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The Live Fix: Governor and Senate races, Mike Huckabee, Bill White, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Martha Coakley

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 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.

Check out the discussion archive.

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Chris Cillizza: Good morning everyone.

Two notes before we get started:

1. I am trying out the Greenberry's coffee in McLean as the new unofficial Live Fix chat sponsor this morning. On the plus side: locally owned, good pastry, close to Fix abode. On the minus side: no wifi (!) and crowded. We shall see.

2. If you live in DC, the place to be on Monday night is the Capitol Lounge where I will be hosting "Politics and Pints" our first (of what we hope will be many political trivia nights in the run-up to the 2010 election. Teams are first come, first serve so make sure to show up early. Things get started at 7.

With that, let's chat.

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Dallas, Tex.: Which opponent do you think gives Bill White the best chance of winning in Texas -- Perry or KBH? Give me your insight on this ever complicated race, oh Fixated one ...

Chris Cillizza: Let's start with the political news of the day...the mayor of Houston, Bill White, is switching from the Senate race to the governors race.

White gives Democrats a legitimate chance of winning the Texas governorship next year, a prospect that was unimaginable as recently as a few weeks ago.

White's decision to switch is likely do to his belief that Gov. Rick Perry is going to beat Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary next March. Perry's numbers in a general election are far weaker than KBH's and even some Republicans are concerned that a Perry-White general election might be a tougher than expected race.

It's Texas so Republicans still have to be favored but White's candidacy make the governors race a whole lot more interesting.

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Stamford, Conn.: In your post about CT Governor's race you mentioned that the State wants a change after a long Republican rule. In fact we have had a veto-proof Democratic Legislature in both houses with a Republican who tried to keep things in check. So the Republican nomination should be worth more.

Could Gov. Rell actually step down early and make the Lt. Gov. (Fedele) the incumbent?

Chris Cillizza: Staying on the governor's front for a moment...

I think most average voters view whichever party controls the governorship as the party who rules the state. (I don't think most people even know who holds the majority in their state legislatures.)

So, with an unbroken string of Republican governors since the early 1990s, my guess is that Connecticut voters will want to put a Democrat in office in 2010.

And, I never rule anything out in politics but a Rell resignation seems unlikely. Fedele is going to face a real fight for the nomination from former Ambassador Tom Foley who switched from the Senate race yesterday.

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San Diego, CA: Have you ever met either Salahi (or any other D.C. "Housewife")?

Chris Cillizza: Um, no. And this will end the Salahi questions for the Live Fix chat.

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Eugene, Ore.: I just remember this clip from Aug. 22, 2007 where Barack Obama is asked by Jon Stewart which one of the Republican nomination candidates he liked, and the only one he mentions anything positive about is Mike Huckabee (POTUS just might be a soothsayer).

But in case nobody else asks, is the Beltway wisdom correct that Mike Huckabee is finished in national politics after the murder of 4 people in Washington (deep sympathies to all their respective surviving loved ones).

Chris Cillizza: I don't think the recent Seattle murders doom Huck's candidacy but they sure as heck don't help it much either.

The broader issue the clemency of the murderer raises is that Huck's record as governor was never deeply examined by any of his opponents in 2008 because he was not taken seriously as a candidate.

As a result, polls now show Huck as the most popular Republican in the country.

But, if Huck does run again -- and that's not clear -- you can expect his opponents to dig very deeply into his record as governor and, if this Seattle situation is any indication, there is lots to find.

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State College, Pa.: "Chris Cillizza: Um, no. And this will end the Salahi questions for the Live Fix chat."

ThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyou. You are my hero.

washingtonpost.com: Does this count as a Salahi question?

Chris Cillizza: I am grandfathering this one in....

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Sacramento, Calif.: I've noticed that Mitt Romney's last number of television interviews have been on venues that many conservatives would view as being mainstream/liberal media outlets. Is this a deliberate attempt by Romney to display his broad appeal and position himself as the anti-Palin alternative for 2012?

Chris Cillizza: Yes.

