Post Politics Hour

Chris Cillizza political blogger Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza Political Blogger
Friday, July 18, 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, political blogger, will be online Friday, July 18 at 11 a.m. ET.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Chris Cillizza: Good morning!

Lots of great questions in the queue already -- keep them coming.

As for me, the question that I have been pondering over the last few days: Could you just listen to Bob Dylan tunes for the rest of your life and be satisfied? I vote yes.

Anyone agree or disagree?


Northville, N.Y.: Chris, we love ya, but please: Don't do any more Gov. Crist articles. The comments were excruciating to read -- and like a four-car pile-up, I couldn't avert my eyes, though I tried. Charlie Crist for vice president? The Fix's cases for and against. (, July 16-17)

Chris Cillizza: Well, I won't be making the case for or against Crist any time soon. Been there, done that.

But, Crist is a fascinating figure because he provokes such strong reactions. Some of his allies ardently believe he is BY FAR the best pick; many of his detractors believe picking him would be an total disaster.

It's rare that opinion is so divided about a guy with a relatively limited national profile.

And speaking of my case for/case against Crist, this is as good a time as any to plug the new "veepstakes" section at The Fix. We have everything you need to know about the race for second place there -- including a series of cases for/cases against for the major contenders.


Providence, R.I.: It seems that Obama has to make a choice between experienced Hill veterans and fresh new faces as he scans his potential running mates. Which of these two potential vice presidential categories do you think would be more effective in attracting swing voters?

Chris Cillizza: Shailagh "Shazelle" Murray and I wrote a piece about Obama's decision and the choice between change and experience in yesterday's paper.

The choice is stark: Does Obama double down on fresh faced change or go for an elder statesman to sure up doubts about his experience?

If you believe public polling that shows Obama ahead of John McCain by mid single digits, then the so called "safe" option might have a bit of an edge as the Illinois Senator wants to minimize the risks -- believing that if nothing major goes wrong he will win on Nov. 4.

I'll be rolling out my latest veepstakes Line this afternoon . Make sure to check it out.

_______________________ The Running-Mate Question: Hill Veteran or Change Agent? (Post, July 16)


Arlington, Va.: My Dylan lyric to live by: "I try to be just as I am/But everyone wants you to be just like them." -- "Maggie's Farm"

Chris Cillizza: Well said.

My favorite Dylan line: "Yes to dance beneath the diamond sky/with one hand waving free." (Mr. Tambourine Man)

Give me chills.

Keep them coming.


Washington: I don't understand your weird attraction to Kathleen Sebelius -- do you have a mother complex? Kansas hasn't got enough votes to matter in the Electoral College, so on what grounds could she be vice president except for your pushing her? That video interview was sad.

Chris Cillizza: Nice!

I don't "think" I have a mother complex -- although that Maryellen Cillizza is one heck of a great mom.

My quick take on Sebelius' pros:

1. She is a two-term governor of a red state -- reinforcing Obama's 50 state rhetoric.

2. She has picked two former Republicans as her running mates in 2002 and 2006. That sort of post-partisanship is in keeping with Obama's pledge for a new kind of politics.

3. Obama clearly has warm feelings toward her. Go an check out the interview he gave with a Kansas City TV station a few weeks ago. He absolutely gushes about Sebelius.

4. Intangibles: Obama's mom is from Kansas.


Waterville, Maine: Good morning Chris -- I'm a big fan of "The Fix" from Maine. What is the chance that Obama will make an "off the radar" surprise pick for a running mate. I'm thinking either former majority leader Dick Gephardt or Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas. Has the recent controversy about the abortion doctor in Kansas diminished the chances of Gov. Sebelius (who I think would be a great pick)? I'm looking forward to your vice presidential picks this afternoon in The Fix.

Chris Cillizza: Helloooooo Waterville! 

As I mentioned above, as long as Obama is ahead in national polls and competitive in key states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio -- I can't see him making a long shot pick.

If he did, I think Edwards would be a good one. He has no national profile but Nancy Pelosi is pushing for him (seriously) and there are a bunch of people in the Washington chattering class who think Obama should at least consider him.

Our favorite wild card? Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. Why is this guy not being mentioned more?


McLean, Va.: Chris Dodd?! Why in heaven's name would Obama consider Dodd as a running mate, especially with his mortgage-crisis baggage? If he wants a foreign-policy graybeard, he should go with Joe Biden.

Chris Cillizza: There's no question that Dodd's Countrywide connections do not help his cause at all.

