Live Fix: Politics Q&A with Chris Cillizza

Oct 28, 2011

Get your Friday Live Fix as Chris Cillizza discusses all things politics.

Good morning everyone! 

It's been a BIG week in Fix world.  Mrs. Fix's Catholic University field hockey team took down the #1 ranked team in the country on Tuesday night. HUGE.

And, oh yeah, there was plenty of politics too.  Rick Perry on birtherism and debates. Mitt Romney on Ohio collective bargaining and Herman Cain on "Block beign Block".

Let's do it.

(Sidebar: Soundtrack for this chat is "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel. Thank you Spotify!)

Yesterday, I read that Mark Halperin describe "Democrats on Capitol Hill privately display nearly as much disdain for the Administration as their GOP counterparts, complaining about both its incompetence and its ideology." Frankly, I think Mark Halperin is a hack, but are you hearing anything like that? What exactly do Democrats on the Hill suggest the administration do differently?

1. Halperin is far from a hack. He's a REALLY good reporter.

2. Yes, there is tension between Congressional Democrats and President Obama's Administration. Some of that is normal -- the priorities of a White House are always different than that of their party in Congress.

But, the disconnect (or ill will) means that Senate and House Democrats won't even think twice about running away from Obama in 2012. Whether it works is a whole different question.

Any chance Steve Jobs was working on an Apple TV which would automatically block political campaign ads from appearing on my screen? I live in Boston and I am really not looking forward to the deluge of ads hitting our market over the next year with the truckloads of super-pac/outside money which will come into the Warren/Brown race. Can you call Apple for me and give me some hope?

I am the exact opposite. I want ONLY campaign ads. And, yes, I know I have a problem.

Will Americans ever "buy" a flat tax once its regressiveness comes to light? Does Perry's make-it-optional ploy change the calculus? And how is it more efficient if, to make the better choice, taxpayers have to compute their liability under both the legacy system and the flat-tax system anyway?

The flat tax is a winner in a Republican primary. Less so in a general election. But, Perry and his team are almost certainly in the "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" mode about the flat tax.

He needs to find a way to get back into this race and they think the flat tax is bold and big enough to do it.

Which is the best idea: a "Dumb and Dumber" sequel, the return of "Beavis and Butthead", or a third term for George W. Bush?

Return of Beavis and Butthead. I loved that show.

If each state governor has responsibility for employment in each state why is the President held to be responsible for the unemployment rate in the country?

Because that's politics.

It's not fair but a president is the country's most visible politician and, as such, gets credit when things in the country go well and blame when they go poorly. It's just how it is.

Or, to quote my least favorite phrase in our language, it is what it is.

How long to you think his momentum will last? Bachmann's faded and so did Perry. When do you think we will se the drop off for Cain?

I think it is already fading somewhat. Polls tend to be a lagging indicator of actual momentum so let's see whether Cain is able -- you see what I did there? -- in 2 weeks time.

The abortion stuff and his inability to totally explain how 9-9-9 isn't a tax increase for most Americans isn't going to help.

Chris, how can the Perry campaign float this and not think that it sends a message that Perry can't debate? What's their strategy going to be when/if he has to stand opposite President Obama, just smile and tell Obama he's killing America with his policies? How can Perry be credible if he can't even debate in the minors?

The East just keeps getting Bigger all the time. But if you throw in Hawaii, you can add some of the tough Japanese schools (the Far East division?)

(weeping silently)

Dear The Fix, What are the public policy issues that motivates Fix Jr.?

Funding for PBS (he is a big believer in Dinosaur Train and Thomas the Train). Also, the peanut lobby (he is allergic to peanuts).

Saw "BIG news in Fix world." and "Mrs. Fix" and first thought was "preggers"

HA! Not sure Mrs. Fix would approve of that sort of announcement being made in a live chat.

Is he running one of the worst campaigns of all time? Has he done anything right?

His campaign to date hasn't been so good.  But, yes, he has done one thing right: raise a ton of money.

Money won't solve his messaging problems but it does give him the chance to make a comeback.

That comeback has to start right now though.  It's only 67 days until th Iowa caucuses.

And, Perry did win something this week...our "Worst Week in Washington" award!

Your response re Congressional Democrats distancing themselves from the President reminds me of Al Gore's apparent decision to distance himself and his campaign from his predecessor, President Clinton. Seems to me like a wrong-headed interpretation of the tea leaves (or coffee grounds, in your case). What's your take?

