Post Politics Hour
Friday, February 15, 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.
Washington Post national political reporter Anne E. Kornblut was online Friday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.
The transcript follows.
Anne E. Kornblut: Hi, let's get started! Thank you to everyone for joining today. Fire away with questions!
Chicago: Good morning and thanks for chatting. There were some polls that came out recently showing Clinton ahead in Ohio and Pa. The report I saw indicated that they were post-South Carolina polls but nothing was said if people were questioned after Obama's string of victories after South Carolina. Do you know if there is any polling of the remaining three big states that polled people after the Potomac primaries? Also, hasn't Hillary usually been ahead everywhere until Obama starts showing up in person? Won't he have three weeks to shuttle back and forth between Texas and Ohio (with maybe a stop or two in Vermont and Rhode Island)?
Anne E. Kornblut: This is a great question, one we will be examining in the days ahead. The most recent statewide polls in those states have shown Clinton ahead; I believe one released yesterday put Clinton ahead by double digits in Ohio. But you are right: It's early yet, and most of those numbers came before the contests this past week. I would bet that polling starting next week, heading into March 4, will show a tightening race.
Bloomington, Ind.: Good morning Anne. Where are you today? After traveling with the Clinton campaign for more than a year now, can you give us a sense of how the past few weeks has changed the dynamics of the Clinton camp beyond what's been obvious? Doesn't it get old after a while?
Anne E. Kornblut: Believe it or not, I'm writing from Washington -- I was given a reprieve to come home last night for Valentine's Day! But yes, I have been traveling with them for more than a year, and the past few weeks certainly have grown more intense. Sen. Clinton hasn't shown publicly much of the strain from her string of losses -- she still is keeping a very hectic schedule, and apart from a hoarse voice, seems to be going strong. But her advisers are trying to weather the storm of the staff shakeup at campaign headquarters, while also trying to right the ship so she can win in Texas and Ohio. As for getting old -- wouldn't any job? I actually love it, for the most part, and now we're getting to see parts of the country that are new, instead of the Iowa-New Hampshire axis we had grown accustomed to.
Detroit: Just when the Clinton Campaign finally gets some good news in the New Mexico caucus, there is a front page story in the New York Times on John Lewis wavering. She cannot win.
Anne E. Kornblut: Yes, it was a hard day for them over there. It remains to be seen what the real fallout from the Lewis story will be.
Fairfax County, Va.: I am surprised that Barack Obama, as a Senator from Illinois, has not issued a statement on the Northern Illinois University shooting. His co-chair Tim Kaine, whose political-leadership instincts were perfect at the time of Virginia Tech, might offer good counsel as to what to say. Perhaps it is too soon for Obama to issue a statement or make a comment during a speech (even "our thoughts are with the families" or something like that), or perhaps he has already done so (though I've searched and not found it). Hope to hear from him soon. This is one of the jobs of the president -- to speak to the nation in time of sorrow -- and it probably is one of the jobs of a U.S. senator for the state where such a tragedy occurs. Do you think we'll hear from him?
washingtonpost.com: Obama Statement on the Shooting at Northern Illinois University
Anne E. Kornblut: Terrific question, one I promptly am going to pose to the campaign once I am finished chatting!
Polls for March and April: Really, does anyone seriously care? These things have been spectacularly wrong throughout the primaries.
Anne E. Kornblut: Actually that's not true -- the polls in Iowa were dead-on, as were the ones in Virginia and Maryland. New Hampshire was the exception, it seems, not the rule. And I can assure you -- the campaigns care, very deeply.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Hello Anne, and thank you for taking this question. That big sucking sound I hear every day is the sound of everyday news leaving the room and being replaced by this never-ending primary. In your opinion, what are the three news stories that are getting ignored because of McCain, Obama, Clinton and Huckabee? And as a sidebar, we all know there is this great wall between the editorial side and reporting, but will someone please toss a happy pill to George Will? Man has that guy has been grumpy!
washingtonpost.com: Howlers, Whoops And Miracles (Post, Feb. 14)
Anne E. Kornblut: Well, I hate to say it, but I am the absolute last person you should be consulting to find out nonpolitical news these days! I've been trapped on the Clinton bus (in the Clinton "bubble" as we call it) for many months now -- and fear I am part of the problem you describe, not the cure. That said, I hear you -- I am often hungry for nonpolitical news these days, just to see what else is out there, given the intense focus. The burnout must be even worse for those of you who don't make politics your living!
