Post Politics Hour

In the Loop: On the Hill by Lois Romano
Lois Romano (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
Lois Romano
Washington National Political Reporter
Thursday, May 22, 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 Lois Romano was online Thursday, May 22 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Lois Romano: Good morning everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I look forward to your questions.


St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Lois -- thank you for taking my question and for chatting with us today. Sen. McCain's campaign seems to be taking some hits concerning the lobbying activities of some of his staff. Is this registering with voters, or does it have the potential to do so, given his "straight talk" reputation? Or, to be blunt, is it too complicated for the "average" voter to care about? McCain Adviser's Work As Lobbyist Criticized (Post, May 22)

Lois Romano: Like all of these things in campaigns, it adds up. Are voters following every person who is leaving the organization because of lobbying ties? Probably not, but this clearly will been a recurring theme raised by the democrats -- the idea that maybe he's not a straight-shooter. So at some point, it may resonate with voters.


Dallas: With all the talks of secret vice presidential searches surfacing today, I understand that Obama's choice may not necessarily be what he ends with. Party rules say that vice president can be nominated at the convention floor and voted for by delegates -- meaning that Clinton may end up on the ticket after all. What is the likelihood of that happening?

Can this be a good ticket overall, helping him capture states like Florida, Michigan and Arkansas? Or would it be the worst possible disaster, with Clinton/Clinton overshadowing Obama? Do you think Clinton will be a follow-up to the Dick Cheney administration, which is independent from and not controlled by the president? What are the rules for replacing/removing a vice president from office once they have been sworn in?

Lois Romano: People have very mixed feelings on an Obama-Clinton ticket. On the one hand, she could bring a demographic that has been hard for him to capture -- working-class people. On the other hand, as my friend pollster Peter D. Hart says, it might be trying to get through a double-pane glass ceiling.


Silver Spring, Md.: What's going to happen to Ted Kennedy's seat if he bows out for health reasons? Special election? Who's likely to succeed him?

Lois Romano: For starters, the Democratic governor will appoint a Democratic to fill it. Someone in the large Kennedy family could emerge and run for it. Joe Kennedy is still there, for example.


Olney, Md.: Lois, could you answer this question about Kentucky? LBJ won it and so did Carter -- the first time he ran. Clinton won it twice. Mondale, Kerry, Dukakis and Gore all lost it. Why is the press downplaying its importance?

Lois Romano: I don't think they're downplaying it. They are just not totally buying in every time Hillary Clinton calls a state a bellwether state. It has eight electoral votes, which can't be ignored, but that's less than other swing states such as Ohio and Missouri.


Washington: Sen. Clinton's sole purpose in life now seems to be to remedy the great injustice served upon the Michigan and Florida voters, but I don't remember her opposing the sanctions before. Surely some of her top advisors must have participated in the decision to sanction those states, and if she had been against it at the time, we would have heard about it, right?

Lois Romano: Correct. I believe Harold Ickes was involved in crafting those sanctions and everyone was on board. No one thought the race would be this close and it would matter. In any case, she never will get all those delegates. The best case for her is that they will be split, which won't give her the advantage she seeks.


The Plains, Va.: The Post ran several items talking about Obama's 75,000 crowd in Portland. Will it be printing a correction not that we find there was a major rock concert right before his speech in the same place? As a Slate writer put it: "We'd guess a good chunk of them were there to see the beloved Portland band The Decemberists."

Lois Romano: Well, since we can't poll those folks to determine why they were there, the answer is no.


Pittsburgh: If Bob Barr and Ralph Nader added their names to the ballot, which candidate would be more affected this fall?

Lois Romano: Barr could cut into McCain. Nader could cut into Obama's.


Florissant Valley, Mo.: Good morning, Lois. Here's one for you: I assume one reason Clinton has stayed in -- besides wanting the nomination -- was to test Obama's patience and fortitude. Do you think he has passed that test? What sorts of challenges could McCain send his way that Clinton has not tried out already? And where do you think he could be the most vulnerable?

Lois Romano: Clinton is staying in the race in hopes of a miracle; 24 hours is a lifetime in politics, and they believe that voters don't know enough about Obama, and the more they see of her, the more impressed they will be -- and maybe Obama will make a mistake.


Williamburg, Va.: The governor of Massachusetts will not appoint a replacement for Kennedy -- the legislature removed that power from him when it appeared that Romney would appoint the successor to President Kerry. There will be a special election to replace him.

Lois Romano: Thank you for clarifying that.


Good fit?: Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State.

Lois Romano: Very good fit. The questions I, does she think she could have more impact in the senate, where she would be on a track to become majority leader? By the way, if she decides she wants the veep slot, Obama would be under enormous pressure to take her.


Wheaton, Md.: Ms. Romano, I know so much water will pass under the bridge before the Democrats have to reach this issue, but is there any talk yet about how to reform the primary process (timing of primaries, allocation of delegates, superdelegates) to make it better?

Lois Romano: I do think all of that is being discussed all the time, but when you look back on the year, there are some aspects of this process that appear to have worked. It was an exciting campaign, and every state mattered. If Michigan had kept its original primary date, the state actually would have made an impact. So I think party officials will take all of that into consideration.


Chicago: Hi Lois, Will Hillary be successful in muscling her way on to the ticket? That's what Roger Simon reports this morning. Thanks. Can Clinton muscle to a VP nod? (Politico, May 21)

Lois Romano: As I said earlier, if she wants it, it will hard denying it to her. She did quite well at the polls. But for many reasons, the Obama reception will be lukewarm. She has a lot of negatives -- people don't trust her, according to polls. Also, Bill Clinton did himself and her no favors during this campaign. So do people want him around for another four or eight years?


