Post Politics: Sarah Palin, Blue Dogs, More

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009; 11:00 AM

Discuss the latest news about the Obama administration with Washington Post staff writer and The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza. Cillizza was online Friday, July 24 at 11 a.m. ET.


Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone.

Fueled by a caramel macchiato and an oatmeal bar, I am raring to go.

Also, soundtrack for today's chat is "Elvis Perkins in Dearland". If you don't know Elvis Perkins, he is the son of Anthony Perkins and Berry Berenson who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

He is a genius. Buy his albums.

Now, on to the matter at hand....


Alexandria, Va.: Do people really take Charlie Crist seriously as a presidential contender for 2012? Assuming Rubio stays in the race, Crist is going to get beat up for the next 16 months from the right and the left then will almost immediately have to jump into the presidential contest, negating any impact he could have on the Hill.

Chris Cillizza: I don't think Crist is really a viable presidential candidate because of the logistical challenge he would face.

Elected in November 2010, he would almost immediately have to pivot to organizing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which seems to be nearly impossible.

Even President Obama spent two years in the Senate before putting his presidential campaign in motion.

I also think Crist's moderate positioning could be a major problem in a Republican presidential primary -- see Giuliani, Rudy.

All that said, Crist will almost certainly be at or near the top of the vice presidential list for whoever winds up as the nominee in 2012.


Sarah Palin: Do you think if the MSM stopped talking so much about Sarah Palin she would just go away? Why are you enabling her? She will move into obscurity on her own if y'all would stop covering her every move.

Chris Cillizza: I actually disagree with the idea that Gov. Palin is some sort of media creation.

Go back to when she was picked for vice president and the HUGE outpouring of emotion -- good and bad -- she provoked.

The media didn't create those feelings. And, I don't think the media created the following she currently enjoys among the Republican party's conservative base; last time I checked conservatives didn't take their marching orders from the media.

Palin, like it or not, is a fascinating person. If you like her, you think she is the freshest voice to come into Republican politics since Reagan. if you don't like her, you still watch -- in the same way people are drawn to slow down when they drive by a car accident or look into the sun despite the fact it can blind you.


Chris Cillizza: Elvis Perkins:


Nutley, N.J.: After watching Countdown last night, are you concerned with Chris Hayes true identity as Xoloti, Aztec God of Lighting? Will it affect how you interact with him in the future and as the end of times approaches Dec 21, 2012, will his powers increase?

Chris Cillizza: Very.

Interesting Chris Cillizza-Chris Hayes factoid: We both play in the same pickup basketball game.

Hayes has a wicked drive and a solid jumper. A very good player.


Washington, D.C.: Senator Reid's decision to postpone a vote on health care has consequences for other issues as well. Given the September 18 timeline that has been set for a vote on climate legislation, do you think the prolonged health care debate could get in the way of other Democratic priorities this fall?

Chris Cillizza: Absolutely.

One potential problem for Democrats -- particularly in the House -- is if the cap and trade bill winds up languishing due to the delay on a health care vote.

That was a VERY tough vote for lots of marginal House Democrats and, as Ben Pershing pointed out in this morning's Political Browser, comparisons are already being drawn to the "BTU tax" vote during the Clinton Administration.

That bill was passed by the House and never acted on by the Senate -- leaving House Democrats out on a limb and ripe for attack from Republicans.

Once the calendar turns to 2010, legislative action will almost certainly grind to a halt as Members tend not to like to take tough votes in an election year. So, anything that's not well down the legislative road by the end of this year could be in trouble.


Baltimore: Dear The Fix,

Who/what is the primary roadblock in health care reform? Is it the industry? Blue dogs? Doctors? Insurance companies? I can't figure out what specifically is holding it all up.

Thanks. See you on Twitter.

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the question -- and the chance to plug my Twitter feeds!

There are two:

1. The Fix --

2. The Hyper Fix --

Sign up. You know you want to.

As for the question, it's not any one group that is holding up the bill.

But, if you had to point to the one person who has the most control over the when and what of the bill it is Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Baucus is the one who will determine what the bill that the Finance committee reports out looks like and so he is the man at the center of the maelstrom at the moment.

