Post Politics Hour

Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2010; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. takes your questions about the latest political news and previews the week ahead.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.


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


Kent, Ohio: Sarah Palin is using the medium of Facebook and Twitter to retain a real relationship to her core of supporters. But I'm not sure how many converts she's winning, though.

What do you think?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I suspect she is is winning very few converts. I wonder if that matters; as she is not yet running for anything. And I wonder if people's views on her are already fairly set.


Revisiting Healthcare Reform (and the Palin/Grassley Death Panels): A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds public support for President Barack Obama's new health care law has risen to its highest point (45% in favor vs 42% opposed) -- a significant shift in public sentiment. The poll found support increased since May among men (from 36 percent to 46 percent), people in their prime working years (from 35 percent to 49 percent among 30-49 year-olds) and Republicans (from 8 percent to 17 percent).

Are Sarah Palin's and Chuck Grassley's death panels finally kicking in and killing-off the opposition?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't think that's a dramatic shift. Since about November, at least 40% of Americans have opposed, 40% supported and the numbers move a bit after that, but I generally in the 42-46 range for support and oppose. I think the law will be more popular on Election Day than when it passed, but there is an intensity question here; I still think it and other big legislation Democrats have passed will motivate more Republicans than Democrats to vote.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Do you think it's fair and right for the media to treat private citizen Sarah Palin or somebody unknown on her behalf typing a 140-character Tweet on the same level as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel sitting down for an interview by accredited journalist Jake Tapper without pre-screened questions and follows-up are allowed.

Even print is having "Palin v Rahm" stuff and I think that's unfair since the press says "she can get away with it" but never finishes that sentence with "she can get away with it because we in the press let her."

Right Now - Palin versus the GOP on BP

Perry Bacon Jr.: My colleague Alec Macgillis' story is not written as Rahm vs. Palin and gives weight to Rep. Issa, who is a Republican member of Congress. So I disagree with how you say the media is covering this.

That said, Sarah Palin is an influential figure in politics who I think we should cover even if she won't submit to interviews. Like Rush Limbaugh, her views influence those of lots of Republicans around the country, so it's important to track those.


Out of the Mainstream: Sharron Angle. Rand Paul. Joe Barton. Michelle Bachmann. Sarah Palin. I presume that the Dems will try to make these folks the face of today's Republican Party. To the extent that the GOP is trying to nationalize the mid-term election, it seems that strategy may play well into the Democrats' hands. Any polling evidence as yet that this may be so?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not really. Views of the "Republican Party" are not positive, but candidates like Scott Brown and Chris Christie win. I just think Barton, Bachmann, etc. are so unknown. If Sarah Palin comes to endorse a GOP candidate, I think that has an effect of helping them with Republicans but hurting them with swing voters and Democrats. I think Biden and Obama help with Democrats if you are a Democratic candidate. Beyond that, I don't think national figures matter that much.

The GOP tried to run against Pelosi in 2006 and 2008. Didn't work.


Saint Paul, Minn.: Hi Perry -- Thanks for taking questions today. Do the Democrats finally have a shot at gaining the upper hand by painting the Republicans as the party of BP, given the recent statements by Barton, Bachmann, etc? It seems to me that the narrative has shifted a bit from Obama's lackluster speech last week to the "shakedown" brouhaha. What do you think?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I do think any day the narrative is not about Obama' failings is good for Democrat.s But I don't think that narrative will stay on Barton, Bachmann.


San Francisco, Ca. : What with Barton's kiss to BP, Rand Paul and Sharron Angle's omerta-like silence on her own beliefs, can we now say definitively that Tea Party Republicanism has now become the political philosophy that dare not speak it's own positions?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think it will speak in more general terms (smaller government, lower taxes, defending the Constitution) and less in specifics (BP, Social Security private accounts) It will be incumbent in part on the press to really nail down these candidates' views on issue. A reporter in Nevada chased Angle across a parking lot on Thursday to try to get her to answer. We'll try to get a link to it; it's a great video. Great aggressive reporting and it will force her to start answering questions. And the Louisville Courier-Journal had an excellent piece over the weekend laying out Paul's views.


Palin and Facebook: Even more interesting is why does the media treat her every tweet and FB post as newsworthy. She is not speaking to you, she does not want to be interviewed by you, why would you want to give her so much free media? (And of course by "you" I refer to media in general, not Perry Bacon). It seems your fascination and coverage of these nothings will further incentivize all pols to avoid the press for all communications.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't agree. I think people like Palin have always been able to use their fame to not agree to interviews with the traditional press. Rush rarely does interview, but is very influential. I think pols talk to reporters in part because for most pols, that's the only way to get attention. Eric Cantor writes op-eds for (a conservative news site) but he gets more attention when his words appear in the New York Times or Washington Post. So he will talk to us too.

