The Live Fix: Chicago's Olympic Bid, Pawlenty and GOP Gains

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 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: Hello everyone!

I am currently fighting cold #2 in the last three weeks (GRRR) but, like the mailman, neither rain nor cold etc. will keep me from this chat.

Location: Starbucks in Falls Church.

Drink: early grey tea latte

Blueberry oat bars consumed: 2


Fairfax County, Va.: I noticed President Obama's favorable rating was up a little on Thursday (which probably means it will be down a little today, as there is a certain amount of up-and-down noise level related more to polling methods than anything else).

This made me wonder something. Would a significant increase in Obama's poll ratings (hypothetically, a jump from today's 54 to, say, a steady 60) mean that Creigh Deeds would most likely win in Virginia? Would a significant drop (hypothetically, from 54 to, say, 46) mean that Deeds would most likely lose?

If so, then both candidates are wasting a lot of effort actually campaigning, if it all comes down to the national mood! I'm guessing the national mood doesn't just affect HOW Virginians vote, by the way, but more important which ones choose to vote at all.

Chris Cillizza: I do think that Obama's number nationally will have an impact on Deeds' numbers in Virginia.

You may have noticed that the President has been nowhere to be seen in Virginia over the last few months as his numbers have slipped nationwide.

And, Deeds hasn't exactly volunteered his support for Obama -- in fact, he has been trying to find ways to distance himself from the president particularly on heath care.

My guess is that Obama will come into the state at least once more before Nov. 3 -- almost certainly in Northern Virginia -- to try and excite the Democratic base behind Deeds.


Herndon, Va.: I was struck by your commentary this morning on the Chicago Olympics bid. Your column implied that there is absolutely no way that Obama gets anything positive out of this bid, whether Chicago gets the Olympics or not. That's a pretty cynical view, don't you think? If the IOC does award the Olympics to Chicago, I would think that the immediate spin would be that the administration's new internationalist bent has yielded an early dividend.

Also, in general I've noticed a much more anti-Democratic tone to your columns lately. Is that a reflection of your assessment of the changing environment or just some internal bias (the Olympics column being a case in point)?

Chris Cillizza: Um, to be honest, since I started the Fix people have been reading into (or attempting to read into) what I write to look for alleged bias.

I hate to disappoint but they are just not there. I like good campaigns, well produced ads, candid candidates and the occasional pumpkin spice latte.

I am biased in favor of good stories -- whether they be Mark Sanford's dalliance with an Argentinian woman, the ongoing debate over health care or the early jockeying the 2012 field.

As for my column this morning, I do think that if the Obama White House could have avoided the Olympics issue altogether, they would have since it is fraught with political peril.

That said, if Chicago is announced as the winner of the 2016 Olympics -- an announcement expected to happen at 1pm or so eastern time -- there is little question that Obama will get the credit for closing the deal.

Which is a good thing for the president.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Critical question: Have you tried the new instant Starbucks, available at only about a dollar per glass? What gets me is their advertising: are they trying to tell us that their coffee is so terrible you can't tell the difference between it and instant coffee?

Chris Cillizza: VIA!

I have avoided it despite the super-aggressive pushing of it on me whenever I go into a Starbucks. ("Hey man, try's good for you...first time's free")

Frank confession: I dislike "regular" coffee almost as much as I dislike beer. So, it's only the expensive, sugary drinks for me!


early grey?: Doncha mean Earl Grey?

Chris Cillizza: Yes, yes I do. Did I mention I have a cold?


Des Peres, Mo.: Say, you always post from Starbucks and I always see you live on Hardball. Did WaPo take your desk away? Permanent leave? What gives?

Chris Cillizza: The 5th floor newsroom -- where I reside -- is undergoing construction.

So, I work from home most days. I like to do the chat in a coffee shop; it gives me an excuse to spend $9 on breakfast.

Plus, I get to meet Fixistas like Jay who I ran into this morning at the Starbucks in Falls Church!


Graft-O-Rama: Man, you think some people made some money on the Beijing buildout, just wait until Chicago starts ramping up...

