Post Politics Hour
Wednesday, June 4, 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 campaign finance reporter Matthew Mosk was online Wednesday, June 4 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.
The transcript follows.
Matthew Mosk: Good morning. If you're like me, you were up late last night watching political speeches, and up early to read the latest analysis of where things stand. What do you think? I'm looking forward to hearing your questions and chatting about the end of the primaries, the start of the general election, and the prospects for a busy summer of politics.
Cleveland: In your opinion, how hard will it be for Obama to balance placating Hillary against looking too weak? If it looks as though Hillary bullied her way on to the ticket, Obama won't come out looking like a strong leader.
Matthew Mosk: Good morning Cleveland. I though this would be a great question to start with because it is one of the pivotal questions facing the Obama campaign today. There seem to be unmistakable signs that Sen. Clinton wants to be on the ticket. Certainly her top supporters want her on there. One of her fundraisers today told me that Obama could expect to see them raise $200 million for the general election if ... he selects her as his running mate.
If you were his political adviser, what would you recommend he do?
Olney, Md.: "Black President"? So,now we have a black nominee against a white nominee? How simple. But Obama is biracial, and in fact spent far, far more time with his white mother than he ever did with his African-born father. The one-drop rule is still in effect? It appears that in the U.S. you are still either all white or you are non-white.
washingtonpost.com: Two Words With a Ring Of Possibility (Post, June 4)
Matthew Mosk: A number of questions and comments turning up this morning about race, and this makes sense. The reporting this morning takes note of the historical significance of a nation seeing its first African American presidential nominee. The attached story, in today's Style section, does a nice job of capturing the moment. (See how I've side-stepped the question about Obama's biracial lineage?)
Wilmington, N.C.: Now that the primaries for the Democratic presidential race are finished and Sen. Obama's next task will be to choose a running mate, I was wondering if the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, would be a possibility. Thank you!
Matthew Mosk: Well, Wilmington, I will not claim to be very much in the loop on Sen. Obama's thinking about running mates. Gov. Dean certainly is respected within the Democratic Party, but he does not strike me as a likely pick, in that he does not bring many of the ingredients Obama likely will feel he needs from a running mate. I've asked my colleague Alec MacGillis, who has been on the road with Obama for much of the past year, what he thinks Obama will see as critical. He suggests foreign policy experience, gravitas and significant governing experience all will be key ingredients. I would also add to that list, someone who can appeal to the constituencies that Obama has had trouble reaching -- working-class voters being chief among them.
What do you think?
Boston: Will Obama have problems raising $200 million without Hillary? Will McCain have problems raising $50 million? Is it sick we are talking about a quarter of a billion dollars for a five-month advertising buy?
Matthew Mosk: Very good point, Boston. You are right that, with or without Sen. Clinton on the ticket, Sen. Obama has proven to be a legendary fundraiser. During the past 16 months, he raised $265 million -- to McCain's $96 million -- and has spent more on advertising than all of the Republican presidential candidates combined.
Clinton Vice Presidency?: The veep is typically a second banana, there in case of a worst-case scenario -- they normally are not a strong or independent actor. Hillary can't be silent or behind-the-scenes; and how could Obama ignore/overlook her trashing of him throughout the campaign? Do they compartmentalize that much?
Matthew Mosk: I would suggest that while the "second banana" approach has been the tradition, Vice President Cheney certainly has emerged with a different model -- but he has been able to do that with the full support of the president. Were Sen. Clinton to become vice president, would she re write the handbook again? Would she have the support of her president? These are valid questions, I think.
Yonkers, N.Y.: We always hear these careless statements thrown around by pundits that if McCain picks the governor of Minnesota, he puts that state in play, or that if Obama picks Clinton he could win Arkansas, etc. Aren't there polls that prove or disprove these things? How much of a track record does this theory have, especially in recent years? Did Vice President Gore actually steal any states for the ticket in 1992? Did Cheney, Lieberman or Edwards?