That said, Dodd has a few things going for him:

1. He speaks fluent Spanish.

2. The liberal left loves him; he was one of the main opponents on the re-upping of FISA.

3. He has policy chops from years on the Hill and political chops from his chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

4. Intangibles: He is from Connecticut -- the best state in the union.


"VP Mystery Date": When was the last time the media successfully named any vice presidential running mate before it was announced by the candidate? Just wondering. I think your veepstakes idea is a big waste of time/energy. Might as well talk about when the next hurricane will hit Ohio, or something.

Chris Cillizza: Terrific!

I think covering the Veepstakes the way we do on The Fix acknowledges the fundamental unknowability (is that a word?) of the process.

That said, there is little question that it is the topic of conversation inside (and outside) the Beltway these days so for a blog that devotes itself to covering the granular level of politics it would be sort of weird to ignore it.


Minneapolis: Providence, R.I., asked a good question. My answer is to ask, who can satisfy both requirements? Thus the dark-horse pick of Bill Bradley...

Chris Cillizza: Or Evan Bayh -- a serious policy guy who is young enough (52) to allow Obama to make the case that the ticket is a generational change.


Minnesota: Other than Salazar, I wanted your take on why we hear nothing about low-key, safe choices for Obama who would help him: Steny Hoyer, Chris Dodd or Jack Reed.

Chris Cillizza: I can't give away all the good stuff for this afternoon's Veepstakes Line...
On Reed though, I think he is getting hot at the right time.
Check The Fix this afternoon for more.


Seattle: Barring some miracle or a total collapse of epic proportions, why not retire the No. 1 spot on the Senate line? Isn't Warner just gonna crush Gilmore?

Chris Cillizza: Let's move into the Senate arena...
Yes, Mark Warner is a heavy favorite this fall against Jim Gilmore.
But, "retire" the No. 1 slot?
Here are three reasons not to do that:
1. It would be weird to end on No. 2.
2. UNLV vs Duke in the 1991 NCAA Basketball national semifinals.
3. Catholic University vs Salisbury University in field hockey in 2006.


Vienna, Va.: Why is Tom Allen faring so poorly in his race against Susan Collins? Do you see a campaign shakeup in the works?

Chris Cillizza: I don't think Tom Allen is "faring so poorly"; it's just that Collins is running a terrific race.

Maine politics is an entirely different world. While President Bush is extremely unpopular there, both Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) have built their own unique brand in the eyes of voters so they are less tarnished by the struggles of the national party than GOP incumbents in other states.

Democrats remain optimistic that once the race truly engages, which it hasn't yet, the numbers will close.


But Collins is very well liked and it will be tough for Allen to make the case that she should be fired.


Fairfax, Va.: I've seen in several places that the Democrats have reserved $6 million in air time for the North Carolina Senate race. Is that just a head fake, though? Are they pretending they're going to invest heavily in a state to force the GOP to devote some of its limited resources there?

Chris Cillizza: I don't think it's a head fake. National Democrats believe that Kay Hagan has a serious chance to beat Elizabeth Dole in the fall. Dole recently spent a bundle on television ads that bumped her numbers up nicely but this is a race that seems destined to be close.
On how much money the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will ultimately spend in the state, we don't know until they actually begin their TV ads. Party committees can move money from state to state throughout the summer and fall. But, I would bank on the DSCC spending real money (millions) in the Tar Heel State.


Fairfax, Va.: Does Sen. Stevens have a primary challenger? If so, is there any chance he doesn't capture the nomination? The Fix's Friday Line: Top Senate Races (, July 18)

Chris Cillizza: Stevens doesn't have any serious primary opposition -- unlike Rep. Don Young who is being challenged by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the August Republican primary.

That Stevens is the all-but-certain Republican nominee should worry GOP strategists. The ethics scandal that has ravaged the state Republican party claimed another state senator in the last week.

Stevens' ties to the scandal remain amorphous but the longer it stays in the news, the worse for the incumbent.

And, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) raised more than $1 million in the last three months and is already on television statewide.

This is a major (and unexpected) problem spot for Republicans.


Washington: Chris, thanks for taking my question about polls being released by congressional campaigns. In a nutshell: How reliable are they? Congressional campaigns are putting out polls steadily in recent days that either show their candidate ahead or closing in on the opponent. Should all of this be taken with a grain of salt? What do you look at when you look at someone else's polling results? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: Great question.

Usually in a House or Senate race, a campaign releases polling for one of two reasons: to raise money and to counter a public poll that offers a variant view on the race.