If you recall, the death panels issue got traction in conservative media, even as papers like ours did not cover it very much. it's important for us to track what people Palin say even if it gives them attention without submitting to an interview. And trust me, Palin will not be a nominee or president without doing an interview.


Bristol, R.I.: Charlie Cook said that Democratics are like to loose at least 32 seats come November. What struck me with this number is that even with 32 seats lost, Democrats still would be the majority party in the House. That's kinda wild.

I looked up my own state on Cook Report since we only have two congressional districts. Rhode Island's first congressional district doesn't have an incumbent running and a 4-way Democratic primary in which somebody (either liberal or moderate Dems) are going to feel hurt afterwards. Plus RNC and NRCC are targeting aggressively since Michael Steele will be here this week and Scott Brown was fundrasing for the only Republican running, state Rep. John Loughlin, last week.

RI's 2nd congressional district has a strong imcumbent both well funded and popular. There isn't any strong Republican opponent and no national attention to turn that seat from blue to red.

Yet on the Cook Report rates RI-01 has 69% likely to turn and RI-02 as 70% likely to turn. The only difference between that is it makes RI-01 lean Dem versus RI-02 as likely Dem. Exactly how do you get 1% difference?

I know, I know, the Cook Report is wonderful, but when I looked at my own state, it's a pretty awful "analysis."

Perry Bacon Jr.: Charlie Cook has been a great predictor of politics in the past, so I will defend his picking without going into the details of these races. Suffice to say 32 seats is still a lot of seats. It would make every vote controversial.


Helena MT: With the failure of MMS to adequately regulate deep well drilling, do you think Obama will have his cabinet look at other areas of regulation and make sure that the industries regulated are not merely going through the motions but actually have in place the mechanisms they state they have? One of the things that has me dumbfounded is how little planning or thought the oil industry gave to the possibility of a catastrophic well blowout in a deep offshore well.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would yes, but it's not clear to the administration can prevent any kind of disaster from a private company in oil or finance or other sectors of the economy. The government just can't do everything.


Boston, Mass.: Hi Perry,

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the health-care bill. What percentage of the people do you think really know what the bill says? I admit I never read it and have no idea what it says or how complicated it is.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think people have a broad sense of what it does. But it has also became a proxy for which party you belong to (i.e. you say you dislike the bill if you are a Republican.)


East Lansing, Mich.: What struck me is that while as the Republicans pols and pundits said Congressman Barton was wrong to apologize to BP, they didn't disagree with his critique of the Obama administration and a lot of them used the "shakedown" language themselves.

I think Republicans are trying to recreate the opposite to the financial rescue of GM, Ford and Chrysler. Autoplant workers were demonized for apparently their super high wages and benefits rather then just viewed as "regular working folk" and it worked for the most part for Republicans.

Expect the fisherman, beach resort owners and other business folks along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico aren't being demonized so advocating that they sue BP for 2 decades as a good thing seems moronic to me. For one thing, who knew Republicans were so in love with trial lawyers?

Maybe they want to portray this as if a person slips on a banana peel outside your Mom & Pop shop in Anytown, USA, and Pres. Obama himself will force you to settle and paid that person off. Somehow, I think/hope the American public understand the concept of "degrees" and BP rig explotion and oil spill are different from person slipping on banana peel and sueing. Good luck to the person sueing over slipping because it's a safe bet Barack Obama isn't going to get involved.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not sure how broadly we can read Barton's comments into the GOP overall, since every party leader has renounced them. Seems to me the important thing is that Republicans are more pro-drilling, pro-oil industry than Democrats, and we perhaps knew that already, but Barton illustrated it.


Washington, D.C.: I'm confused on why the media and politicians refer to gulf oil spill as a "natural disaster." It was an industrial accident, period; end of statement, just like 3 Mile Island, Bhopal and Chernobyl. Nobody refers to those a natural disasters. Yes there is a huge impact on the environment, but if I got caught poring used motor oil in the Chesapeake after changing the oil in my car, no one would call it a natural disaster. I can understand why BP would refer to it as a natural disaster but lets get real.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't read every story about this, but I don't think the oil spill is being covered like a hurricane or an earthquake.


Anonymous : I have heard rumors that Cap and Trade is dead. Is there relevance to this? I view it as an unhealthy bill tthat certain types might try to force on the unsuspecting citizenry. That is why I am asking. Thank you much.

Perry Bacon Jr.: We will find out later this week. Some Democrats are pushing hard to get a cap and trade bill done, others more resistant.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Perry One of your questioners from Rhode Island menetioned Michael Steele's name. Where has he been -- Steele, that is? Another week or so and we would be looking to see his face on milk cartons. Has he been keeping a low profile?

Perry Bacon Jr.: A little bit lower. I think he is trying to dial down his mistakes, focus on running the party, etc. I think you will see fewer RNC headlines the rest of the year.


Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the questions folks.



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