I think Romney is doing everything he can to emerge (or solidify himself as) the establishment candidate in the 2012 field.

It's clear to me that if Palin runs in 2012, the race will likely turn into she and one other candidate -- ala Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008.

The "other" candidate in 2012 will almost certainly be the person who the party establishment rallies behind out of a fear that Palin as the nominee could drag down the ticket across the country.

Others who could compete with Romney for the establishment mantle: Tim Pawlenty and John Thune.

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Re: Have you ever met either Salahi (or any other D.C. "Housewife")?: Okay, so have you ever met Tiger Woods or any of his, um, playing partners?

Chris Cillizza: That is a negatory as well.

Tiger and I -- surprisingly enough -- don't run in the same social circles.

The only thing we have in common is our incredibly rugged physiques ;)

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Silver Spring, Md.: And no Tiger Woods questions either! Let's move on!

Chris Cillizza: I took one! He's gonna do one!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hixONU_IJh8

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Salinas, Calif.: No wifi?

Did you get the NSA to task a satellite especially for our chat this morning?

Chris Cillizza: No. Thanks to the largesse of the Washington Post, I have an air card that allows me access to the Internets...

On an unrelated note, a group of 60-something singles (I think) is doing a meet and greet behind me. Good times.

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Washington, DC: Your colleague Michael Shear wrote a pretty devastating column on the inconsistency/hypocrisy of Obama, via Gibbs, invoking executive privilege to prevent Desiree Rogers from testifying to Congress on the security breach at the state dinner. Yes, it's not 9/11, but it showed that a potential assassin COULD have gotten into the White House and harmed either the President or his guest of honor, the Indian PM. Wouldn't it be better for Obama to tell Rogers to show up, express contriteness, and promise that she and her staff will in the future provide all possible help to the Secret Service to prevent this from ever happening again? I would have thought that would be a smarter option than contradicting campaign promises of transparency. Obama is sounding more and more like Bush every day.

washingtonpost.com: Government openness is tested by Salahi case (Post, Dec. 4)

Chris Cillizza: Was I not clear about my "no Salahi questions" mandate?

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Floris, Va.: Let me turn the conventional political pronouncements upside down. If, by November of 2010, the unemployment rate is below eight percent, the situation in Afghanistan is improving, and a health-care reform bill is passed, how many congressional seats will the GOP lose?

Chris Cillizza: GREAT question -- especially with the unemployment rate dropping to 10 percent last month.

Under the scenario you outline, I still think Republicans are likely to pick up House seats next November due to historical patterns that suggest the first midterm election of a president's term usually results in seat losses for his party.

But, if by September 2010 Afghanistan has improved and unemployment is falling, the losses by Democrats will be minimized or, perhaps, nonexistent.

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Rhode Island: "I think most average voters view whichever party controls the governorship as the party who rules the state. (I don't think most people even know who holds the majority in their state legislatures.)"

I have to disagree, Chris. I don't know if it's a New England thing or not, but RI has a Republican governor, and I doubt any one in this state thinks Repubs rule it. Same for Mass. during a string of Repub. governors (Weld, Celucci, Swift, Romney).

Chris Cillizza: In the words of Ron Burgundy: agree to disagree.

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Vernon, Tex.: I vaguely remember you or some other blog (sorry, I do read others) explaining the complicated special election primary process to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison and that it might be a repeat of 1960 when Republican finally won a seat in Democratic dominated Texas after Lyndon Baines Johnson resigned to be sworn-in as VPOTUS since in that election there were a zillion and one Democrats and only one Republican and now in 2010, it will be the reverse. Maybe you might explain it.

Also, I forget the name of the guy who is left in the Democratic field. Is it Jim Stark or is that James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause? Can you tell us more about him and do you see Bill White and other major Democrats endorsing him or will other ambitious Democrats enter the field who that Bill White has left?

Chris Cillizza: Hard for me to resist a question that makes a "Rebel without a cause" reference.

