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The Live Fix: Chris Cillizza on Kennedy's Replacement, Creigh Deeds, Michael Bennet and the Best Political Nicknames

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 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.

A transcript follows.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning Live Fixistas!

Drink of choice: Pumpkin spice latte

Music of Choice: "When the Devil's Loose" by A.A. Bondy.

Location of Choice: Starbucks in Falls Church

Tons of questions already in the queue and, since I am working on my Friday Senate Line, let's bang out a bunch of the Senate-themed q's first....

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Anonymous: That Senate race out in Ohio seems awful quiet. How are Portman's chances?

Chris Cillizza: It IS very quiet. The political reality in a state as big as Ohio is that people running statewide tend to spend most of the off year raising the millions they know they will need to run massive television campaign in the on year.

That's what is going on in Ohio. Former Rep. Rob Portman may well be the best fundraiser not named Charlie Crist in the Republican Senate class and he has outdistanced both Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to date.

But, a new Quinnipiac poll showed Portman trailing both Fisher and Brunner.

Ohio's outcome may well be determined by whether voters blame President Bush or President Obama for the dismal state of the state's economy.

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Arlington, Va.: When does Beau Biden get back from Iraq and start his campaign for his dad's seat?

Chris Cillizza: Beau Biden left for Iraq in early October and it was expected to be a year long deployment.

So, while we don't know for sure, he is likely to return stateside sometime in the next few months.

Remember that he has yet to give any signal about whether he will run to succeed his father in the Senate although it is commonly believed that his candidacy is all but certain.

Republicans' only chance to keep Biden from the seat is if Rep. Mike Castle (R) decides to run. Castle has yet to make up his mind -- a luxury he has given that he has served as the state's governor and lone member of Congress -- and even top-level GOP strategists are wary about hazarding a guess as to what he will do.

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Anonymous: Do the Democrats have a legitimate shot in Kentucky now that Bunning has bowed out? Who emerges for the Democrats out of that primary?

Chris Cillizza: Democrats do have a shot in Kentucky but it's not nearly as good a shot as they had when Bunning was in the race.

I think the primary between Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo and state Attorney General Jack Conway is a straight toss up though if I had to put a finger on the scale I would go for Conway given his impressive fundraising performance in the first six months of the year.

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Florida: Don't sleep on Marco Rubio. The non-RINO candidate trounced Crist in a Tampa-area straw poll yesterday.

Chris Cillizza: Rubio's campaign sent me an email this morning touting that he had won ten straight straw polls.

And, that's worth noting.

But the combination of Charlie Crist's MASSIVE fundraising edge and his huge lead in polling make it very difficult for me to see how Rubio gets to 50 percent plus one against Crist.

Stranger things have happened but....

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Richmond, Va.: How much does Barbara Boxer have to worry about in California? I feel like come election night she could be one of the surprise losers.

Chris Cillizza: I think that if Barbara Boxer loses next November, she will be the 6th or 7th Democrat to fall.

In other words, I think she may have a semi-serious race but she is not in the same trouble that people like Chris Dodd or Harry Reid are.

California is an almost impossible state in which to run for political office because of the massive cost of running statewide television ads.

Boxer, a known commodity in the state, benefits from the fact that while many voters may feel conflicted about her they all know her name.

Carly Fiorina's (R) candidacy is somewhat intriguing because of her personal wealth but recent reports that she has no plan to dip into that wealth in a significant way make her less relevant.

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re: starbucks: Starbucks in Falls Church? A poor man's Buzz!

Chris Cillizza: I know!

There is no Buzz equivalent in Falls Church. One of the negatives about my new hood.

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St. Paul : Hi Chris -- What's happening in Massachusetts? How soon will there be a replacement for Kennedy? And is Dukakis a serious contender?

Chris Cillizza: The state House passed a bill last night to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement for Sen. Kennedy and my guess is that the state Senate will follow suit shortly.

Dukakis is, I think, a serious contender although trying to handicap the pick when it is up to one person is next to impossible. (See David Paterson and the New York Senate vacancy).

As for the Dec. 8 special, it's state Attorney General Martha Coakley's (D) race to lose at the moment. A poll released yesterday showed her leading by nearly 40 points in a Democratic primary -- a margin that will be tough for her opponents to make up.

Steve Pagliuca, a co-owner of the Boston Celtics, has the financial resources to flood the airwaves and make a legitimate run at Coakley although his past donations and ties to Republicans could make for an awkward fit in a Democratic primary.

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Wilmore, Ky.: RE: Kentucky and Ohio

It seems from your answers that you think Ohio is more likely to switch parties then Kentucky, yet how come your list, Ohio is lower then Kentucky on likely switches?

