Post Politics Hour: Dems 'got their butts kicked,' the Republican health care bill, Phillies fans mourn, another tea party march

Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 5, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post national political reporter Paul Kane was online Thursday, Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest political news.

The transcript follows


Paul Kane: Good morning everyone. There's news everywhere, another Tea Party march, continued fallout on both sides of the aisle from Tuesday's elections and a health-care vote coming this weekend. On a personal note, losing stinks. Losing hurts more than winning feels good. Sure, us Philly fans got a World Series win last year. But losing to the Yanks -- ouch.

OK, on to the questions. -- pk


Anonymous: Paul, it's now been about 40 hours since the most definitive victory for conservatism ever, yet according to my sources, Obama is still President, the Senate still has 60 Democrats, and the House gained a Democrat.

I guess you have to live in the beltway or work for a cable network to truly understand election results. Is that it?

Paul Kane: This is a classic reaction from someone who wants to just avoid reality. Democrats got their butts kicked on Tuesday night. It's that simple. This doesn't mean they're definitely going to suffer huge losses next November, but it's something that Rahm, Ax, Plouffe, Anita and all those Obama guys are studying deeply right now. They want to figure out the electorate's mood. They need to, because no matter how popular Obama remains to be -- 57% approve of his performance in Jersey -- he's not on the ballot in 2010. So, you need to wake up and deal with reality.


St. Paul: Hi Paul -- Thanks for taking questions today. As a Democrat and Obama supporter, I'm not so much concerned about the election results. But health care is another story -- I'm sensing that, true to form, the Dems are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and then they really will be in trouble. What do you think? Why oh why can't they get this thing done?

Paul Kane: Whoa, slow down St. Paul. The House has a vote scheduled, they've got a bill, it's probably gonna be on Saturday. Take a deep breath. The sky hasn't fallen, not on health care. It's actually moving pretty steadily ahead.

Also, everyone on Capitol Hill, among Dems, has one clear takeaway from the Tuesday election results: They have to get health care done. They've invested so much time and energy in this legislation, they believe they need to give it to you progressive types as proof they can deliver.

If I were a progressive activist, I'd be far more concerned about the fate of climate change legislation.


Indianapolis: Paul, we Phillies fans are hurting today, but we will be back to pick up our trophy next year.

I have a question about all this talk swirling around the elections this week. Were they indicators of ANYTHING? Or has our politics become so juvenile that we need to puff these things up? I weep for this country most of the time.

Paul Kane: Thanks for the well wishes, Indy. Man, the Eags have the Cowboys this weekend, and I find myself not even caring. Again, losing stinks.

I think there are 2 key things you can divine from Jersey and Va races: the base isn't happy, not jazzed up and has real reluctance turning out for Democrats not named Obama, probably because the base increasingly views other Democrats as impediments to Obama's agenda.

Secondly, independent voters are scared. They really want the economy fixed. They want jobs. And, as Jay Rockefeller noted in the Shear-Kane story today, there's some real questions as to whether this agenda is addressing those anxieties felt by voters over the economy.


Harrisburg, Pa.: I believe a key lesson Democrats should learn is they need to motivate their base. Their base is becoming the Millennial voters, who voted 2 to 1 Democratic in 2008 while composing 20% of the electorate who stayed away in large numbers, composing only about 10% of the electorate in 2009, and the majority of Millennials who showed up voted Republican. Democrats and Republicans would do best to keep an eye on how this group thinks.

Paul Kane: This is a key focus for some Democrats right now. Indeed.


Alexandria, Va.: Were the results in VA & NJ more a reflection of issues/campaigns in those states or something broader? (The upstate NY congressional race could also be the same.)

Paul Kane: Let me use this moment to take note of something that's not so obvious: Jon Corzine NEVER should have left the Senate, he should not have run for governor.

He's not a backslapping pol who's come up through the Jersey political machine, so that machine really only wanted him to pay his way to the governor's mansion -- awesome name: Drumthwacket. (Fix loves when I mention that name!)

They never really liked Corzine, they just wanted him to be governor and then wanted him to let them continue to run their quasi-legal racketeering operations. It was a terrible fit for a man who, in his farewell to the Senate address in 2005, declared that there was one issue that was his driving passion ... the genocide in DARFUR!

Um, Jon, there's not a lot you can do about Darfur from Trenton. I don't know that I understand what the word erudite means, but that's how Corzine came off to Jersey voters.


