Newt's chances, Cain's 'reassessment,' a Huntsman surge? -- Politics Q&A with Chris Cillizza

Dec 02, 2011

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

Good morning everyone! Having hammered down a mocha from starbucks, I am ready to chat.

We are all on Cain watch as the candidate heads home to face the music, er, sit down with his wife to talk about the future of his campaign.

Soundtrack for this chat: "Souvenirs" by John Prine. AMAZING.

So Herman Cain says the woman was just a friend he gave money to. What happens if the allegations of an affair are true, and we also have Cain admitting to giving this woman money?

This speaks to my theory about Cain readying an escape hatch from the race. (More here).

In essence, if Cain decided to leave the race -- blaming the media and the grand conspiracy against him -- he is likely to be able to avoid answering some of the more uncomfortable questions about the allegations made by Ginger White.

If he stays in the race though, he's going to have to find a way to explain why his wife didn't know why he was friends with Ginger White, why he was sending money to her that his wife didn't know about and why he was sending her lots and lots of texts.

I am not sure he has an answer(s) for those questions.

Does Mitt really have a chance to win the Republican nomination? It seems the party is intent on choosing anyone but him, even if that candidate is deemed far less electable in a general election. Is Gingrich the one? He seems to have a ton of baggage that is publicly known, but do Republican voters really care about his history?

I think the party is intent on having a serious competition for the nomination.

There's no question that there's a significant segment of the GOP primary electorate who is not sold on Romney. But remember that there was a significant segment of the Democratic electorate not sold on John Kerry in 2004.

But, after Kerry won IA and NH in rapid succession, there was an acknowledgment within the party that he was going to be the nominee and that the time to rally behind him had come.

Romney is banking on that happening again.

Hi Chris, Isn't Newt's rise in the polls mostly due to the fading of the other "not Romney" candidates? Support for Mitt has held fairly constant and his lead was mostly due to dividing up all those that didn't support him over 3 or 4 others rather than just Mitt vs. one not Mitt. Newt just seems to be benefiting from being the last man or woman still standing.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

There are now 32 days before the Iowa caucuses.  So, I think Gingrich will be the last anti-Mitt candidate.

That of course doesn't mean he will win.  I think Romney's financial and organization strength coupled with Newt's long tendency of booming and then busting makes Romney the favorite for the nomination -- still.

Stay tuned for our latest Friday Line on the Republican presidential race later today on the Fix...

Chris, who do you think the Obama campaign most DOESN'T want to run against? Newt, Romney, ???

Look at who the Obama campaign/DNC is attacking.

100% Romney, 0% Newt.

That should answer your question.

Is it?

Over thisaway...

I am nerdy. I am white. I have (kind of) rapped before. (See this.)

But, no, this is not that chat.

How will the new unemployment rate affect the Prez election? I was surprised to see it being below 9%

It's very good news for Obama.  Economic politics are all about the unemployment trend line. And it's going in the right direction for the President at the moment.

When does the story get written about the strife between the Huntsman family/campaign staff/PAC? I guess the real question is does this story come out fully before the New Hampshire primary or just after.

Fix Rachel got at the tension between the Jon 2012 girls (Huntsman's daughters) and the official campaign in a GREAT piece yesterday.

Since Hermain Cain is "reassessing" his campaign, how much longer is he staying in this race?

Who knows?  His campaign -- if you believe polling -- is in deep free fall. I am not sure there is all that much campaign left to reassess. Which leads me to believe he gets out sooner rather than later to save whatever face he has left and preserve his earning power going forward.

How does it feel to be competing this week vs The Nerdy White Rapper?

It's tough.  It's no Hax or DC squirrel but it's tough.

Does Hunstman's performance in last week's debate get over-looked because it was right before Thanksgiving or will the SuperPAC ad buy keep it on the top of minds of voters in NH?

I've not seen much evidence of a Huntsman "surge" in NH. I would assume his numbers will move up a bit thanks to the money his super PAC is spending in the state but it seems to me that the dynamic nationally and in early states in Mitt vs Newt.  Huntsman seems like a third-ish wheel at the moment.

How did The Cillizza survive Thanksgiving this year?