Chris Cillizza: The new Line will be out shortly on the Fix. The Line you are referencing is from more than a month ago.

Stay tuned!

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Chicago: Break down the Illinois Senate race for us.

Chris Cillizza: Things got a bit trickier for Democrats in Illinois yesterday when EMILY's List endorsed the candidacy of Chicago Urban league president Cheryle Jackson.

That endorsement means that Jackson will be relatively well-funded in her primary against state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias who remains the establishment favorite.

Rep. Mark Kirk will be the Republican nominee and should be a strong general election candidate although his penchant for trying to be all things to all people (check out his positioning on his cap and trade vote in front of a GOP audience earlier this week) could be problematic.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm still puzzled over the Michael Bennet pick by Gov. Ritter. How does Bennet look as a campaigner so far? Does Bennet survive the primary?

Chris Cillizza: Bennet's road to re-election got a lot tougher this week.

Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff decided to challenge him in the Democratic primary and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination.

Bennet has done everything right sine being appointed -- moved around the state to raise his profile, raised a ton of money -- but the simple fact is that he was a total unknown when he was picked and that very fact makes him vulnerable to a primary and/or general election challenge.

One piece of good news for Bennet today: President Obama formally endorsed him, which should help organizationally and financially in the months to come.

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Mass.: I cannot find one person excited or even interested in having Ted Kennedy replaced by Martha "Blue Dog" Coakley or Michael "Bank-Bencher" Capuano. Think one of the two private candidates can eke out the primary?

Chris Cillizza: I think it depends on how much Pagliuca is willing to spend and how much his past ties to Republicans hurt him.

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Washington, DC: How at risk is Rob Simmons of not winning the GOP primary in Connecticut? Are any of the other candidates as strong or stronger than he would be against Dodd?

Chris Cillizza: Polling suggests that Simmons is a strong favorite and he is the only top-tier candidate in the GOP field with a proven electoral base.

That said, I think the dynamic in the Connecticut GOP primary for Senate is similar to that in the Massachusetts Democratic primary for Senate.

Both former Ambassador Tom Foley and wrestling magnate -- love to write that one! -- Linda McMahon have significant personal wealth and insist they will spend what it takes to win the nomination.

On its face, Foley strikes me as the more credible of the two but I am hearing rumors that McMahon will spend between $30-$50 million, which is enough to make anyone competitive.

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Seattle: How is Baby Fix doing in the new home?

And, is there any serious contender against Sens. Murray or Cantwell?

Chris Cillizza: Fix Jr aka Charlie Fix aka Little Tuna is doing really well. Had to go the doc this week for a check up and he got some shots which he was, um, not happy about. Then Mrs. Fix's Catholic U. field hockey team lost in overtime on Wednesday, which further contributed to Charlie Fix's bad mood. But, he is resilient and had bounced back nicely.

As for Washington State, the short answer is no. The long answer is also no.

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Colorado: Why should Obama endorse someone who has never won squat? I don't live in CO, but that is so off-putting. Let the man stand for himself and see if the voters want him.

Chris Cillizza: Interesting reaction. Obama has also waded in on behalf of Specter in PA. Will be fascinating to see how much of a net positive the endorsement of the president will be for either Specter or Bennet.

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Your 'Hood: I recall that several chatters earlier recommended Stacy's coffee shop as a stellar example for you to try. Glad you found out for yourself what swill they serve in the name of coffee!

Chris Cillizza: Went there once. Didn't love it. It's no buzz.

Any other suggestions? Always would rather support local business rather than Starbucks.

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Salinas, CA: Re: Richmond. Carly Fiorina was a disaster campaigning for McCain in California, let alone, nationwide. With the baggage she drags around from her HP days combined with the current state of disarray the California Republican Party enjoys, she would be mincemeat going up against Boxer (who, for a card-carrying liberal, has been quietly effective in the Senate chambers).

Chris Cillizza: Had to post this simply because I love the use of the term "mincemeat".

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U St: How much does Steeleman not challenging Blunt in the primary help Rs in the Missouri Senate race?

Any music recommendations this week?

Chris Cillizza: Steelman had effectively been out of the race for months although she only formally announced that decision this week.

Blunt having a clear primary field is a big help to his fundraising and allows him to focus full time on Secretary of State Robin Carnahan who is, herself, unopposed in the primary.

Music:

1. As I said above -- A.A. Bondy's "When the Devil's Loose". (Hat tip to North Carolina super lawyer -- and Fix college roommate -- John Moye on that one.)

2. Love the new Bob Schneider song...."40 Dogs" (I think).

3. Fever Ray. "When I Grow Up" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F-CpE73o2M

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Madison, Wis.: I thought The Fix always refers to State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias as "Sexy Lexy" or is that not the case?