Buffalo, N.Y.: Will the anger about the firing of Patti Solis Doyle affect the voting of Latinos in Texas? How about Puerto Ricans?
Anne E. Kornblut: There have, in fact, been some complaints from Hispanic leaders about Patti's ouster, but it was not evident during the trip we took with Sen. Clinton to South Texas this week. We will have to see in the next few weeks how events develop -- and whether anyone steps up their concerns.
Atlanta: John Lewis has to be feeling the heat from his constituents re: his superdelegate vote (I sent a letter just last week on this subject). He doesn't want to be on the wrong side of history on this one.
washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Clinton Supporter John Lewis Has Second Thoughts (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 14)
Anne E. Kornblut: We still are trying to figure out exactly what is going on with John Lewis, who told New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny that he was switching sides -- and then later told us, through a spokeswoman, that he still was deciding. The campaigns appear to be getting similarly mixed signals. But I think you are right, that Lewis is taking the full scope of what these two candidacies mean.
La Vale, Md.: Thanks for chatting. What is the status of Hillary's efforts in Wisconsin? I know Obama is taking a day or two off but is he then going back to Wisconsin and stay there until Tuesday? Where does he go first after Wisconsin, Texas or Ohio?
Anne E. Kornblut: Oh, the schedule! We reporters live and die by the schedule, which still is being decided most of the time. But you are right. Clinton is going to campaign in Wisconsin from Saturday until the primary there next Tuesday, and then she heads to Texas, where there is a debate next Thursday night. I am less sure of Obama's plans, but imagine his will be similar. The remaining time, after Feb. 19, almost surely will be spent entirely in Texas and Ohio, with side trips to Pennsylvania.
Greenville, S.C.: Yo Anne -- when senators and representatives travel around the country campaigning for the presidential candidate they've endorsed, who picks up the tab?
Anne E. Kornblut: That is a fantastic question, to which I do not know the answer. I will ask. I have a hunch that it is either the presidential campaign or the members' own political campaign funds.
Rockville, Md.: There seems to be this notion that Clinton "conceded" caucus states to Obama, and that this was a strategic error. I think this is an incorrect analysis of the situation. To me, only after losing to Obama at the Iowa caucuses did Clinton realize that the depth of his support was much more than the depth of her support, making caucuses favor Obama. But this means that the notion of her "conceding" these states is a little off. Am I missing something?
Anne E. Kornblut: If I am reading you correctly, I think you're saying that the Clinton campaign began dismissing caucuses in hindsight -- which is true, but only up to a point. They certainly campaigned hard in Iowa, and did not leave it free for Obama to win, which is to say they thought they could win a caucus ahead of time. But she did ignore some later states with caucuses, having discovered she only had limited resources and that the caucus system doesn't tend to work for her. (Except where it does -- and in those states, the caucus system is working just fine, in the Clinton campaign's view.)
Richmond, Va.: I got into a cocktail party conversation the other night with a staunch Libertarian. He thinks that Obama's catchphrase "Yes We Can" is preposterous -- saying it's totally impossible and that there is no way Obama can do all the things he's promising. I remained quiet and polite in my Southern belle way, but wonder what you think. Is it all hogwash -- can Obama do most of what he's saying, or is it all a hopeful promise?
Anne E. Kornblut: Great question, and one that is at the heart of the Democratic race right now. It is very difficult to know how much a president actually will accomplish ahead of time, or what unforeseen events will get in the way, but a president who comes into office with a sweeping mandate -- a lot of popular/electoral support -- has a better chance of getting things done than someone who wins by a narrow margin and/or loses Congress. So the measure, to me, is a person's history, as well as whether the political winds are at his (or her) back.
Arlington, Va.: Anne, a friend of mine who works on the Hill and who did some work on the Clinton campaign said that the Clinton campaign is doing a good job of turning out their voters, but that the Obama campaign has been increasing the size of the playing field -- meaning that they are turning out so many new voters that it's overwhelming. Is that an accurate description of what's happening? And what do the demographic breakdowns from Virginia, Maryland and the District mean going forward? What groups are moving from Clinton to Obama and what groups are still holding their ground?