(Make sure to read Milbank's sketch of the scene outside of Baucus' office on Thursday. Classic Washington stuff.)


Washington, D.C.: Many on the left see Senator Reid's decision yesterday to postpone a floor vote on health care as the last in a long list Reid's failures as Majority Leader.

Have you heard any grumbling to this effect on Capitol Hill or any indication that a challenge to Reid's leadership is in the works?

Chris Cillizza: Reid was not a beloved figure on the left before he decided to postpone the health care bill and he almost certainly won no friends with his decision to push it until September.

Of course, Reid defenders would say that he is actually doing the President a favor by delaying the vote since there aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass a major overhaul of the system today.

And, assuming some sort of bill passes in the fall, which we continue to believe is the most likely scenario, Reid's decision to delay will almost certainly be forgotten.

From a purely political perspective, Republicans in Nevada are doing their best impersonation of the gang who couldn't shoot straight while Reid stockpiles cash for his re-election bid next fall.


Washington, D.C.: Chris -- Have a meeting, so posting early. I was wondering if you saw the essay Richard Posner wrote about the Senate in general and the filibuster specifically. The cliffs notes version is that we progressives worked so hard to get to 60 votes, but the impact of getting there actually makes legislation less progressive. Because the critical votes to reach 60 now are Bayh, Nelson(s), Landrieu, Warner, etc...therefore they have more bargaining power than if we had only say...54 seats.

Despite Posner being a conservative, this seems true, is it accurate that conservative Democrats have more power to dictate policy now because they are the decisive votes for cloture? It seems true with the stimulus, health care, etc.

Chris Cillizza: It is true -- to my way of thinking.

While Democrats control 60 seats and have a filibuster proof majority in theory, the practical reality is that, at best, they have 58 votes.

That's because Sens. Bob Byrd (West Va.) and Ted Kennedy (Mass.) have missed months of votes as they battle illnesses and it's not clear whether they can be available if and when the leadership needs them to get to the 60 vote mark.

And, as you rightly point out, there are a number of moderate to conservative Democrats in the caucus who have an eye on their home state politics (Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson etc.) and are disinclined to march in lockstep with leadership on every issue.


Chris Cillizza: More Elvis Perkins:

I believe this song is the best song written in the last five years.


Storrs, Conn.: Hey Chris,

Much is being made of the big health care debate right now, but for the hardcore political junkies -- what do you think is the next BIG (legislative) issue on the horizon?

Chris Cillizza: Storrs! Home to the UCONN Huskies, the second best team in the Big East.

(Just for the record, Ray Allen DEFINITELY traveled in the 1996 Big East championship game against the Hoyas. Ridiculous no call.)

I think that the Employee Free Choice Act is going to come back this fall. If it does, that will make the current spending around health care look like throwing pennies in a fountain.

Labor sees EFCA as absolutely necessary to modernizing the workplace and furthering workers' rights. The business community sees it as the biggest step down a slippery slope that would allow the unionizing of the country's businesses.

The original EFCA bill went nowhere after Sen. Arlen Specter said he wouldn't support it. Since then, Specter has switched parties, drawn a serious primary challenge from his ideological left and made clear that he is likely to support a revised version of the bill.

If EFCA comes back up this fall, look out.


Pick up basketball: Let me guess, the Fix does a lot of rebounding and passing?

Chris Cillizza: Rebounding: yes.

Passing: no.

The Fix is, as they say, something of a ball hog.

Don't act like you're surprised ;)


Denver: Why the disparity between Nate Silver's list of Senate Races and yours? Missouri ranks much higher on his, for example. Do you know something he doesn't?

Chris Cillizza: Nate Silver is WAY smarter than me. That could account for the differences ;)

But seriously folks, rating which races are most likely to switch sides 18 months before an election is equal parts reporting and informed guess work.

My Senate Line, a new version of which will be available on the Fix shortly, is the result of conversations with strategists in both parties who follow the races closely and my own reporting and observations.

I always reserve the right to be wrong.