Seems to me that it's more a negative thing; Clinton-hating independents might reject the Obama ticket if he picks her, just as Huckabee might scare away some economic conservatives, and the religious right might have problems with Romney's Mormonism. I think Romney -- the most likely vice presidential candidate -- would have minimal value in Michigan and would alienate other states' fundamentalists, who don't like McCain anyway. And I just don't believe the evidence is there that Clinton flips Florida or Virginia to Obama. You agree or disagree?
Matthew Mosk: Thank you, Yonkers, for sharing your thoughts on the role of the number 2. I think it has been a mixed bag as to when the veep pick has made a difference in a general election's outcome. Here's an interesting take from a recent column in Slate about Kennedy's pairing with Johnson:
"Some Kennedy aides thought LBJ would help the ticket more than any other running mate, given his pull with farmers and Southerners, particularly Texans. A series of twists and turns (laid out in its most comprehensive and comprehensible form in Jeff Shesol's book 'Mutual Contempt') saw the prospect of the unity ticket rise and fall and rise again. Johnson was nominated the next day, though Kennedy's waffling left considerable bad feeling.
"The choice of a vice president rarely tips an election, but in 1960 it surely did. (When a race is as close as 1960 -- Kennedy beat Nixon by 0.2 percent -- any number of things can tip the election.) Johnson proved to be a zealous and effective campaigner, even as he privately badmouthed Kennedy to reporters. His firm control of the Texas state party organization was critical to the Democrats' success there. His very presence on the ticket probably helped the Democrats win six other Southern states that soon would become reliably Republican."
Austin, Texas: What do I think? My reading of the political calculus is that taking Hillary as the vice president is big positive; it converts her voters into his immediately. Otherwise Obama has to fight a two-front war for her supporters and the independents he needs to win the general election. The negatives seem slight in terms of number of votes. He won't lose my vote, even though I really don't like Sen. Clinton today. Because the president sets the tone and the agenda for an administration, is there a big down side to taking Hillary as the vice president, regardless of the fact that nobody (including me) in the Obama camp really wants her on the ticket?
Matthew Mosk: Here's another take, from our Austin, Texas, reader. Thanks for this interesting viewpoint.
Arlington, Va.: Do you think Chuck Hagel would be willing to run with Obama? I have been intrigued by this possibility. He certainly has the military background and a certain amount of foreign policy experience. But obviously the huge thing would be the fact that he is, nominally anyway, a Republican.
Matthew Mosk: Another approach here -- which I would pair with speculation that Sen. McCain would pick Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Both candidates are talking a lot about change, and about this being a year for a new kind of politics. Frankly, I don't think it's going to be that new that we would see the West Wing approach -- with one or both picking someone from the opposite party for his ticket.
Herndon, Va.: So, as a reporter and newspaper employee, can you offer insight as to whether there still is a Hillary Clinton campaign "beat" to cover? Do she and her presidential campaign staff still get a bevy of reporters to follow her (and if so, for how much longer), or is her nomination story effectively shut down as news organizations stop following her?
Matthew Mosk: Hi Herndon -- thanks for this question. Always nice to take a quick look inside The Post's newsroom to get a sense of how a major development like yesterday's Obama victory will impact our coverage. I expect that reporters will continue to show up for Clinton events in anticipation of her spelling out in more detail her plans, but in the next few weeks, The Post will shift resources to the general election, assigning reporters to cover each of the major party candidates on the road. I expect the paper also will pull several reporters back to do in-depth coverage on each candidate's biography, on their views on issues, on their respective styles and strategies. To the extent Sen. Clinton remains a pivotal player in the news, you should expect we will cover her.
Rockville, Md.: On the role of the vice president, I think we have misread the job for a long time. If there is enough trust, the VP can provide a "back up" to the president to take time to study questions and provide policy guidance on a long-term basis. Time is always short for the president, but the vice president should have plenty. The current VP has done some of this, and it seems a natural role for an intelligent VP who wants to do long-range planning to support the president. Just a thought.
Matthew Mosk: Very interesting, Rockville. Thank you for this comment.
