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Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 5, 2010; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. was online April 5 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the latest political news and to preview the week ahead.

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Perry Bacon Jr.: Good morning. Looking forward to your questions.

Perry

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BOTTOM LINE: Steele will remain RNC chair at least until November: True or False?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would say true, but another bondage-themed nightclub incident would be the end. If he can weather this current storm, he will be fine. Also, he has to hope J.C. Watts and Ken Blackwell don't get together and call for his head. (Two of the more influential African-American Republicans) Steele today said his race increases the spotlight, I would say it's helping him stay on.

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Florissant Valley, Mo.: Hey Perry. Great to see you on the old blowhard Chris Matthews Friday (I think). It looked like you got a word or two in edgewise, which is about par. Anyway, do you think we really have turned the corner, economy-wise? Will it be enough to keep the House from going Republican come November?

Perry Bacon Jr.: We have a story today in the paper noting that unemployment may go up, not down next month. One interesting note, and Charlie Cook from National Journal said this on Hardball as a guest on Friday before I went on, the unemployment rate was going down in 1994 and very low in 2006. Sometimes the voters want change anyway.

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Washington, D.C.: Last week's right-wing extremist news: the raid of the Michigan militia

This week's right-wing extremist news: at least 30 governors receive threatening letters asking that they step down or be "removed."

At what point, if any, does this rise is anti-government, revolutionary talk begin to hurt the GOP?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I really think we should separate miltia activity from the broader Republican Party or conservative movement. Whatever you think of the Tea Party activists, most of them are not behaving like this miltia group. I think if some GOP leader was condoning this behavior in these letters, it would be different.

Also, I don't quite get this critique. If Eric Cantor condemned these letters, would they really stop? Does every conservative person in the country think Cantor/Boehner/McConnell is their leader?

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Saint Paul, Minn.: Hi Perry -- Thanks for taking questions today. What is the president's thinking in trying to take on Limbaugh and Beck? I personally think it's a mistake to even go there -- why give them even more legitimacy? -- but I'd be curious to know your thoughts.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think it's A. logical, rush and beck are very powerful figures in the GOP, Obama is on some level reacting to reality B. it helps rally the Democratic base C. you can create traps where Limbaugh says something crazy, a Republican figure gets asked about it and they can either 1. distance themselves from Rush (you saw this got Steele in trouble last year) 2. agree with Rush, giving the DNC something to attack Republicans with

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Bloomington, Indiana: Why will unemployment rise before November? I thought jobs were going up?

Perry Bacon Jr.: We did a whole story on this today, laying out how the unemployment rate might increase next month, because people who had given up looking for jobs (and therefore are not counted) will be looking again and perhaps not finding work.

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Silver Spring: Lots of candidates calling for big tax cuts (and a balanced budget at the same time, which few seem to see as a tough combination). I haven't heard any say just what sacrifices the voters will have to make to achieve these aims. Just that government will have to tighten its belt, and "waste' will be eliminated. Why don't voters insist on details? Because they don't want to hear bad news, or because they think it can all be done with no pain for them?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Read Rep. Paul Ryan's Roadmap. Some conservatives do admit big tax cuts and balancing the budget also mean big spending cuts. A lot of Republicans don't offer that sort of detail. Why don't voters insist on them? Not sure. I think voters believe there is all kinds of wasteful spending, when in fact most of the spending by the goverment is on Defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs most people don't want to see cut.

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Manhattan, Kan.: Hi, we always hear that the economy is likely to have a large effect on the 2010 mid-term elections. However, I'm wondering what's more important: the increasing number of jobs being created by a steadily growing economy or the unemployment percentage, which might increase because more out-of-workers will not start looking again for jobs as the economy improves?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not sure. Even if the economy is improving by November, it takes a lot of time for that to sink into people's minds and for that to effect voting behavior. the economy was improving by November 1992, but it was too late for President Bush.

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Salinas, CA: "Does every conservative person in the country think Cantor/Boehner/McConnell is their leader?

No, but C/B/McC have seemed perfectly willing to leverage fringe and tea party rage against "The Government" (of which they are part) to GOP advantage in the upcoming midterms and beyond (that is, of course until Cantor received his own threats).