CBO vs Republicans: So, how about that CBO scoring of the the Republican health care "reform" bill? Doesn't seem so hot, huh? Thoughts?

Paul Kane: The CBO has become this crazy, all important body that people live and die over. It's crazy.


Wokingham UK: If losing hurts us human beings more than winning pleases us should we abolish elections because they must always create an overplus of anger and alienation leading eventually to social horrors?

Paul Kane: Ah, the British wit. Good point.

But I do think there are certain moments when winning's pleasures are sooooo big, that it trumps the the hurt of losing. I think that's what Obama's election was for a lot of people, particularly elderly African-Americans who grew up in Jim Crow world and young people who invested so much energy into the race.

That victory was kinda transformative. The problem is, the joy of that victory has now run into the reality of governing, a really ugly process.


Vienna, Va.: Do you really think these two losses amount to "getting one's butt kicked"? Then how do you describe Magovern's loss?

Word's have meaning, and there are different degrees of losing. The NYG's got their butts kicked (two weeks in a row). Less so for the Dems.

Paul Kane: Deeds lost by 19 points. The previous 5 big statewide races -- '01/'05 gov's races, '02 Senate, '06 Senate, 08 Senate -- Democrats had won 4 of the 5. Obama won comfortably in Virginia in '08. Warner won the Senate race in a walk.

In Jersey, Corzine got the lowest percentage of the vote for any statewide Democratic candidate in Jersey since 1985, I believe.

Yeah, it was a stomping akin to what the Eagles did to the Giants last Sunday in that 40-17 win.


re: Republican health care bill: What are you hearing from Republicans on the CBO scoring of their health care bill? Seems like their plan..well sucks.

Paul Kane: I'll be honest, I've not followed the GOP alternative much. it's an interesting counter-point, I'm sure, a way for them to say, This is how we'd do it.

But we don't really have much time, in covering the House, to concern ourselves with what the Republicans are doing. They're level of relevance is ... even worse today, since Owens is getting sworn in.

The Dems are up to 258 seats, which I believe is the high water mark for either party's majority since ... wait for it ... 1994.


Boston: Cillizza types faster than you do :-)

Paul Kane: The Fix does everything faster. Sorry, he's ridiculous. We used to sit next to each other at Roll Call and I could hear his fingers tap-tap-tapping away. It was impressive.

He's a Yankees fan, too. Arrrrggggggh.


Washington, DC: One thing that Corzine and Deeds shared was the designation as the most pro-tax candidate in each race. Corzine has raised taxes on NJ residents, and Deeds said he would raise taxes for transportation.

What's important to remember is that tax resistance is weakened when disposable income increases. But average incomes have been falling since 2002 for a bunch of reasons. Because incomes haven't kept pace, people really really don't want to pay more right now.

Paul Kane: Very interesting point. For sure, in Jersey, their tax system is set up to force homeowners to pay a very steep property tax. Growing up across the Delaware River in Pa, I can still recall commercials by Tom Kean or Christie Whitman or Jim McGreevey proclaiming they'd fixed the property tax system.


That victory was kinda transformative. : You mean a lot of people felt good about themselves or had their life-long anguish somewhat relieved.

But transformative? Are we all putting our pants on differently this morning?

Goodness. I thought it was just another day above ground!

Thanks much. Mt. Lebanon, PA

Paul Kane: I was talking about Obama's win last fall, that it was transformative for some people. That's what I meant.

If you were a 90-yr-old African-American who grew up walking to the back of the bus, or not being allowed into certain diners, yes, Obama's win was transformative. It was a moment you'd never thought you'd see, the fulfilling of lifelong dreams that you assumed you'd never see come to fruition.


Washington, DC: Before everyone freaks out about Maine, fyi a gay man was nominated to be US Attorney in Western District of Texas, so there.

Paul Kane: Interesting point.


Sarah Palin: Paul--take heart. The Phillies didn't lose the World Series; they just postponed their victory until next year.

Paul Kane: Hahaha. This made me laugh. Thank you.


Arlington, Va.: Enough politics and baseball! Were you at the Springsteen concert on Monday? Amazing!!

Paul Kane: Nope. I gave up my floor seats and put myself in the hands of the Holy Trinity of Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Ryan Madson. I've got tix for the Friday night, Nov. 20 show in Baltimore, so I'll be all set there to see "Born to Run" in its entirety. Damn, those fans in New York are lucky to get the full length "River" Sunday night.