Also, I am trying to lead a charge to make emoticons cool again. :)


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Chris, I know it is early, but what are the prospects in the 2010 Senate races? Who has more seats in play, who has more vulnerable seats, if the polls were tomorrow, which side would pick up seats? Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: It's NEVER too early to talk Senate races.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my new Senate Line will be out shortly on the Fix so I don't want to spoil the surprise ;)


I will tell you that of the top 10 races most likely to switch, five are currently controlled by Democrats and five by Republicans.

And, while open seats tend to be more vulnerable to party switching, the top two races on the new Line are incumbents in Kentucky and Connecticut.


Kennedy drama: Given the need for the 60 vote requirement, any chance that Teddy resigns to enable the Massachusetts governor appoint his successor as the 60th vote? It is otherwise ironic that Kennedy's illness and inability to vote might help doom the success of his own most important issue of health care reform.

Chris Cillizza: Wouldn't work.

State law in Masachusetts mandates a special election to fill any Senate vacancy...the state legislature changed the law to keep then Gov. Mitt Romney (R) from holding appointment power if Sen. John Kerry (D) got elected president in 2004.

How can you not love politics?


Inside the Beltway: Not a question but just a plug for you, I finally got to check out you and Milbank on Mouthpiece Theater, hysterical! Keep up the good work!

Chris Cillizza: Thanks!

New edition of Mouthpiece Theater is available on the Fix right now:

Mouthpiece Theater: Little Blue Pill


Baltimore, Md.: Dear The Fix,

Speaking of Twitter... I enjoy following journalists. It allows me a forum to have interaction with folks in the field. (I even had a nice argument with David Sirota.) What does it do for the #journotwits? Does it successfully drive traffic to your reporting? Have you noticed a difference in readership since you started telling stories about The Fix Junior (which I love)?

Have a great weekend.

Chris Cillizza: Great question.

For me Twitter and Facebook are a HUGE resource. Lots of people follow me/are my friends and many of those people are political junkies just like me.

And so, they wind up functioning as my eyes and ears. I have gotten TONS of great tips and story links that I would have otherwise missed thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

Stay tuned as we are working on something very cool on the Fix to integrate comments on the blog with comments on my posts on Facebook and Twitter.


Bishop, Calif.: Anyone who watches many of the yapping head shows on cable television is well aware of the ongoing birther conspiracy, in which "true, red-blooded Americans" are trying to prove that President Obama was born in Kenya as a way of delegitimizing his administration and policies. What responsibility do more traditional, mainstream outlets like the Washington Post have in researching and debunking such accusations?

Chris Cillizza: Perkins, Elvis:


McLean, Va.: What's your thoughts about Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate? He seems to be doing a good job keeping himself in the public eye, but I wonder if he can transcend his evangelical niche.

Chris Cillizza: The Huck is actually in first place in the latest WaPo/ABC poll of a hypothetical 2012 Republican presidential primary.

Those numbers reflect the fact that most people got to know and like Huckabee during the 2008 campaign. Much like John Edwards after 2004, Huckabee left a good taste in peoples' mouths and so when they think about him running again in 2012 they see it as an interesting proposition. (And, yes, i did just make a John Edwards reference!)

The problem for Huckabee is that there is very little evidence he is solving the problems that kept him from winning the nomination last time around -- developing a serious set of policy proposals, putting together a national fundraising network and building a top-level staff.

Organizationally and financially, Romney is running circles around Huckabee. And, although he just got started, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is already getting positive reviews for how he is playing the inside game.

Of course, as the 2008 election proved, figuring out who is going to be the presidential nominee is, at best, a guessing game.


Philadelphia: Who is in a stronger position for 2012, Romney or Huckabee? And doesn''t Pawlenty have the benefit of lacking either man's obvious negatives?

Chris Cillizza: See my response above.

From my view, Romney is in the driver's seat at the moment. He has the fundraising, organization and policy arms of his operation all working in sync.

Pawlenty will almost certainly be a major player in 2012 and so will Palin -- whether she runs or not. I assume Huckabee is running and, given the positive feelings he currently engenders and his stunning success in Iowa last time, can't be dismissed out of hand either.

My 2012 darkhorse? South Dakota Sen. John Thune.


SW Florida Husky: In the '96 BE championship, Ray Allen was lucky to still have his head screwed on, given the beating he took from those Hoya thugs.

