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The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: More Democratic retirements, Texas primary results, health-care reform, more politics

Mar 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.

Good morning every one!  Another amazing week in politics. Two Democratic House members retire, a third steps aside from a powerful committee and Gov. David Paterson fights for his political life.

And  then there is the RNC fundraising document. Yeesh.

Let's get to it.

Reading the comments about this story I was struck by the amount of people angered by the statement that both parties do this, appeal to emotions. Perhaps they do, but the reporter offered no proof or source for this, to support the statement that Democrats do it too. Being balanced means offering facts and sources, not just a blind statement, like we used to offer our mothers when caught, with a sibling, doing something wrong. Perhaps a follow up story, with supporting statements... By the way, I've been enjoying your blog very much lately, well balanced and informative, thanks for that.

Fundraising, which is almost always conducted outside the bright light of the media, is a game of extremes.

The truth is that most people who give money to campaigns are base voters who literally loathe the other side.

And so, fundraising appeals tend to be the sort of lowest common denominator stuff that when it happens to go public -- as the RNC document did -- looks decidedly unsavory.

Both sides doing it doesn't make it right though. And, for an RNC already struggling to get back on its feet after a series of self-imposed wounds, the story over the leaked fundraising presentation is not good.

Thanks for the nice comment on the Fix too! I do my best.

CC, I see a theme developing here that this document has bolstered.... GOP touting its big wins on the horizon in Nov... BUT if by some odd chance they don't happen, well, then, it was clearly Michael Steele's fault. Your thoughts?

Interesting point.

Republicans have to walk a fine line in the runup to the midterms. On the one hand, they have to make donors and activists believe that they can win back the majorities in the House and Senate -- to get the most out of them between now and the fall campaign.

On the other, out of control expectations can be a dangerous thing in politics. Just ask Newt Gingrich who days before his party lost seats in 1998 was predicting gains. That missed prediction played a part in his decision to resign days later.

Chris, I've commented in the past that I consider you one of the most fair and objective political writers on the Post's staff, but you've disappointed me this time. You handled the sexual harassment allegations involving Massa, and the relationship to his retirement, very poorly. First, your article did not even mention the nature of the allegations, leading you being scooped by Politico. Then, you seemed to take at face value Massa's assertion that he was retiring for health reasons, not because he was under investigation by the Ethics Committee, after Hoyer strong-armed him into reporting the allegations to the committee. You gave every appearance of being biased in favor of a Democrat by treating the sexual harassment allegations with kid gloves, a treatment that you never give to Republicans under similar clouds. And please don't bother telling me that you don't report rumors. Politico's article was accurate and well-sourced, and the allegations were not, at the time you posted your article, merely rumors. Again, I'm disappointed at the Post's coverage of this incident, and I think it displays a double standard in your treatment of Democrats and Republicans.

Here's the deal. I didn't HAVE reporting of my own that detailed the allegations against Massa. Just didn't have it. And, in journalism, when you don't have it, the best thing to do is acknowledge you don't, cite those who do and try to get it.

That's what we did. In our Massa post, it links to the Politico story -- written by a former colleague of mine and a terrific reporter named John Bresnahan -- and makes clear that there were questions surrounding the reasons for Massa's departure.

To my mind, going beyond that -- if I don't personally have the reporting to justify it -- is dangerous and irresponsible.

Is it possible that pundits are underestimating the positive response to passing HCR? Surely the Dem. base will support it, and those who are wanting government to 'work' may be won over. I'm not sure that many who really oppose the bill would ever have been Dem. supporters.

It's absolutely possible but I dont think it's probable.

I've talked to lots of Democratic consultants who are working in races around the country about this and the general sentiment is even when people are informed about all the good things the bill would do, they are still very skeptical of it simply because they don't want to spend so much money on it.

The rising debt is a major point of concern for a surprising number of Americans and health care plays into the fear that we are growing the debt so large that it will bankrupt future generations.

Independents, also, are critical in this equation and according to the last WaPo poll (and others), a majority of them oppose the bill.

Can that change? Of course. Will it? I would doubt it.

Krauthammer's article today appeared to be dead on. Its why i don't want the bill to pass, even if I like some of the ideas. At what point do some Dems instincts of self preservation kick in and they decide they don't want to go down with the ship that is health care. It sounds like Obama is currently saying, your career is over anyways, so you might as well vote for us.

Remember that Congressional Democrats and President Obama have two different timetables for success.

Congressional Democrats need to have something to point to before November while the President has all the way until mid 2012 for the positive effects of the health care bill to really be felt.