I think it's VERY hard to distance yourself from a sitting president who is running for reelection.

That's especially true if you are running for the House where the presidential race will almost certainly overwhelm any sort of message you are trying to put out.

Is Gingrich getting any traction since the last debate either in terms of financial support, popularity in the polls or general buzz among the chattering class?


He raised more in October than he raised in the previous 3 months combined. So, that's something.

And, he is now been in 3rd place in a few national polls. As I wrote earlier this week, though, Gingrich's lack of organization (and still staggering debt) makes it hard to see how he winds up capitalizing on the momentum he has right now.

Here's that piece:

Never surprise a woman who is handy with a field hockey stick.


What do you think Romney's Iowa strategy is? Stay coy until after Thanksgiving, and then scoop up the caucuses at the very end- and thereby snatching up the nomination?

I think there is a genuine internal debate over whether Iowa is a chance for him to close out the race quickly or a trap.

Yes, he's marginally ahead right now in polling in the state but the race really hasn't engaged. If it does and social conservatives line up behind a single candidate -- right now they are split between 4 or 5 -- it's hard to see Romney winning.

But, if social conservative support doesn't harden around a single Romney alternative, he absolutely could win the state. And, an Iowa win followed by a New Hampshire win would almost certainly mean Romney is the nominee.

Tough choice.

I don't get it. Does he believe it or thought,stupidly, it would be a good political attack. Perry seems curiously inept so far in choosing his battles. What are his chances winning Iowa,and does he have to at least come in second or third to continue-- regardless of how much money he has raised?

I think Iowa could still be a win for Perry because the electorate so clearly has yet to mak up its mind about the field.

But, the birther stuff made no sense to me. It led Perry into a messaging cul-de-sac and heightened establishment concerns about whether he's ready for primetime. Neither is a good thing for him.

Completely overblown, not only because of his name ID but because of the demo of his opponents. The whole primary season is about the true conservative alternative to Romney. That plays better in the more evangelical Iowa which is why Romney's opponents camp out there.

What has been the most surprising to you so far in the GOP race? Perry's dismal debated performance, Cain's rise, Bachmann's quick fall, Romney's improvement over 2008...? Isn't some of this based on our expectations? Cain exceeding them, as no one expected much--- Perry's arrival as a savior to the right-- he had no where to go put down. and could someone really make this more than a 2 man race-- say if Santorum won in Iowa?

Cain's rapid rise to me is the most amazing story in a yar filled with amazing stories.

I immediately compared this decision to McCain suspending his campaign in 2008. We saw how well that worked out for him. I know he needs a game-changer, but I can't believe Perry would do that instead of sharpening his debate skills and spending money on ads.

It feels like a too-transparent strategy move.

I just don't see how skipping debates helps Perry. The central problem for his campaign is that people don't know if he's up to the rigors and challenges of facing off with President Obama.

Skipping primary debates -- particularly after performing somewhere short of stellar in the debates you have participated in -- plays into that narrative in a major way.

If you don't like BB's "it is what it is" how about Belichick's other standard "we thought it was in the best interest of the football team" response to any question he doesn't want to answer for Rick Perry "we think the flat tax is in the best interest of the country".

I just want to eradicate "It is what it is" from the lexicon. Maybe I should run for president with that as my only issue. I would get votes.

I think one can be a hack and a good reporter at the same time. Good reporting is that, but if you take your good reporting to make grand statements from it, it's pretty hackery.

Your hackery is my analysis. :)

Chris, what's been your favorite redistricting story so far?

That's an easy one.

The redistricting forced race between California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.

That is going to be an absolute battle royale.

Am I wrong in believing that had Mike Huckabee been a candidate, he would very likely be sitting atop the Republican polls right now? It seems to me like his sunny populism could have coalesced both evangelicals and main street Republicans behind his candidacy.

You are not wrong.

Now, whether Huckabee would have fixed the organizational problems in his 2008 campaign to actually allow him to be the nomine is another question.

what's your take on Obama working around Congress, using Executive Orders, instead of introducng legislation thru Congress... will there be blowback, down the road?

Don't think most people notice how things get done.

Obama just needs ways to say hat he tried to help middle class folks while Republicans stood in the way.

Executive orders are one way to do that.

Have you been surprised at how poorly Huntsman is doing? As a Dem, if a Republican has to win, he would be the least objectionable. did I just answer the question?

Yes you did.