More importantly: Charlie Crist has done a pretty good job governing a pretty purple state...which doesn't translate all that well to a Senate nomination, no matter how much money he has. We like him as governor, but as a senator he'd be more wobbly than Mel Martinez.

Chris Cillizza: Doesn't change the fact he traveled. UNREAL that there was no call made. You can SEE his foot hitting the ground before he releases the ball. Am I taking crazy pills? I invented the piano key necktie! I invented it!

As for Crist, polling suggests that Floridians are more than ready to send him to the Senate. He is pummeling former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who just fired his campaign manager, in the Republican primary and has a wide lead over Rep. Kendrick Meek in general election matchups.

It's early and polls can change. But, if you're Crist, you have to like where you stand.


Salinas, Calif.: Hi, Chris. I understand that partisan political combat is steak and potatoes to The Fix, but I'm wondering if in the last two decades we've made a radical shift towards a divisive stalemate where political gamesmanship becomes an end in itself, to the detriment of governance. Is the partisan groundswell in the various media catalyzing such a hyper-sensitivity in our political discourse that the body politic now responds as if it's suffering from an auto-immune disease? The result: the host attacks itself until eventual collapse. Or have I had one too many cups of coffee this morning?

Chris Cillizza: Whoah.

That is profound (and interesting).

Another thought to ponder: What if C-A-T really spelled dog?



Arlington, Va.: Emoticons were never cool!

Chris Cillizza: :(


North Andover, Mass.: Would it have been better for Obama to go for single payer and then negotiate back to a public plan?

Chris Cillizza: No. Single payer would have been dead on arrival politically as Republicans would have jumped all over it and used it to kill Obama's proposal in the crib.

I know many on the left disagree but from a purely political perspective, Obama did the right thing by acknowledging the reality that single payer was a non starter.


Hamilton, Va.: Can an argument be made that the Blue Dogs who are delaying health care reform are not helping themselves? If health care reform fails and the Republicans are strengthened, then the districts which these guys hold will more than likely go Republican. They are doing the old "cutting off their noses." If something is accomplished, they will reap the benefits.

Chris Cillizza: It's an interesting point.

President Obama has said repeatedly in private meetings with House Democrats that whether they like it or not they are tied to him in the minds of voters.

That is, if Obama succeeds, Democrats succeed whether or not they were a real part of the success. And the same holds true if Obama fails.

Again, I don't think the Blue Dogs are the real problem on health care. While some of them will almost certainly vote against any health care bill my guess is that a majority of them will ultimately vote for the legislation.

To quote Principal Seymour Skinner: "Prove me wrong, kids."


Belair, Md.: With all the in-party work going on with the Republicans for their 2012 nomination -- (since this is obviously a fool's game because it is soooooooo ridiculously far away) -- how do any of the possible 'candidates' do in polling against the sitting president?

Chris Cillizza: They lose -- due in large part to two factors: 1) Obama remains very popular with the American people 2) none of the Republican presidential candidates are all that well known or well defined in the eyes of voters.

Of course, as you rightly note, three years is FOREVER in electoral politics so head to head matchups right now are about as valuable as Fix autograph.


Jersey City: Any thoughts on Jon Stewart being the most trusted newsman in the country according to a recent Times poll? The mainstream media likes to dismiss him, but he's the only person who speaks truth about both sides of the aisle and doesn't get bogged down in non-stop coverage of irrelevant things like Michael Jackson's funeral. Doesn't say a whole lot for television news anchors, does it?

Chris Cillizza: Jon Stewart makes me laugh. Not as much as Jack Donaghy/Alec Baldwin but still....

Seriously, I think Jon Stewart is great. And, regardless of whether you do it in a serious or a funny manner, I am in favor of anyone who seeks to inform people about the political world.


Chris Cillizza: Folks that's all I have time for today.

Here's a to-do list for the rest of the day:

1. Go check out the new Friday Senate Line and Mouthpiece Theater on the Fix.

2. Go buy Elvis Perkins's albums.

3. Get a smoothie. (They rock).

4. Use an emoticon :)

Have a great weekend.



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