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Post Politics: Is Obama Polarizing, Mid-term Prospects, More

Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com political blogger
Friday, April 10, 2009 11:00 AM

The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza took your questions about who is up and who is down in the world of politics and the latest news out of Washington.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone! Thanks for joining me on this lead up to a holiday weekend.

Soundtrack for this chat: Electric Black Nite Crash by Bob Dylan.

Let's get to your questions.

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It's Hard to Stay in the Ole Party: Your Cheat Sheet today takes a look at whether Obama is "polarizing." I'd say it's our (or my former) party that has become polarized. It wasn't overnight either. I remember telling friends five years ago that I did not believe that Bush and the current GOP were real conservatives. We now have a party that is led by an ideology that is unpopular almost everywhere in this country. And leadership that demands that you fall into this extremist mindset or you are a "RINO." I know I'm not the only Republican out there who said enough of this nonsense and became an independent. As for Obama, I feel the same for him as would for any other president...I just pray that he bats at least .600 on the decisions he makes.

Chris Cillizza: The debate over this Pew poll, which showed a 61 point gap between Obama's approval rating among Democrats and with Republicans, went nuclear yesterday when former White House chief of staff Karl Rove cited it as evidence that Obama is the most polarizing president ever.

As I wrote this morning in the Cheat Sheet, there are WIDE swaths of disagreement within the political polling community about using the Pew numbers to make that point.

On one hand, as Republicans argue, the numbers are the numbers. True enough.

On the other, context matters and the the truth is that Obama came into office in one of the most partisan times we' ever seen in the country.

My general take: Obama ran as a post-partisan and, as a result, won the votes of many Republicans who probably disagree with him on many issues. Since he has been president, he has governed as a Democrat, which isn't at all surprising, and, as a result, those GOPers who were up in the air about him have returned to their partisan camp.

Regardless of which side you come down on, Obama's approval rating is in the low to mid 60s -- a place almost any politician would like to be.

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Juno, Alaska: Sir: Do you think the Democrats really fear the possible challenge against Obama from my governor, Sarah Palin, in 2012 and therefore they are seeking more lawsuits against her? Do you think they are trying to weaken her for her second governor race, hoping to take her out in 2010 and block her on the national horizon?

Chris Cillizza: My first clue that this might not be from someone in Alaska was that the city of Juneau was spelled like the movie with Ellen Page in it....

Nonetheless, I persevere.....

To my mind, Palin is doing plenty of damage to herself without Democrats doing much of anything.

From her mishandling of her appearance (since canceled) at a Congressional fundraiser in DC to her public spat with the former Mr. Bristol Palin, the Palin in 2012 train has lost lots and lots of momentum in my eyes.

I was interested to see her announce she wasn't going to run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in 2010 earlier this week. I think that's a smart move.

My guess is Palin runs and likely wins a second term next November and sometime soon after that makes a decision about whether running for president is something that interests her.

If it is, she needs to drastically step up her game.

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Rochester, N.Y.: When are the inside-the-beltwayers going to start to understand that Obama is popular and that Republicans are not? Do you buy into the Josh Marshall "D.C. is wired for Republican control" meme? I'm starting to.

Chris Cillizza: Well, if you read my response above, I think it makes that point pretty clearly.

There's NO question right now that Democrats -- led by President Obama -- are absolutely ascendant in national politics at the moment.

But, remember back to November 2004 -- less than five years ago -- when THE EXACT SAME THING could be said of Republicand and George W. Bush.

My point: momentum changes in politics quickly and it's the job of journalists to try and see when, where and why that change occurs (if it does).

It's quite possible that we are entering a period of long term Democratic dominance. (Polling would certainly suggest it.) But, it's also possible that this is one of a series of rises and falls between the two parties that have dominated politics over the last two decades.

My goal is to document either one accurately and first.

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Princeton, NJ: Nate Silver at 538 has alomost the opposite explanation of why so many Repubplicans oppose Obama. He says so many have left the party and not returned, that the ones who are left are the far right wing nuts.

Chris Cillizza: I think that is also a fair point.

The reach of the Republican party has clearly been diminished over the past few election cycles as moderates/independents have abandoned the party in droves.

And, if you look at the Pew poll, independents approve of the job Obama is doing at a 57 percent clip. Not too shabby.

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Atlanta: In regards to the post-partisanship note, don't you think Obama was pushed to move back to the Democrat camp after trying to work from the middle and having the GOP turn their backs to him?

Chris Cillizza: I think that Obama has real and genuine interest in breaking down partisan barriers to make government work better for average people.

But, he is, at heart, a Democrat and so it's somewhat unrealistic to expect him to govern in a way inconsistent with the party's core principles.

As for Obama's early attempts at bipartisanship, I know the White House believes that they get credit for trying even if those efforts are unsuccessful.

So, expect more outreach even if results don't follow.

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Ellen Page, Alaska: "therefore they are seeking more lawsuits against her"

Chris, can you clear up this statement for me? It implies that:

1. Democrats ("They") have brought lawsuits against Sarah Palin in the past.

2. Democrats ("They") are planning on bringing more in the future.

What Past/Future Lawsuits is Michael Cera talking about here? I'm not aware of any.