What I think...: I agree with your colleague who wrote in this morning's paper that Clinton should not be the vice presidential nominee because "the White House is not big enough to accommodate three people who believe they should be president." She will not enhance Obama's prospects in November.
washingtonpost.com: For Obama, The Right Way to Win (Post, June 4)
Matthew Mosk: I always am interested to see what Ruth Marcus has to say on politics. Here's a link to her column today.
Boston: Can the Obama campaign afford to take a couple of weeks off to regroup? Things seemed to get a little sloppy toward the end, and he definitely has had a better couple of months than the past two.
Matthew Mosk: He may take a day or two to catch his breath, but folks on his campaign team certainly recognize that the finish line they just crossed leads to another starting line. To a large extent, Sen. Obama already has refocused much of his campaign with an eye on November. On the trail for the past two weeks, he rarely has mentioned Sen. Clinton, except to compliment her, and he has engaged in some sharp exchanges with Sen. McCain over foreign policy and over the role of lobbyists in each campaign. I think when you saw Obama and McCain take jabs at each other last night, that was as sure a sign as anything that they will not be taking much of a rest, if any.
Re: Cleveland: Democrats who reject or cast aspersions on a Obama-Clinton ticket are reacting emotionally and perhaps detrimentally. That kind of emotional thinking would've had Dwight Eisenhower reject Nixon, John Kennedy reject Johnson and Ronald Reagan reject Bush Sr. as running mates, and likely would have resulted in election losses. Clinton on the ticket as vice president has many positives, including improving Democrats' chances in certain swing states and enabling Democrats to raise considerable political contributions and focus their attacks on McCain and Republicans. Besides, Hillary in 2016 is a good goal to have.
Matthew Mosk: Another interesting take on veep tactics. Thank you.
Madison, Conn.: If Hillary would carry too much baggage with her to become vice president, why couldn't she be Attorney General or Secretary of Health? Would there be any other slot she might fill?
Matthew Mosk: Hello Madison. I have little insight into Sen. Clinton's ambitions, except to say that people around her seem to believe she wants the number two slot. I don't think they believe she would be satisfied with a cabinet position. Other possibilities that I have heard floated include a Supreme Court seat, though that seems somewhat speculative given where we are in the campaign.
Florida: Did the Democrats pick up any seats in either the Senate or the House in any of the elections yesterday?
washingtonpost.com: Coverage of last night's other primaries (washingtonpost.com)
Matthew Mosk: There were some interesting races in Arizona, New Mexico, California, New Jersey and elsewhere, for those of you who are interested in the down-ticket activity last night. I would encourage you to check out the scorecard prepared by my good friend Paul Kane, who knows this stuff better than just about anybody. Here's the link.
Bellingham, Wash.: Could we please get real re: Hillary for vice president? Is she going to deliver Texas or Indiana or any of the other "swing states" she won? Are the "hard-working Americans" who couldn't pull the trigger for a black candidate suddenly going to see the light and vote for a black man with a woman running mate? Are the Republicans who switched sides to vote for her at the behest of Limbaugh et al going to vote for a Democratic ticket with her on the ballot in November? What would her presence -- along with her and her husband's baggage -- do for Obama's call for change, accommodation, and focus on the future? It boggles the mind that folks even are considering her.
Matthew Mosk: Thanks Bellingham, for this take. I'm not sure it's being framed this way in Sen. Obama's Chicago headquarters today, but I think you have identified some issues that are surely on their minds.
Johnson proved to be a zealous and effective campaigner, even as he privately badmouthed Kennedy to reporters.: No one bad mouths "privately" to reporters anymore. Bill and Hillary's badmouthing has been loud and public ever since Iowa, and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon, vice presidential nod or no...
Matthew Mosk: Times have changed since the Kennedy-Johnson days. But my esteemed colleague Dan Balz has an interesting take on The Trail this morning that makes another '60s comparison. He looks at Obama-Clinton in the context of Johnson-RFK.
Portland, Ore.: Thanks for taking our questions Mr. Mosk. As former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas is reputed to have said, "money is the mother's milk of politics." Sen. Obama's fundraising abilities are amazing, while Sen. McCain's seem much less so. How do you see the financial aspects of the race affecting the contest, and who will have the advantage?
