse before Tuesday? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: My gut isn't very reliable these days. ;)

My guess is that although Super Tuesday is being cast as a decisive moment in the Democratic race, it actually won't be. Because of the way delegates are apportioned on the Democratic side, it is very likely that there will be a small separation between Clinton and Obama on Feb. 6.

That's the practical side of the equation. On the symbolic side, it's even harder to predict. If Clinton wins California, New York, and several other big states, does she start to look like a front-runner? What about if Clinton only wins states on the two coasts and Obama wins the interior of the country? Does he than have the ability to make the case that he is a 50-state candidate and she isn't?

It makes my brain hurt even trying to figure it out at the moment.

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Kingston, Ontario: Mr Cillizza: Assuming McCain is the nominee, do you think the conservative movement is now going to devour itself, or will it pull back and support him? Either way, it's beginning to look as if Limbaugh and Co. are on the wane.

Chris Cillizza: All the way from Ontario!

There's no question that the talk-radio wing of the Republican Party (not an insignificant group) ardently is opposed to McCain as the GOP nominee.

The question is what do they do about it? While they do have real power, it's hard to imagine them alone catapulting Mitt Romney over McCain in the states that will vote next Tuesday. And, if McCain, as expected, wins a convincing number of states on Super Tuesday, he will be the nominee.

Do conservatives, who remain wary of him, then line up behind him? It's unimaginable they would support either Obama or Clinton, but it is plausible that they might stay home. That would spell disaster for the GOP come November.

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Washington: Hi Chris. I love The Fix; thanks for taking questions. So if John McCain does capture the GOP nomination as is now likely, doesn't that open up space for an anti-immigration third-party candidate? There are a lot of Republicans who feel passionately about that issue, and neither party will be representing their interests.

Chris Cillizza: Interesting. It could well "open up space," but it's hard to imagine a third-party candidate who could both fill that space and run a serious campaign.

The name that jumps to mind is Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), who ran for president and is leaving Congress at the end of the this term. Could Tancredo pull a point or two of hard-core anti-immigration voters away from McCain? Sure.

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Jefferson City, Mo.: It appears you missed an interview Edwards gave sometime in the past couple of weeks (sorry, I can't remember where I saw it) in which he categorically stated he would not run as vice president again for either Clinton or Obama. Being Kerry's VP left an understandably bad taste in his mouth. Moreover, this paper ran a piece yesterday that made it pretty clear that Elizabeth's health issues might have played a major role in this. In 2008, Edward's wasn't running to be kingmaker or vice president, he was running for president -- and because that option looked increasingly unlikely, he bailed.

washingtonpost.com: Losing More Than a Campaign (Post, Jan. 31)

Chris Cillizza: While I take Edwards at his word, I also think he would rethink his previous statements if the offer came again. No one runs for vice president, and it's unseemly to suggest you are interested in the job.

I am not saying Edwards will be veep, but I also think past denials do not mean he won't be either.

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Illinois: If Clinton is the nominee, do you really think it would benefit Obama to accept the vice presidential slot? To me it seems like he would run the risk of being a part of a rancorous administration in which he would have very little clout (because of Bill's looming presence). If he declined, he could come back to Illinois and run for governor in 2010 to rack up executive experience. Even though he'd be running a smaller government, he'd have much more direct control of the tone of things and he'd really be in charge.

Chris Cillizza: Interesting suggestion.

One quick point: If Obama winds up coming up short in this race, he will have his pick of what he wants to do next. He has built an amazing organization and has become a national figure in a very short period of time. Whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination or the presidency, my guess is he will be a major player in national politics for years to come.

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Baltimore: Huckabee's role: It's obvious Mike Huckabee has no chance to be nominated, but if the stays in (which he is for the time being) he takes votes from Romney, I would think, because real Bible-believing evangelicals will vote for Huckabee as long as he runs. Do you see him being a factor next Tuesday, or even beyond? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: I do think Huckabee remains a real factor -- especially in places like Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, all of which will vote on Tuesday.

Huckabee never was able to build on his win in Iowa and his base among social conservative voters, but he remains a potent candidate among those social conservatives and in the South.

My guess is that Huckabee makes it harder for Romney to consolidate conservatives behind his candidacy on Feb. 5 and, even if Huckabee leaves the race soon after, the damage will be done to Romney.

Huckabee has to be one of the leading names for McCain's vice presidential pick; he and the Arizona Senator seem to enjoy a warm relationship, and Huckabee has done much throughout the campaign to put McCain where he is today.

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Atlanta: Chris, the potential running mates you cite for Obama are also kind of soft on the experience factor, particularly in foreign policy. Let's suppose Obama really wanted to find somebody with experience. Who might he consider?

Chris Cillizza: Hmmm. How about Joe Biden? Or Chris Dodd? Or Sam Nunn? All would be potentially intriguing picks with years of experience in Washington.

I do think there is a real possibility, however, that if Obama becomes the nominee he will see his vice presidential pick as a chance to further the case that a new generation of leaders is coming to Washington, and that the old "balancing the ticket" approach won't apply.

To me, Kathleen Sebelius, Jim Webb or Kaine would be a fascinating Obama pick under that scenario.

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New York: Jim Webb is twice as likely as Wes Clark to be on a Democratic ticket. And Daschle? Did you just make that up?

Chris Cillizza: I just mentioned Webb, and I would agree he is a real possibility for either Clinton or Obama.

As for Daschle, he is something of a long-shot, but has been a key Obama supporter since the early days and helped solidify Obama's credentials with the chattering class.

