Post Politics Hour

Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com political blogger Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza
Washingtonpost.com Political Blogger
Friday, March 28, 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, March 28 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

Read Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone.

We've made it to another Friday! And we're now just 25 days away from the Pennsylvania primary!

The big news out of the Keystone State this morning is that Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) -- a move that could boost the Illinois Senator's chances in the state's April 22 primary. More on that below.

Right now on The Fix, it's the Friday Vice Presidential Line -- the 15 men and women most likely to be plucked from (relative) obscurity this summer as the #2 on a ticket. Make sure to check out our picks and offer your own.

Let's get to it.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Chris -- thank you for taking my question. I always appreciate your insights both in print and on the air. How big an impact will Casey's endorsement of Obama have on the Pennsylvania primary? If he's going for Obama and Rendell's going for Hillary, is it a wash? Is one "worth" more than the other?

Chris Cillizza: Let me first say that endorsements -- generally -- tend to be overrated.

Remember how Ted Kennedy's endorsement was going to deliver Massachusetts for Obama? Or how Tom Vilsack's backing was going to carry Clinton to victory in Iowa?

So, with that out of the way...

Bob Casey's endorsement of Obama should give the Illinois Senator a bit of a shot in the arm in Pennsylvania, which, if polling is to be believed, he needs
Not only did Casey vanquish the man Democrats love to hate -- Rick Santorum -- in 2006 but he also carries one of the most well-regarded last names in Pennsylvania Democratic politics. Casey's father, also Bob, served as governor of the state and was beloved after he left office.

So, Casey's endorsement helps Obama in that it gives him a foothold in the state party establishment; Clinton had dominated the party regulars to date with the support of Gov. Ed Rendell, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Rep. John Murtha.

One interesting side note: Rendell and Casey ran a brutal and bruising primary for governor in 2002, which was won by Rendell. There's not much love lost between the two men and the presidential race could wind up as a proxy war between the duo.

The Fix can only dream...

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Washington: T-Paw! I love it! One thing I don't understand is why the GOP vice presidential candidate shouldn't have foreign affairs experience as well. Obviously McCain has boatloads, but if the vice president is really supposed to be the person who is most qualified to take over should something happen to the president, shouldn't he or she have foreign policy experience coming in?

washingtonpost.com: The Fix's Friday Line: Pin the VP on the Nominee (washingtonpost.com, March 28)

Chris Cillizza: I wish I had thought of T-Paw (the nickname for Gov. Tim Pawlenty) but I can't take credit. I first saw it used in a story written by Politico's Jonathan Martin -- J-Mart -- and he got it from the state press corps -- I think.

And it's a good question. I think that the theory of vice presidential picking is to "balance" the ticket -- that is, to bring on a candidate whose strengths match up with the presidential candidate's weaknesses.

In that, Pawlenty is a pretty perfect fit; he is far younger than McCain, has a close relationship with the Arizona Senator and has spent six years as a chief executive.

As for foreign policy experience, the thinking usually goes that a Pawlenty, for example, would learn from McCain in the White House and be ready at some point in the future to step in if needed.

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Washington: First things first, Chris -- where are the Fix T-shirts!? Second, your Veepline mentioned that the vice presidential slot usually is given to a person that contrasts the top of the ticket -- but as we saw with Clinton/Gore, the vice presidential slot can also be used to reinforce the qualities of the top. With that being said, could you see McCain going with somebody like Petraeus or Lindsey Graham? It also would give Kaine a better shot at being on Obama's ticket, wouldn't it?

Chris Cillizza:  I just signed off on the proof for the Fix T-shirts yesterday. They should arrive within ten days and I will start sending them out (and selling them) ASAP. Having looked at the proof, I can tell you that -- unlike me -- they are very, very cool.

On second point, you're right, I should have added in the last post that oftentimes the traditional balancing of the ticket goes out the window when the actual vice presidential pick is made. If Obama decided to reinforce the idea of an historic ticket, my guess is that he would go with someone like Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius -- a woman who has won two terms as governor from ruby red Kansas.

As for McCain, he could go with a Petraeus or Condi Rice to reinforce the national security heft on his candidacy. But, at least with those two names, I am skeptical they would serve as neither has ever held or expressed even a passing interest in public office.

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Alexandria, Va.: Fifteen obscure names for vice president? How about Chris Cillizza? I hear he's a politically aware character. On a serious side, though: after Clinton or Obama loses to the other, how soon after they acknowledge the loss will they turn back around and start campaigning for the person who just beat them? It seems to me that timing is important to not let a grudge settle in, and to keep their supporters active.

Chris Cillizza: This may be the worst idea I have ever heard. That said, I would be open to a draft movement.

I think that the longer the race between Obama and Clinton goes on, the more important a very quick endorsement by the losing candidate matters.

