The Washington Post

Tea Party Convention, 2010 races, more --

Feb 05, 2010

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.

In the immortal words of the late great St. Louis Cardinals play by play man Jack Buck "Go crazy, folks. Gooooo crazy"

Panic has officially descended on official Washington as the snowstorm of the decade has begun!!!!

I am safely esconsed in the Fix headquarters -- aka my house -- and have a nice campfire mocha from Caribou to keep me warm.

Speaking of warm, the tea party convention gets under way in earnest today in Nashville where it is a downright balmy 41 with light rain.

Lots of questions -- and a new Live Fix format -- so let's make this happen.

Sidenote: soundtrack for Fix chat this am is Phoenix's "wolfgang amadeus phoenix"

Please explain who are, or what is the 'Tea Party'?

Good question -- I just did a segment that will run Monday on the Newshour -- WHAT WHAT!!! -- addressing this very subject.

The honest answer is no one knows exactly who the tea party movement includes or how big it actually is.

The broadest definition is a group of people opposed to what they believe to be the creep of socialism in the Obama Administration due to the takeover of the auto industry, the bank bailout etc.

But, there are LOTS of disparate groups -- some of which disagree with one another -- that are considered part of the movement.

I think this weekend's convention will tell us a lot about whether this is a flash in the pan and a legitimate political movement.

Heya Chris, So I know this may sound far-fetched, but what're the odds that those on the left's base jump ship and start their own (with a very different agenda) Tea Party?

This is based on my understanding that most of the Tea Partiers are disaffected Republicans. Every once in awhile I hop over to Ezra Klein's chat, and boy are those guys mad. But are they mad enough to start their own grassroots movement?

There is definitely a populist sentiment within both parties at the moment that neither side is doing a particularly good job of tapping into.

That said, the tea parties tend to be libertarian by nature -- wanting government to stay out of their lives -- while the populist sentiment on the left is much more targeted at making government work for average Americans.

So, the populism is the same but the goals are VERY different.

And, I am very skeptical of a third party emerging as the structural advantages for the two party system are massive. The only way a third party candidate could be viable in 2012 would be for he/she to have hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure they make the ballot in every state as well as do all the other blocking and tackling -- ads, mail, voter ID etc -- to make them competitive.

The new format is not good. The old one gave people a way to identify themselves ("Detroit, Michigan" or "Fix Fan") and then other people including you could refer to the questioner by that name, even several questions later. Now there is the soulless "topic" field, which seems to be more about sorting through questions tidily than having a personal exchange. Maybe you could add Topic but keep "From" as well, as a way of preserving some humanity? Because, really, the Fix is all about the human touch.

Please feel free to identify yourself any way you wish. This new format is still a work in progress and we appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

The new format is a work in progress for sure...and, thanks for the human touch reference.  I give you this:

Mr. Cillizza, The Post appears to be ignoring this story:

Report: Shelby Blocks All Obama Nominations In The Senate Over AL Earmarks (Talking Points Memo, Feb. 4)

Why is that?

Ezra wrote about this this morning.

I don't think we are ignoring the story at all.  Ezra Klein wrote on this in his blog this as did Ed O'Keefe.....Andrea, Live Fix chat producer, can u link to those pieces?

I see that Senator Shelby has a hold on every single senate nomination, until he gets money for his state. This is ridiculous - why do the senate rules allow this?

Of late, there has been lots of talk about changing the rules of the Senate -- particularly on the filibuster. President Obama has made a point to highlight the fact that Republicans had blocked more legislation in 2009 (and forced cloture votes) than in the 1950s and 1960s combined.

The issue with changing the rules is that both sides know how the political pendulum swings and worry that a rule change that benefits Democrats today could wind up hurting them if and when they lose the majority at some point in the future.

As a result, there is a a real reluctance to change anything....

Speaking of Soulless, you need to fill in YOUR name, Chris... Right now your comments are tagged "undefined writes:" +1 to my vote for adding a second field for location. I love seeing where comments come from (Austin, TX in the house!)

