Post Politics Hour

Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post White House Reporter
Friday, October 31, 2008; 12:00 PM

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 buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post White House reporter Michael Abramowitz was online Friday, Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the latest political news.

The transcript follows.

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Washington: I am worried that Sen. McCain's negative campaigning is hitting Sen. Obama's poll numbers, and that Obama is taking the high road too much. I think he needs to go even more on the offense, even for the jugular. What do you think -- are the numbers closing for McCain? If so, is it attributable at all to the nonstop attacking on taxes and Obama's prior associations? Thanks.

Michael Abramowitz: Good morning everybody. We're getting close to Election Day, and I don't sense any real tightening. Our own tracking poll shows an eight-point lead for Obama, which is pretty much what it has been all week, and is a little smaller than last week's lead. My sense is that Obama has not hesitated to go after McCain on a variety of things, so I don't think he has a problem of not being aggressive enough. My sense is that the attacks about Obama's associations have had minimal impact so far.


Crestwood, N.Y.: Nobody knows for sure who is going to win, but I find it hilarious that certain Democrats are hunkered down, shivering and hugging themselves, awaiting improbable disaster from out of the blue, while Republicans have flung their swords down on the field of battle, shrieking "you betrayed us" at each other. I have never seen anything so insane and so hysterically funny. It's F Troop against the Hekawe. Here's my fearless prediction: This race has gone on way too long.

Michael Abramowitz: It has gone on a while, I can't disagree with you. It is still amazing to me the level of interest in the election, though -- just witness the fact that 33 million people watched that Obama infomercial the other night.


Bronx, N.Y.: I did a quick Google check, and it looks like about 120 million people voted in 2004 for Bush and Kerry. How many voters do the campaigns expect this time?

Michael Abramowitz: Turnout has been booming in recent years, up from 96 million voters in 1996 to 120 million in 2004, as you say. McCain's pollster wrote the other day that he thinks turnout could cross 130 million voters this time. All signs point to elevated levels of voter interest in this election, especially on the Democratic side.


Vienna, Va.: I don't suppose this will get posted, but today's story on a late Bush deregulation push doesn't include any notion that lifting some regulations actually may make it easier for businesses to spend money and hire people. Surely the administration is making that point, right? And of course The Post would at least be fair about including it, right? A Last Push To Deregulate: White House to Ease Many Rules (Post, Oct. 31)

Michael Abramowitz: I am posting this and only would point out that the article did include the views of the administration and a business group that likes what the administration is doing.


Washington: How will Congress react to the new idea that companies getting the congressional loans are paying dividends? I have no stock, but my tax money is being used to give dividends to people whose investments went bad -- including, I assume, some of those responsible for the bad investments that have stock options as part of their pay. Is this what Congress or the administration intended? Have the candidates commented on this? White House Officials Defend Bailout Package (Post, Oct. 31)

Michael Abramowitz: I suspect it will not go over that well, judging from some of the comments from Chuck Schumer and others I have seen. I don't believe Obama or McCain have commented.


Burke, Va.: If Obama takes all of the states in which he currently has a double-digit lead, that gives him 264 electoral votes. McCain would have to sweep the remaining swing states to win. If McCain almost pulls this off, but loses Nevada (5 votes), it's a tie, 269-269. Is either campaign preparing for the politics of an electoral tie? For example, North and South Dakota each have a single Democratic representative in the House. It seems like there might be just a little bit of pressure on them to vote their states for McCain.

Michael Abramowitz: I am sure that if there is a tie, there will be all sorts of pressure and craziness going on. But that doesn't seem so likely right now, does it?


Chicago: We were wondering, what are the measurements of the Oval Office curtains?

Michael Abramowitz: I have not checked lately, sorry!


Iowa: Today in the mail we received (totally unsolicited) a DVD on "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." It describes the "threat of Radical Islam as the most important issue facing us today." I find this offensive as I suspect it is intended to gin up fears of Sen. Obama. Have you heard of this film being mass mailed to voters?

Michael Abramowitz: I have not heard of the movie, but I would note that Sen. McCain has cited the threat of radical Islam as one of the principal foreign policy problems facing the United States. I am not sure that has to do with Obama per se -- many people believe that.


Companies getting the congressional loans are paying dividends?: Steve Pearlstein in a chat going on right now just gave a thoughtful answer to this question.

Michael Abramowitz: I will put in a plug for my man Pearlstein, who knows way more about economics than me.


New York: This is kind of a random question that you may not be able to answer, but after watching a number of different governors from different states acting as surrogate for the candidates, it seems like voters vote differently in gubernatorial elections than they do in national elections. In at least nine states, the governor of that state is of a different party than the presidential candidate of choice for the majority of that same state's electorate. For example, according to the current electoral map, the majority of California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont voters are likely to choose Barack Obama. However, all four of those states have Republican governors. Similarly, the map shows Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma as states that will likely go to John McCain and all have governors who are Democrats. How does this happen? What makes a governor from a certain party more palatable than a president from the same party?

Michael Abramowitz: It's a good question: What I would say is that in some cases, it really depends on what kind of governor you have. Take California, which is as blue of a state as you could get. There's no way that McCain would win that state, and there's no way that a a conservative Republican would be governor right now, but Schwarzenegger is governing as a liberal Republican, just as Janet Napolitano in Arizona is considered more moderate.

In other words, the presidential leanings are a good indicator of the state's ideological leanings, and governor often finds a way to reflect that in how they govern.