Chris Cillizza: I didn't know there was an Ellen Page, Alaska.

And since you mentioned Michael Cera, I demand to know what kind of world allows "Arrested Development", the best sitcome since "Seinfeld" to get canceled.

No justice.

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Jacksonville, FL: Do you think statewide black candidates have the same hurdles as before? I'd like to get your thoughts on Artur Davis for Alabama governor and Kendrick Meek for Senate in Florida. Can they win in November of mid-term election?

Chris Cillizza: A very good question. I wrote last weekend about the fact that three black Democrats -- Davis, Meek and Thurbert Baker in Georgia -- were running statewide in the south in 2010 and wondered the same thing.

I think all three have a solid chance at winning the Democratic nomination although each faces a serious primary challenge from (at least) one white Democrat.

The general election is probably too far away to make an accurate prediction. The question is what the black turnout in each state will look like (it will certainly be lower than it was in 2008 but how much lower?) and whether or not any of three can convince a significant amount of white voters to pull the lever for them.

That was Obama's great gift -- he not only ran VERY well among the black community but was also able to win large swaths of white voters as well.

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Houston: The buzz is that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will be resigning soon from the Senate in order to run for governor of Texas. So my question is, do you think Gov. Rick Perry is vulnerable to her challenge or do you think she might accept the LT. Gov post? What do the polls show in a Perry vs. Hutchison matchup? Thank you.

Chris Cillizza: I couldn't have written a better segue to plug my Friday Line on the 10 best primaries in the country, which will post this afternoon on the Fix.

So, thanks.

I have actually been hearing of late that KBH is in no rush to resign from the Senate (her term isn't up until 2012) even as she challenges Perry next year. (Thanks to LBJ there is no resign to run law in Texas so KBH can run for governor and stay in the Senate if she so chooses.)

As for the primary itself, it is going to be an ALL OUT WAR. Perry and Hutchison don't like one another and neither do their campaign teams.

Hutchison starts with a clear edge in polling but Perry is clearly the more conservative of the two candidates, which should help him with conservative voters.

Is it the #1 primary in the country? Check the Fix this afternoon.

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washingtonpost.com: When a High-Profile Endorsement Is Low-Profile (Post, March 30)

Chris Cillizza: Here's my story on Meek, Davis and Baker...

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Tampa, Fla.: Chris - want to first say thank you for naming SayfieReview.com one of the best political blogs here in Florida. The recognition is very much appreciated.

Our readers can not get enough of the race for outgoing Senator Mel Martinez's senate seat. What is your take on the race if Crist decides not to jump in?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks Justin (if it is you).

And, that gives me a chance to plug a project I am really proud of -- the Fix's list of the best political blog(s) from each of the 50 states.

We posted it earlier this week after taking hundreds of suggestions from readers. It's a great resource that now sits permanently on the left side (rail) of the Fix homepage.

Check it out. Here's the link: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/fix-notes/the-best-state-political-blogs-2.html

As for the Florida Senate primaries, I think everything is on hold until Gov. Crist makes a decision. Everything I hear is that he is leaning toward running and, if he does, he is a clear favorite.

If not, it's WIDE open and, in truth, a more interesting race from the perspective of a political junkie. My guess is that if Crist gets out, the Democratic field may grow a bit (as, obviously the GOP field will)as candidates who were worried about running against Crist jump in.

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Bluth Company HQ, Calif.: The series may have been canceled, but it looks like we will finally get an "Arrested Development" movie!

Chris Cillizza: There's ALWAYS money in the banana stand!!!

And, thanks to "Arrested Development" devotee Tracy Sefl, I was aware of the possibility of the movie.

Let's hope it's not like the "Simpsons" movie. HUGE disappointment.

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Washington, DC: Ok, Chris, come on . . . when is Minnesota going to finally get its second Senator? How far are the Republicans going to push this? And when is the rest of the country going to start to care?

Chris Cillizza: Holy cow!

I mean, when this race started Fix Jr. wasn't even a twinkle in the eye of me and Mrs. Fix. And now he's the starting offensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. (Actually, he's six weeks old but MAN is he a bruiser.)

Coleman seems set on appealing the election contest ruling to the state Supreme Court and it appears as though Democrats are going to let that happen without too much protest, probably because they are pretty certain they will win.

The real question is what happens if Coleman loses at the state Supreme Court level. Does he end it? Or does he make a federal case out of it?

If the former, things could be all over in a month or two. If the latter, we could be looking at 2010 or beyond.

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Columbia, S.C.: Chris,

First off thanks for the mention of SCHotline.com on your nationally recognized political Web sites.

What is your opinion of Mark Sanford's performance to date and or the way he has handled to current debate regarding stimulus dollars with strings attached?

Jeffrey Sewell Editor-At-Large SCHotline.com

washingtonpost.com: The Fix - The Best State Political Blogs

Chris Cillizza: Hard to resist another chance to plug the Best State Political blogs project...