Chris Cillizza: And, here is the danger to Obama inherent in Chicago getting the Olympics.....


Silver Spring, Md.: You keep getting colds because you keep putting that high-fructose corn syrup laced nonsense you're pretending is coffee inside your body.

Anyway - If McDonnell holds on and wins in Virginia, is it still somewhat of a tactical victory for the democrats, considering they RGA had to drop big bucks to prop up what was supposed to be a landslide a month ago?

Chris Cillizza: Good point. The Fix eating habits -- as Mrs. Fix regularly reminds me -- are poor (at best).

As for VA, I don't think it would be a tactical victory for Democrats if McDonnell won but Republicans had to spend heavily to make it happen.

I am not a big believer in tactical victories that are actually just losses -- particularly in an off-year election when so few races are on the docket.

If McDonnell wins, it will mark a potential turning point in the Commonwealth for Republicans who have lost the last two Senate races and the last two governor's contest.

Pure and simple.


Alexandria, Va. (heard of it?): OK; it's been a few weeks. You've been out there in nice, sterile, inconvenient Falls Church of Fallsburg or Knoxville, or wherever in the western U.S. you moved to. You didn't think you'd need coffee, or water, or toilets, or utilities. Admit your mistake. Come back to reason.

Chris Cillizza: Alexandria...rings a bell...George Washington lived there, right?


Big Citizenship: So Alan Khazei brings in $1 million in a week, a big chunk of that in $10 or less donations. He has thousands of volunteers. He gets the all-important E.J. Dionne bump. (Got the Colbert bump before he ran). He has already changed the social fabric of the state of Massachusetts and the country. You think he is not going to be front-runner when the big-name rival candidate is a ConservaDem who can't point to any accomplishments or her position on key Democratic issues?

Chris Cillizza: I continue to believe that the special election in Massachusetts is a race between state Attorney General Martha Coakley and someone else whose identity is yet to be determined.

Coakley has a wide lead in polling and has already raised better than $2 million for the contest on Dec. 8.

Could Khazei be the one who challenges her? Sure. Though I think Rep. Mike Capuano, who has been rolling out union endorsement almost daily, or Steve Pagliuca, who is spending his personal cash on ads introducing him to the state's voters are the more likely options.


St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Chris -- Gov. Pawlenty is clearly ramping up his bid for the Republican nomination in 2012, yet here in MN barely half of those polled approve of the job he's doing, and 55% said that they don't think he should run. Overall, there seems to be a feeling that he's still governor and should be attending to the difficult state of economic affairs here and not his own political ambitions, even if he is out the door in a year. What impact do you think these numbers will have, if any? Are there past situations where presidential candidates haven't been doing so well in their home state and yet go on to capture the nomination?

Chris Cillizza: I wrote about the poll you cite earlier this week on the Fix.

I actually though the overall numbers weren't bad for Tpaw in that more people approved of the job he was doing as governor than didn't -- particularly among critical independents.

That said, I do think there is a natural "This guy?" reaction when one of your home state politicians seeks national office. It happened with John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and lots of other politicians who went on to have considerable success at the national level.

Minnesota -- no offense Land of 10,000 Lakes, I still have love for you -- isn't going to decide the identity of the Republican nominee for president in 2012.


Washington, DC: "So, I work from home most days. I like to do the chat in a coffee shop; it gives me an excuse to spend $9 on breakfast."

Oh, gee, here I was thinking that we chatters all were SPECIAL to you and now I find out that we're just an excuse for a BUSINESS DEDUCTION breakfast.

I feel cheap.

Chris Cillizza: $9 for breakfast is decidedly not cheap. I could have taken you to McDonald's after all.....


Washington D.C.: Feed a cold; starve a fever. Keep us posted if you manage to empty Starbucks of all their breads and cakes.

Chris Cillizza: I think I have both. I blame Mrs Fix. She has the immune system of an Olympic athlete and so brings home all sort of germs that don't make her sick but manage to lay me, someone with the immune system of a 95 year old man, out cold.


