The Live Fix

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Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009; 11:00 AM

Every Friday, The Fix goes live, as Chris Cillizza discusses the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and all the latest political news.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning all!

Sorry I am a little late -- but we have BREAKING news...Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who planned to retire in 2010, is instead going to resign.

That means Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the Senate seat in 2010, will appoint someone (himself?) to the vacancy.

Exciting stuff. Read more on the Fix:

This chat is, as almost always, coming to you from unofficial Fix sponsor Buzz Bakery in Alexandria.

let's do it!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: So the "Joe Sestak v. Arlen Specter" primary is official underway. Who do you see it playing out? Arlen Specter's campaign style is pretty established, but what about Joe Sestak? Do you really see Barack Obama and Joe Biden following up on their pledge to stump and fundraise for Arlen Specter?

Chris Cillizza: I just finished writing about the best primaries in the country for the Friday Line -- it will be published soon after I finish this chat -- and Pennsylvania plays prominently in the writeup.

This race is fascinating for SO many reasons.

Although Specter is the incumbent, the burden of proof in terms of primary actually rests on him due to his party switch in late April.

Democrats don't know if they trust Specter yet and Sestak will do everything in his power to amplify those doubts.

Specter has powerful allies in this fight -- notably President Barack Obama who will almost certainly come into the state to campaign for him.

Still, party switchers have a hard time of it historically and Sestak will have enough money to let PA voters know they have a choice.

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Chris Cillizza: A reason why Buzz Bakery rocks: "Talk about the Passion" by REM just came on. CLASSIC. You don't get that at Starbucks (which I also love).

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Danger, Danger: In your post you noted that Corzine was suffering from self-inflicted wounds. I saw the poll and see that more than half of New Jerseyites dislike him. What has he done to engender that much ill-will?

washingtonpost.com: Morning Fix: Danger! Danger! Democrats!

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for reading the Morning Fix. Quick plug: every morning I try to sum up the political news of the day you need to know into the "Morning Fix" -- creative title, right? Check it out.

On to new Jersey. Here's Corzine's problem in a nutshell: he ran in 2005 on his business credentials (he was a former senior executive at Goldman Sachs), a positioning that has backfired as the economy in New Jersey has gone increasingly sour.

Corzine has never been a particularly charismatic or persuasive campaigner but has always been able to bail himself out with his vast personal wealth.

Unfortunately for him in this race, voters already know him and many of them have decided they simply don't like him. That's tough for any amount of money to overcome.

Is former U.S Attorney Chris Christie (R) a terrific candidate. Nope. But, when an incumbent is as damaged as Corzine, you don't have to be.

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Princeton, NJ: Will the spectacular jobs report today help Obama, Corzine, Deeds and the Democrats in general?

Chris Cillizza: I think the fact that the unemployment rate went down in July is good news for Obama.

It gives him and his Administration a powerful talking point that the measures he put into place at the start of his presidency are working.

I think signs that the economy is improving could also help Deeds in Virginia which could well be swayed by national trends.

I tend to believe new Jersey is a largely insulated from any sort of national trends. This race is a referendum on Corzine and, unless something changes quickly, it doesn't look good for the incumbent.

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Long Island, NY: Chris

Thanks for the breaking news. A few questions in regards to FL:

1 - Any speculation why Martinez is leaving now rather than serving out the remaining 17 months of his term?

2 - Legally, could Gov. Crist appoint himself to the seat?

3 - Strategically, who could Crist appoint that would be only a caretaker for the seat until his run (presuming he wins the GOP nomination) next November?

Chris Cillizza: Even when Martinez initially announced his retirement, there were rumors that he would resign the seat at some point in the future.

It's clear Martinez has tired of serving in the Senate and wants out as soon as possible. What's less clear is whether he has a specific job opportunity lined up that necessitated his resignation or whether he just decided enough was enough.

Crist could appoint himself to the seat but, as I wrote on the Fix, I am almost certain he won't.

Voters might rankle at the idea that the governor was naming himself to the Senate -- a risk that Crist doesn't need since he is the clear frontrunner to win the seat next fall.

The name currently being bandied about as a caretaker (ie, someone who will serve out Martinez's term but not run for re-election) is former Gov. Bob Martinez (R)

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Arlington, VA: It seems that McDonnell has a significant lead. Assuming that he doesn't create any self-inflicted wounds, how does Deeds get back in the race?

Thank you. Hoya Saxa!

Chris Cillizza: As I wrote this morning, both Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Christie in New Jersey have statistically significant leads over their Democratic opponents.

Looking at the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll in Virginia, McDonnell's gains over the last month or so have come among independent voters -- the same group that drove President Obama's victory in the Commonwealth last November.

Deeds' has to find a message that appeals to those independent voters. Does he do that by breaking with the president on cap and trade or some other high profile measure being pushed by the White House?

Maybe.

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Busted: You said in yesterday's article about the Mouthpiece: "I am a big believer in experimenting with journalism and finding different ways to convey information. This was a failed experiment in doing that."

Isn't the truth really that you and Milbank got caught cutting up in study hall?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the question.