I have NO idea how to fill my name have got to know it's me trademark wit gives it away !

Austin! Home of Bob Schneider.  LOVE him.

A sad end to the "Sexy Lexi" Giannoulias myth

When I saw this headline, made me think of your live chats. I don't how you are suppose to take that.

I am taking it positively of course!

Giannoulias didn't win by a lot on Tuesday but he did win, which, after all, is what election are about.

The general election between Giannoulias and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) is going to be an absolute political bloodbath...nine months of Democrats hammering Kirk as a flip-flopper and Republicans painting Giannoulias as a part of the corrupt Democratic machine in the state.

And, yes, I can't wait.

To the person seeing Chris's comments as undefined. Which browser are you using and which version? Thanks.

Here's Ed's piece on Shelby.

Chris : I like you and I know you want to infuse these chats with personality and all but not be harsh but sometimes you just get it wrong and I'm wondring if instead of all the personality mumbo jumbo you could concentrate on real insight and not send out badly conceived info on stuff like the NJ governor's race ( I think you called that wrong didn't you ? ) and even tho it's history, when McCain was picking a running mate in '08, you hardly had Palin on your radar. So my question is how can I trust your instincts on guys like Arlen Specter when all those mocha lattes seem to clouding your brain ?

Wow. Thanks for coming!

In my defense, I did in fact call NJ right. I said for months that Corzine's inability to break the lows 40s was an ill omen for his chances of winning the race.

As for Palin being the veep pick, guilty as charged. Of course, I don't know ONE person who saw that one coming so if you are holding that against people, you better spread your arms pretty wide.

Also, did I miss a memo making this chat mandatory ;)

Hi Chris. Doesn't most polling show that Dems would be better off passing healthcare, rather than not passing it at this point? Are Republicans going to pull their ads attacking Democratic members of Congress who voted for it the first time if it doesn't get signed into law? (/snark)

Snark acknowledged and appreciated.

The simple fact is that Democrats are currently stuck between Scylla and Charybdis on health care. (STING reference!!!)

Their choices are as follows: 1) walk away from the bill having already voted on it (and, as you note, given Republicans ammunition to attack them) or 2) pass something that poling suggests a majority of the American people either don't want or don't think will change the system in a positive way.

From a political perspective, that is a TERRIBLE choice. Just look at what the health care debate has done to Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. She is now running behind Republicans who no one even knows in her re-election race this fall

The two links to things that the Washington Post have published about Senator Shelby's holds are both blog posts - yes, I realize that newspapers are supposed to be dying and blogs are the way of the future, but neither of those are blogs that I read! Other than you, I don't read any of the WPs political blogs much (I read other websites for that) where is the news story that is printed in the paper?

First of all, you clearly have your priorties right -- reading the Fix first and foremost.

Second, remember that the Shelby story broke later in the day yesterday, meaning that it would have been hard to wedge it into the paper given the deadlines -- and the amount of space the coming snow storm took up.

So, two blog posts on two of the most popular blogs on the site seems to me to be a good amount of coverage for now. My bet is that there will be a story in the newspaper tomorrow although I am currently stockpiling canned goods in my blizzard bunker and won't be going into the office today.

All you have to do is put your "location" in the "Topic" field - I don't think there's any sort of requirement to what you enter there. People used to put all sorts of stuff under "location" in the old format. And FWIW, I see it showing "Chris Cillizza writes" in the answer section. What I've noticed in the new chats is that the hosts don't seem to see when the producer enters a comment (like Andrea's links to Ezra) so it's a little disjointed. But I'm getting used to it! Thanks for at least changing the text to black from grey!

Thanks for pointing that out...I see Andrea's links but wasn't sure if you guys did. Problem solved.

See, we CAN all get along!

Hey, Fix. Now that you have earmarked about $100 of my summer earnings with your political books list, how about we get the ball rolling of a best movies list? I'd like to offer up "The Distinguished Gentleman", Eddie Murphy's 1992 opus. GDK in Arkansas

Best movies is absolutely next. "All the President's men"has to be up there...

