Post Politics: Gitmo Clash, 2010 Races, More

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer and The Fix Blogger
Friday, May 22, 2009 11:00 AM

Discuss the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and more with Washington Post staff writer and The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza. Cillizza was online Friday, May 22 at 11 a.m. ET.


Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone!

What a week! President Obama! Dick Cheney! Nancy Pelosi! Kris Allen! Shawn Johnson!

I can't stop using exclamation points! Someone help me!

For your task in today's chat (you didn't think this would be all fun and games did you?), I want suggestions on the best Twitterers to follow -- aside from ye old @thefix of course.

Bring. It. On.


Fort Meade, Md.: How much of a long term hit do you think Nancy Pelosi will take vis-a-vis the CIA story?

Chris Cillizza: I wrote about this whole deal this morning (Editor -- can we link to it) on le Fix.

I think this is clearly a short term blow for Pelosi since she looks unsteady on her feet and has been put on the defensive by Republicans.

I am just not sure how we can know right now whether it is a long term problem. Pelosi is increasingly well known by voters nationwide and her approval ratings are not in great shape but even Republicans acknowledge that it's hard (if not not impossible) to transfer voters' negative feelings about one politician to another.

That doesn't mean Republicans won't try. And, for a party who has spent most of its time since the election talking about what's wrong with them, attacking Pelosi is a welcome break in the action.


Richmond, Va.: Chris,

Do you subscribe to the idea that, content of the discussion aside, the Republicans lose when Dick Cheney is the public face of the party?

Chris Cillizza: I do. (I wrote about this too yesterday.)

The problem lots of Republicans see with Cheney is the messenger not the message.

If you listen to what Cheney said yesterday in his speech on national security, it's not radically different than what Mitch McConnell, Kit Bond and John Boehner have been saying lately.

But, Cheney is deeply disliked in many corners of the country -- especially among the very independents that Republicans have to figure out how to win back if they want to have a chance in 2010 or 2012.

Does Cheney go back underground now? Or does he stay high profile?


Saint Paul, Minn.: Hi Chris -- Thanks for taking questions today. I find it rather disheartening to see that Obama's main challenger isn't a Republican senator or someone else currently in government but a former VP who after hiding out for the last eight years is now controlling every other news cycle. It makes one wonder why Cheney didn't just run for president in the first place, though we know how that would have turned out. Here's my question: how do you think Obama is handling this situation? Is there anything else he should be doing? He obviously can't ignore him, but if Obama pays too much attention it makes him look weak, right?

Chris Cillizza: There were LOTS of people critical of the media coverage (including mine) yesterday because of what they believed was an elevation of Cheney -- allowing him to be cast as a figure equal to the president of the United States.

I personally think the back to back nature of the speeches and the similarity of topic made comparisons inevitable but I understand the critique.

As for the president, I think he is trying to walk a fine line -- on the one hand, he believes strongly that waterboarding and Gitmo did not make the country safer and yet on the other he knows that Americans still feel quite uncertain about their safety and want to know the commander in chief is doing everything he can to keep them safe.

Given the complexity of the issue, I thought Obama generally handled himself well yesterday. That said, he has yet to propose a plan on how to close Gitmo and dispose of the prisoners held there -- and that is where the rubber will really meet the road on his national security policy in the short term.


Storrs, Conn.: Hey Chris. @TheFix on Twitter is great! Keep it up.

Where do you see the macro-state of inter-party battling in the future? Three months from now? Six months? One year? To clarify: Will the Republicans keep up their strategy of attacking for the sake of attacking? Will they burn out from over -attacking? Will the Dems (via Obama) keep up their strategy of mild/dismissive responses? How do you see things unfolding into the future?


Chris Cillizza: STORRS! Love everything about Connecticut but the dang men's basketball team. Go Hoyas!

Where is the Republican party headed? It seems to me that they have laid down a big bet on national security -- insisting through a variety of venues that Obama is making the country less safe.

While that strategy has paid dividends in the past, the 2006/2008 elections as well as recent polling suggests that the gap on which party voters trust to best handle national security issues has narrowed significantly and doesn't look like the clear winner that it has been in the past for the GOP.