On Mouthpiece, I'd repeat what I said in a post on the Fix on Wednesday: I personally apologize for the content of last Friday's video, which was both offensive and unfunny. The right decision was made to cancel the show, a decision I fully support.

If anyone is interested, here's a link to the post I wrote on Wednesday: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/fix-notes/a-word-on-mouthpiece-theater.html

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Bennington, Vt.: Love The Fix, or should I call it "bisogno". So my pisan, question: What part of the boot do your people come from?

Chris Cillizza: Sicily! My wife's family is from the north!

Fix fact: I have NEVER been to Italy. I consider it a character flaw.

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Washington, D.C.: Sen. Martinez: Chris, your speculation about Bob Martinez being tapped to warm Sen. Mel's seat makes a lot of sense. And as a bonus, it would be easy to remember his name!

Chris Cillizza: I do my best!

A few other possible appointees are here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2009/08/martinez-to-resign.html

Former Senator Connie Mack is an interesting one...

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Minneapolis: You would probably know the answer to this one re Crist appointing himself to the open Senate seat. Wendell Anderson was governor of MN when he appointed himself to a vacant Senate seat. I can't remember who's seat he took. (I know it wasn't Mondale) Thanks!

Chris Cillizza: And Anderson went on to lose his campaign for a full term....a warning to Crist who, I repeat, is almost certainly too savvy a politician to name himself to the vacancy.

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Martinez's last vote: He couldn't wait til Monday? I'm glad he stuck around and voted for Sotomayor before he quit, but did he have to be so obvious?

Chris Cillizza: Divining what goes on in the mind of another human being -- particularly a U.S. Senator -- is a fool's errand.

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Evanston, Ill.: Since Florida and Pennsylvania are getting their turn, what's your take on Illinois Senate race between the likely nominees Mark Kirk and "Sexy Alexi" Giannoulias?

Chris Cillizza: "Sexy Lexi"!

I think this will be a terrific race. Kirk is the best Republicans could hope for -- a moderate with a proven ability to raise money from the North Shore -- and the stain of Blagojevich/Burris could haunt Democrats.

Giannoulias impressed with his first quarter of fundraising but slowed down measurably in the second quarter. I keep hearing that Giannoulias is going to face a serious primary fight and yet no candidates are in the race.

Merchandise Mart CEO Chris Kennedy has been circling the race for months and, in my experience in politics, he who hesitates is usually lost.

Another intriguing potential candidate is Cheryle Jackson, the head of the Chicago Urban League. Jackson has formed an exploratory committee to ponder the race.

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Chris Cillizza: More Buzz music awesomeness: "Leaving Trunk" by Taj Mahal.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Does any of this breaking news have any impact on Jeb Bush, directly or indirectly?

Chris Cillizza: Probably not...Jeb and Crist are, um, not close so it seems unlikely that Crist would tap Jeb for the appointment and even less likely that Jeb would take it.

When Jeb turned down what would have been a sure-thing Senate candidacy earlier this year, it sent a signal (at least to me) that he was going to stay out of politics for the foreseeable future.

Not forever, mind you...

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Roseland, NJ: If Chris Dodd, faced with a serious health issue and daunting poll numbers, were to decide not to run for reelection, who among the Connecticut Dems would look at getting into the race? And would that alone be enough to move the race down the Line?

Chris Cillizza: Dodd and those close to him have long insisted he has NO plans to retire, and they re-asserted that pledge in the wake of the news that the Connecticut Democrat has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery over the August recess.

Still....there are lots of Democrats who are very worried about Dodd's ability to hold the seat given the damage he has sustained as a result of his ties to failed mortage giant Countrywide.

If Dodd stepped aside, it's a near lock that state Attorney general Richard Blumenthal, who has been waiting to be in the Senate since the Fix was but a wee Nutmegger, would step into the void.

Blumenthal has stratospherically high approval ratings in the state and would be a heavy favorite to hold the seat.

If Dodd did retire and Blumenthal got it, this race would tumble down -- and maybe even off -- the Line.

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Chris Cillizza: Side music note: Fix favorite artist right now is Elvis Perkins. Stunningly beautiful stuff.

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Seattle, Wash.: Saw on your MySpace profile (which you haven't updated in LONG time) that you were born in 1976. So the natural question is, what was your fav. John Hughes flick?

Chris Cillizza: Sixteen Candles followed closely by Beethoven's Fifth. (Yes, there were FIVE of those movies!)

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Bethesda, Md.: Non-politics question (although maybe it is).

As a Washingtonian, what made you pick living in Virginia over living in Maryland?

Chris Cillizza: Mrs Fix was a Virginia resident when we met. I have found it to be good policy in life to follow Mrs. Fix's example in all things including state of residence.

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Chris Cillizza: "Green Grow the Rushes" by REM on now in Buzz. This is just great stuff.

Also, how good an album is "Fables of the Reconstruction"?

