Post Politics Hour
Thursday, May 8, 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, will be online Thursday, May 8 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.
Read Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix
Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.
washingtonpost.com: Chris Cillizza will start answering questions at 11:15 a.m.
Chris Cillizza: Folks, sorry for the delay. Let's get going.
Wheaton, Md.: Maryland voted overwhelmingly for Obama. What are the prospects for Maryland superdelegates who have supported Clinton or remained undeclared swinging to Obama?
Chris Cillizza: I would assume that any of superdelegates in the states (and congressional districts) where Sen. Obama scored solid victories are hearing from the Illinois Senator's campaign this week.
Despite the fact that it now looks as though Obama is the odds-on nominee, there are still many superdelegates who would prefer to stay on the sidelines because they don't want to anger the Clintons by coming out and endorsing against them.
The Obama campaign will seek to force their hands, in essence making this about doing what's right for the party and for their constituents.
The next week or so will be important in this game. Watch to see how many supers Obama rolls out (and where they are from) to get a sense of just how successful his pitch is.
Reston, Va.: I realize The Post is not interested in what Hillary Clinton's supporters think, but here goes. One reason I will not vote for Obama if Hillary is not the nominee is because if he wins, he will be the same kind of failed, ineffectual president as Jimmy Carter, and again will turn the country over to the Republicans for a dozen or more years.
In 1976 the Democrats had a great opportunity because of Watergate, Ford's pardon of Nixon, and general disgust with Republicans ... so of course the Democrats elected Carter, who was a disaster as president. The Democrats then lost overwhelmingly in the next three presidential elections. Even after Clinton won a plurality, the Democrats lost Congress and couldn't recover for another twelve years.
A bad McCain presidency is better for the Democrats than the bad presidency of Obama. He has no legislative accomplishments, little legislative experience, and no apparent ideas beyond "let's change Washington." Obama, from his vague promises to the media's love affair with him, reminds me a lot of a certain Texan in 2000, and we all know how that turned out.
Chris Cillizza: Reston, let me first say I disagree strongly with your characterization that people in this news organization (or any news organization) are not interested in what people who support Senator Clinton think.
I personally (and the Post more generally) have written dozens and dozens of posts and stories about the arguments Clinton is making to voters, debating whether they will work, and assessing her campaign.
More ink has been spilled on the Clinton campaign than any other candidate. Now you may not agree with all of the coverage or the tenor of it, but it's hard to argue that she has received a fair hearing from voters.
As for your thoughts on where your vote will go if Obama is the nominee, I thought they were worth an airing. This is that airing.
Poblano Predictions: The Pollster.com Web site has a piece by Mark Blumenthal (originally as published at nationaljournal.com) that says vote modeling based on demographics is more accurate than polling, or at least it was in North Carolina and Indiana. Poblano is a blogger who uses data from previous results to predict future races. He predicted Obama would win North Carolina by 17 percent and Indiana by 2 percent, off only by 3 percent in North Carolina. This was a better performance than any pollster. This means that there is almost no movement among the core demographics for each camp -- despite Rev. Wright, bittergate, Bosnian sniper fire, gas tax, etc. Do you agree that the story of the day bounces off each camp's supporters?
Chris Cillizza: In this election it appears the old saw that "demography is destiny" has rung true.
If you are black, affluent, highly educated, young or live in an urban area you are very likely to be a supporter of Senator Obama.
If, on the other hand, you are white, live in a rural area, are blue collar and tend to carry more conservative views on social issues, you are likely a Clinton voter.
Now, like all general rules, there are exceptions. But, given the number of contests (47 to date) on the Democratic side, there is massive amounts of data to back it up.
Looking back at North Carolina, it was folly for the Clinton campaign (or anyone else) to think that she could defeat Obama. There were simply too many black residents of the state especially when you consider that Obama has been winning African Americans at better than a nine to one clip in recent primary contests.
New York: What do you think is currently staying the superdelegates' hands from putting Hillary out of her misery? At this point (and, in truth, for the past month) there has been no benefit to the party in continuing the race. It only diminishes both candidates and allows McCain to have time to regroup. Despite the fact that the primaries are over in June one way or another, do you think that the superdelegates will decide enough is enough?
Chris Cillizza: As I mentioned before, most superdelegates would prefer Clinton bow out rather than be forced to make a choice and force her out.
This is a cautious group by nature; they are primarily politicians and in the business of pleasing people not making choices that will upset people -- if they have any ability to avoid it.
So, many of them are playing a game of wait and see, hoping (perhaps fruitlessly) that Clinton will get out of the race before it becomes impossible for them to stay on the sidelines.
