The Live Fix on House Races, the Public Option and Comb Overs

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 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.


Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone...sorry for the late arrival!

Just getting settled at a Starbucks in Tenleytown. Ample seating!

Just downed a blueberry oat let's do this thing.


Rockville: Are we still waiting?

Chris Cillizza: No. The waiting is over!

Also, I would advise you not to go back to Rockville. You'll just waste another year.


Arlington, Va.: How was Diane Rehm?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for asking...this is why I was late. Just did an hour with Diane Rehm. It was, as always, incredibly fun. it's nice to spend an hour debating with smart people without yelling etc.

A welcome change.


Fairfax, Va.: A few commentators have talked about big losses for Democrats in 2010, particularly in the House. Do you foresee any particular geographic region where Democrats hold office getting hit harder?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the question. I am actually working on my Friday House Line at the moment so the House is much on my mind these days.

There's no question that Republicans have LOTS of targets in 2010 -- the result of having lost 54 seats in the last two elections.

There are opportunities for Republicans all over the country but if you are looking for a few specific regions, I would check out southern districts with significant (25 percent or more) black populations.

A number of Democratic members got elected in these seats in 2008 thanks to the surge in African American turnout with President Obama leading the ticket.

But, midterm election turnout is traditionally lower and that means less black voters. That could spell trouble for people like Tom Perriello (Va.), Bobby Bright (Ala.) and Travis Childers (Miss.) among others.


Fairfax, Va.: Any efforts for the GOP to reestablish itself in New England or has it basically ceded the region?

Chris Cillizza: One other House question before we move on.

Republicans have lost huge amounts of ground in the northeast over the past few elections and could well lose on one of their few remaining seats in the upcoming special election for New York's 23rd district.

But, interestingly, New York -- Upstate, in particular -- could also provide the roots of some strain of a Republican comeback in the region in 2010.

Reps. Eric Massa, Dan Maffei and Scott Murphy are sure to be Republican targets.

The number of vulnerabilities for House Democrats in New York is one of the main reasons why the White House moved to intervene with Gov. David Paterson last week. There is a fear that Paterson as the Democratic nominee could drag down the entire state and federal ticket in 2010.


Alexandria, Va.: Morning Chris, Do you see the Democrats investing the time and money in NY-23 in November? Given the dynamics of the race, it seems very much within reach yet I wonder if the national party will be more concerned about the NJ and VA governorships. Thanks.

Chris Cillizza: Love the House questions!

I think NY-23 is VERY winnable for Democrats. They smartly have put forward a businessman -- Bill Owens -- who has never run for office before (and hence has no voting record) while Republicans are in the midst of eating their own with Conservative party nominee Doug Hoffman (and the Club for Growth) savaging state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.

With the NY-23 special likely to happen on the same day that voters in VA and NJ vote for governor, it could actually have the effect of lessening the blow to Democrats nationally if they wind up losing both of those gubernatorial contests.

A win in NY-23 would counter the idea that the national Democratic party is faltering and that big gains are ahead for Republicans in 2010.


Nowheresville, DC: Nice DR discussion this morning Chris. But what's the deal -- you couldn't get free WiFi nearer to WAMU? Or were you in need of your pumpkin spice latte "fix"?

Chris Cillizza: No free wifi at WAMU. But, there is free wifi at Z Burger on Wisky Ave, which is where the ole Fix is headed after this...


Madison, Wis.: Ugg. By reading your article it appears that you don't fully understand the two main critiques of the media from the left and the right. They are not the same, and should not be lumped together.

The right complains that the MSM is liberally biased--that they slant their coverage in favor of liberal positions.

The left complains that the MSM gets cowered by liberal bias claims and thus fails to properly fact check and shoot down inaccuracies peddled by Republicans.

Many journalists conflate the two and say "well if both sides don't like us we must be doing something right". Unfortunately that gives a default victory to the right's assertion, because the maintaining the status quo without remedy or defense plays right into unfounded charges of liberal bias.

Chris Cillizza: What I don't understand couldn't fit in John Edwards' mansion in North Carolina.


Church Hill, Va.: Chris, I would like to get your take on the candidates ad strategy in Virginia's race for Governor. I am a strong Democrat, but worried that Deeds has made no attempt to run positive ads promoting himself this fall as most voters begin to pay attention. His current ad lineup is aimed heavily at going negative on McDonnell. Isn't he running a big risk by not introducing himself to the voters and laying out his vision for governing?

Chris Cillizza: Virginia is a fascinating race.

The simple truth is that before the "Thesis" (a document written by former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell advocating for putting a very socially conservative view of the country into action in the political world), Deeds was nowhere.