I would also guess that the next six months reveals more clearly the next set of leaders for the Republican party. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was clearly in that conversation before taking the job as the Ambassador to China.

Keep an eye on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (if he doesn't seek a third term) to be on the leading edge.


Atlanta: Chris - It seems that Cheney is a JOHNNY- ONE-NOTE now. Yesterday we heard his position and the President's. Where does it go from here?

Chris Cillizza: That's the central question.

Cheney has spent the months since leaving office speaking out against Obama with the main thrust being that the new Administration's policies are making the country less safe.

He summed up that argument in a forceful and comprehensive way with his speech yesterday.

Does he now hand off the baton to other Republicans and disappear into the political background? Or does he remain as high profile as he has been in recent months?

GOP strategists hope the former, Democratic strategists the latter.


Arlington, Va.: It's worth noting that 44 elevated Cheney to his status - the Cheney speech was scheduled first, and Obama moved to counter it. The media didn't really have a choice.

Chris Cillizza: Noted.


Richmond, Va: Chris, Thanks for taking our questions. It seems that Cheney has finally had his palace coup. This has been done with enthusiastic and almost blind allegiance from the media. If you had turned on the news programs this morning you have thought that he and Obama were in a presidental race. This man is a master manipulator who considers himself entitled to bully the country with his beliefs. How has he pulled this off? Why do you guys give him such a huge megaphone?

Chris Cillizza: And another perspective on Cheney.

_______________________ The Fix - White House Cheat Sheet: Republicans Try to Tar Pelosi


Fairfax County, Va.: Chris, I understand the division between editorial and news, so I am sure you did not know the WaPo endorsement of Creigh Deeds was coming. That being said, now that it has happened, is it a bombshell or a consolation prize or what? I was flabbergasted, and the write-up that goes with it is very strong pro-Deeds and pretty damning of the others.

Two things that come to mind: Maybe endorsements (in your famous hierarchy) have more "punch" when they are counterintuitive or unexpected, so they get more attention. True? And, in a Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, which comes but once in a blue moon, voters are super high-informed, highly interested types, so maybe an endorsement has more impact than in a general election. Or does that cut both ways, and the typical primary voter has already committed to whoever and doesn't care about this endorsement? Do tell!

Chris Cillizza: The Deeds campaign is insisting that the Post endorsement of his candidacy is a MAJOR turning point in the race, lending him credibility in the critical northern Virginia media market where he is far less well known that either Brian Moran or Terry McAuliffe.

I think that while most newspaper endorsements don't matter -- and thanks for the reminder of the Fix endorsement hierarchy -- that this one could make a difference for exactly the point you are making.

Northern Virginia voters do tend to be highly educated and affluent, meaning that they may well look to the Post's editorial board for guidance in a race where they have no clear idea who to vote for.

I still think McAuliffe has to be considered the favorite in the June 9 primary but Deeds winning the Post endorsement makes things much more interesting.


Chicago: Is there anyone out there to give Barbara Boxer a run for her money in 2010?

Chris Cillizza: Moving into the Senate portion of our chat...and a quick reminder: the Friday Senate Line will be out early this afternoon so make sure to check out the Fix for the latest handicapping of the Senate playing field.

Carly Fiorina, one of the leading surrogates for John McCain's presidential campaign last year, is very likely to run against Boxer in 2010.

Fiorina, a former president of Hewlett Packard, has to be taken seriously because she has significant personal money and connections to national GOP donors thanks to her work for McCain.

But, California is still California, and most Republicans believe that if they have any chance to pull off an upset it's in the governors race not the Senate seat.


Reston: What impressions do you have of Colorado senator Michael Bennet so far as both a senator and a candidate?

Chris Cillizza: I have met Senator Bennet only once and came away impressed with his savvy.

That said, he remains a largely unknown commodity in the eyes of most Colorado voters and polling suggests that if Republicans can find a serious candidate then he could be in trouble.

Of course, that's a BIG "if" as Colorado Republicans have put forward two VERY weak candidates -- Pete Coors and Bob Schaffer -- in the last two Senate races in the state.

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier are actively considering the race but it remains to be seen whether either will run and, even if they do, what kind of candidates they will be.

Bennet should have a tough race in 2010. Not clear he will just yet.