The reality is that most campaigns -- especially well funded Senate races -- are polling all the time; they are testing various messages, campaign commercials and potential attacks on their opponents.

Most of that polling never sees the light of day as it is meant to provide a blueprint for how to win as opposed to a snapshot in time.

Always remember that polling is equal parts art and science. How the numbers are interpreted are just as important as what the numbers say.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Somebody needs to re-write Dylan's best song -- "All I Really Want to Do" -- for the veepstakes. As in: "I don't want to campaign with you, fly with you, smile with you..."

Chris Cillizza: Now there is an idea.

Although, re-writing any Dylan song is a dangerous proposition since the guy is a lyrical genius.

Quick Fix/Bob Dylan update: Favorite Dylan song is currently "Boots of Spanish Leather."

Of love gained and lost.


Central Massachusetts: Ixnay on Jack Reed -- Rhode Island has a Republican governor who would appoint a Republican senator.

Chris Cillizza: Gotta love Pig Latin!

Fair point on the naming of Reed. But, remember that Democrats are heading toward a minimum three seat gain this fall. Giving up a Democratic seat when you are at 51 in the Senate is different than giving one up when you are at 56.


Baltimore: Democratic veepstakes: Why did Jim Webb take himself out of consideration last week? Had he already been told he wasn't going to be picked and they gave him the opportunity to declare he was not interested? I thought he would be a good counterpoint to Obama.

Chris Cillizza: I think Webb's decision was a two-parter:

1. He genuinely enjoys being in the Senate and sees a chance to build a bipartisan legacy for himself there.

2. He knows that past comments he has made about women serving in the military and affirmative action would be re-litigated in the national media, forcing him to explain just what he meant when he said those things.


Nashville, Tenn.: The Republican National Committee boasts a huge fundraising advantage over the Democratic National Committee. Will they use it to keep the Senate close? In which Senate races is the RNC investing the most coin? Also, where does McCain help down-ticket races?

Chris Cillizza: To be honest, I think the RNC is going to spend all the money they have on the presidential race.

The Senate and House party committees are likely on their own - a dangerous proposition given the huge financial leads Senate and House Democrats have at the moment.

As for the McCain down ballot effect, he could help Sen. John Sununu in new Hampshire a bit and probably helps Tim Bee, who is challenging Rep. Gabby Giffords (D) in Arizona's 8th district.


Seattle Again: Okay, how does Warner lose? (Not that Gilmore necessarily will win...)

Chris Cillizza: How could a team of unknown Americans beat the mighty Russians?

How could Catholic University beat Salisbury in field hockey when the Sea Gulls who had won three consecutive national championships and not lost a home game in six years?

Upsets happen.

To be clear, I am not saying it will. But, insisting that any political race is over four months before a ballot is cast is crazy.


Dylan Lyrics: Every line in the song "Hurricane" gives me the chills.

Chris Cillizza: No kidding. Just listened to it this morning.

"Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night/ Enter patty valentine from the upper hall."


Monmouth, Ore.: Hi, Chris -- I recall that around when Reagan was elected and everything seemed to be going that way, a number of "Democrats" (mostly from the South) such as Shelby, Gramm, Lott and others, switched their affiliation to "Republican." With many indications that this year could be the same type of tidal wave, do you see any Republicans suddenly "seeing the light" and switching to the Democratic Party? Possibly Sen. Snowe of Maine, Rep. Kirk of Illinois or any remaining Republicans in New England, parts of the West Coast or Midwest? (Sen. Smith would have just undergone an re-election, and so might not be interested.) If so, would we be closer to a true parliamentary political divide, or would it be more of a geographical one? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: A very interesting question that I don't know the answer to. Will do some digging and make it a Fix post down the line.

Thanks for the idea. :)


Chris 'n' Chris?: After the DAY-na 'n' DAN-na online chat yesterday, is there a Chris at The Post you could team up with?

Chris Cillizza: A quick search shows there are 13 people named Chris (other than me) at The Post.

A few other options:

1. Christian Pelusi: He works at and, like The Fix, appreciates the great genius of the one, the only Ric Flair.

2. Josh Freedom du Lac: Not only does he have the single greatest byline in world history, he is also The Post's music critic -- The Fix's dream job.

3. Mrs. Fix: Who wouldn't want to see me put in my place for an hour by my kick-butt wife?


Chris Cillizza: Folks, That's all I have time for today. Don't forget to check out The Fix this afternoon for the latest and greatest Friday Line. And, we can't possible leave without a bit more self promotion. Here's The Fix fan page on FacebookThe Fix on YouTube and The Fix on Twitter.


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