Anne E. Kornblut: I think you are absolutely right -- it sounds completely accurate -- but I am not sure of the demographic details in the Potomac primary; let me get back to you.
Why not fire Mark Penn?: Boy he has run a really poor campaign ... from "inevitability" to "states that count." It is one stupid move after another, and yet he keeps his job?
Anne E. Kornblut: Mark is a pretty invaluable resource for the Clinton campaign -- it's hard to imagine his being fired at this late date. It will be interesting, though, to see if the campaign shakeups we've seen in recent days continue or extend.
Obama and "Yes We Can": Anne: I have to laugh about all of the recent criticism of Obama's rhetoric, including Charles Krauthammer's column today. I'm sure many of these people on the Republican side were awestruck when Reagan talked about "morning in America" and "the shining city on the hill." Rhetoric is in the ears of the beholder, if you will.
washingtonpost.com: The Audacity of Selling Hope (Post, Feb. 15)
Anne E. Kornblut: That's a good line. There has been a very interesting discussion in this campaign about whether words matter or not, and this is part of it.
Washington for Richmond, Va.: I think Richmond hit the nail on the head -- these candidates keep promising to do things that a president has no authority to do. I long have thought Clinton's muffed answer to the drivers' license for illegal immigrants question started her decline, but really, why can't a candidate answer that question by explaining that drivers' licenses are issued by states? It's not a federal issue at all.
Anne E. Kornblut: That is true -- the reason Clinton was asked about it in the first place was because the governor of her state was considering issuing drivers' licenses. Do people think it's legitimate for candidates to say that certain issues are up to the states, or is that too close to being a cop-out? I'm curious.
McLean, Va.: Anne: We were told by any number of reporters and pundits (including -- ahem -- you, I believe) that the Clintons had this awe-inspiring, flawless political machine set to roll through the primaries. Given that they've blown their lead (not to mention their aura of inevitability), care to re-evaluate?
Anne E. Kornblut: Good point! The Clinton team always told us they weren't as masterful as people thought, and it looks as though they were right. What is interesting is that Clinton herself did not make any "for it before I was against it" blunders; most of the problems have come from her husband, her campaign staff and her surrogates. But it is not, to be sure, the flawless machine -- you are absolutely right.
Washington: Hey Anne: I've got a question for the Clinton campaign ... Sen. C speaks of her experience. What has she ever successfully implemented (not bills she's supported in conjunction with others in the Senate)? Also, could someone ask Bill what decisions Sen. C was critical to? In other words, was there a determination that Bill is proud of (something that worked and brought credit to the Clinton administration) where Bill originally was thinking "Y" but Hillary convinced him to change his mind and do "X," and that made all of the difference? Otherwise, how is her "experience" any different than any presidential advisor?
Anne E. Kornblut: It's a great question -- we've tried to get it answered in the past few months, but it has been a challenge. Clinton obviously talks about the health care debacle, but that was a failure; she also talks about working on the Children's Health Insurance Program. She also talks about traveling on her husband's behalf when she was First Lady, and there have been some accounts that she wanted to go into Kosovo before he did. But they have not delineated her accomplishments as First Lady, that is true.
Do people think it's legitimate for candidates to say that certain issues are up to the states?: Only if you're a Republican running on states' rights or an insurance company executive.
Anne E. Kornblut: Here's an answer!
Obama and Northern Illinois University statement: Anne, thanks so much to you and the crack washingtonpost.com staff for posting the link to the Obama statement on the recent NIU tragedy. Just FYI, there seems to be a new statement today, so the link you posted is not the current statement.
washingtonpost.com: Statement of Senator Barack Obama on NIU Shooting (Feb. 15)
Anne E. Kornblut: I will work to get that fixed
Reading, Pa.: Anne, I think it is very disingenuous to say the Clinton and Obama economic plans are similar, as you did in today's paper. Obama doesn't have lobbyists tying his hands if he's elected, and he also doesn't have a NAFTA legacy -- your comments please?
washingtonpost.com: Clinton, Obama Offer Similar Economic Visions (Post, Feb. 15)
Anne E. Kornblut: Their records may be different, but we were trying today to talk about the proposals they put forward this week. But your point is taken, absolutely.