And, as I said many times, the veepstakes is the most speculative of games. If you don't like my picks, The Fix's comments section is ready and waiting for yours.

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Des Peres, Mo.: Back to the Veepstakes! I was always impressed by Tom Daschle. Would his presence spell too much old politics? Whom would he help more, Hillary or Barack? Thanks

Chris Cillizza: Des Peres, you need to check with the last poster. ;)

I think Daschle would be a possibility for Obama, as he would lend significant Washington experience and a steady hand to the ticket. I don't think he is an option for Clinton.

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Seattle: Hi Chris. "Because of the way delegates are apportioned on the Democratic side, it is very likely that there will only be a small separation between Clinton and Obama on Feb. 6." If that turns to be true, what's the next hurdle, and who do you see having an advantage?

Chris Cillizza: Good question. Next up after Feb. 5 is what I am calling the "Beltway" primary, with Maryland, Virginia and the District all voting on Feb. 12. I don't think that's likely to be determinative either, however, so then we move into mid-February and early March. Could March 4 be the new Feb. 5? Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont vote that day.

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Philadelphia: I'm a moderate, and Huckabee as vice president would keep me from voting for McCain. Given McCain's age, there's a better-than-average chance that the vice president could be elevated at some point in the next four years. President Huckabee would be a disaster.

Chris Cillizza: Philadelphia raised a good point. Because of McCain's age and the health problems he has had in the past decade (or so), there will be far more attention paid to whom he picks as vice president than in recent elections.

My guess is that McCain tries to pick someone who is considerably younger than him, but with a deep resume and executive experience. Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, is one to keep an eye on.

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Atlanta: Man oh man did Sam Nunn retire too soon...

Chris Cillizza: Let the Sam Nunn veep speculation begin ... you heard it here first!

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Winston-Salem, N.C.: Being vice president would keep Obama in the national spotlight, but he wouldn't be racking up senate votes that could bite him in the future.

Chris Cillizza: The case for Obama as veep.

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Prescott, Ariz.: Wasn't that debate boring last night? All that focus on issues that might just pertain to ordinary people's lives just sucked the life out of room. And they were in Hollywood and didn't even get a Britney question? What's up with that?

washingtonpost.com: Head to Head, Clinton, Obama Shelve Rancor (Post, Feb. 1)

Chris Cillizza: Your sarcasm is noted.

I think a lot of people appreciated the fact that the candidates got the chance to spend 90 minutes talking about substantive agreements (and disagreements) on policy. Voters don't like food fights.

And while Britney wasn't part of the debate, there was enough star power in that room to make even this reporter celebrity-spot a bit.

Also, was that Politico Commander in Chief John Harris sitting next to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom?

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Centennial, Colo.: Shouldn't Clinton's fundraising total be out by now? Bad news? Any predictions?

Chris Cillizza: It seems very improbable that Clinton was able to match the $32 million Obama raised in January. That is a truly staggering amount.

My betting is that Clinton brought in somewhere around $20 million for the month -- a huge sum of money in its own right.

The truth of the matter is that Obama is now well-positioned to outspend Clinton on Feb. 5 and beyond, an unthinkable proposition when this race first started.

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Westerly, R.I.: Chris, how about Sen. Jack Reed as Obama's vice president? Admittedly he is from little old Rhode Island with not much in electoral votes, but he would bring huge credibility on the national security front -- plus he is a really smart and likable guy.

Chris Cillizza: Interesting...

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Daschle Again: Chris, I like Daschle and was very sorry to see him lose to Thune, but I have to wonder if he somehow has a "loser" aura about him because of his loss? I also have to wonder this about John Edwards.

Chris Cillizza: America loves second chances, no?

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Virginia Beach, Va.: What would happen to Webb's Senate seat if he gets the nod? He seems to make the most sense, with national security credentials -- are there negatives?

Chris Cillizza: Webb's seat would be declared vacant and a special election likely would be held in 2010 to fill it.

The only major weakness for Webb is that he is not someone who likes to be managed. He is a shoot-from-the-hip sort of candidate, and that runs counter to the usual "seen but not heard" mentality of vice presidential nominees.

He carries impeccable military credentials, however, and is a beloved figure on the liberal left.

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Los Angeles: You keep forgetting Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Chris Cillizza: Absolutely. The governor of Arizona has endorsed Obama and definitely should be in the mix.

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Philadelphia: Hi Chris-hoping you'll take my question even though I'm a Pitt alum ... stepping away from the presidential race for a moment, what's happening in the House and Senate? More moderate House Republicans are leaving, and yet it seems that a few Democrats are solid targets for the GOP -- I'm thinking Carney and Altmire (and maybe Murphy) here in Pennsylvania. Thanks for taking my question.

Chris Cillizza: Can't do a chat without answering a single House question ... even it if does come from a Pitt alum. ;)

While the presidential race largely has overshadowed it, it has been a really bad week for House Republicans.

They are being badly outraised by their Democratic counterparts and are experiencing considerable attrition in their ranks. Reps. Tom Davis (Va.), Ron Lewis (Ky.) and Kenny Hulshof (Mo.) announced they were leaving in this past week alone!

We'll have more on the problems for House Republicans on The Fix once we get past Super Tuesday.

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Chris Cillizza: Folks, that's all I have time for ... I am running to catch a train to New York City for the MTV/MySpace/Associated Press event tomorrow night. Make sure to check it out from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. tomorrow night on MTV!

The conversation about the veepstakes continues at The Fix. Make sure to sign on and let your opinion be heard.

Thanks as always for making the time to chat.

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