He had struggled to link himself to the successful legacy of Govs. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and had also failed to find an opening to cast McDonnell as more conservative than the average Virginia voter.

The Thesis gave Deeds life. If you watch Deeds' current ads, what he is trying to do is turn the McDonnell thesis from something the Republican wrote twenty years ago into the first piece of evidence in a long career (including many votes in the state legislature) that shows that McDonnell is not who he says he is.

Deeds does run a risk by not introducing himself to voters in a positive light but given the gains he has made of late, it is a risk he is clearly comfortable taking.


Orange County girl, Calif.: Hi proud Papa (keep those little fix updates coming) From the new Times/CBS poll out this evening ...

"Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?"

Favor 65% Oppose 26%

Here's my question. Medicare for all, the public option, is nearly filibuster proof at 65%, So why can't we have this simple, easy to understand fix to our Health care delivery system?

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the well wishes about Charlie. He turned seven months old yesterday and to celebrate he solved a complex math problem.

Lots of questions about the CBS//NYT poll on the public option.

Politicians are, by their nature, a reactive species -- changing their views oftentimes based on the whims of their constituents.

That reactiveness means that the August congressional recess -- and the rowdy town halls that came to define it -- scared lots of Democratic members.

The result? Few are willing to stick their neck out on an issue as controversial as the public option.

One other thing to consider. Two-thirds of people nationally may be supportive of the public option but that doesn't mean that strong majorities back it in some of the more conservative districts in the country where Democrats are trying to hold on after winning in 2006 or 2008.


Poplar Bluff, Mo.: Chris, thanks for the chat. I was surprised to read that President Obama has asked a sitting governor (David Patterson) not to run for re-election. Is the President in danger of alienating state politicos for his hands-on policy of selecting candidates to run for public office on the state level?

Chris Cillizza: He "might" be but it seems pretty clear that it was the state politicos who pushed the White House to intervene.

There is serious concern about New York pols that have a governor with a job approval rating of 20 percent leading their ticket in 2010 could be a recipe for downballot disaster.

The White House would never -- we repeat, never -- have tried to gently nudge Paterson out unless influential state politicians had signed off on such a move.

In the short term, the intervention has angered Paterson and led him to insist he will run. But, with the White House on the record as opposed to him running in 2010, it is likely to make raising money VERY difficult for Paterson -- not to mention serve as encouragement to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to run.


Fairfax, Va.: What is Cuomo waiting for? What's holding him back from announcing a challenge to Paterson for the Democratic nomination?

Chris Cillizza: All in good time....


Chris Cillizza: Pet peeve: When people take your drink at Starbucks assuming it's theirs.

Let's see. I was ahead of you in line and it doesn't seem totally implausible that TWO people ordered a caramel macchiato, right?

Sorry. Lack of coffee makes Fix angry!


Yorktown, Va.: Does Doug Wilder have any real sway in Virginia politics?

Chris Cillizza: First of all, Yorktown, you need to send some more of your high school field hockey players to the Catholic Cardinals! (Lots of good field hockey down there.)

Second, L. Douglas Wilder, aka the mayor of Richmond, does still have some sway in the state -- particularly in the black community.

Wilder was the first Democrat elected governor of a southern state since Reconstruction and he remains an iconic figure to many African Americans in the state.

Wilder's withholding of an endorsement from Deeds isn't going to lose the Democrat the governor's race but it isn't helpful at all.


Washington, DC: "Here's my question. Medicare for all, the public option, is nearly filibuster proof at 65%, So why can't we have this simple, easy to understand fix to our Health care delivery system?"

May I respond? Because Medicare is ALREADY going broke, since it is based on a pay-forward model, and there are too few people now paying INTO the system to cover the people taking OUT of the system, a problem primarily caused by increased longevity. Adding millions more will simply crash the entire system faster.

Thank you. The chat is now yours again.

Chris Cillizza: Always glad to cede the chat....


the rowdy town halls that came to define it -- scared lots of Democratic members. : But isn't the the result of irresponsible media coverage? Us single payer guys have been going to meetings for 5 or 6 years. As Ezra Klein says we have always dominated the Q & A. We have always been polite and very well informed. BUT we were completely ignored by the media. Now a few uninformed louts yell, and they got 24 - 7 coverage.

We were never even allowed to discuss the facts in the House, in the Senate or in the press until it was way, way, way, too late.

Chris Cillizza: Yes, yes. The media did it.


Pilot Point, Tex.: If it's Friday it's time for the...FIX/HAX doubleheader!!