The party is already straining a bit under the pressures from such a prolonged race with supporters of each candidate growing more and more disenchanted with the idea of backing the other candidate. (See the Gallup poll I wrote on yesterday on The Fix.)

My guess is that the party elders are acutely aware of this situation and would push for a quick endorsement and sign of support from the losing candidate.
If it's Obama who comes up short -- and that is the less likely outcome right now -- Clinton would be hard-pressed to not at least offer him the vice presidential slot, a move that could lead to some quick healing.

If it's the other way around -- that might be more complicated.

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Las Vegas: I saw that Mitt Romney and John McCain met yesterday. I heard some on the right pushing Romney as a running mate. I think Romney would be a terrible general election candidate -- he strikes me as a cross between a televangelist and a vacuum cleaner salesman, and as phony as a three-dollar bill. I know McCain isn't fond of him. Do you think there is any chance of the two of them getting together?

washingtonpost.com: McCain-Romney? (Post, March 28)

Chris Cillizza: McCain-Romney is the hot talk right now but I don't it lasting.
Yes, we all have seen by now -- thanks Matt Drudge! -- the picture of the two men sitting next to one another on an airplane yesterday joking around.

And, yes, there is probably far less animosity between the two of them then there was during the campaign.

But, no, I can't imagine that McCain would ultimately decide on his own that Romney is the man he wants to share his ticket with. Bad feeling die hard and McCain made no secret of his dislike for Romney during the nomination fight.

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Fairfax, Va.: What does it mean that people see Evan Bayh as "stiff and shallow"?

Chris Cillizza: Hmmm. I thought it was pretty self explanatory.

Bayh has a reputation for being a great politician on paper -- he's handsome, young, moderate, elected in a swing state -- but being something less than charismatic.

In my interactions with the Senator, which have been limited, I have always found him to be far more dynamic than he is given credit for -- an admittedly low bar.

But, perceptions often matter more than reality when it comes to politics. And many people in the chattering class view Bayh as too vanilla to be vice president.

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Hamilton, Bermuda: Thank you for taking my question. If Iraq blows up into full fledged civil war again and the American economy is in a nasty recession come November (I realize these are still ifs, but surely they are both becoming more likely each passing day), absent pictures of Obama or Clinton having sex with Rev. Wright (or each other), is there any way either of them could lose the general election in such an environment?

Chris Cillizza: First of all, you live in Bermuda. Why are you at your computer? Get out on the beach!

Second, it's always dangerous to make predictions about how things will turn out in politics eight months from now.

Do things look good for Democrats right now? Absolutely. But, can things change in short order? Yes.

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Reston, Va: Chris, Oh Great Oracle of Political Knowledge, I am an independent who intends to vote for McCain, but it seems to me that Obama just adopts whatever policies Hillary comes up with. His economic stimulus plan, for example, is very near to hers -- right down to the $30 billion figure. Why hasn't Clinton called him on it?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for consulting the Oracle.

I think a lot of the "who is copying who" stuff when it comes to policy in the race is in the eye of the beholder.

I have heard people allied with Clinton say that Obama offers few specifics and when he does talk in specifics it sound a lot like Clinton.

But, I've also heard Obama backers complain that Clinton is parroting Obama on any number of things -- from his "change" message to his position on the war in Iraq.

The "he/she is copying me" line is an age-old one in politics. But, I'm not sure there is a clear-cut case to be made for or against either Obama or Clinton in this race.

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Atlanta: "Too vanilla to be vice president"? After eight years of Dick Cheney, you'd think America would be clamoring for a vanilla vice president.

Chris Cillizza: An interesting perspective on Evan Bayh...

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Riverside, Calif.: Chris, I've seen recent polls where a significant number of Clinton and Obama supporters would vote for McCain in the general election, if their candidate were not the nominee. How seriously do you take this? Do you think these numbers would drop substantially as the election approaches?

washingtonpost.com: The Fix: Obamacains and McClintons (washingtonpost.com, March )

Chris Cillizza: Right, I wrote on this yesterday; that post is linked below.
My basic take is this: While it makes for a great story to ponder the idea that large numbers of Clinton or Obama supporters will vote for McCain if their candidate doesn't wind up as the party's nominee, it seem to me very unlikely that any large number of Democrats will follow through and actually do this.

Once the hurt feelings caused by this primary race pass, most Democrats will realize that they have far more in common with either Clinton or Obama than they do with McCain.

That realization will keep most of them in the Democratic column in the fall regardless of the nominee.

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Philadelphia: Did you hear that Leahy (on Vermont public radio) has suggested that Clinton should step away and support Obama? Lots of grumbling like this. She needs to be a Democrat and not hog. Could you imagine the calls from camp Hillary if Obama was in the situation she is in? Get out now, Hillary!

Chris Cillizza: I did see that comment.