Chris Cillizza: I do love that nickname....

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Washington, DC: If Reid loses, who is the Democrats' new leader in the Senate -- Schumer or Durbin?

Chris Cillizza: Holy cow. My palms are sweaty just thinking about that race.

It would be an out and out battle. I would put my money on Schumer simply because the 2006 and 2008 elections proved to me that betting against Schumer is a bad idea.

But, internal caucus races have their own logic -- who would have thought Liddy Dole would beat out Norm Coleman for chair of the national Republican Senatorial Committee in 2006? -- and so predicting them is TOUGH.

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Hanover, N.H.: You seemed taken-a-back when Chris Matthews made fun of that background you had when you and John O'Connor were on to discuss Mark Stanford.

But it was a terrible background though.

Chris Cillizza: It was my HOUSE! The Post newsroom is under construction so I have been working from home...I did that TV hit via Skype...we just moved into the house a few weeks ago so the walls are a bit bare...I promise to improve the view next time ;)

EMOTICONS!

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Arlington, Va.: How much momentum did Deeds lose in the VA governor's debate and post-debate interview yesterday? Between his inarticulate flip-flop on taxes and his "Lady" comment to a reporter, I'm beginning to doubt his ability to win.

Chris Cillizza: Deeds' debate performance was uneven, at best, and his three minute riff on taxes afterwards made matter worse.

(Side note: Why do politicians take questions from reporters after a debate or a big speech? It almost always steps on the message they were trying to drive. Did politicians learn nothing from John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign?)

A new independent poll commissioned for the liberal Daily Kos website and released today showed McDonnell leading 50 percent to 43 percent, a margin basically unchanged despite the fact that the Republican has been pummeled over the last few weeks for his controversial master's thesis.

If that poll is right -- and there is other data out there suggesting things are tightening -- Deeds may be done for.

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Fairfax, Va.: Who has a better shot on election night 2009 -- Deeds or Corzine? History is against Deeds and there just doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for him among Northern Virginians, while Corzine seems to be getting blamed for the state's economic woes.

Chris Cillizza: I still think underlying demographics in the states matter and, therefore, I think Corzine probably has a better chance of pulling it out.

The Democratic base -- and the number of Democratic-leaning independents -- in New Jersey is so large that Corzine can somewhat badly underperform among them and still beat Chris Christie.

Deeds doesn't have that luxury and, I think the Virginia race will be far more swayed by national winds, which are blowing in Democrats' faces at the moment, than New Jersey which looks like a straight referendum on Corzine's first four years in office.

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Chicago: Big Value Voters Summit coming up this weekend. Help us get ready, Chris! What are the metrics for success for Mitt, TPaw, and Huck? What should we expect from TPaw's speech (first time at summit?) and what numbers/rank would be good for each in the straw poll?

Chris Cillizza: Value Voters Summit opens today in D.C. with Tpaw addressing the crowd tonight in what will be something of a coming out party for him among national social conservatives.

I tend to discount the results of the planned 2012 straw poll because straw polls generally aren't terribly predictive and straw polls taken two or more years before a vote is cast for president are even less reliable.

The one interesting thing to watch in the straw poll is how Sarah Palin, who will not attend the Values Voter Summit, does.

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Mass., Too: Yeah, well, some of us aren't excited about spinning the wheel and seeing which middle-aged white male Irish or Italian-American Establishment candidate it points too, either.

Martha Coakley's been a fine AG and I'm behind her 100%. Candidates don't need to excite me.

Chris Cillizza: Whoah whoah. Go easy on the shots at the "Italian American" in the race.

The Fix Dad is a big dude....

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'Hood Redux : How about Natalia's Elegant Creations at 230 W. Broad? I've heard good things.

Chris Cillizza: Interesting...any seconds?

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Davis, Calif.: Did you know Michael Bennet and his wife were a major Obama supporters (one of the first in that state) during the primary and he was nearly the nominee for Secretary of Education. So they must have some kind of relationship, probably even closer than Arlen Specter.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jan/30/obama-denver-live-coverage

Chris Cillizza: Good point.

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Anonymous: Rick Santorum, presidential candidate? Please say it ain't so!

Chris Cillizza: It MAY be so.

Santorum has made clear in recent week he is interested in running in 2012.

Here's a scenario whereby it happens. Neither Palin nor Huckabee nor Gingrich -- all social conservative favs -- pull the trigger (it could happen), leaving social conservatives without a candidate.

Santorum could fill that void although even if he united social conservatives behind him, he seems like a long shot.