Other suggestions?

And, Andrea can you link to my Fix post on the best political fiction and non fiction?

Why is this ridiculous? So the Congress of the United States passes its appropriations which define how the nation defends itself. Two of the ways in which the Congress (who represent the American people) believes the nation can better defend itself is through maintaining a way to refuel milltary aircraft in flight and to study the effects of improvised explosive devices. The joint Congress votes to approve these bills, and the President of the United States signs the bills and makes it law. The congress wrote the law, it is the duty of the President (prescribed in the Constitution) to execute those laws. Here, the President is failing to execute the law... so what recourse to you suggest for a President failing to exercise his duties? There are FAR more aggressive means than by holding nominations to get attention. I think Shelby is only doing his job...

The counter-point!

You forgot to ask him how much it costs to join this chat! Thumbs-up on the new format, but I also vote for adding a location field. Makes it feel more like a national conversation, or in many cases, international.

Nice tea party reference...impressive.

Hey Chris - Have you caught any of the Republican debates for TX Governor? I was shocked, no, SHOCKED at how poorly Hutchison fared. Is this why she hasn't followed through with her stated intention of resigning her seat in the Senate to run, because she's about to get thoroughly trounced? Oh, and FYI, I'm going to see Tim Easton on Monday, playing at the soon-to-be-closing Cactus Cafe in Austin.

I have been surprised how Hutchison has largely allowed Gov. Perry to dictate the terms of the race.  Perry has framed the contest as a choice between a true conservative (him) and someone who talks a big game on conservative principles but doesn't deliver (her).

In a Republican primary -- particularly on in Texas -- being cast as the less conservative candidate is not the way to win.

Hutchison still has roughly a month to change the dynamic of the race -- the primary is March 2 -- but she has to find a way to do it fast or run the risk of coming up short.

On Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak narrowly won the Democratic party caucus' (non-binding) straw polls in Minnesota. There had been some worry that he might not be able to compete statewide, but with this win (by one percentage point over the Speaker of the House), does that make him the favorite in this race?


I am not sure that a win in a non-binding straw poll should be interpreted too deeply. (Of course, the Ames Straw poll in Iowa is just that and every four years we in the media cover it like it is the deciding vote of the presidency. Ah, inconsistency!)

I think Rybak, former Sen. mark Dayton and Matt Entenza are the three favorites for the Democratic nomination. And, any one of them will be favored given the Democratic tilt of the state and the fact that Republicans have a decidedly low profile field.

Who has more to fear from the Tea Party: Republicans or Democrats? How about during either primary or general elections--who then?

In the short term, Republicans.

Tea party backed candidates are running in Senate races in California and Kentucky (among others) and are seeking to unseat the picks of the party establishment.

That said, the Illinois primary this week was instructive about giving the tea parties too much credit/influence. Their preferred Senate candidate -- Patrick Hughes -- finished a distant second behind Mark Kirk and their favored gubernatorial candidate came in 5th.

Your BFF Raj Goyle was in the Wall Street-Journal this week.  Reading the comment section, they are really negative about poor Raj Goyle's wife.


And, is there any comments section in a political blog that is worth reading? Despite my best efforts, the Fix comments section usually devolves into 5 or so people throwing mud at one another while ignoring the actual topic of the post on which they are "commenting".

I think Andrew Sullivan over at the Atlantic might have it right. No comments section unless the post really appeals to a broader range of commenters like my recent one soliciting ideas for the best political books.

Who is the genius behind the demon sheep ad? Does this possibly go against the maxim to any press is good press?

Ah, yes the demon sheep video 

First, if you haven't seen it, you can watch it here.

The man who produced that ad is Fred Davis, a Republican media consultant based out of California. Fred was the lead ad man for John McCain in the general election.

He was also the guy who came up with the "King Roy" web video in the 2002 governor's race that portrayed then Gov. Roy Barnes (D) as an out of control rat king. (Not kidding).

My sense on the demon sheep video is that it's amusing for the people like me who watch politics closely but for the average voters it's a total nothing burger.