The longer Clinton stays in the race, the more pressure Obama will put on superdelegates to declare themselves and end it.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Just a comment: I am glad Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul are still in the race. While my state had a big primary, we in Pennsylvania also know what it is like to have the rest of the nation tell us who the nominees are going to be before we have a chance to register our opinion. I hope that people in neighboring West Virginia and the remaining states get at least a little bit of a chance to actually have candidates left to vote for or against.
Chris Cillizza: Thanks, Harrisburg.
I think this is a very powerful argument for why Clinton should stay in the race all the way until June 3. The vast majority of states that have voted after Feb. 5 never thought they would see the kind of attention they have from Sens. Obama and Clinton.
While many people at the national level may be sick of the race and want it to end, if you live in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Dakota or Montana the prospect of being able to see Obama or Clinton up close is quite appealing and reason enough for you to want the race to continue.
My guess is that Clinton stays in the contest at least through this month and probably all the way until the end. The tone of her campaign changes, however, as she scales back attacks on Obama and uses the final month of the campaign as a sort of "thank you" tour for supporters of her campaign.
It's just a hunch but I could see it happening.
The Hillary payoff?: Chris: I've seen a lot of speculation on MSNBC that the Clintons will demand their campaign debt be paid off by the Obama campaign as a quid pro quo for calling it quits. I'm an Obama supporter who's all for getting on with the race, but I did not donate $50 to a campaign to have it spent on saving a couple with $120 million from paying their bills! Do you think the Obama campaign will absorb the Clinton debt? Will their be a backlash?
Chris Cillizza: I don't pretend to grasp the negotiations that would go on between Obama and Clinton to bring her candidacy to an end.
I think that it is likely that one of the preconditions of such a deal would be that Obama help Clinton pay off her debt as a gesture of good will and an attempt to heal the party.
My guess would be that Obama would not use money he has already raised to help with the debt but rather send out a new solicitation to his donors asking for contributions. So, if you didn't feel like you wanted to give to Clinton's debt retirement, you wouldn't have to.
One of Obama's great strengths in this campaign is his vast fundraising ability and it may well be easier for him to help Clinton pay off her debt than it might be for other candidates.
And, notice we use the word "help" when it comes to Obama's role in solving Clinton's debt problem. I can't imagine a scenario where his campaign volunteers to shoulder the full burden without any help from the Clinton's own fundraising machine.
Voting in November: I can't help but believe the poster from Reston is actually a Republican trying to foment more chaos. It truly strains credulity to believe any Democrat who supports a particular candidate during the nomination process would not vote for the actual Democratic candidate if the candidate does not happen to be the one they supported. I believe the same holds true on the Republican side as well. While there may be some wingnuts who would do this, I think their numbers are very few. Who's kidding who?
Chris Cillizza: Back at you, Reston.
Worcester, Mass.: Chris, we have watched the Clintons survive many predicted "ends" over the years. The lesson they learned from their battles with Republicans during the White House years was to never give up. It has always worked for them. Do you envision Sen. Clinton quitting the race before Denver? I don't. If Sen. Obama wins the nomination and loses in November, will the media narrative be that it was the Clinton's fault, or that they were right? Thanks.
Chris Cillizza: Two thoughts.
Firstly, the Clintons built the current incarnation of the Democratic Party during their time in the White House. It's hard for me to foresee a scenario whereby they would willfully hamstring it by pushing the race to the convention once all plausible avenues for victory have been foreclosed.
Second, there is truth in your point that endurance has been the defining trait of the Clinton's time in politics. Or, put another way: it's always darkest before the dawn. But, there just isn't much room to roam in the nomination fight anymore. There's a lot more road behind the two candidates than in front of them. And, that reality restricts Clinton's options and also makes their "endurance" policy harder to live by.
McLean, Va.: A lot of the remaining superdelegates are from more conservative districts where support for either Clinton or Obama isn't necessarily an advantage. Might some of them not declare their support before Denver and just quietly cast their votes at the convention?
Chris Cillizza: I think many will do that, hoping that they can explain it to their constituents as simply casting their ballot for the obvious nominee.
No matter how superdelegates representing conservative areas handle it, Republicans will seek to hang Obama around their necks -- as they are currently doing in the special election in Mississippi's 1st District.
That race will be a test case as to whether the strategy will work. If it doesn't, Republicans may be shooting blanks this November.
Vienna, Va.: I see a lot of hype right now about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as McCain's running mate. He seems awfully young and inexperienced for that job. I see him more as keynoter material.
Chris Cillizza: Jindal is the hot new commodity on the veep circuit and having seen him up close I can testify that he is a remarkably gifted candidate.