Track list:

1. "Feeling Gravitys Pull" - 4:51

2. "Maps and Legends" - 3:10

3. "Driver 8" - 3:23

4. "Life and How to Live It" - 4:06

5. "Old Man Kensey" (Jerry Ayers, Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe) - 4:08

6. "Cant Get There from Here" - 3:39

7. "Green Grow the Rushes" - 3:46

8. "Kohoutek" - 3:18

9. "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" - 2:44

10. "Good Advices" - 3:30

11. "Wendell Gee" - 3:01

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Alexandria: So cool that you do your chats from Buzz. Can I buy you a cup of coffee and a cupcake next week and follow the chat literally live?

Chris Cillizza: Um, ok.

Not so exciting though. Just me typing. And spilling food/coffee on myself.

It would, however, be very meta for someone to live Twitter or blog my live chat.

Like an Escher drawing.

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Baltimore: Why Corzine is hurting: It certainly isn't helping him that there has been yet another tidal wave of scandal and petty graft hitting many Jersey jurisdictions. When corruption becomes a state's lead story, incumbents usually suffer, even wealthy ones like Corzine who is not likely to do something in return for a couple grand in a paper bag.

Chris Cillizza: VERY good point that I should have mentioned.

Any time two Democratic mayors and several state Assemblymen get arrested in a corruption sting a few months before a Democratic governor is running for re-election, it's not a good thing.

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Sestack vs. Specter: I've seen this race called "Operation Make Arlen Behave." Do you think it's apt, Chris? I mean, he was tending toward not following his (new) party's line right after his conversion & then Sestak started to make noise about running, & ever since then, Arlen's been acting much more like a model democrat. Whatever... glad to see Joe in the race, that's for sure!

Chris Cillizza: There's no question that Sestak's candidacy has turned Specter into a VERY loyal Democrat.

But, will that be enough for PA Democrats who will be reminded of the various votes Specter cast -- including one for the 2001 Bush tax cuts -- at every turn.

I honestly don't know. And that's what makes this race so fascinating.

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Mansfield, Ohio: Although election chatter is rightfully focused on the few elections this year, I haven't heard much chatter about Ohio's governor's race. Democrat Strickland (a moderate) has taken some dings in the past year, and high-name-recognition John Kasich has entered to run for the GOP side. Ohio is one of those proverbial 'swing-states', whose pulse is usually gauged by the media to see which way the political winds are blowing.

Any thoughts on how Ohio's governor race (especially if Kasich wins) in '10 might impact opinion on Obama's direction, or will it just be another in a slew of contests-to-watch?

Chris Cillizza: Ohio will always be a state to watch simply because of its primacy in the electoral math for each party.

And, with competitive Senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, I am already looking for good times to visit the Buckeye State.

I think kasich has a chance against Strickland largely because the economy in Ohio is not so good and voters tend to blame incumbent governors for that fact. Kasich needs to be -- and is on his way to being -- the credible alternative to Strickland.

I would still give Strickland the edge but in a state with as much economic unrest as Ohio, making predictions more than a year out from a vote is tough.

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Reston, VA: RE: Mrs. Fix - you are a very smart man!!

Chris Cillizza: My wife, as I have said a bunch of times in this chat and on the Fix, is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Historians will puzzle over why she decided to marry me but I am living the dream!

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Mansfield, Ohio: To follow last week's "Mutt & Jeff" post, how about one on which Senator has moved the most ideologically over their career in the Senate? I discussed my Sen. Voinovich last week, how he was rated 80% conservative his first term, and the last couple years has moved 30 points to the left.

Any other Senator you can think of who has moved that far one way or the other during the course of their Senate stint?

Chris Cillizza: GREAT question.

and, let me say, that I LOVE these sorts of debates.

two quick thoughts:

Joe Lieberman -- went from Democratic party darling to Democratic party primary loser in a pretty short period of time.

John Edwards -- elected in 1998 as a conservative Democrat, he ran for president in 2008 as a liberal populist.

Others?

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Any time two Democratic mayors and several state Assemblymen get arrested in a corruption sting : And let's not forget the rabbis involved in a human organ-selling ring.

Chris Cillizza: You can't make it up!

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Raleigh, N.C.: Do you plan to attend the Netroots Nation blogging convention in Philadelphia next week?

Chris Cillizza: I think it is in Pittsburgh...and I remain undecided.

I have been to Netroots Nation before -- back when it was called YearlyKos and enjoyed myself.

My issue: I am taking a few weeks off to -- among other things -- write a book proposal, move, and help Mrs. Fix get ready for the field hockey season.

Not sure if I can wedge a trip to Pittsburgh in there....although I do love PNC ballpark where the Pirates play...

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Elvis Perkins: You DO know who his famous parents were, don't you? His mother died an historic death, alas.

Chris Cillizza: Yes. Dad was actor Anthony Perkins. Mom was Berry Berneson, killed in Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Perkins' album -- Ash Wednesday -- is the best artistic reaction to the events of that day I have come across. Close runner up -- "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill.

Both absolutely beautiful requiems to what we lost that day.

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Chris Cillizza: Folks,

That's all for today! Remember that the Fix Live chat goes down every Friday at 11 am. Tune it! Tell your friends!

Enjoy the weekend.

Chris

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