Do you see any pulse in the Huntsman campaign? Any opportunities to bridge the gap between the the "hate Romney" group and the "Perry is too crazy for my money" crowd?

Huntsman still has one thing going for him: he's rich.

That fact means that he can continue to fund his campaign in NH all the way through the primary. And that gives him a puncher's chance of landing a big blow on Romney.

I think it's unlikely. But it's not impossible.

This sounds like a bad plan. Poll after poll after poll shows that the President's ideas are popular, it's just that nobody seems to connect his ideas to him and the Democrats. It'd be better for the Dems to run a united front, lay out their beliefs, and say that if Americans want any of this stuff passed, they should vote D all down the ballot--from President to dog-catcher (do people vote for dog-catcher?). Running away just makes it look even more like Congress is in shambles.

David Axelrod, ladies and gentlemen!

Which senate candidate running in the 2012 cycle has surprised you the most so far?

Josh Mandel (R-Ohio) for his fundraising

Sarah Steelman and Todd Akin (R-MO) for their lack of fundraising.

Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has gotten off to a faster start than I would have thought.

Did he really think playing up an association with Donald Trump would win him points with anybody (besides Donald Trump)?

Yeah, I really don't get it.

You're killing me, Chris.

Well is he?

Just received the FNL full series boxed set. I can't stand Texas: Cowboys, Rangers, Bushes, Astros, Perrys, Spurs, etc. But when Riggins raises a bottle and declares "Texas Forever", I'm there!

Totally agree. I am ordering that box set right now.

Between that and re-watching the Catholic field hockey team beat Salisbury University on Tuesday night I should b good for the next decade or so.

it's not televised and costs hundreds to attend. I get that Newt needs to drive home his debating credentials, but what does Cain get out of it?

He gets attention! (That was easy one.)

Is Rubio still the #1 pick for Veep or has the gloss worn a little thin? Too soon to tell? And since he opposed Sotomoyer for Supreme Court, won't that hurt him with Latinos-- or will the nominee only care if he can bring Florida?

Too soon to tell. As I wrote last week, I think that anytime there is ANY doubts surrounding a potential veep pick it doesn't help.

But, Rubio also has a lot to recommend him: Florida, Hispanic, conservative hero.

So, we shall see.

What's your take on Hillary jumping in?'s not going to happen?

Does that qualify as a "take"?

You'll have to go through Hax, though. No chance.

Man.  She is like the Duke basketball of the chat world.  Just always so good.

Eliminate ALL tautologies, like 'boys will be boys', or 'you gotta do what you gotta do' or 'disappointing Redskin season'.

Yes. Also, saying "tautology" makes me feel smart.

Tautology. Yup.

I thought in 2008 Republican presidential primaries that Mitt Romney was looked at the conservative alternative to John McCain. Now it's just 3 years later and McCain has gone "Build the dang fence" ultra-conservative weirdly enough while Mitt Romney is viewed as too much of a flexible moderate to get above 23% in any national polling of the Republican electorate.

And how does ANYONE not love politics?

but there was no witch... I think that deserved the top ten even though the same dude did DEMOM SHEEP. I have been waiting for Cain to say his smoking ad was a joke, like the electrified fence.


That was the inspiration of Fix Aaron.

If you missed our 10 most bizarre ads, check it out:

It's weird how similar the two are--obviously there's the Obamneycare thing (thanks, T-Paw!), but the willingness to dine with the enemy to get things done is also apparent and frustrating to partisans in both men's parties. It's almost like Romney's biggest draw is that he's politically sort of like Obama without actually being Obama. Is he the Google+ to Obama's Facebook?

Ooh, that is a fascinating comparison.

I do think that the things that make Romney struggle in a primary would make him very formidable if he wound up as the Republican nominee against Obama.

And, Democrats agree. That's why the DNC and Obama campaign team have focused exclusively on hammering Romney of late. Not a word about Perry or Cain. That's telling.

Is it dead as an issue or has the influence of Wall St. reignited the effort?

Dead as an issue.

What's up with the little elf lord, Dennis?

Running against Marcy Kaptur in a member vs member showdown!

What is the deal with that tie (yellow and red at the bottom) Chris Matthews wears seemingly multiple times a week? I must've missed his explanation at some point assuming there was one.

Yellow and red rocks.  No questioning Chris' tie choices!

"David Axelrod, ladies and gentlemen!" Please. I'm like two feet shorter and also a woman. More like Valerie Jarrett, thanks.