Assuming there is a Senate race -- not a guarantee since Hutchison has yet to resign -- the likely Democratic nominee is John Sharp, former state comptroller, Texas A&M Aggie, and the man who lost to Perry in the 1998 LG race.

My guess is that a special election would draw LOTS of Republican candidates, a phenomenon that likely means Sharp would be guaranteed a spot in the runoff.

Whether it's a repeat of John Tower's stunning victory that you reference I think remains to be seen.

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Washington, D.C.: As much as I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, is Newt's nationwide "Real Jobs Summit" an indication the former Speaker is seriously considering a presidential bid in 2012?

Chris Cillizza: I love getting ahead of myself. In fact, I want the Fix's official motto to be: "Getting ahead of ourselves since 2005."

Yes, Newt is looking at running for president and, yes, he is trying to stake out ground as the "ideas guy" in the primary field.

Will he ultimately pull the trigger? Gingrich's path to the nomination would have to be built on social conservative voters and he not only has LOTS of competition (Palin, Huck, Santorum) for that group of voters but his, um, complicated personal life might not sit all that well with that bloc of voters either.

Still, he is without question one of the brightest political minds in the Republican party and whether he runs or not is worth paying attention to.

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Salina: Chris:

Does Rep. King have a ghost of a chance getting Desiree Rogers to appear before the Republican wing of the House Homeland Security Committee?

Chris Cillizza: This is a backdoor Salahi question! Nice try.

Also, no.

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Minnesnowta: Is snow in Houston a sign that global warming is true or false?

Chris Cillizza: Mr. Vice President, I loved your cameo on "30 Rock".

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San Diego, Calif.: Don't you think that more and more Republicans will support KBH if the Hill-Perry polling continues to show Perry's weakness? Talk about self-fulfilling prophesy.

Chris Cillizza: I do think White's candidacy is good for KBH. She has struggled to articulate why she is running and the prospect that nominating Perry could put the seat in jeopardy next year might well be the best argument she can make to Republican primary voters.

Also, if you haven't read Robert Draper's piece on Perry and KBH, do so immediately.

LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/magazine/06texas-t.html

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Minneapolis: Is 'Santa Monica' by Everclear representative of Santa Monica, or is there a better selection out there?

Chris Cillizza: That song freaking rocks.

The Fix family did not, however, "watch the world die" during our trip to Santa Monica. Nor did I "swim out past the breakers". And, I'm not sure if I am still "living with your host".

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historical patterns: el Fix writes "I still think Republicans are likely to pick up House seats next November due to historical patterns that suggest the first midterm election of a president's term usually results in seat losses for his party."

Seriously? The only variable you're using to analyze next year's race is historical patterns? Doesn't that open you up to ongoing allegations of drive-by-analysis?

Chris Cillizza: "Drive by analysis"!

Great term.

And, no, historical patterns aren't the only thing I am using in my analysis. But when the president's party has lost House seats in EVERY first term, midterm election in the modern era -- with the exception of the 9/11 influenced 2002 midterm -- I think it is a pretty powerful factor to consider.

Other factors that matter: money, candidate quality, the unemployment rate and President Obama's job approval rating.

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Boston: Does Martha win on Tuesday?

Chris Cillizza: Yes. If by Martha, you mean Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of Massachusetts who is running in the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

(If you were talking about Martha Stewart, she wins EVERY DAY.)

Coakley hasn't really been challenged in the Democratic primary that concludes on Tuesday. She started the race with the most money and the best name recognition and has avoided the sort of major mistake that would turn those advantages against her.

Rep. Mike Capuano has run a good campaign -- and appears to be a quality candidate in every respect -- but he's not likely to catch Coakley.

And, if Coakley is the nominee, she is nearly certain to roll over state Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the Jan. 19 special general election and claim the seat.

A remarkably ho-hum race given the (or my) high expectations for it.

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Boston: Hi Chris,

I can tell by your strict adherence to your "no Salahi questions" rule that Mrs. Fix will surely be the designated disciplinarian for little Fix.