That timing difference is the source of lots of agita on the Hill at the moment. The current thinking seems to be: pass the bill, clear the decks and talk about jobs between now and November.

But, Republicans have something to say about that and they almost certainly won't let health care fade into the background before the fall.

Yes, it was a week ago, but I can't let it go. I'm sorry you had a bad experience at Ray's, but you have to give it another shot. Get the diablo sauce.

I am willing to try.

That said, both Good Stuff and Z Burger have free wifi. Critically important for a reporter-nomad like me.

I'm headed to Texas next week. What one-volume LBJ biography should I bring to read on the plane? (Caro would take up my entire luggage allowance, I fear...)

Good question...chatters do we have suggestions?

Assuming that he wins in November; how likely do you think it is that he will run for president in 2012?


Perry is ambitious and I can only assume that his crushing defeat of Kay Bailey Hutchison this week affirmed in hiw own mind his skills and gifts as a candidate.

That said, he has made a political career out of deriding the federal government and speaking ill of Washington so it would be a somewhat tough pivot for him to all of a sudden run for president.

If he did run, perry would be in the mix -- along with Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin -- as the movement conservative candidate.

"Perhaps they do, but the reporter offered no proof or source for this, to support the statement that Democrats do it too. " How else did they approach President Bush? Of course some things need proof. But the emotional attacks were and are obvious. Both sides are very guilty. Thoughtful analysis with facts to support it is too much work to be very common.


There's such a large difference in polling for the Pennsylvania Senate race. Pat Toomey tends to lead in polls of likely voters, Arlen Specter in polls of registered voters. I guess that hard-core Republicans are chomping at the bit to turn out Specter, but higher turnout helps Democrats. Do you expect to see a major Democratic turnout effort in PA? A post-primary attempt to "define" the not-very-known Toomey?

If you look at the full spectrum of polling data on the PA Senate race, the Quinnipiac poll that came out earlier this week showing Specter leading Toomey looks like an outlier. That doesn't mean it IS an outlier -- it could be the leadign edge of a Specter resurgence -- but it looks like one at the moment.

I think Democrats tend to take this race far too much for granted. Pennsylvania is not in good shape for the party right now -- Tom Corbett (R) is the odds-on favorite to be governor -- and Toomey has performed far better than most people expected to date.

There's no question that Toomey's numbers will sink some once Democrats pick a candidate and begin defining him.

But, if Specter is the nominee, he could well be the exact wrong fit for a year in which outsiders are prized. A longtime Senator who admittedly switched parties in 2009 because he didn't think he could win the Republican primary? Not good.

Stay tuned to the Fix later today for my latest Senate Line to see where PA ranks.

What time slot should I buy?

I think he bought himself a little time when leading African-American leaders decided not to call for his resignation last night.

Will paterson resign ultimately? I think it depends on what else -- if anything -- the New York Times has on him.

The series of  stories the paper has run over the past few weeks has been absolutely devastating.

I hope you've learned the lesson from Justice Roberts "resignation". You have way more power than some random Georgetown prof. You have a huge influence on your army of readers. I already illegally download whatever music you're listening during the chat, but maybe you could use your power to get them to bring back the McRib or reinstall Conan. Power to the poor man's Bill Simmons!!

I loved the McRib. How can that be gone and yet the fillet o fish remains?

Is there any justice in the world?

I think Bill White has a strong chance. I'm less of the "Republican year" school of thought and that 2010 election cycle is an anti-incumbent one. The anti-incumbent feeling helps Republicans since they are have less governorships as well legislative seats at the state and federal level. Rick Perry was lucky in that Kay Bailey Hutchison was about the only person in the state that could make him look like an outsider.

I do think that White has a chance to win although Texas is still a pretty Republican state.

Remember that Perry took only 39 percent of the vote in his re-election win in 2006 (it was a four way race), which is far from awe-inspiring.

That said, perry has proven to be a VERY able politician over the past decade.

Do you really see the charges becoming a major issue beyond his district? If true, Massa harassed an adult member of the staff -- deplorable, but the kind of thing that goes on in every office in America. There doesn't seem to have been any leadership effort to cover this up -- Hoyer said that he heard of this only recently. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is, unless there's something more to come out.

"Unless there's something more to come out."

I agree with you. I also agree with that BIG caveat. Covering politics over the last few years has proven to me not to pre-judge situations like this one. You NEVER know what might come out. I give you Mark Sanford and the Argentine mistress.