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the Tea Party anger/protests and the specific threats are very different, and one can endorse the former and condemn the latter.

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Baltimore: Re the rise of extremist groups: Heard a good comment the other day as to how technology has changed things since the last heyday of would-be soldier militias. The commenter said that, 20 years ago, an extreme right winger might go to his corner bar to talk up his views, but he could never be certain whether he would find a sympathetic audience or get a punch in the mouth. All these guys now find it much easier to find one another via the Internet. The Hutarees even had their own Facebook and MySpace pages, which sounds like something out of a bad satirical novel (I want to kill policemen -- friend me on Facebook) but is nonetheless true.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the Internet has made it much easier for link-minded people of all beliefs to organize and also encourage one another. I experience this when I go to political rallies; it's as if people have never considered the other side might be sincere in their arguments, as liberals only talk to liberals and conservatives with other conservatives.

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Rockville: "the unemployment rate might increase next month, because people who had given up looking for job"

Perry - LOVE your chats and to listen to you when on MSNBC. However, why does the media sensationalize things like this when you don't even KNOW for sure it that will happen? Why does the media speculate so much and then when it doesn't come to fruition, they say "oh well...." and never come back to say WE WERE WRONG.

Perry Bacon Jr.: The Post did a front-page story on this today; this isn't some judgement i made up randomly. Larry Summers said it on television yesterday.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it fair to say that Friday's jobs report, while not as robust as many economists predicted, is good news for Obama and the Democrats? Taking into account the caveats regarding the census jobs and the East Coast snowstorms, they're still the best job numbers we've seen in three years.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Yes, I do think they are good news politically for Democrats.

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Fairfax, VA: Historians may say that President Obama's leadership in the passage of the health care bill makes him one of the most consequential presidents in American history. There may be one more thing for historians to consider. During his first term in office he will likely make two, perhaps three appointments to the Supreme Court, including a pending replacement for Justice Stevens. During a 2nd term in office he is likely to appoint replacements for additional aging justices, reshaping the Court from its current hard-right tilt to something more like the Warren Court.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I wouldn't necessarily count on a second term yet, but yes, I agree with your general idea.

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Westcliffe, CO: Duke or Butler?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Butler!

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Philadelphia, PA : When do you think Sarah Palin will quit TV? I heard her ratings and reviews were poor. If she can't draw them in on FOX how will she do it on TLC?

Perry Bacon Jr.: When the checks stop clearing?

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Washington, D.C.: From a purely political POV, was Obama's recent annoucement regarding offshore drilling genius or merely brilliant?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Is neither a possibility? Can I say smart but at least politically, not that important?

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Unemployment: So why doesn't your paper report the true unemployment rate? That is unemployed, given up, under employed, folks forced into oblivion.

You might be talking in the 30% here and after all, isn't reality a better measure for understanding what's going on out here.

What's going on?

Perry Bacon Jr.: The U.S. goverment has a way it measures unemployment and we use that in part because it makes comparisons easier between eras. I encourage you to read our piece today that gets into all of this.

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Washington, DC: What's the over/under on Obama's opening pitch at the Nats/Phillies game today.....strike or a bouncer?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would guess a ball but high and outside. He's very fit and been practicing, I don't see a bouncer coming.

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Bridgewater, Mass.: The debt-reduction commission is almost certain to come out with recommendations for cutting costs - maybe raising the age for claiming Social Security? - and doing something about taxes - VAT? At least. So what does the tea party do? Get behind the plan, like good financial conservatives worried about the state of the nation's finances, or rage against changes that will affect them?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I suspect the Tea Party will won't back the plan, whatever comes out of it. It's not clear to me what the Tea Party's views are, beyond less government and more transparency.

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Washington, D.C.: With Obama's recent announcement regarding lifting the ban on some offshore drilling, are we seeing the re-emergence of Clinton-style "triangulation"?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Well, he was for some limited drilling before. I happen to think this is less triangulation than an issue where left and right are not as well-defined as say health care.

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Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the questions folks.

Perry

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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