Lewisville, NC: Tough loss to St. Mary's hope Mrs. Fix does not take it out on you.

You like the House, Do you agree with me that the Grayson flap was an orchestrated publicity stunt by a first term Democratic Representative in a center right district?

Chris Cillizza: Hard for me to resist a question that cites the CUA field hockey team.

I was at the game yesterday -- despite my illness -- and couldn't have been more disappointed. Mrs. Fix was, um, not happy -- to say the least.

As for Grayson, I wouldn't even begin to offer an assessment on why he is doing what he is doing other than that he genuinely believes it and doesn't know or doesn't care about the political implications for him in 2012 in a seat George Bush won with 55 percent in 2004.


Minnesota will not decide 2012: Well, how about this one good buddy? It will decide 2016.

President Alphonse Franken.

10-4. Come back..

Chris Cillizza: Any man who can draw the U.S map from memory would get my vote.

This is seriously one of the most amazing things I have ever seen:


Kettering, Ohio: I'm with you on the instant Starbucks, unless it has tons of sugar in it (metric tonnes, please) it just will not work.

What's the line on Obama offering an opinion on Polanski? I would set it at a billion to one, since any utterance would tick off half the Democratic Party. And that would be all he needs with health care already being vigorously debated by the Dems as much as the Repubs.

Chris Cillizza: The Starbucks guy is really upping the VIA push. it's like those old coffee commercials in the 1980s. "Will they know that they replaced their caffeinated coffee with decaf?" "Let's find out".

There is NO chance Obama will say anything about Polanski. Zero. Zilch. For the reasons you outlined.

Also, "Sky Blue Sky" currently playing at Starbucks. Not bad.


Re: "Falls Church, or ...Knoxville": Hey, be nice. Some perfectly nice people grew up near Knoxville, and went to a certain well regarded public university there (me for example). Now I live in Falls Church, like the sensible Mr. Fix.

Chris Cillizza: I have been to Knoxville and liked it. Very hilly.


D.C.: Cillizza: I wrote in a few weeks ago and called you the Bill Simmons of I find out you're a teetotaling, anti-real coffee, Yankee fan. Don't make me downgrade you to Mike Lupica territory.

That being said, is it just me or does it seem more and more like Arlen Specter is losing this primary? I know he has the institutional support, the money, Obama, Rendell, blach blah...but Sestak has the base. And in a closed primary, isn't that most important?

Chris Cillizza: My goal in life is to be featured in the following sentence: "Chris Cillizza is the homeless man's Bill Simmons."

Not sure if you saw the Q poll earlier this week but it showed Specter dropping like a rock -- from 55 percent to 44 percent -- in a primary matchup against Sestak. Sestak stayed steady at @25 percent.

The other numbers in the poll weren't great for Specter either as his fav/unfav is upside down -- never a good sign for a well known incumbent.

Specter still has some big advantages in the race, however -- notably his HUGE cash haul and the active support from the White House.

My guess is that this race is going to be very close but I have learned over the past few years to NEVER bet against Specter.


TPaw "this guy": When Obama recorded that speech for schoolkids, TPaw openly wondered whether the president was collecting the addresses from grade school kids who sent him letters in order to use them for some nefarious purpose. I think when TPaw gets promoted as a serious presidential candidate much of the country says "This guy???"

Chris Cillizza: Tgis gives me a platform to mention one of the greatest "SNL" skits of all time. Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford turning to the camera and saying "I can't believe I am losing to this guy" about Jimmy Carter.



No Obamalympics: Drudge is reporting (completely with that obnoxious alarm icon) that Chicago is out in the first round.

This means a complete Republican victory in 2010, right?

Chris Cillizza: Almost certainly yes. Wait, no.

As I said this am in the Morning Fix, the Olympics presented real political peril for Obama.

If the Drudge Report is true, there is the possibility that Obama could be cast as ineffectual on the world stage.

At the same time, if he had stuck to his original plan not to go to the IOC presentation, he would have been criticized for it.

No win.