It's the latest in a series of remarks by Obama surrogates that suggest with varying levels of subtlety that Clinton should consider leaving the race for the good of the party. (Sen. Chris Dodd told National Journal's Linda Douglass much the same in an interview earlier this week.)

The goal of these sorts of comments, I think, is to begin to float the idea that assuming nothing changes in the delegate count when all of the votes come to an end on June 3, it will be time for Clinton to put the party over her own personal ambitions.

The Clinton campaign has rejected the logic, arguing that there is plenty of race still to run and that the voters have not yet rendered anything close to a firm decision in the race.

How far will the Obama surrogates go to push this point? And will it have the opposite effect they intended -- making Clinton less open to considering ending her candidacy come early June?

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Hamilton, Bermuda: Have you been to Bermuda in March? No one goes to the beach until April at the earliest. We're even with North Carolina, not in the Caribbean.

Chris Cillizza: A ha!

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La Vale, Md.: Thanks for chatting this morning. My brother lives in Illinois and is all excited about the Democrats picking up former Speaker Hastert's seat a few weeks ago (he's a Democrat, obviously). He has been telling me that the Democrats could hold on to that seat and might get two or three more to change hands. Have you been following the congressional races in Illinois? If Obama is on the top of the ticket, does that mean it could be a particularly grim November for the GOP in Illinois?

Chris Cillizza: And now for the congressional portion of our chat...

The Democratic pickup in Illinois' 14th district is a big deal when it comes to assessing the political landscape in the battle for the House.

Hastert had held the seat easily for more than two decades and it was handily carried by President Bush in 2000 and 2004. That Republicans couldn't hold on to it bodes very poorly for their chances of making gains at the ballot box this fall though, as we said earlier, anything can happen in politics in eight months.
The next race to watch to get an indication of political atmospherics in in Louisiana's 6th district where a special election will take place in May.

Democrats are excited about their prospects there despite the Republican lean of the seat. If Democrats can win that race, it will rightly be seen as another crushing blow to House Republicans and their chances at staying within shouting distance this fall.

While Obama at the top of the ticket would almost certainly give Democratic candidates in the state a boost, there are several races that are almost certain to be hotly contested no matter who is leading the ticket.

The two biggest House races in the state are in Illinois' 11th district where Rep. Jerry Weller (R) is retiring and the 10th district where Rep. Mark Kirk (R) is seeking re-election.

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Washington: As a Hillary supporter and part of the dreaded older woman cohort, I may not be offended so much by Obama supporters as by all the people pushing him in the press. What, for example, will Maureen Dowd find to write about without criticizing Hillary? But aside from that, the message I get from all the Hillary-bashing is that her supporters are irrelevant. So sorry we're taking up space, people. Yes, I do feel bitter about this.

Chris Cillizza: The "blowback" effect I was writing about a moment ago.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Hi Chris. The National Review has endorsed Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the Republican Primary over the incumbent Don Young. Rep. Young has been bringing home the bacon for years. Any thoughts? Is the apocalypse finally upon us?

Chris Cillizza: The decision by the lieutenant governor to primary Young is a sign of just how vulnerable the long time incumbent is in this election cycle.
Polling suggests that if Young can make it through the primary -- a huge if at the moment -- he is running behind State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) in general election matchups.

I've also seen polling that suggests that voters in Alaska are not as enamored with a politician's ability to bring home earmarks as they once were. I am somewhat skeptical about that but if it's true, it strikes right at the core of Young's argument for re-election.

Between Young's struggles and the tough race facing Sen. Ted Stevens (R), Alaska is an unlikely 2008 battleground.

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Alexandria, Va.: You've included Alaska in your top ten Senate races list, and I wondered if you could discuss a bit how the state could be winnable for the Democrats, even with Senator Stevens running for re-election. Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: Sure.

The seat is only winnable if Stevens decides to stand for re-election -- and he's given no indication that he is even considering not doing so.

Stevens has been hurt by the ongoing VECO scandal that has ensnared both he and his son. It's not clear when or if the federal investigation into this pay for play case will come to a resolution or whether it will implicate Stevens.

Democrats have recruited Anchorage Mark Begich -- the son of former Rep. Nick Begich -- who is clearly their strongest potential candidate.

If Stevens stands for re-election, this is going to be one heck of a race.

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Hoya Saxa: How about those Hoyas?

Chris Cillizza: Wow. Wow.

I am still having trouble watching the NCAA Tournament in the wake of the Easter massacre of the Hoyas by Davidson.

When I teared up following the loss, the thought occurred to me that I might be a little too close to the team.

Lucky for me the Nationals new ball park open Sunday and we are getting closer and closer to field hockey season.

Also, watching Greg Monroe -- a Hoya signee for next year -- play in the McDonald's All American Game on Wednesday night made me feel slightly better.

Onwards and upwards.

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Chris Cillizza: Folks, that's all I have time for today. Make sure to check out The Fix for the latest and greatest in political news you can use. Have a great weekend!

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