National polls: Anne: I have a question about the ongoing national polls. Who are they polling? Are they still including people from states that already have held primaries and caucuses? If so, why? We already know they think.
Anne E. Kornblut: To tell you the truth, I haven't been looking at any national polls lately, for the exact reason you mention. Keep your eye on state polls from Wisconsin and Hawaii this weekend; then from Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont; and then Pennsylvania.
Clinton's Biggest Mistake: Imagine if Hillary Clinton would have waited four years and ran in Illinois instead of carpetbagging to New York state -- there would have been no Barack Obama to challenge her and she could have done a listening tour in Illinois for four years. Nita Lowey would be the Senator from New York and Sen. Clinton (D-Ill.) would be writing her nomination speech. Has anyone asked her this question?
Anne E. Kornblut: You really have thought it through! I have not asked her -- and I don't know how far down that path she would like to let herself go -- but it's a great "what if."
Washington: You wrote that "she had limited resources" with respect to Clinton's choice of whether and how to fight caucuses. Huh? I was under the impression that she raised well over $100 million (more) for this presidential race ... and started as the prohibitive front-runner. Where did the money go if she didn't have resources to fight caucuses? And what does it say about Penn, Solis, Wolfson, etc. that they blew through that money and she finds herself behind and in need of a "comeback"? ... Arguably, it doesn't speak well for her management style/experience (if you will).
Anne E. Kornblut: This is a very legitimate question. She did raise -- but then spent -- huge amounts of money, so that by the time she lost the Iowa caucuses she did not have a lot of options left, and was completely hamstrung after Super Tuesday. She did loan herself some money and seems back on the road to financial recovery, but her management of the campaign has not been smooth, to say the least.
New York: I don't think it's a copout to educate voters about what are federal issues and what are state and local issues -- but a liberal politician would be accused of mouthing a states' rights message, which is anathema to his/her ideology, and a conservative politician would be giving the code that hearkens back to ugly segregation battles. So they don't.
Anne E. Kornblut: And another view, thank you!
Madison, Wis.: Clinton's strategists keep saying that she is winning the states that matter in November, which many Democrats are taking to mean that the states that Obama are winning do not matter. Fair or not, Mark Penn and company are in a touchy position here.
Anne E. Kornblut: It's true, that is a tricky spot. Obama also is arguing that he would like to expand the electoral map to include more states that go "blue," but I think the Clinton campaign's point is that it is hard to imagine a nominee who lost California and New York.
Austin, Texas: Anne, thanks so much for chatting with us. I am an Obama supporter who likes Sen. Clinton. In my conversations with Clinton supporters they seem pretty angry that Obama is stealing the nomination from her. They seem pretty angry at Obama, which they weren't a few months ago. Is Sen. Clinton's campaign angry at Obama's and if so do you think it will carry over to the general election?
Anne E. Kornblut: There are definitely a lot of tensions between the two camps, even though many of the people involved have known each other a long time. I get the sense it stems from the candidates themselves, and that it runs both ways. You're down in Texas, so you'll get a good, front-row seat to all this for the next few weeks (and we are extremely happy to be getting down to your warm weather and good food).
Summit, N.J.: Regarding the Clinton camp's attempt to diminish Obama's caucus victories: To say "No fair! We were outsmarted!" does not seem like a winning argument for a presidential candidate to make.
washingtonpost.com: Clinton Camp May Regret Largely Turning Its Back on Caucus States (Post, Feb. 15)
Anne E. Kornblut: Another observation. ... Thank you for this.
Southwest Ohio: FYI, Hillary is here at an iconic Cincinnati chili parlor this morning -- a last-minute scheduling change to overshadow Michelle Obama's visit here later today. Here is a solution to the Florida/Michigan debacle: Seat Florida delegates and have a do-over caucus in June in Michigan. Both were on the ballot in Florida, but only Hillary was in Michigan; Obama does well in caucuses, so he can neutralize Clinton's win in Florida if he does well. If Hillary rebounds in Michigan, she gets the benefit from it. What do you think?
Anne E. Kornblut: That is an idea that's been on the table, and it sounds like a good one, if it comes to that. But for now, it is all a muddle; I believe both sides are hoping it will get resolved before then.
