Post Politics Hour
Tuesday, May 6, 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 White House reporter Michael Abramowitz was online Tuesday, May 6 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.
The transcript follows.
Des Moines, Iowa: I have seen a number of columnists talking about how Obama has hired many of Tom Daschle's former 2004 staffers for high level positions in his campaign. Why is it never mentioned that Daschle lost?
washingtonpost.com: The Fix: The Obama-Daschle Connection (washingtonpost.com, Dec. 11, 2006)
Michael Abramowitz: Good morning everybody. This is a big day in American politics. The race could be over tonight for the Democratic nomination -- probably not!
I don't know if you are right that it is never mentioned that Daschle lost. But what exactly is the relevance here -- even losing politicians can have smart staffers who might come in handy in a presidential race.
Alexandria, Va.: Please, is it over yet?
Michael Abramowitz: I am sorry. Probably not. I think they will split tonight, which means on to West Virginia!
Kensington, Md.: Dan Balz's unmedicated obsessive-compulsive headline this morning bellows: "Has Obama put the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy behind him?" It really defies the imagination. Poll after poll that directly asks this question of voters amply has answered Balz' question: Voters don't care, and they never did. Why are The Post's journalists always the last people in America to get the news? It really has moved beyond annoying and into full-blown pathos. Anymore, I only hope that Balz and his colleagues get well -- mental illness is a terrible cross to bear.
washingtonpost.com: Eight Questions About Today's Primaries (Post, May 6)
Michael Abramowitz: I am not sure that I agree with your premises, both about the polls and about Dan Balz's mental condition. Last I checked (a minute ago) he was one of the saner people on the Post national staff. There was a New York Times poll (small sample) suggesting that many voters don't care about this, but I wouldn't say "poll after poll" has suggested this. I still suspect that many, many people have been interested in this story.
Herndon, Va.: Regarding Laura Bush's announcement on the "ineptness" of the Burmese response to the cyclone: First, as already has been stated, there is an obvious parallel to New Orleans. And regarding the First Lady herself, can you ask the president whether the First Lady's involvement in these matters means that in electing Bush, we get two for the price of one?
washingtonpost.com: First Lady Condemns Junta's Response to Storm (Post, May 6)
Michael Abramowitz: I suppose there may be a superficial parallel to New Orleans. There's no doubt the federal government screwed up there. But we're talking in Burma about one of the absolutely worst governments in the world, and it seems to me that the White House would have been derelict if it had not come out and tried to put pressure on the government there to get help to its people as soon as possible.
As to your question about the First Lady, it seems to me that her involvement in public policy has been very much in keeping with the traditional role of First Ladies, who often adopt pet causes. For her, Burma appears to be a genuine passion.
Washington: What does West Virginia matter? After tonight, it is almost entirely in the hands of superdelegates. If there's no sweep today, how long do you think it will take for them to align behind a candidate? Will they wait until Puerto Rico, or will they reach a consensus before June?
Michael Abramowitz: Well, it would certainly matter if Clinton wins both states tonight--and then West Virginia would likely keep her winning streak going and raise more questions about Obama's electability. If there is no sweep today, I suspect the superdelegates will wait until Puerto Rico and then decide before the convention. But who knows? This has been a strange year.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Losing political consultants are good if they learn from their losses. Bob Casey, who had lost in four gubernatorial races, hired a four-time loser James Carville to manage what turned out to a successful campaign for governor in Pennsylvania. Carville then managed an upset victory for Harris Wofford for senator in Pennsylvania and went on to manage Clinton for President in 1992. So, won-loss records don't necessarily indicate future performance.
Michael Abramowitz: A good point with reference to the Daschle question.
Vernon, B.C.: Considering how close the press is following every word coming out of the Democratic presidential candidates' mouths, I'm surprised that more hasn't been made out of all of the verbal slip ups by McCain. Just this morning he was talking about the oath of office a president takes, and he said how the next one will stand there and say the same thing as the previous 42 have. Isn't Bush the 43rd president right now? A Freudian slip, (as in the whole world would like to forget these last eight years along with "W") or just another one of those "slip-ups" that McCain seems to be good at. Perhaps it was his way of "distancing" himself from Bush some more.
washingtonpost.com: Grover Cleveland's two nonconsecutive terms are counted separately. Link.
Michael Abramowitz: You know, I missed that comment today, but I don't think McCain is being cut a break by the press for verbal miscues: When he confused the Sunni and the Shia, the press was on it immediately.