Matthew Mosk: Thank you Portland, for a fundraising question. Money will play a significant role in the coming five months and you are correct that Sen. Obama has had great success with fundraising. If history is a guide, he is likely to see a huge fundraising bounce this month as a result of his securing the nomination. (John Kerry raised $40 million in March of 2004 when he secured the nomination, which used to be the record for the most raised in a month.) Sen. McCain's strategy to contend with this potential imbalance has been to combine forces with the Republican National Committee and a series of state committees so he can raise $70,000 from a single individual. May was the first month he took this approach and we should see it yielding him about $20 million. Whether he can keep that up will depend on the mood of the country. So far, that mood has tilted heavily in favor of Democrats. If that continues, Sen. Obama could have a major edge in his ability to spend during the closing weeks of the campaign.
Princeton, N.J.: Matthew, here's an interesting angle: What if Obama doesn't pick Hillary (or any other woman), but McCain picks a high-powered, viable/visible woman for his vice presidential choice? I am guessing McCain will wait until Obama announces his vice presidential choice before making his. For that reason I am guessing Obama will pick some woman for vice president -- because it's an obvious tactic for McCain to opt for. Agree?
Matthew Mosk: Interesting thought, Princeton. I have heard it suggested that Sen. McCain will reach outside the normal crop of politicians and select a leader in the corporate world, someone like eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is a major supporter. It's also been floated that Sen. McCain will act sooner, not later, in order to cut into the inevitable bounce Sen. Obama will receive from having secured his party's nomination. Don't know how much credence to give either suggestion, but I thought they were intriguing.
Washington: What do you think of John McCain's proposal that he just offered to Barack Obama to debate together at ten town hall meetings, starting June 12? Do you think Obama will accept? Who do you think would benefit?
Matthew Mosk: This is an interesting idea. There's been lots of analysis on how each one benefits or is potentially harmed by debates.
Here's an interesting observation from NBC's Chuck Todd on First Read this morning:
"The truth is, McCain just isn't a podium guy. He needs the microphone in his hand and the ability to speak off the cuff. That's his strength. And, ironically, it's Obama's weakness. While Obama has his share of challenges as we head into the general election, perhaps McCain's biggest one besides the problems with the GOP brand is rising to the occasion to give a speech that tries to come close to what Obama can deliver. The debate negotiations between these two are going to fascinating, because McCain's going to want more off-the-cuff, town-hall formats; Obama will want a podium. The good news for McCain: There aren't multiple election nights where the country compares the two side-by-side. There are, at a minimum, four events: the conventions and the three debates."
Washington: What was up with McCain last night? The green background was very disconcerting, and the speech itself was flat and pretty uninspiring...
washingtonpost.com: McCain Mounts Immediate Attack on Obama's Record (Post, June 4)
Matthew Mosk: Here's another point of view on McCain's speech last night. For those who missed the speech, here's our report on it.
Montgomery Village, Md.: How long can Sen Obama continue to use funds raised for the primaries before raising and spending general election funds? Through the convention? If so, it would seem to give him a huge plus, in that his 1.5 million generally small-amount donors could continue to donate now, and then again when the general election campaign and fundraising begins. It also would mean that Hillary "bringing $200 million"would be moot. Whoever thought $200 million could be moot?
Matthew Mosk: Well, not really. Assuming Sen. Obama does not plan to take federal money to finance his general election run, he can not only continue to raise and spend primary money until the convention, he can also raise general election money (and in fact already has been doing just that). The rules segregate the money -- primary funds can be raised and spent until he accepts his party's nomination at the convention in August. After that, he must start spending general election funds, which presumably he will have amassed over the course of the summer by asking donors for two $2,300 checks -- one for the primary and one for the general.
Matthew Mosk: Well thank you all so much for the riveting discussion. I suspect many of the answers to your questions will become more clear as the day wears on, so please visit us often on The Trail and the Post Politics page. Cheers!
washingtonpost.com: Discussion: Author David Sirota on the Resurgence of Western Populism, and What it Means for November (washingtonpost.com, Live NOW)
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