Why does everyone think retirements are so bad? Everyone wants to vote out incumbents anyway. This way, Democrats can offer up fresh "outsiders" to voters who are sick of Washington, etc., but still won't trust voting for Republicans.

Interesting point.

I think you overlook the fact that many of these retirements -- particularly on the Democratic side -- are in districts McCain won in 2008.

What that means to me is that the Dem member of Congress had a special connection to the district that led voters to side with the Republican presidential nominee but also vote to re-elect them.

It's tougher for a newcomer running for an open seat -- no matter how good a candidate -- to inspire that sort of trust that overcomes peoples' natural partisanship.

Your wife works for Catholic U and you don't grasp the inedible F'oF? It was designed to keep McD's revenue from falling off a cliff on Fridays...back when people cared about not eating meat on Fridays.


Makes sense. And the Fix family still doesn't eat meat on Fridays. We are traditionalists!

You know, I like the new chat format ok, but there's one thing I miss: the list of all the other live Q&As. Where did it go? It used to be nice and obvious right near the top. You gotta help me out, - this girl's got a *lot* of procrastinating to do.

The list of other chats is to the right of the body of the chat underneath the big ad.

Chris, thanks for the chat. Do you believe that President Obama could draw a primary opponent from the left in 2012? The news this morning reported rumblings from the ACLU about Obama's trustworthiness, i.e. military tribunals.

"Poplar Bluffs" -- home of Tyler Hansborough!

And, no. I have written about this a fair amount. Primarying sitting presidents is almost impossible.  Reagan came close to beating Ford in 1976 and Kennedy ran a real race against Carter but there's just not enough oxygen for a serious primary challenger to a sitting president.

Could someone challenge Obama in the 2012 primary? Sure. But that person ain't going to win.


Do you think Joe Kennedy III will run for Bill Delahunt's seat? I read his interview, and it seems like he was supporting Bill Delahunt, but will he reconsider his decision now that it's an open seat?

I don't, based on my reporting but that obviously could change. JK III ruled out a bid earlier this week -- even before Delahunt retired.

Delahunt's retirement is pretty fresh though so I think the field is in the process of shaking out.

Aren't the Dems paying the price now for reaching out to more conservative candidates, esp those who are committed to pro-life positions? They are the ones who I gather are the major roadblock (at least this week) to wrapping up a health deal. They add to the majority on most of the party's agenda, but may cause this crucial center-piece to collapse. And I doubt they are of a mind-set to accept a compromise on this most sacred of issues. Your thoughts?

I do think that Democrats in the House and Senate are experiencing something I like to call the "big majority" problem.

In both chambers, Democrats have big numbers -- so big, in fact, that there governing coalition is almost too ideologically diverse.

Take a look at the Senate where you have everyone from Sherrod Brown on the left to Ben Nelson/Evan Bayh on the right -- all under the Democratic banner.

That disparity of viewpoints makes getting Democrats united to do just about anything very difficult.

Robert Dallek, more of a historian than Caro, who was trained as a journalist, wrote an excellent one volume biography on Johnson. Doesn't make him as evil as does Caro and doesn't hang a halo, like Caro did, on Coke Stevenson, either.

Yes. Dallek is amazing.

Had to give this suggestion for the TX traveler: If not Caro, go with Goodwin's LBJ and the American Dream. Very interesting read.

Another GREAT one.

You have a pretty good pulse on the goings on in politics. What/who are you reading, scanning and following on a daily basis for info?

There's this political blog on the Washington Post, it's called "The Fix" I think....that rocks.

Your enemies don't necessarily become your friends, but your friends definitely become your enemies. See Arlen Specter & Parker Griffith. Or, a decade ago, Michael Forbes & Greg Laughlin.

VERY difficult.

The problem with switching parties: the party you joined doesn't totally trust you (the whole wolf in sheep's clothing thing) and the party you left despises you and will do anything to beat you.

I think Phil Gramm (of Texas) did it right. When he switched from Democrat to Republican, he resigned and ran in a special election for his old seat.

Good stuff.

If nothing else, Obama's support among black voters would make such a challenge almost impossible. The one possible challenger that would make sense is ex-VP Al Gore. He has near-presidential stature, a following among liberals, and no particular ties to Obama. But I doubt that he would do it. Hillary Clinton is busy at Foggy Bottom.

I just don't see the Goreacle getting back into politics in any way shape or form.

Although it would be awesome as it would give me an excuse to write "Goreacle" all the time.