30 minutes: Do you think that John McCain could have done an entire 30 minute broadcast without bringing up Barack Obama once?

Michael Abramowitz: No. But he has a different problem than Obama. I guarantee you that if he were winning, he wouldn't be attacking Obama the way he is -- but the only way he thinks he can pull this out is by sowing as many doubts as he can about Obama's judgment and readiness for the job. It's the only chance he has.


Curtains: Do presidents and/or first ladies really do White House redecoration? Isn't there a substantial Washington bureaucracy that takes care of that?

Michael Abramowitz: There is a White House staff that takes care of that kind of thing, but the first family definitely will have a final say in the decor, the china and that kind of thing.


Manchester, Vt.: Michael, I'm curious as to your take on how President Bush will react on Wednesday morning if Obama is elected and the Congress gets an increased Democratic majority. I'm sure he'll congratulate the winner and offer cooperation, but should we read between the lines? Also, as this is the last Christmas any of the Bush family will reside in the White House, what are the chances of them not spending it in Crawford? Thanks.

Michael Abramowitz: My guess is that Bush would be gracious. He has made it clear that he will help whoever is elected with as seamless a transition as possible.

Bush has spent the past couple of Christmases at Camp David before heading to Crawford for a week or so. I have no idea what he is planning this year, but your suggestion that he night want to spend more time at Camp David or the White House this winter seems plausible.


Dunn Loring, Va.: Will The Post object to reporters from conservative papers being kicked off the Obama campaign plane, or does The Post see this merely as a benefit for its long-term support of Obama? Washington Times kicked off Obama plane for finale (Washington Times, Oct. 31)

Michael Abramowitz: This is the first I have heard of it. For what it's worse, here's a funny story: I was covering the Quayle campaign in 1992 at the very end of the campaign, and was booted off the plane for the last day or two of the race. It wasn't personal -- the Quayle office wanted to let some more staffers from the home office on the plane, and I had not really been covering the race. Sometimes there are nonideological reasons for these moves. (I note the story says that Fox News is still on the Obama plane.)


Glen Allen, Va.: Hi, Michael. Obama has a ton of money. If he has any money left after this election is over, what can he do with it? If he loses, can he use it for his Senate re-election? If he wins, can he carry it over for 2012? Can he use it to pay Hillary's debt? Can he give it to charity? Thanks.

Michael Abramowitz: I doubt there is much chance this will happen, but he certainly could do any of the things you mention, or transfer the money to another federal campaign committee.


McCain and Bush: I know that the campaign in 2000 made the two men bitter enemies, which they have papered over, but do you think that in his heart McCain resents Bush as an interloper who won the office that rightfully was his solely because of his family connections? I can't imagine the turnover of power to McCain as being that joyful an affair, while on the other hand, Obama in his book has nice things to say about Bush's greeting to him when he first was elected to the Senate.

Michael Abramowitz: I don't pretend to know the true nature of the relationship between the two men, and there's certainly no question that McCain was quite resentful after the 2000 campaign. My unscientific sense is the two men have a pretty respectful relationship right now, and the reality is that -- campaign rhetoric aside -- there's a greater chance McCain will pursue policies that Bush favors, especially on Iraq and tax cuts.

Still, I never have thought of McCain as a lock-step supporter of Bush, and the irony is that the current president has been an undeniable ball-and-chain for the GOP nominee.


Islamist Movie: Yes, Iowa, this is a mass mailing from some far-right/Republican outfit. It's being blasted to swing states (I'm in Virginia and got one too).

Michael Abramowitz: Here's some info.


Arizona: Four polls this week show Arizona in a dead heat. Obviously the Obama campaign won't be showy and do a stop there, but what are the chances McCain doesn't take his home state? Also, why does the media cover Pennsylvania as competitive when it's not, but ignore a truly competitive headline race like Arizona?

Michael Abramowitz: My colleagues who follow this more closely don't think Arizona is a dead heat -- they think that McCain still will pull it out. But the reality is that Obama has a huge amount of cash, and I suspect his handlers feel, why not try to see if they can pick up an extra red state? I also would say that one reason the media is covering Pennsylvania is that McCain has been spending a fair amount of time there.


Seattle: Is anyone in the newsroom dressed up for Halloween?

Michael Abramowitz: I haven't seen anybody dressed up yet. We're pretty scary without costumes -- and pretty unimaginative too.


Arlington, Va.: Should Obama win, he will enter the White House with daughters who are very young, isn't it 10 and 7? When was the last time we had kids so young running around the White House? I assume it was JFK.

Michael Abramowitz: No, Amy Carter was in third or fourth grade, I believe, when her dad entered the White House in 1977.


Re: Beautiful Manchester, Vt.: Regarding that lucky correspondent's question, haven't the Bushes put the Crawford prop on the market? The fake ranch was only for use while president ... they are going to be living in Dallas when they are not in liberal Maine!

Michael Abramowitz: I don't know what you mean by a fake ranch, but I know the president likes being there -- and I suspect he and Laura Bush will be toggling back and forth between there and Dallas, with less time in Maine.


Leeds, U.K.: Is America becoming a divide of intellectuals and rubes. It seems that if you are educated you should not run for political office in the U.S.

Michael Abramowitz: I am not sure what you mean. Obama graduated from Columbia University and McCain went to the Naval Academy. Both of them are pretty well-educated, as have been most of the recent presidents of the United States (Clinton, the Bushes.)

That's all the time for questions. Next time we talk we can chew over the results from Tuesday.

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