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Pittsburgh: Is it true that Rick Santorum is testing the 2012 Presidential waters already? He's so far out of the national mainstream (couldn't even win reelection to a third Senate term), wouldn't he be a gift to Democrats?

Chris Cillizza: See my response above.

And, your question implies Santorum would be the Republican nominee which is, frankly, a very long shot.

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Carbondale, Ill.: If and when you write up for new Senate line, I'm expecting to see "Sexy Lexi" as one.

Chris Cillizza: Sexy Lexi is high on the list of good nicknames for politicians.

other classics:

Bubba -- Bill Clinton

Hizzoner -- Rudy Giuliani

The Chosen One -- Kenny Guinn

Who am I missing?

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McLean, Va.: Are you going to start the morning YouTube "stuff to watch-out for" clips again now?

Chris Cillizza: Do you think I should? I am weighing it...

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: In terms on congressional races, do you see yourself bumping up S.C.-2nd up?

Chris Cillizza: Chapel Thrill!

On Wilson, I would say he is slightly more vulnerable because of the "you lie" incident.

His outburst means that Democrats nationally who would have otherwise totally ignored him will now keep an eye on his race. But, he still sits in a strong Republican district and he raised nearly as much as his Democratic opponent did in the wake of the "you lie" thing.

Sidenote: SNL's Wilson sketch last night disappointed. Kristen Wiig as Michelle Bachmann was the lone redeeming element.

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Mass., Too, again: No offense, big Italian-American Fix dude. I'm Irish. But really, when the prospective candidates are named Lynch, Meehan, Capuano, Pagliuca . . .

Chris Cillizza: Massachusetts -- the last redoubt of ethnic politics!

And, no offense taken ;)

EMOTICONS times TWO!

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Anonymous: What is up with Michael Bennet rocking the single "T" as his name?

Chris Cillizza: I don't know why that is but is is SUPER cool. Kind of like if I spelled my name Cris....

Interesting Bennet fact: his younger brother, James, is the editor of The Atlantic. GREAT guy.

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Coffee: You should just hop on the metro or into your car and head to the nearest Murky Coffee. Some things (i.e. not having to say "twenty" in Italian to order a large coffee) are too important to compromise on.

Chris Cillizza: Where is the nearest? I am always willing to drive for good fancy coffee and free wifi.

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Santa Cruz, Calif.: I like "Tricky Dick" as my fav. political nickname. Although Sexy Lexy is pretty funny too.

Chris Cillizza: Yes! Tricky Dick! So good.

others?

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1600 Penn: You better not be giving Kenny Guinn my nickname 'till I'm done using it. What are you, some kind of jackass?

Chris Cillizza: The Chosen One vs The One.

TOTALLY different.

Two more 2012-themed nicknames:

Mitten -- Mitt Romney

Tpaw -- Tim Pawlenty. (Pawlenty appears to like this nickname since his aides often refer to him as "Tpaw". Does liking one's nickname invalidate it?)

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Chicago: Rahmbo is kinda funny.

Chris Cillizza: In the same way college field hockey referees find Mrs. Fix funny.

Comical in a frightening/intimidating way.

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Blacksburg, Va.: Isn't Falls Church known for it's local politics and heated city council elections? Was that a factor? Curious, do you know yet who is your new city councilman?

Chris Cillizza: Not a factor. The Fix is, personally, apolitical.

What was a factor: Great schools, nice neighbors, a backyard and within 5 miles of two Pie-Tanzas.

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Hanover, N.H.: You'd think when your guy who plays Obama is know as being notoriously bad at it, they'd hire SOMEBODY else at SNL.

They're given such good material yet Seth Meyers finds a way to not make funny.

Oh, I like Rahmbo for Rahm Emanuel for a nickname.

Chris Cillizza: Rahmbo is an AWESOME nickname.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: RE: nicknames: The Governator

Chris Cillizza: Terrific!

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Natalie's Excellent : Little tables, though.

Chris Cillizza: Ok. two votes...have others? Send them to me at chris.cilliza@wpost.com.

Willing to head down Tyson's way too if need be to find a great indie coffee shop. Free wifi a must.

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Anonymous: Blago is funny even if it's just a shorter version of his name.

James, Halima and Michael Bennet's dad was president of my university.

Chris Cillizza: Blago is a good one.

I also think it's kind of cool when you have a nickname that is just your office. Like Richard M. Daley. "The Mayor" or "Mayor for Life"

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Chris Cillizza: Ok folks...time's up for this week. Check out the Fix shortly for my latest Senate Line. And, if you have suggestions for coffee places. gyms, dry cleaners or restaurants in Falls Church (or the vicinity) send them to me at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

Have a great weekend.

Chris

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