Why is Kay Bailey Hutchinson leaving the Senate to run for TX governor, against an incumbent of her own party? The TX governor's job is constitutionally weak anyway. Isn't being in the Senate a more attractive gig? Is she trying to get "executive experience" on her resume in order to make a future run at the White House? If not, then I just don't get it.

Chris Cillizza: Thanks for the question, Gov. Perry.

KBH has long coveted a return to Texas and she seems to be fed up with waiting for Perry to retire. (Hutchison mulled a governor's bid in 2006 before bowing out as Perry made clear he would be running for re-election.)

I don't think Sen. Hutchison wants the job because she sees it as a stepping stone to the presidency. (She, like all politicians, would almost certainly like to be president but the idea of her seeking the office seems somewhat far-fetched.)

Also, to even be mentioned in the pantheon of iconic chatter Carolyn Hax is an honor.


15th and NY Ave, NW: Are your chats popular enough yet to officially be named the new Weingarten? I can't wait until you grow a mustache that rivals his.

Chris Cillizza: Speaking of chat legends...

When Weingarten chats, the world stops. The G-20 summit is put on hold. Heads of state hang on his every word.

I don't think we are there yet.

I once grew a beard, shaved it, and left the mustache for a night. I looked really creepy. Not kidding.


Pet Peevier:: When bartenders pick up your drink before you're finished.

Chris Cillizza: For me to be peeved at that, I would have to step foot in a bar, which I haven't done in years.

Coffee shops are my new bar.


Chicago: California Democratic gubernatorial primary - discuss!

Chris Cillizza: A terrific race...trumped only perhaps by the Republican primary. (If you haven't read the Sacramento Bee's devastating story on Meg Whitman's voting record -- or lack thereof -- go do it now.)

Conventional wisdom is that state Attorney General Jerry Brown has a leg up on San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the Democratic side and Newsom's unimpressive fundraising to date affirms that idea.

But, Newsom does have an opening in the race; if he can turn the race into a generational referendum (ala the 2008 presidential race) he might be able to gain some traction.

Brown as first elected governor of California in 1974 (that is not a typo). Newsom was in his early teen years then.


Trifecta: Hax/Fix/Kelly

Chris Cillizza: We need a name for that sort of thing.

Faxelly could work.

Haxxkel might be an option.

The trio of terrificness? Three times awesome?


Illinois: "For me to be peeved at that, I would have to step foot in a bar, which I haven't done in years."

This explains everything.

Chris Cillizza: Yes, yes it does.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Good stuff on DR today. But did I hear her call you Chris CIZILLA at the end? What would a Cizilla be, anyway? A Whirling Dervish of a political columnist? HAH!

Chris Cillizza: DR did call me "Cizzilla" at the end. But, DR is so beloved in Fix world that she can call me anything she wants.


Starbucks: Maybe the barista likes me better and made my Macchiato first, eh?

Chris Cillizza: Thief!


Amherst, Mass.: I first saw Paul Kirk on T.V. during his eulogy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and was struck by his comb over.

But I don't get local Massachusetts political pundits. First they wanted Vicky Reggie Kennedy despite her one being a politician and then they got upset because it wasn't ex.-Gov. Michael Dukakis who is more politician then Paul Kirk. If I remember correctly, didn't Paul Kirk try to run for Governor once?

Anyhow, it's all a wash since the U.S. Senate isn't a meritocracy, but based on seniority and Kirk or Dukakis or Reggie Kennedy would be the least senior member. Last to add amendments at mark-up sessions, last to ask questions at hearings (despite the Sotomayor hearings, most are using empty by that time). And then they're gone by January. I think Gov. Patrick did it fine and I find it will help him in his job approval polls.

Chris Cillizza: As someone with male pattern baldness in his family, I would urge you to go gently on comb-overs.

There seemed to be a real desire on the part of Kennedy's family -- and make no mistake, they played a HUGE role in this pick -- to have someone who was "of" the Kennedy world replace the legendary liberal lion.

Again, from a political perspective, this is much ado about nothing. Kirk will serve for 90 days or so and the real action is in the ongoing Democratic primary special election.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is the favorite although Rep. Mike Capuano and wealthy businessman Steve Pagliuca also have paths to the nod.

That vote takes place on Dec. 8. An early Christmas present for political junkies!


"The result? Few are willing to stick their neck out on an issue as controversial as the public option.": Chris, doesn't that pretty much sum up Democrats on just about every issue since they WON THE MAJORITY in September? If Obama is criticized for being overexposed, is it any wonder when he seems to be the only one willing to stand in the line of political fire?

Chris Cillizza: You said it, not me.


A CUA question (non-political): Is it true that Jon Voight designed the mascot that painted in the middle of CUA's main athletic building?

Chris Cillizza: Yes. believe he actually drew it.