Whether you think the ad is funny or just plain weird, it's hard to see it being a voting issue.

Hi Chris: the punditocracy is beginning to speculate that Sen. Patty Murray will have a tough reelection battle out her in WA state. However, still no Republican candidate has emerged. What news have you heard?

Republicans are looking for a candidate.  The two names I hear mentioned the most are Rep. Dave Reichert and 2004/2008 gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi.

Murray has proven to be a solid campaign in her 1998 and 2004 races and she is not among the most vulnerable incumbents. But, in an election cycle where the national playing field looks likely to be heavily tilted toward Republicans, the GOP wants to make sure they have credible challengers against any Democratic incumbent with even a whiff of vulnerability.

The RNC has publicly released its final top 4 options for host city of the 2012 Republican National Convention. It's Houston, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Tampa. If you were a betting man, which city would you put your cash on to be selected?

Come on Phoenix!!! (I have never been there.) Also, I could do some prep work in advance of the convention at the Cactus League...

Chris why don't you organize a Happy Hour where we can rub elbows with you and swap the books? Reduce, reuse recycle!

Come on out for "Politics and Pints" -- the Fix's night of political (and general) trivia -- on Feb. 8 -- at the Capitol Lounge from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

1. Falls Church rocks!

2. Are you not aware of "Politics and Pints" -- the political trivia night I host? The next one is Monday night  -- once we all dig it out of the snow then pig out watching the Superbowl -- at the Capitol Lounge on, well, Capitol Hill from 7-9 pm.  It is going to rock. Come, hang out, and answer trivia questions. Top prize: official fix t-shirts. You know you want one...

Chris, I think you missed option 3 where health care is concerned. Polls overwhelmingly show support for what is actually in the bill: no more losing coverage for preexisting conditions, etc. The problem is the Dems did a terrible job selling it and let the teabaggers define the bill as a government takeover with death panels. It's not too late to get the word out about what is actually in the bill, and that millions will remain without insurance unless it passes.

Don't disagree in theory...but in practice that ain't happening.  Targeted Democrats in the House and Senate are petrified about what health care staying in the news means for them and I just see no way -- from a practical political perspective -- that they will pass the bill and then hope they can sell it to the public.

Chris, you seem to be falling into the same trap as other commentators. When asked about particular parts of the health care bills , the public supports them by a wide margin. In fact, the pubic supports Medicare for All by 2 to 1 (Post ABC Poll, etc.). It is only because of a billiant campaign of lies and misrepresentations that the public doesn't understand what is in the bills, and thus is against them. The Dems need to fight back with many more ads, etc.

See my previous answer...

Can I point The Fix chat readers to some books not on the list? (I missed the initial thread.) Two are by people who made the list, but they arguably have better works than those on the list: The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert - Ward Just's debut short story collection All in the Family - Edwin O'Connor's novel about a Kennedy-esque family Also, two writers who didn't make the list: The Masters & Corridors of Power by C.P. Snow - criminally neglected political novelist Shelley's Heart by Charles McCarry - although best known for his Vietnam/espionage thriller, The Tears of Autumn, this novel about a stolen presidential election is his best

ABSOLUTELY. I have had a ton of suggestions since I posted my list on the Fix earlier this plan is to update the list sometime this weekend....right after I dig a snow tunnel from the Fix house to the street....

"Some 600 tea party leaders arrived Thursday for a three-day National Tea Party Convention..." WaPo. More folks go to my small town High School football games. How is this a movement? Are you folks in any way over-hyping the Tea Party?

I don't think it's fair to judge the number of people who came to the first attempt to organize this disparate group into a movement as evidence of EVERYONE who supports their cause.

After all, I haven't been able to get to many G'town hoops games this year but I am glued to the TV at home for every missed shot. (UNBELIEVABLY bad loss to South Florida this week.)

That said, I think there are real questions about whether the tea party phenomenon is just that or whether it is a long term political movement. It's just too early to know the answer just yet.