The problem in picking Jindal, however, is that it runs against McCain's core message against Obama: that he is too inexperienced to handle the job of president.
Given McCain's advanced age, his vice presidential pick will be scrutinized heavily. Given that, can he justify picking someone as his second in command who is a contemporary of Obama age wise and has spent just a few years in Congress before being elected governor?
Kensington, Md.: Chris, please give us one good reason why James Webb wouldn't be an ideal VP choice for Obama. First, he's the perfect choice to appeal to the Reagan Democrats. He needed them to win Virginia, and he got plenty of them. Perhaps even more important, when Jan. 21 comes around and the generals are presenting President Obama with "the facts on the ground" in Iraq, who would be in a better position than Jim Webb to ask the necessary pointed questions, and who would have more standing not to be bluffed by evasive answers?
Chris Cillizza: I think you make a strong case for Webb.
The pros are obvious: decorated Vietnam veteran, former cabinet official in a Republican Administration, long time opponent to the war in Iraq.
The cons are less obvious but no less real: Webb won in Virginia despite running decidedly unorthodox campaign in which he said and did things that might have doomed the chances of a candidate with a less compelling story (or a less favorable political environment.)
Webb has a reputation as something of a loose cannon who says and does what he believes rather than what is always the politically astute path.
Admirable? Yes. Vice presidential material? Maybe.
Alexandria, Va.: Isn't the obvious Republican vice presidential pick a woman, to capitalize on those women who felt that Obama backstabbed Clinton when it was "her turn"?
Chris Cillizza: Sure. But who? The only plausible name I have heard is Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and I simply do not believe that will happen.
Reston again: Contrary to the speculation, I am a Democrat -- I voted for Dukakis, that's how yellow-dog I always have been. And yes, I am serious that I will not vote for Obama merely because he is the choice of 51 percent of Democrats. I honestly believe he will be a disaster, if he manages to get elected at all. Just because I don't share your views on Obama doesn't mean I'm a Republican -- and just because I will not vote for Obama does not mean that I won't vote for Warner or other Democrats.
Chris Cillizza: Reston responds!
Hoosier Governor?: Jill Long Thompson eked out a 5,000-vote win in the Indiana Democratic primary. Can she beat Mitch Daniels, the incumbent Republican governor and ex-Office of Management and Budget director under Bush?
Chris Cillizza: How can I resist a gubernatorial question?
Long Thompson's narrow win -- polls showed her ahead by more than her final margin -- does not bode well for Democrats' chances against Daniels in the fall.
While Daniels struggled through his first few years in office, he has righted the ship of late -- helping to push through a property tax measure and generally improving his standing.
Long Thompson's most pertinent experience as a politician is in Congress, not exactly the preferred resume with Congressional ratings as low as they have ever been. Long Thompson's service in Congress also means that she has an extensive voting record (unlike her Democratic primary opponent Jim Schellinger) that Republicans will surely mine to paint the former Congresswoman as out of step with the needs of Indiana voters.
This race still bears watching but Daniels has to be feeling better today than he did at the start of the week.
The Clintons' legacy: Really, Chris? The Clintons build the modern Democratic Party? Under whose watch did the Democrats lose the House for the first time in 40 years in 1994? Clinton's. And did the Democrats ever win back the Senate during the Clinton years? No. The Democrats' ascendancy is more thanks to following Thomas Frank than what the Clintons did. No more triangulation -- just basic, common-sense, respect and honor for churchgoing, hunting, working-class and blue-collar Americans who have gotten the economic shaft by the God/guns/gay screaming Republicans, and delivering government on the state and local levels that meets people's everyday needs.
Chris Cillizza: Always happy to hear dissenting voices...
San Francisco: Good morning Chris. Tell me what's up with the Oregon Senate race, if you please. We have a three-way Democratic primary race, but any of the three have a good shot against Smith, wouldn't you say? I know Merkley has the party backing, but who is the strongest candidate?
Chris Cillizza: Thanks, San Francisco -- and, by the way, I love your city having spent a good part of last week there.
Merkley, the speaker of the state House, was supposed to cruise to the Democratic Senate nomination but has proven to be something less than impressive as a candidate and is in a dog fight with Democratic activist Steve Novick.
Merkley may well still pull off a win on May 20 because of his fundraising edge over Novick but it is going to be much tougher and more expensive than his campaign had hoped.
While Merkley (assuming he is the nominee) will have plenty of time to get his act together before the fall campaign against Sen. Gordon Smith (R), the early returns are not promising.
Chris Cillizza: That's all folks! I need to run to a meeting. Apologies again for being late.
And, make sure to check out The Fix tomorrow morning for the latest Line on the vice presidential sweepstakes!
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