Chris Cillizza: Mrs. Fix = bad cop

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Let's rap about Dodd: Until now Dodd's polling and problems were quite similar to those of Conrad burns in 2006 and Ted Stevens in 2008. Like Burns and Stevens Dodd is a long term senator with plenty of clout in a state whose partisan leanings favor him hit by ethics scandals. Also, like Burns and Stevens, Dodd has been about 10 points behind his opponents and is running in a bad year for his party. Stevens and Burns almost won, but Dodd has advantages they didn't. republicans will face a difficult primary, something that didn't happen in either state (while the Morrison-Tester race seemed close, winning with about 65% argues that the primary wasn't that bitter). there's also the Obama Variable. Obama will probably be more popular in Ct than Bush was in Alaska and Montana which may or may not help. the biggest thing though is that Dodd is less likely to say inflammatory things as Stevens or burns. considering this, can he pull off a narrow win, or is it time for Dodd to head home?

Chris Cillizza: Good question and interesting Burns/Stevens comparisons.

I think Dodd is in VERY deep trouble. His numbers seemed to bottom out last spring but a Quinnipiac poll that came out last month showed him slipping back badly.

At the moment, I find it hard to see how he wins as voters in the state seem to have decided they won't be casting a ballot for him next year under almost any circumstances -- a situation not dissimilar to what Jon Corzine experienced in the New Jersey governor's race earlier this year.

My guess is that the White House and leading Senate officials share my opinion since they have seen the same polling data I have.

Perhaps they give Dodd another few months to try and turn things around before making an aggressive push for him to step aside. Or maybe those conversations are already underway....

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Herndon, Va.: Are you taking Tiger questions?

Chris Cillizza: Tigers generally? Sure.

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Anonymous: Rapid fire question

Next Governor of Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee or Patrick Lynch?

Chris Cillizza: What about Frank Caprio?

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Rockville, Md.: I like Newt. But he is not "housebroken" and will never pass up an opportunity to make a mess. I want someone to "calm the waters."

Chris Cillizza: Newt as poorly trained puppy...

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San Diego, Calif.: What if Afghanistan deteriorates and the economy does not improve, who do you think is most likely to mount a left flank attack against Obama in the Democratic primaries?

Chris Cillizza: No one. At least no one serious. Remember that even someone as beloved by the left as Teddy Kennedy couldn't beat an incumbent president -- and one who wasn't well liked by the base -- in a Democratic primary.

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Tai Shan: So the Chinese are demanding return of our beloved Butterstick, the adolescent panda at the National Zoo. Can't we ship them a bunch of Congresspersons instead?

Chris Cillizza: HUGE story. Tai Shan is going back to China. What will they ask for next?

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Fallston, Md.: Sanford--on the way out?

Chris Cillizza: Yes, in 2010 when his term expires...

Seriously though, I have given up on predicting whether Sanford will stay or go. And, in a way, it's irrelevant since he is term limited out in 2010 anyway and his actions in office have made him totally dead on arrival for any future office.

Sidenote: Fallston has GREAT high school field hockey. Why don't you send a few of your best players Catholic University's way?

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Location, location: Is the location, clientele, or the lack of Wi-Fi to blame for the slow replies today?

Chris Cillizza: Slow? I am hammering them out at my usual pace. I talk to no one...I only right...I am like Ivan Drago (sans steroids) when he was training for his fight against Apollo Creed.

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Lawrence, Kan.: Howdy, hope Mrs. Fix and Fix Jr. are well.

As a Kansas Democrat, hope you'll hear me out.

I remember at the start of the year that every major media outlet as well as every small town newspaper editorial wrote in favor of Gov. Sebelius staying in Topeka. If she had passed on the Cabinet offer, Kansans would have totally fell in love with the "Kansas First" loyalty narrative she could have spun.

I didn't understand that move. U.S. Reps. Moran and Tiahrt are destroying each other right now in the Republican primary and it's only going to get nastier so Sebelius would have a much easier time with it and she's more unashamedly progressive then many other Democrats from less red states and she's a close Obama ally since the early primaries.