As for Sanford, I think he has made the calculation that picking a fight with the White House over the stimulus is a good thing for his political future.

I talked to him yesterday and he called the fight a "political loser" but that is if you solely look at how it has played out in the state.

Sanford isn't running for office again in S.C. but he is likely running for president in 2012 and it's hard to imagine that he hasn't done himself some good in the eyes of fiscal conservatives, who already liked him, with this back and forth with President Obama and the Democratic National Committee over the past month or so.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: Why are you too scared to address the question of whether Obama bowed to the saudi king? What explanation is there for Obama to deny the bow when there is undisputable video evidence?

Chris Cillizza: My gosh.

I have absolutely no idea whether he bowed or he didn't bow. The Fix is a blog about campaign politics and the politics of policy.

I leave the politics of bowing to others.

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Latina in Riverside, CA: You wrote that Obama's gift was being able do very well among African-Americans and get a large swath of white voters.

What about us latinos/latinas? If it weren't for us in Colorado, NV, NM, VA this would have been a very close election.

I'm tired of white liberals trying to take the credit for Obama's success when it was minorities that put him over the top.

Chris Cillizza: Fair point.

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Why?: Chris, why does Hutchinson want to challenge Perry?

Chris Cillizza: She has long coveted returning to Texas to be governor.

And, Perry has been in the way of that. He has been governor since 2001 (when GW Bush was elected president) and Hutchison figures that she can't afford to wait another four years to run for the office she really wants.

Plus, I bet she truly believes she would do a better job than Perry.

The great thing about primaries that both candidates will get a chance to make their cases to the voters and then one will win and one will lose.

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Chicago: We've got Blunt in Missouri and Moran in Kansas so far, but do you think we will we see more GOP House members jump into Senate or governor's races, given that winning back the House is likely more of a 4 to 6 year goal for the Republican Party and the House minority isn't really all that much fun? Castle in Delaware, King in New York, and Kirk in Illinois all would be interesting candidates. Then there's Colorado and Florida (depending on what Gov. Crist does), too. What are you hearing, Mr. Fix?

Chris Cillizza: There's no question that being in the House minority is rank misery. You are rolled on every single vote and the victories you might be able to score are on arcane procedural matters that the average voter could care less about.

Given that, I would expect some significant attrition among House Republicans who have had an eye on higher office. The problem (or potential problem) for these Members is that if the political climate stays as it ism, they will have to find an effective way to answer the charge that they helped George Bush drive the country into a ditch.

Of course, in 2010 with Bush out of office for roughly two years, that argument may not have the saliency it did in 2006 and 2008.

One other (former) GOP member not to forget: Rob Simmons who is running (and leading) Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut.

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Different side of MN: What does this mean for Pawlenty. If he keeps this up he alienates his supporters at home. If he puts an end to it, he risks alienating the national GOP for 2012. What's next?

Chris Cillizza: I wrote on this yesterday on the Fix...editor, can we link to it?

My basic take: I believe Tpaw won't run for a third term in which case the profile he is building as a result of this Senate imbroglio is seen as a good thing for his presidential interest.

He has been on a number of national cable television and comes across as a calm, reasonable defender of Coleman and, more broadly, the rights of voters.

That's not a bad place to be in a GOP presidential primary.

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Baby update: How is Baby Fix?

Chris Cillizza: Charlie is GREAT!

Thanks for asking.

Here's a pic of me and the little guy: http://www.twitpic.com/2yqix

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Chapel Hill, NC: Hoya Saxa! My Tar Heels want you guys in the Dance next year - it makes life more exciting.

Do you think Stevens has any realistic come-back plans?

Chris Cillizza: On Stevens, no. Just no path for him in the foreseeable future unless he wants to wait around until 2014 to run against Mark Begich (D) again. He would be in his mid to late 80s by that point...so I think it's unlikely.

As for the Hoyas, I am waiting wih bated breath of two things:

1. Does Greg Monroe come back for his sophomore season?

2. Does anyone major transfer?

If Monroe is back and we keep our same basic team, I think we will be much improved next year. (No offense, DaJuan.)

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Blacksburg, VA: OK, your baby is SOOOOO cute! I must admit I watched The Fix video just to look at Charlie.

I also wanted to thank you for taking more intelligent questions than some of the other Politics Hour folks... I get annoyed if there are too many "Why does Mr. Obama HATE AMERICA?" questions. I appreciate your discretion in accepting both right and left political questions, but intelligent ones.

Chris Cillizza: Thanks! He got my wife's good looks.

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Chicago: Chris, love your column and TV appearances and this is my first time chatting online here. With MSNBC shuffling up their lineup and still airing Hardball reruns at 5EST, when are you getting your own show!!!

Chris Cillizza: Mom, I told you not to ask about that in the chat!

On a serious note, my guess is MSNBC is pretty happy with their current lineup.

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Chris Cillizza: Folks,

It's time for me to go. Thanks for joining me today and make sure to check out the Fix for the latest and greatest news on politics.

Have a happy Easter/Passover.

Chris

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