Tell the Truth: What's your take on the Huffington-McCain camp dispute about whether John and Cindy McCain voted for Bush in 2000?
washingtonpost.com: The Trail: McCain Denies Huffington Vote Claim (washingtonpost.com, May 5)
Michael Abramowitz: I don't have to take sides on that one -- so I won't!
Hampton Cove, Ala.: The "get McCain" desk at the New York Times once has again demanded that he release his medical records. Will a similar demand by the media be made for Obama's medical records? As a life-long smoker and admitted drug abuser whose parents who didn't survive their 50s, isn't this just more media bias on Obama's behalf?
Michael Abramowitz: It has been a tradition that both major presidential candidates release their medical records. It seems like a reasonable practice given the importance of the job, and I don't see why both major candidates -- whoever they are -- should not give them up.
Austin, Texas: Do you really think the superdelegates will wait until after Puerto Rico to decide if there's no sweep today? Looking at the limited number of delegates up for grabs in the remaining contests, it would seem to me that there would be a strong temptation to put a stop to the agony sooner than that.
Michael Abramowitz: As I suggested, it's really a guess on my part. But I suspect that some superdelegates have real questions now about who is the most electable of the Democrat. The end of the primary season is only a month away, so why not play out the string and see what happens. I think that is going to be the attitude of some of these people.
Belfast, Maine: The speculations about a possible sweep of today's primaries imagine a Clinton sweep, whereas an Obama sweep seems more likely. What do you foresee following an Obama sweep today?
Michael Abramowitz: I think if Obama sweeps today, the calls for Clinton to step down will reach ear-splitting levels, and the race will probably be over in a few days. Even some of Clinton's advisers have been quoted privately saying they would counsel her to get out if she loses both Indiana and North Carolina.
Chicago: Thanks for taking my question. I am sure you are getting lots of questions about Indiana and North Carolina, but I thought I'd ask a question about congressional races. The Democrats won pretty red seats when they won Illinois's 14th District and Louisiana's 6th District. If they also win Mississippi's 1st District, what does that say about the GOP brand going into the November election? Would another loss of a traditionally red seat lead to even more GOP retirements? How big a drag will simply being a Republican be on McCain and all GOP incumbents in the fall?
Michael Abramowitz: It's hard to say, but it does look like it's going to be a pretty good year for the Democrats in the congressional races, as those races you mentioned suggest. I think it will likely not be a good year to be a Republican on the ticket, but it seems now that things may not be as bad for the GOP as they seemed a few months ago.
Fairfax, Va.:"Its been a tradition that both major presidential candidates release their medical records. It seems like a reasonable practice given the importance of the job, and I don't see why both major candidates -- whomever they are -- should not give them up." Think about that the next time you're looking for a new job.
Michael Abramowitz: Wait a minute, that's not a fair analogy at all. The presidency is a unique position. Americans are entrusting life-and-death decisions to an individual, and it is their right to know whether that person has physical or mental issues that could get in the way of doing that job. It seems to me those record are a reasonable thing for a candidate to have to give up if he or she wants the most important job in the world.
Re: McCain/Huffington dispute: I am puzzled why McCain would have to deny not voting for Bush in 2000. Bush in 2000 played such dirty politics against McCain, it would be a surprise if he did vote for him. Instead of saying "the 2000 campaign was difficult for me," he opens himself up to another denial that goes to a long list of denials. Saying something like the above would have put an end to this so-called, revelation. I don't understand these things, obviously.
Michael Abramowitz: That seems like a good point. I think at a time McCain is trying to unite the party around his candidate, he is reluctant to say or do anything that would needlessly antagonize the party's base, which still likes Bush.
Washington: Hi, Mr. Abramowitz! Thanks for chatting today; I always appreciate your measured, insightful responses to our questions. Do you know of anyone (maybe besides John McCain) who likes our parties' current nominating process? I'm all for counting all the votes and having everyone participate, but sheesh, isn't it worth considering compressing the primary calendar so that we have everyone vote within about eight weeks? I know that won't help us now, but is there an upside to dragging things out like this? Thanks!
Michael Abramowitz: Thanks for your nice comment. Maybe I am being a bit contrary, but I'm not sure there's anything wrong with having a four or five month primary season. Is it really fair to have a process where only Iowa and New Hampshire get to decide? I don't think so, and I think it probably to the good that most every Democrat in the country will have had a chance to vote for someone to be president.
I am afraid I am out of time. Thanks for all the great questions and I will be talking to you again in a few weeks.
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