Her name on the ballot would also help down ticket Democratic candidates, particular for Kansas City Mayor Reardon in the 3rd congressional district and State Sen. Raj Goyle in the 4th congressional district. And also regarding down ballot elections, one thing that gets ignore is the Kansas Secretary of State and 2010 Federal Census and redistricting since Kansas is more gerrymandered states for congressional districts.

Again, I didn't understand that move. After fmr. Sen. Daschle went up in flames, Team Obama really could have picked any health expert to fill out that low-rent slot. About the only thing Sebelius has made any news on is being heckled with Arlen Specter at the first town hall meeting protest that got any press as well as teaching Chuck Todd how to sneeze properly.

Chris Cillizza: Thankfully, this thoughtful questions allows me to get the obligatory "Raj Goyle" reference into the chat.

Whew.

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Santa Monica: I think Art was still living with his/her "ghost."

Chris Cillizza: Is that a drug reference? I never know in music although I feel like you can never go wrong with assuming some obtuse reference has to do with drugs.

Also, what the hell is a "cherry ghost" (for you Wilco fans on the chat)?

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Ham, Staten Island: Why do you keep treating Elaine Marshall like a third rate candidate? She is a four-times elected statewide official, yet until yesterday you refused to even acknowledge her presence in the NC Senate race.

Chris Cillizza: Several people have asked me why I seem to discount Elaine Marshall's chances against Richard Burr in North Carolina.

I don't. But the national party seems to since they spent lots of time recruiting Rep. Bob Etheridge, who turned them down, and attorney Cal Cunningham, who didn't, into the race despite the fact that Marshall was already in and running.

For more on the Marshall candidacy (and its flaws) I would recommend checking out the invaluable Stu Rothenberg's column on the subject: http://www.rollcall.com/issues/55_64/rothenberg/41079-1.html

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Carbondale, Ill.: What did you think of Giannoulias and Hoffman's first round of ads?

The things I do like about Sexy Lexi as politician make him better suited to an executive branch like Governor rather then U.S. Senate. I think I vote Sexy Lexi for Governor before I'd vote for him for U.S. Senate. Do you think I'm off base here?

Congrats on all the success you've have and happy holidays.

Chris Cillizza: Doubling down on "Sexy Lexi". Well done.

And, I continue to think Giannoulias is the favorite for the Democratic nomination but he is going to have to answer for Broadway Bank (his family-owned bank) before all is said and done.

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making an aggressive push for him to step aside. : So who replaces Dodd & will he win?

Chris Cillizza: If Dodd goes -- and that is still an "if" -- Richard Blumenthal, the state's popular attorney general will likely run.

Blumenthal has already announced his intentions to run against Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in 2012 and if a Senate opening popped up sooner, it might be hard to resist.

If Blumenthal ran, he would win.

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Charlottesville, Va.: When I saw Raj Goyle and his wife's name on the guest list for White House State Dinner, I thought of you.

Chris Cillizza: As well you should. Now that I have accomplished the Raj Goyle=Live Fix chat goal, I am moving on to my larger aim: getting Bill Simmons to refer to me as "the homeless man's Bill Simmons" in his column.

Let's go people. We can do this! Yes we can! Yes we can! Si se puede!

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Boston: Trying to get this in early: When does redistricting occur, with the 2010 elections or 2012?

Chris Cillizza: Between them. Redistricting will be done in 2011 -- in time for the 2012 elections. Which will be a doozy. I am already getting excited.

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Fairfax, Va.: Did you make it to the Elvis Perkins show at Rock and Roll Hotel this past week?

Chris Cillizza: NO. So bummed. I was on a plane back from California. If anyone was there, I would love a review. Send it to me at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

"Though I forget your name/I remember your sweet face/on Doomsday"

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Chris Cillizza: That's all folks. But, never fear -- we'll be back next Friday at 11 am to field even more of your questions. Heck, by then, Bill Simmons may have already referred to me as the "homeless man's Bill Simmons".

A boy can dream.....

Have a great weekend.

Chris

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