I could have taken you to McDonald's after all...: Did you notice that your sister publication Slate did a blind taste test of coffee and found McDonalds (and Dunkin' Doughnuts for that matter) to produce better coffee than Starbucks?

Chris Cillizza: I did not but it doesn't surprise me.

As someone who dislikes regular coffee no matter who brews it, my palate is just not that refined.


I have been to Knoxville and liked it. Very hilly.: There's an observation made at UT that you can identify the freshman women vs. the senior women by the muscularity of the latter's calves from climbing those campus hills.

Chris Cillizza: Aha!


Herndon, Va.: VIA is not bad for instant coffee but in their taste test, when I went in this AM, I knew immediately which was VIA and which was brewed. The best thing going for VIA was the "barista" manning the taste test was a cute little red-head. She brightened the day as much as any coffee.

Chris Cillizza: Redheads rock. (Mrs. Fix is a redhead.)

Overheard just now at VIA taste-testing station: "It's just not as robust as the regular".

Oh. Come. On.


University of Alaska at Fairbanks: Heard on Morning Edition today that General McChrystal flew all the way to Copenhagen to meet with President Obama.

For 25 minutes.

Then, the general heads back to the war.

I'll let you supply the punchline.


Chris Cillizza: The Fix is HUGE in Fairbanks.


Fredericksburg, Va.: Harry Reid is in real trouble. Tom Daschle lost. Tom Foley lost. Mitch McConnell nearly lost last year. Newt Gingrich had tough races in a Republican district. Why do party leaders struggle at home?

Chris Cillizza: It's the natural split between representing the interests of the national party in Washington while also trying to represent the interests of your state or district at home.

Democrats over the past decade or so have put forward party leaders who sit in either Republican states (Daschle) or swing states (Reid), which makes them very vulnerable to the attack that they sat one thing in D.C. and something totally different in their home state.

The ideal leader profile is Nancy Pelosi who represents a very liberal San Francisco area district that allows her free reign to lead House Democrats in whatever manner she sees fit.


Philadelphia, PA : Politico's web site has a ridiculous headline (dog bites man) that the Chicago Olympic bid -- which is now lost -- will be inextricably and permanently linked with Obama no matter whether it wins or loses.

Now that it's lost, wanna bet whether it's days, or weeks before the entire thing is forgotten except by those who put in the hard work pulling the bid together?

I sense certain media outlets feel a need to make every story and non-story run at a fever pitch...

Chris Cillizza: Yeah, I am not sure this is THAT big a story.

Obviously the White House would have preferred Chicago to win the Olympics but it seems to me that the ultimate fate of the health care bill and the situation in Afghanistan will have far more to do with President Obama's re-election chances in 2012 than whether the state got the Olympics or not.

That said, MUCH love to my friends at Politico. And, don't forget to checkout Jonathan Martin's terrific story on Tpaw's political team from earlier this week.


Wrong candidates in SNL skit: Sorry, Chris. It was Michael Dukakis and George HW Bush. Dana Carvey (remember, thousand points of light?) was Bush and Jon Lovitz was Dukakis.

Chris Cillizza: ARGH!

The Fix memory fades. Where am I? What am I doing here?


Nowheresville, Neverland: Isn't it getting a little late for Mike Castle to decide whether he is going to challenge Beau Biden?

He always seemed to be half-hearted whenever he talked about running for Senate.

Chris Cillizza: It is.

My sense on Castle is that he is less likely to run for Senate than he was a few months ago.

Castle is no spring chicken and his health is not great so those things may be weighing heavily on his decision on whether to take on a long -- and bruising -- statewide campaign one more time.

Since Castle is so well known in the state, he has the luxury of waiting longer than most candidates. But, make no mistake, Senate Republicans would have liked to see him in this race months ago.


Anonymous: Why is the Olympics 'fraught with political peril'?

When has it ever been a political issue that a president is trying to bring jobs to this country?

Why is everything that Obama does a lose/lose proposition to you?

Chris Cillizza: Riiigght.