Is the coverage of Bill Halter, one nugget I've been looking for hasn't been reported anywhere. Is Bill Halter liked and popular within Arkansas? I mean Dick Blumenthal was very popular within Connecticut and that's mentioned with any report of his running for senate, but never see either way about Bill Halter

I don't think he is terribly well known.  He has been largely overshadowed by the popular Gov. Mike Beebe since coming in to office in 2006.

One of the key elements of the primary in fact will be whether Halter gets out and defines himself first or whether Lincoln can define him to voters looking for more information on him.

"The Forgotten Man" will be a much more enlightening read than yet another collection of "LBJ held meetings while he was on the can" stories.

Nice "can" reference.

Mr. Fix, What kind of effect do you think Tea Partiers will have on 2010? Will there be primary challengers? 3rd party candidates? Or will the Tea Partiers and Repubs kiss and make up to unite against the Dems?

Texas is a good example of what the tea party movement is in American politics at the moment.

Debra Medina ran unapologetically as a tea party candidate and took 18 or 19 percent of the vote.

While she was never a serious factor in the race, the fact that one-fifth of Texas primary voters cast a ballot for her is worth noting.

BUT, 18 or 19 percent is a far cry from winning, which should be the ultimate goal of any political movement.

My guess is that tea partiers ultimately throw their lot in with Republicans but not before they help fuel a few serious primary challenges -- KY Senate, FL Senate -- in the process.

With all the free press he gets through this Live Chat, I think Raj Goyle has a real shot in primary challenge to President Obama.

He's got to get elected to Congress first! In Kansas! As a Democrat!

Last time I went down I95 McD's in Richmond and South still served the McRib. The McD's in SC off I85 near the BMW plant serves them.

WHAT?  Holy cow. This is almost as big as when I found out there was a character named "Mr. Cillizza" on the "Vampire Diaries".

Do you see him pulling a Joe Lieberman and running as an Independent? I don't understand why he's running for Senate in the first place. He seems like a natural governor.

Don't want to show too much leg here since I am working on a Fix post on this very topic....

Short answer: I would be surprised but not stunned if Crist decided to run as an independent.

My guess is he wants to wait a bit to see if Rubio's stratospheric numbers drop at all before making a decision.

I had a burger and fries from Five Guys for the first time ever. I can't remember if I heard about it from you or from my brother but it was scrumptious (I stay in good shape so it's not habitual). What one book, article, etc. would you recommend for someone running for Congress albeit not this upcoming cycle?

If you read one book about politics, make it "All the King's Men". If you watch one movie about politics, make it "A Perfect Candidate"

And, yes Five Guys make a mean burger. But, to my mind the ranking still look like this

1. Good Stuff

2. Z Burger

3. Five Guys

4 Elevation

5. Rays'

Slow and Stead may win the Race, but lose the Election. We've got 9 months until the mid-terms. Is there anything the Democrats could do to get some jobs going during the summer and fall?

I think the jobs bill -- from a PR perspective --  will help. But, economists seem to believe there is little chance that we will see a significant decline in the unemployment rate between now and November.

I think the critical thing for Democrats then will not be whether unemployment drops to 5 percent but rather whether the unemployment rate is trending downward.

If it is, Democrats can make a reasonable pitch that the policies they have put in place are turning things around. If not, it could get ugly.

Seriously, I want this Raj Goyle to get elected to just to read how nuts this chat will get if that ever happened.


Yes -- Crist is a much better governor than he would be as a RINO senator. He just started bringing out the long knives against Rubio, so we'll see.

Long knives. Good one.

And, remember that the Florida primary isn't until late August. I think it is a tough climb back for Crist but it's not impossible given that relatively long time frame.

I second the rec for the Dallek book -- very good read. Caro is great too, of course.

Dallek rocks.

Fuddrucker's still makes the best burger, period. Anything else, and I'm still a little hungry.

Unorthodox! i like it. But, I can't see it knocking either Good Stuff or Z Burger from their prominent place in my heart -- and veins.

Why is it so darn hard to find transcripts of your previous chats??

Sorry about that. We're working on a fix. Here's Chris's chat archive. Will try to make a habit of linking to this in the future. You can always find it on his blog in the sidebar.

...thanks for spending the hour with me. Same bat time, same bat channel, er, website next week.

In the meantime, DON'T FORGET that this Monday is our monthly political trivia night aka "Politics and Pints". If you live anywhere near DC, get over to the Capital Lounge on Capitol Hill from 7-9 pm Monday night. It's where the cool kids will be.

See you there!

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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