Charlotte, NC: What Democratic United States Senate candidates do you think will run in the 2010 primary? With Roy Cooper, Walter Dalton, and Grier Martin not interested, the Democrats might have to turn to Congressmen such as Heath Shuler and Brad Miller who previously decided not to run this cycle. (That happened with Senator Hagan.) I think Congressman Mike McIntyre might be the best candidate, although he might be too much to the right of the state's Democratic base to win the primary.

Chris Cillizza: Roy Cooper's "no" to a Senate race against Richard Burr makes Democrats chances of knocking off the incumbent more difficult but not impossible.

Burr's numbers are not great and as evidenced by the 2008 victories of President Obama and Sen. Kay Hagan, the demographics of North Carolina are changing.

National Democrats are going back at Rep. Heath Shuler, who has already said "no" once, to try and convince him to run.

And McIntyre has said publicly he is looking at the race.

Like Colorado, this SHOULD be a competitive race. It remains to be seen whether it will be.


Des Peres, MO: Hey, sizzling Cillizza! Here in MO we're getting excited about the senate race next year for retiring Kit Bond's seat. What's your take? Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, daughter of the late governor, is looking strong at the moment against either Rep. Roy Blunt or former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Thanks

Chris Cillizza: Um, "sizzling"? I will TAKE it!

Democrats are thrilled with the way things have played out in Missouri so far.

Robin Carnahan cleared the primary and is doing little else than raising money at this point -- a smart move because voters are paying exactly no attention to the race at this point.

Rep. Roy Blunt insists he has a different kind of approach, touring the state to meet and greet people and let them know he is running statewide. While he insists he is not worried about his slow fundraising in the first quarter, he probably should be -- particularly if it doesn't improve over the next three months.

Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is all but in and her conservative bona fides -- coupled with her stronger than expected showing in the 2008 gubernatorial primary -- means that dismissing her is a mistake.

Missouri is a major problem for Republicans although the state still has an underlying conservatism that will keep the eventual nominee in the game.


Fiorina?: Do you really think a failed CEO who used massive firings to make her balance sheet look good, ran a company into the ground and got a $20 million dollar golden parachute is a valid candidate in this environment? As Pat Buchanan once observed when learning that Steve Forbes had a Robert Mapplethorpe hanging in the salon of his yacht, if you can't beat that candidate, get out of the game.

Chris Cillizza: As I said, she has personal money and connections to national donors. That means that she will be able to at least introduce herself to voters in California, which in a state as big ads California is at least half the battle.

Boxer is still a clear favorite


Anonymous: RE: But, California is still California, and most Republicans believe that if they have any chance to pull off an upset it's in the governor's race not the Senate seat.

So it's a "big" victory if the Governator or other Repub keeps that office?

Chris Cillizza: Yes.

It would be AMAZING if the Governator kept the office since he is term limited out. Of course, who would think any actor would have the versatility to pull off "Twins" and "Terminator"?

It would still be a major upset if Republicans won the governorship in 2010. They have two self-funders running -- former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, both of whom have the potential to make solid general election candidates. (Remember that in California money isn't everything in campaigns but it is most things.)


Charlotte, NC: What do you think about the 2010 North Carolina Democratic U.S. Senate Primary? I think it might be a Congressman or two against second tier candidates.

Chris Cillizza: Just wrote on this. My guess is that national Democrats will try to clear the field for either Shuler or McIntyre -- but that doesn't mean some other state Senator or somesuch couldn't run.



"Keep an eye on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (if he doesn't seek a third term) to be on the leading edge."

But, don't you think these guys have to do a LOT to become real contenders? They are really NOT forward looking candidates as I can see, and this is what the young voters are seeking, Dems or Rebubs. Ya think?

Chris Cillizza: I would argue that Crist (the party needs to be moderate) and Pawlenty (the party needs to be more populist) can be both be cast as forward looking.

Romney less so but his expertise on the economy makes him a critical voice for Republicans in the rebuilding process.


Fairfax: Beyond him being one of, if not, the greatest musicians of all-time, has anyone ever explored the connection between being a fan of the Boss and being some high-powered D.C. figure?