Valerie Jarrett ladies and gentlemen!

Aren't the ticket prices for a seat at the Gingrich-Cain debates also pretty expensive too?

$200. But well worth it. Or not.

Hey, somebody's gotta pay for Callista's trips to Tiffany's.


Chris, at what point can we understand whether this 25% figure is Romney's ceiling or his floor? Would it be after Iowa or will a poll close to the voting give us the best picture? At what point was Senator Kerry's move evident in relation to the 2004 Democratic Primary?

Kerry didn't start moving in Iowa until a fw weeks before the caucus. I think how Romney does in Iowa will depend heavily on whether (and how seriously) he plays in the state.

If he goes all out and still gets 25% (and doesn't win) then he's got real problems.

Can do no wrong? Is it possible that people like the guy's personality enough that they don't even bother to look at his proposals, such as a national sales tax, abolition of Social Security, etc.? Is he a likely VP candidate for Romney, at least for the entertainment value (and for racial balance against Obama)?

I think the Cain scrutiny over the last 10 days has been pretty heavy and not at all good for him.

And, I don't see him as Romney's vp. But who the heck knows.

...along with the rest of the single digit wannabe's?

No time soon.

Perry has plenty of money to keep running all the way through the early voting states.

Michele Bachmann, given her staffing woes and slowing fundraising, might have trouble staying in unless she can find some momentum in the next month.

Have you watched or are you planning on watching The Ides of March?

The only movie I have watched in the past 6 months is Cars. And I have seen that one, conservatively, 100 times.

So, no. But "Ides of March" does interest me...

Can Tim Pawlenty become the GOP's savior in 2012, coming back from the political dead to win the nomination as John McCain did in 2008? T-Paw's the Republican Party's best candidate timber.

Um, no.

Beloved in his home market, likely to get a rougher reception if he ventures outside it? And does The Fix have a take on Game Seven?

I think Pujols is widely respected -- if not loved -- outside of the St. Louis market. No?

And, I like the Cardinals chances in game 7. HUGE momentum edge going into the game and they are at home....

You think it's dead? You might want to take another look around. I guess you don't know Dylan Ratigan? Cenk Yughur?

I just don't see it happening.  I have been wrong many times before and will be wrong many times in the future.

strategic or silly?

Silly. But it did get him a LOT of free attention, which is typically a good thing in any race.

the race? Pence? Thune? Mark Stanford?

Stanford!  I don't think he had much of a choice.

I think Mitch Daniels has to be kicking himself. If he was in, I think he's the frontrunner right now. Pence could have been the social conservative alternative to Romney and maybe even kept Perry from getting in.

Isn't that redundant?


would it be better just to nominate candidates through bare knuckle boxing? Who would win in this instance? My money's on paul.

Perry is a big dude.  I think he would be #1.  Santorum is scrappy.  Would not give up in a bare-knucled boxing match.

My darkhorse? Gingrich. Tough to bring down.

"I just want to eradicate 'It is what it is' from the lexicon." Can we also do something about "That is a thing?"

Yes.  I am willing to nominate someone running on the elimination of "That is a thing" as my vice president.

Why would anyone pay to hear two men bloviate about how they're going to ruin the country?

People pay to watch UFC...I find that more baffling.

Jeff Mangum played at OWS! I could listen to "In the Aeroplane" all day long. And watch Friday Night Lights. Perhaps not simultaneously. I think Matt Saracen would like that band.

You know who wouldn't like NMH?  Tim Riggins.

Yup, just like the Red Sox in '75. Can't lose.

Well said.

Wouldn't the press eaten his family alive, though?

Not literally. We're bad but cannibalism is a bridge too far.

Quick prediction? Does Bachmann even show let alone place?

At the moment, no.

Some of us can never forgive nor forget that the Texas Rangers were formerly the Washington Senators, who abandoned us in 1971.


Plus, Mrs Fix is a St. Louis native so there is no option for rooting for anyone other than the Cardinals in this household.

Seriously, can a guy whose pizza chain was named "Godfather's" really expect to win the Italian-American vote? Or does Cain think that minority stereotyping is OK (as long as it's not directed at him, presumably )?

Wait...Cain's strategy is to win the Italian American vote?

The Contender is on there so I am happy.

GREAT movie.

And that's all!

Have a wonderful weekend. And make sure to check out our latest rankings of the Republican presidential field here:


In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics and he 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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