Poplar Bluff, Mo.: Paul, thanks for the chat. Sorry, about the Phillies. Do you see Tuesday's election results putting the Blue Dogs in a more conservative stance on the health bill vote on Saturday?

Paul Kane: I really don't think Tuesday's elections hurt the chances for health-care legislation. I think, as Gerry Connolly, president of the freshman class noted in my story today, that the mandate to do health care is more than ever.

The party knows it needs accomplishments. And it needs to keep the base engaged.

Where it becomes trickier is on things like climate change -- that's likely to become a line in the sand for Blue Dogs.


Bellingham Wash.: From a non-Philly fan who mourns too- If this election had signaled movement toward conservatism and the tea party agenda I'd have expected the Prop 13- esque anti-tax initiatives in Washington State and elsewhere to have done much better than they did. As it was they got spanked. I don't want to poo-poo the results but it might be time to catch our breath a bit regarding talk of realignment...

Paul Kane: I'm not talking about realignment. Some folks may be. But I'm not.

What I'm saying is, you have to realize that these elections gave some real warning about where people stand. This is the reality: Independent voters went away from Democrats in huge numbers. Ignore that trend at your own peril.

I repeat something from earlier: Obama is not on the ticket next fall, so there is a chance that he remains somewhat popular and Dems still lose 15 House seats and a few Senate seats.


Tampa, Fla.: Two questions:

(1) Should Charlie Crist be worried about Rubio?

(2) What happens in the 2010 midterms if the the economy starts turning around, especially on the jobs front?

Paul Kane: 1 -- Crist IS worried about Rubio, whether we think he is or not. He's trying to do what he can to win that primary.

2 -- The economy probably needs to turn around by Labor Day next September. People need to feel the economy turned around, before they vote that way.


Speaking of the CBO: When are they going to score that Afghan supplemental? Why should scoring be so critical to policies that improve the average American's life, but non-existent for perpetual wastes of money?

Paul Kane: Remember, there is no Afghan supplemental yet. There's no policy in place, and only then can we get to a point of CBO scoring it.


Capitol Hill, DC: Excuse me, but the denial of equal civil rights to a huge group of people hardly equates to one gay man being named a US Attorney in Texas.

Paul Kane: Agree with the point. I think the other questioner was just trying to say, it was a big step back for gay rights, but slowly there is some progress.


Abingdon, Md.: "So, you need to wake up and deal with reality."

Okay, here's MY reality---I'm tired of it, from both sides. It seems any more ALL I ever hear about is how this or that thing will position someone for the next election. Why the h--- can't these guys just govern? I consider myself politically active, concerned and looking for results. I think elections should mean more than just who runs next time, or what can we do to cripple the other side. Elections should matter for something, but instead, we hold up nominees to score points instead of allowing the process to move forward. And I mean this for both sides. At some point elections end and the elected need to do their job--not just look towards the next election. Govern already.

Paul Kane: That tricky little thing called the House of Representatives is up for re-election every 2 years. Those folks are always campaigning. I know it's not pretty, but that's the reality.


New Yawkkkkkk in the houseeee: Question: A-Rod, great player or greatest player ever?

Paul Kane: Greatest centaur ever?


Westlake Village, Calif.: Re: "from someone who wants to just avoid reality"

For the past two weeks all we heard was that The Story Of The Millennium was going to be the glorious triumph of Palin, Bachman and Limbaugh in swaying the G.O.P. base in upper NY 23 to crush our illegitimate Kenyan president. But Wednesday: in the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

Add that to your opening assumption/snark/insult, and consider why readers now hold reporters in contempt.

Paul Kane: Thank you for holding me in contempt. I really don't know what coverage you're talking about, as regards the "Story of the Millennium" you're talking about.

The Wash Post's coverage, as well as most of that from NY Times, Politico, WSJ, focused on how Palinism was dragging down the Republicans and was going to cost them a House seat that should remain fairly easily in GOP hands.

And that's what happened.

Not sure what was written or said out in the blogosphere on that race, but the MSM actually covered that race in perfect fashion.

So there!


Fairfax County, Va.: As a long-time Democrat volunteer who really stepped it up last year for Obama (a former phonebanker, I now know how to canvass and I even like it), can I just say that, as losing campaigns go, this was actually a whole lot better than spending Election Day volunteering for Gore and Robb, truly a low point to end all low points.