To Obama and "Yes We Can": I like your change in the old saw, but let's have a complete change, as in "rhetoric is in the ear of the hearer."
Anne E. Kornblut: Even better!
Vienna, Va.: You mentioned Hillary "loaning" her campaign money. How is this a "loan"? Is she getting the money back at some point in time?
Anne E. Kornblut: My understanding is that she already has gotten her money back, thanks to upped fundraising. Candidates are also allowed to donate themselves as much money as they'd like -- as long as it is their own money to spend, or in the case of a marriage, truly part of their 50 percent share of the marital assets.
Bremerton, Wash.: Anne, thanks for having these chats as well as being available for Chris Matthews's and Howard Kurtz's shows. Two decades ago, I was assigned to Fort Bliss (what a misnomer!) right by El Paso. What were the top concerns in the area when Hillary Clinton visited it last week?
Anne E. Kornblut: Fort Bliss ... I have been right by there. Thanks for the question. We weren't there very long, and Clinton did not take questions while we were in El Paso; later, when we got to McAllen, she got a lot of questions about the environment and whether the Veterans Administration would build a hospital there, but obviously that is much further east. I will know more after we make more trips there in the days ahead.
New York: What do you think of the theory that the more Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham attack McCain, the better he looks to moderates who otherwise would vote for a Clinton or Obama? Is this part of an orchestrated effort to keep a Republican in the White House?
Anne E. Kornblut: I'm not sure how calculated it is, but I certainly can see that it might have that effect. Truth is, though, that those conservatives really, seriously do not like McCain -- it is not just an act.
Virginia Beach, Va.: Penn and Wolfson -- could you please elaborate on what makes them invaluable? They appear so creepy on TV that they reinforce Clinton's negatives, to me, in a profound and obvious way. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw Wolfson acting like a mad dog on MSNBC about a year ago; yet they keep trotting these two guys into public view.
Anne E. Kornblut: I can see your point; they're not typical spokesmen. Penn is much more of a behind-the-scenes-numbers guy, usually, and Wolfson is a communications guy, though again as much on the strategic planning end as the on-camera end. I, frankly, have been surprised that Clinton hasn't hired a spokeswoman to be the face of her campaign.
Rockville, Md.: I heard a rumor that Edwards is getting ready to endorse Clinton tomorrow. Have you heard anything on that front within the Clinton bubble? Edwards still hasn't rescheduled his meeting with Obama yet.
Anne E. Kornblut: This is a widespread rumor, but I have not gotten any confirmation of it -- we heard the same thing on Wednesday, and it didn't happen Thursday. We'll report it the minute we know, trust me!
Re: "Hillary is here at an iconic Cincinnati chili parlor this morning": Chili for breakfast? With or without pasta, that's got to be a violation of some human rights standard!
Anne E. Kornblut: I have to admit, the exact same thought crossed my mind. These candidates have stomachs of iron.
Florida and Michigan do-over: The Democratic National Committee would have to pay for a caucus -- I don't see that happening.
Anne E. Kornblut: Another good point
Washington: A classic Clinton story: When she was a young girl, Clinton said, she wrote a letter to what was then a new agency called NASA and asked "how do you become an astronaut?" But NASA, as she recalled, replied: "We're not accepting women into the astronaut program." Now, this is an obvious crock, but it's an innocent crock.
I'll ask you to speak for the entirety of the political press corps: How do you decide when a cute (but probably false) anecdote crosses the line and becomes a lie? For example, Mitt Romney never saw his father march with Dr. King. It was a lie when he said he did. But was it a lie when Bill Richardson said he was drafted by the A's?
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for reminding me of this. I have been meaning to ask about that letter. Good point.
"But I think the Clinton campaign's point is that it is hard to imagine a nominee who lost California and New York.": This argument makes no sense. Primary elections have no real relation to general elections. For example, the Republicans haven't carried California in a presidential election since 1988, and they haven't carried New York since 1984. Why wouldn't Obama win those states in November -- just because he lost the primaries in those states?
Anne E. Kornblut: I am not saying I agree with the argument, just that it's the one they're making. You raise a good point.
Anne E. Kornblut: This hour flew by! Thanks to everyone, so much for all the questions -- keep reading. And talk to you soon!
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