Chris Cillizza: Oooh. Very good question. And, it allows me to link to one of the moments that makes the ole Fix tear up every time: the Boss' tribute to Tim Russert.

"He also believed in the honesty of service, the joyful duty of honesty of service."

It's getting dusty in here.


Colorado: As a certified member of the Establishment Media, could you explain to simple Flyoverland self why Liz Cheney is considered a worthwhile contributor to our political dialogue? I know The Post published a good dozen op/eds under her name, I know her father put her in a job at the State Department, but I really don't understand why she's been given more airtime to discuss national security than say Bob Graham. Actually, I understand it perfectly well, I just wonder how Villagers justify it to themselves.

Chris Cillizza: I have no idea. But I am forwarding this to my mom. "Establishment Media"!!!

Mom, I made it!!!


Re. Fiorina: Given that polls show her losing to Boxer by 30 points, however, she can probably find a better use of her time than staging a quixotic campaign for Senate in which her chief political credential is that she helped McCain to one of the worst statewide losses in California history. (Plus, I'm sure questions about her ... um.... complicated stewardship of HP might come up, too. Don't you?)

Chris Cillizza: Senator Boxer joins the chat. Good to have you, Senator.

Again, Fiorina is NOT a favorite in this race. But Republicans see her as a credible alternative in the event Boxer makes a political slipup over the next 18 months.

Draw your own conclusions about the rightness of that belief.


Nashville, Tenn.: Does Harold Ford, Jr's time as vice chairman at Merrill Lynch after his last senate run provide valuable fodder for any future Republican opponents in a gubernatorial or senate campaign in Tennessee?

Also, today is Morrissey's 50th birthday. Moz fan or not? I am.

Chris Cillizza: GREAT post.

LOVE Morrissey. Little know Fix fact: there was an upside down Smiths poster in the Fix apartment sophomore year of college -- courtesy of a guy named Dandy Schneiderman. Morrissey's angst is unparalleled. LOVE him.

As for HFJ, I think he is perfectly happy making scads of money and commenting on politics from the outside.

He was never seriously considering a race for governor in 2010, believing, rightly, that if he lost, he was probably done politically.

My guess is that Ford Jr. waits for his moment over the next decade or so to get back into politics. There is NO question that his current work will become fodder for Republicans but he is an able politician (as demonstrated by his near-miss in 2006) and is probably already preparing to counter those attacks.

Ford will almost certainly return to elected politics at some point in the next five to ten years. Where and when remains to be seen.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Will the Colorado Senate race be "beery, beery interesting" with Coors and Schaeffer running ?

Chris Cillizza: Just had to post this one.

Possible Colorado Senate candidate: Duff Man


Double Standards? : Gore was completely crucified in the media for having the temerity to question Bush's policy. There were all sorts of hysterical editorials at the time trashing Gore for his decision to speak up. It was so very undignified. Couldn't Gore just go away and shut up? But here we are, four months into the Obama presidency, and Cheney is already on every channel telling us how Obama is making us all less safe. And he pretty much gets a pass for it. IOKIYAR?

Chris Cillizza: I would like to answer this question. But, as a decidedly unhip 33 year old, I have NO idea what "IOKIYAR" means.


Romney's expertise: He's gonna have his dad leave us all $40 million? He's got my vote!! (But I want at least ten per cent down)

Chris Cillizza: Um, me too.


Washington DC: It's increasingly clear that Jon Kyl will be a presidential candidate in 2012. To me this seems a vanity effort in the tradition of Dodd or Brownback '08, Lieberman '04, or Hatch '00. Kyl may be well respected in the Senate, but his legislative record and public profile are anemic -- his name is still regularly mispelled by major papers -- and he's already 67. A bit short of charisma, too. Has he some valuable attributes I'm missing?

Chris Cillizza: It is?

I would say that the people who after at least looking at running in 2012 on th GOP side include: Mitt, Tpaw, Mark Sanford, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and John Ensign. (And yes, by listing them I am ensuring that I have forgot someone.)

I have NEVER heard Kyl mentioned. Doesn't mean he won't do it. But have not heard it.


Chris Cillizza: Folks, that's it for me today. Make sure to check out the Fix later today for our updated Senate line. And you can always check us out on twitter at and

Have a great weekend!


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