I challenge anyone to go back through my coverage of this White House or the 2008 campaign and conclude that "everything that Obama does" is a "lose/lose proposition" to me.

I will (briefly) reiterate what I said above and what I said in the Morning Fix today.

Not going to make the pitch for Chicago to be the Olympic host city in 2016 would have opened Obama up to the criticism that he was not doing enough to sell the U.S. on the world stage.

But, having gone and (apparently) watching as Chicago lost out, has the potential to paint Obama as something other than the powerful world leader his Administration would like him to be portrayed as to the international community.

Also, as I have said above, I think turning the Olympics bid into some sort of HUGE political issue is a mistake. Is it great for Obama that Chicago may have lost out? No. Is it terrible? No.


The Fix memory fades. Where am I? What am I doing here? : As I recall, Admiral Stockdale asked something more along the lines of "Who am I and why am I here?" You can't win Chris.

Chris Cillizza: Correct. Not the only parallel between the ole Fix and Gen. Stockdale.


flew all the way to Copenhagen : All the way from London. Not exactly as bad as it sounds when the whole story is told.

Chris Cillizza: A good point.


Hell's Kitchen, NYC: Are you implying Reid is in trouble because he's forced to be too liberal as Senate leader? I thought it was quite the opposite -- because he's been so milque-toast about pushing any Liberal legislation at all. What do the AZ polls say? Are democrats angry at him, because he's been -too- forceful in carrying out liberal priorities... or because he hasn't been forceful at all?

Chris Cillizza: Well, the Arizona polls don't say much -- since Reid is from Nevada.

But, I do think the danger for Reid is that the agenda he is asked with pushing in Washington is to the ideological left of the average Nevada voter.

And, that disconnect is what imperils Reid.


Rockville, Md.: I always thought I liked your writing. But someone who does not like regular coffee (KAW FEE around here) has got to be superior.

Chris Cillizza: Yeah, I think that pretty much covers it


Re: SNL Skit...: Did you mention you had a cold...

Chris Cillizza: It is morphing into the flu. Fix aches, stomach hurts. Man, the things I endure for this chat...

If I only had some VIA....


Coakley: She didn't raise $2 million. She has been collecting since Sen. Kennedy announced he had a brain tumor. She collected about a million during the quarter and moved another mil from her other accounts. Capuano and Pagliuca raised about a quarter mil each in the two weeks after they announced. Khazei is getting it from very small donors and also from his connection to folks who do the $4,800 with ease.

Chris Cillizza: Regardless, she has $2 million to spend on the race. No matter where it came from, it all spends the same.


Evanston, Illinois: Who has the best shot at Chris Dodd. Linda McMahon, Peter Schiff or other?

Chris Cillizza: Probably former Rep. Rob Simmons if polling is to believed.

Linda McMahon is spending lots of her own money but the whole WWE thing is going to be hard to overcome. Former Ambassador Tom Foley us putting his own money into the race and has put together a really good team.

Schiff is, um, not going to win.


Newburgh, NY: Does George Pataki challenge Kirsten Gillibrand next year? If not him, then who?

Chris Cillizza: Would be stunned if he did, judging from my reporting.

And, if Pataki doesn't run, you are looking at a third tier (or lower) candidate, which means Gillibrand is going to win.


Why out?: Why are you out with a cold spreading your germs to innocent bystanders? You could do the chat from your home, no?

Chris Cillizza: I could. But I didn't want to infect ole Charlie Fix!


Castle is no spring chicken and his health is not great so those things may be weighing heavily on his decision on whether to take on a long -- and bruising -- statewide campaign one more time: What do you think are the odds that Arlen Specter will have to withdraw from the Pennsylvania Senatorial election for health/age reasons?

Chris Cillizza: Not that high. Sen. Specter has weathered SO many ailments and illnesses in his life, I can't imagine he walks away from this race.


Chris Cillizza: Folks

that's all I can do today. I am headed home to lay in bed and try to feel better. Maybe a helping of VIA will make all the difference ;)

Thanks, as always, for checking out the chat and make sure to check out the Fix for all the latest and greatest in political news.


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