And since you asked (ok, you didn't but I am going ahead anyway), the Catholic field hockey team is now 5-1, having won two overtime games in the last week.

Not sure who the coach is over there but she is darn good....


Los Angeles, Calif.: I kinda miss the old style of just picking a few questions from the Live Chat to post on the regular The Fix Blog instead of just the whole transcript. Like last last, some of the questions would have been Favorite and Funniest Politician Nickname and another would be interesting fact about Colorado Senator Michael Bennet...

Chris Cillizza: We are returning to that format. Starting today. Thanks for the input.


Washington DC: So Chris, did you find a replacement for Buzz? (Was there last weekend with the wife, baby and in-laws, went crazy buying stuff.)

Chris Cillizza: The search is ongoing....

Per recommendations in last week's chat, I stopped by Natalie's Elegant Creations on Broad Street in Falls Church. Great place, really good food, no wifi.

And, I worry it's not the sort of place where they want the ole Fix banging away on his keyboard and slamming down fancy coffee drinks for an hour every Friday.

The search for an (unofficial) coffee shop chat sponsor continues...


Anonymous: If you had to guess right now: Mike Castle -- in or out of the Delaware Senate race? No equivocating!

Chris Cillizza: Out.

But, it's a guess. No one I know knows. (How about THAT for a sentence!)

If Castle is out, say hello to Sen. Beau Biden.


Let's go to Mass: I have a hard time believing that Massachusetts is going to elect a Blue Dog like Coakley to replace Ted Kennedy. Anything new in that race?

Chris Cillizza: Not yet....still in the early stages...there are not a lot of people paying much attention to that special election and in the absence of a big-name candidate (Joe Kennedy II, Ed Markey etc.) the interest level is likely to stay pretty low.

That works in Coakley's favor as she is the best known candidate in the field and the only on with a statewide organization in place.


Philadelphia: Pardon my ignorance, but, what is "DR"? The Diane Rehm Show

Chris Cillizza: Sorry, sorry. "Diane Rhem" -- rockstar radio show host on National Public Radio.


Anonymous: "Not sure who the coach is over there but she is darn good...."

She is. Here's hoping her husband appreciates her and buys her lots of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Chris Cillizza: As regular Live Fix chatters know, I am constantly in awe of Mrs. Fix. She is a great mother, coach and wife. She is also really funny and, for some reason, tolerates my antics.


Anonymous: Odd connection. Gavin Newsom's grandfather, William Newsom, was a friend and advisor to Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, who is the father of Jerry Brown.

Chris Cillizza: Even in California, politics is a small world.


Chicago: Lautenberg and Torricelli famously did not get along. What Senate delegation would you say has the most in-fighting? Which duo gets along really well?

Chris Cillizza: This is a GREAT question that deserves -- and will get -- its own Fix post in the near future.

There is no correct duo in the Senate that matches the utter disdain (hatred?) that Torricelli and Lautenberg had for one another. (Especially fascinating since they were both Democrats so the disagreement were totally personal rather than political.)

Mary Landrieu and David Vitter (of Louisiana) aren't particularly close and I can't imagine relations are great between Roland Burris and Dick Durbin given that Durbin endorsed against Burris while the incumbent was still weighing whether to run for a full term in 2010. There is always talk that Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe don't see eye to eye but it never seeps into public (unfortunately) so it's hard to know if that is just rumor or whether there is some truth there.

Like I said, LOTS of fodder here....working on Fix post as we speak...


East Lansing, Mich.: JUST BE BALD MR. CILLIZZA


Chris Cillizza: Well, you don't have to yell.

And, yes, my plan is to shave the head as soon as the receding of the Fix hairline reaches critical mass.

It worked for Sean Connery....


Abingdon, Md.: Of course the question has to be asked--has the coach ever had to use the field hockey stick on you?

Chris Cillizza: No...but the mere threat keeps me in line.


Anonymous: Maybe it's me, but I feel uncomfortable every time SNL makes fun of David Paterson's blindness. It's just wrong (at least for me)

Chris Cillizza: It is a little odd and I feel somewhat conflicted about it too.

That said, "Parks and Recreations", which runs after SNL on Thursdays is really hitting its stride.

The dude who plays "Tom" is hi-larious.


Chris Cillizza: That's all for me today, folks.

Apologies for being a little late but thanks for sticking with me.

If you are the person who stole my caramel macchiato this morning, you really should turn yourself in. The guilt alone will be too much for you to bear.

Stay tuned this afternoon for the latest House Line on the Fix -- the 10 districts most likely to flip party control in 2010.

Have a great weekend and, to quote those great philosophers Bill and Ted: "Be excellent to each other."


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