Re: Every state matters...: While it used to annoy me that we were supposed to let Iowa and New Hampshire pick our candidates, I don't think allotting disproportionate importance to West Virginia, Montana or Puerto Rico is the best solution.

Lois Romano: It's not disproportionate importance necessarily -- but it is allowing every vote to count.


Pittsburgh: Lois, the polls are now showing Clinton winning both Missouri and Ohio, but Obama losing them. See this site or the list at Real Clear Politics. I think Sen. Obama is going to have a tough time -- tougher than Sen. Clinton would have.

Lois Romano: That's certainly Sen. Clinton's position. It's too early to know. This campaign has many cycles to go through. It wasn't that long ago that Clinton also seemed a shoo-in for the nomination. What's interesting is that voters will have a real choice -- McCain and Obama couldn't could be more different in terms of policy and vision. The war and the economy will play huge roles in the fall campaign.


Buffalo, N.Y.: When she says that every vote counts, is Hillary Clinton counting all those caucus votes in her popular vote total?

Lois Romano: She is not.


Boston: Lois, what is Clinton's goal right now? Last week it seemed she had acquiesced to the stark reality that Obama would be the nominee. This week, she seems to be back in the fight. What is going on in her head, and what is going on with her dysfunctional campaign staff?

Lois Romano: Your observations are accurate -- she was more resigned last week, and now she hinting that she'll go to the convention floor. She is hoping that Obama will make an error; and that the superdelegates will decide he can't win. In any case, as long as she doesn't attack Obama, she increases her clout with every win she racks up.


Chicago: Hi Lois. What would be more damaging to a potential general election ticket: a rehash of McCain's and Romney's most vituperative attacks, or Clinton's and Obama's?

Lois Romano: Both. Clinton will have explain her repeated comments that he is inexperienced -- statements Republicans will use. And McCain and Romney clearly disliked each other.


Portland, Ore.: Regarding the rally in my town, I doubt anyone showed up just to see the Decemberists. The concert was mainly to keep people entertained while they waited. No one left when the band finished -- in fact thousands were still pouring in. What did help, though, was the weather. It had been cold and rainy for weeks, and when the sun came out for the weekend people were flocking outdoors.

Lois Romano: Thanks for that. Obama has attracted huge crowds everywhere. It doesn't seem out of line that 65,000 showed up to see him.


Minneapolis: Will there be increased pressure on McCain to finally throw Hagee under the bus now that audio has emerged where Hagee indicates that Hitler was "fulfilling God's will"? McCain Backer Hagee Said Hitler Was Fulfilling God's Will (Huffington Post, May 21)

Lois Romano: Probably. You certainly do not want a supporter embracing Hitler.


Atlanta: McCain can't pick Romney -- a vice president can't have better hair than the president. It would be undignified.

Lois Romano: Very funny. I don't think we have to worry. At this point, few think McCain will pick Romney -- but who knows?


Arlington, Va.: As a Democrat I want to support Obama, but am troubled that he pledged to accept public financing for the fall campaign and now is backing away from that pledge; the same goes for his promise to meet during his first year unconditionally with various leaders Bush has shunned. How is this change from everyday Washington lies? Why isn't the press after these broken pledges more aggressively?

Lois Romano: I don't think most voters look at these as lies. Obama probably thought he would take public financing, but he never anticipated the amount of public support he would get. This will a very expensive campaign and he will be attacked by 527s -- he will need money to defend himself. If you like Obama, I'm surprised this bothers you. Or are you a secret McCain backer?

Your second concern doesn't make sense -- don't you want a leader who can correct himself when he learns?


New York: Lois, do you think there will be any hard polling regarding racist and sexist attitudes in the election? I mean direct questions about whether people have a problem voting for a black or a woman. Seems like the polls have thus far nibbled at the edges, and I'd love to see something hard-hitting about this. Thanks.

Lois Romano: It's pretty tough to get those numbers, because people aren't candid in surveys. Few actually will say they won't vote for a black-- either because they don't want the person on the other end of the phone to think they are racist, or because they don't want to believe that about themselves.

They will say that they can vote for a black, but they don't like him for other reasons.


Phoenix: Ms. Romano, isn't the disquieting part of Sen. McCain's ties to lobbyists in his campaign the fact that it fits a longstanding pattern? If I'm not mistaken, this goes back to his first Senate term as member of the Keating 5, who did favors for those in the savings and loan scandal. Just seems like every time he runs for office, he apologizes and tells us he is going to do better ... but he never does. That's an Arizona view; what is the national view of his ethical challenges?

Lois Romano: I just don't think it has resonated nationally yet -- which is not to say that it won't. It's early in the campaign and the Democrats will rehash all of that, you can be assured.


Concord, N.H.: I'm skeptical of the article stating that Gen. Petraeus sees enough progress for there to be a troop withdrawal in the fall. Are things really going that well, or is he laying the groundwork to make Iraq less of an issue for John McCain in the fall? It's a little sad that I'm even asking this question. Petraeus Expects to Recommend Troop Cuts This Fall (Post, May 22)

Lois Romano: Gen. Petraeus is considered an honorable man, so it's hard to believe that he would introduce politics into his assessment.


Lois Romano: Well, it's time to close for now. Thanks for joining us today and for all your great questions. I always learn quite a bit from these chats. See you in two weeks.


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