You may recall that Senator Robb, a wonderful guy, told the Washington Post a week before (note the word before) the election all about what his plans were in case he lost, and how it might really be kind of nice. Then I spent the day as a helper at the field office (never, never do this on Election Day for a losing campaign) surrounded by local leaders dissecting what awful people had run the local Gore/Robb campaign and how if they had only listened to these particular people... Then I went to the Robb 'victory party' at McLean (another rookie mistake) and he had already lost before I got there. But we were all giving gleeful interviews to the media about how wonderful it was that the TV news had just called Florida for Al Gore, so he would be the next president!

So yes, Election Day 2009 was not so fun, but I spent the day going door to door in the sun, congratulating the people I found at home who had already voted, telling the others the polls were open until 7, and trying to leave a good impression for another election. Beats 2000 by a country mile. Thank you David Plouffe for my new take on volunteering.

Paul Kane: Any shout-out for Plouffe is going to get my attention.

For what it's worth, Chris Christie's win was another big victory for the University of Delaware's poli-sci department, now the most important poli-sci program in America.

Its veterans include: Biden, Plouffe, Steve Schmidt (McCain's campaign chief), Christie, Kane.

Go Fightin' Blue Hens!


Rockville, Md.: What are the chances Rob Simmons will get the Senate nomination in Connecticut? Will someone else buy it?

Paul Kane: Simmons is the favorite but he needs to be careful. Foley, the former ambassador, is in the race and Mrs WWF/WWE is trying to buy the race, yes.

But Simmons is the best candidate to challenge Dodd, no question.


NYC: Bruce playing The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle in its entirety at MSG Saturday night. Could there be anything better in this world?

Paul Kane: Could there be anything better?

How about a really late-night vote on health-care legislation in the House?

That's where I'll be when Bruce hits the opening chords of "Rosie".

Man, I'd kill to here "Incident on 57th Street."

For what it's worth, Stevie used to live on West 57th Street, in a 50-story apartment building earlier this decade where my buddy Ross lived.


How Dems can Win: Stop the health care push and focus on the economy. Focusing on health care will fire up the base but independents will abandon them. And they need independents to keep their majorities.

Paul Kane: The quote from Rockefeller that did not make it into the Shear-Kane story was this: "There's no way of getting out of health care."

Everyone, at least almost everyone, believes they have to finish health care.


Princeton, N.J.: But what about CA 10? I guess you will say it was safely D, but the congressman before Tauscher was an R and Arnie carried it in 2008 by 16%. Since NY 23 had an R congressman for 150 years, one could argue that the results in CA 10 were just as important.

But where was the coverage?

Paul Kane: Sorry, we just didn't focus on this one. Probably should have a little bit, but got sucked into the gov's races and NY23.

The reality, however, is that the Rs put very little effort into winning CA10, therefore, we didn't.


Houston, Tex.: it just seems that two governor's races, while giving the Democrats something to chew on, is hardly a bellwether for the mood of the country.

This seems to be the tail wagging the dog; next year, when the inevitable loss of seats for the governing party comes about, we'll here how the Republicans are making a further comeback, once again without perspective.

The "millennial" voters are not "center-right" (my favorite new meme, saying America is "center-right"), and they will have a large say in what the dominant party will be in the next decade. The core Republican values are not those of the millennials, and Democrats will be forsaken by them, too, if they do not govern competently.

Paul Kane: Look -- Virginia was given as much or more attention by Obama, Plouffe, Ax as any state. They pulled it off, good for them. But it's movement away from Dems -- the Virginia independents moving away from Dems -- is significant for that reason.

There are potentially 4 Dem-held seats that will be in play in the Old Dominion next year. Those lawmakers are studying the results.


NYC: So what's your take on Bloomberg eking out a victory over Thompson, a guy he outspent 13:1 (!)? Should Weiner have run instead of Thompson?

Paul Kane: Weiner should have run. He didn't have to give up anything, could have kept his seat and might have won. Voters don't like people who break promises like term limits.


Washington, DC: And the Dems put very little effort into winning NY-23 but stomped all over what should have been an easy GOP seat.

Yet this is still a "warning" for Democrats, and anyone who doesn't think so isn't facing "reality."

Paul Kane: Dems put a ton of effort into winning NY23, not sure what you were reading. Obama appeared at a fundraiser for Owens, Biden campaigned there a couple times. Bill Clinton did, too.


Paul Kane: Alright folks, time to run. Thanks for the questions, as always. I'll see you back here in 2 weeks.



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