You're not apolitical, right? I mean on any hot-botton issue of the day, you've got your own opinions on what you against and agree with it even if you don't state them publicly, right? While you wouldn't publicly endorse a candidate, you still for him or her? So you're not apolitical. I mean you are just private about your politics, right?

No, actually I am sort of apolitical.

I am biased in favor of good candidates, smart TV ads, sharp political operatives and the like.

But, I don't feel strongly about particular issues or parties.

I save my emotion for my outsized support of the Catholic University field hockey team....

Don't forget Robert Altman's and Gary Trudeau's brilliant (and hilarious) "Tanner '88" mini-series starring Michael Murphy, filmed during the '88 prresidential campaign. Salinas, CA

Good call...if you have other politica movie recommendations, send them to me at'll start compiling them this weekend.

Hey Chris, I bet no one won the official Fix t-shirt with the narrow victory pulled off by Pat Quinn last Tuesday. By the way, I like the new format.

Much like the Republican governors primary, I am stil tabulating the results. But, man was that a close (and nasty) race between Quinn and Dan Hynes.

They really know how to do negative politics in Illinois...

I can't help but imagine "Political World" being the Fix's official theme music. Perhaps complete with a dashing Dylan-esque sequin striped suit and troubadour hat?

That would be amazing.

A few years ago we took a vote on the official song for the Fix and OK Go's "The Fix is in" won out...might be time to revisit that debate...

Can we start with Simmons, as you are want to do? 1.) Maybe the best way to secure the "Homeless man's Bill Simmons" nom de guerre, would be to finagle an appearance on his podcast? After all, we all consider you to be legit media personality, so you could make it happen. 2.) Simmons loves the old Herm Edwards, "We can build on this" locker room speech. Can't you just see Axelrod and Rahm giving that talk in the West Wing after these recent Q&A's? The Obama team seems to finally be getting some momentum back, but my real question is this: Is an Obama rebound enough? Suppose he really does take this momentum and get back up to 50-55% in the approval what? Arent Lincoln and Reid and ND and DE gone anyway? Arent 20+ house dems gone anyway, even with a more popular president and a focus on jobs? I hope I am wrong, but we (the Dems) arent 5 pts behind in these races, we are 15, 20, 25 points behind in some.

DUDE.  I would obviously love to be on Simmons' podcast. But, since I haven't even gotten him to refer to me as "the homeless man's Bill Simmons" yet, I feel like I have to take it one step at a time.

To quote Montgomery Burns: "Climb the ladder, Monty."

As for the "We can build on this" moment for the Obama Administration, I think that you are right that even if his approval ratings moves back up to the mid 50s, his party is going to lose seats.

History suggests that the first midterm election of a president's term usually means losses of 15-20 seats in the House and 2-5 seats in the Senate.

As of today, Democratic losses in both chambers look likely to be a bit higher (political handicapper Charlie Cook says 25-35 seats in the House and 5-7 in the Senate) but those numbers would almost certainly drop down to the historical norm if Obama's approval rating rose to anywhere near 55% or higher.

Also, I saved the best for last. This was my favorite question of the chat.

Wither the Sketch Chat?

It shall return on Monday, its new more-or-less permanent home since Dana got a Sunday column. He just did a Thursday one last week because of the SOTU.

Another vote against the new format. It's definitely not "cleaner" -- there's too much going on visually. Sometimes just the basic text is the best approach. The "submit" bar at the top of the screen also makes my screen very small, and the graphics -- including the ads in the middle -- don't help. We can't all afford giant screens! They eye just doesn't go to the text; it's as though that's an afterthought. And is it my imagination, or is the font lighter, too?

Thanks for your comments. Keep 'em comin'! And, no the font is not lighter.

The end of this chat, I mean.

The snowpocalypse is upon us but (I think) we will make it through.  If the world doesn't end before then, I will see you all (and all of your friends who, like Plato's caveman, don't know about the Live Fix chat yet) next Friday. Same time, same place.

Spread the word.


In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza writes "The Fix", a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
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