Well! I was in Phoenix riding down a lazy river ride with Fix Jr.  

How surprised were you and other political pundits by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's decision to run for governor of Virginia? What implications will his entry have on the race?

Not surprised at all.

Cuccinelli is ambitious. And, if he took even one poll, he probably found out that he would be a strong favorite over Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in a 2013 primary.

I am already looking forward to the possible matchup in Nov. 2013 between Cooch and Terry "The Macker" McAuliffe.

Just writing it down makes me excited.

Sorry Chris, your chat can't quite compare.

I don't know that this means.

Have there been any polls asking likely GOP voters who they would vote for in the primary should their first choice drop out? I heard about one of Cain voters chosing Gingrich second, but anything broader? I'd like to know how many would go to Romney second.

A Pew poll just before Thanksgiving showed that Cain voters' second choice split evenly between Romney and Newt.

I think the idea that ALL of Cain's supporters immediately go to Newt is wrong. I think Newt gets more than Mitt but it may not be as one-sided as people think.

Who talks like that? About his wife? It makes it sound like they usually just exchange telegrams.

John Adams and Abigail Adams!

What are the most interesting congressional races in the country? Name 5 if you can

Halvorson vs Jesse Jackson Jr in IL

Sherman vs Berman in CA

Allen West vs anyone in Florida

Kinzinger vs Manzullo in IL


Chris, do you think Romney's rough interview with Bret Baier was simply a bad day, or does he have a real problem with the media? I just can't imagine how he would handle the tough scrutiny of being the general election nominee if he couldn't get through an interview with one of Fox's least bombastic or provocative hosts.

I was really surprised by Romney in that interview.

Bret, who I know and like, was totally fair and not at all trying to provoke Romney.

My working assumption -- though I don't know -- is that Romney was having a bad day (tired from travel etc) and probably wasn't in the right frame of mind to do the interview. But, it was probably long scheduled and they didn't want to cancel it.

Romney's relationship with the media is VERY formal. He WILL NOT give any quotes outside of press availabilities and has not done sitdowns with lots of news organizations either.

I don't think his relationship is's just nonexistent. Which is bad for reporters.

on having a serious competition!?!?!? Are you out of your mind? why isn't Gary Johnson on the stage for the debates? He isn't even asked about in polls, yet he's not polling any worse than santorum, and most people don't even know who he is!!!! They don't want serious competition. They want someone they can manipulate. And gary johnson is not one of those people.


In the long run, doesn't the failure of the supercommittee benefit Obama? He can claim this is a do nothing Congress?

Or does it hurt him because he ran on a pledge of making Washington work again and this is just the latest example that its not?

Just playing devil's advocate...

Say for instance that Mitt Romney is the nominee, will conservatives demand that he add to the ticket someone from the Tea Party?


My guess is if Romney is the nominee that Marco Rubio is the 1st,2nd and 3rd choice for vice president.

Ken Cuccinelli announced he is planning to run for governor. The election is still 2 years away- unless I missed something and we're just skipping 2012 entirely- why would he announce so early? Trying to scare off other Republicans? And- who might be early Democratic guesses to run?

Well, Bill Bolling announced in 2009 that he was running for governor in 2013 so I think Cooch is right on time.

And, Terry McAuliffe, the likely Dem nominee, has basically been running since he lost in 2009.

Good news for most of us. Bad news for Romney? Not in terms of a general election, but in terms of the nomination - are GOP voters less likely to settle for The Stormin' Mormon if the economy picks up and they feel they don't need him anymore?

I just like the phrase "The Stormin' Mormon".

Any ideas on what a second Obama Cabinet line-up would look like? I've read that Clinton is leaving, so who would replace her? Looks like CIA, Defense and the Joint Chiefs are in place.

John. Kerry.

He'd very much like that State gig.

POLITICO has begun releasing ebooks, taking advantage of the fact they can be short in length, and cheap to download. Do you think other political news agencies, like WAPO might start a similar venture?

I am writing a book -- "The Gospel According to the Fix" -- that will be out in ebook!

"Writing" obviously being a somewhat loose term since I haven't actually written it yet.

But stay tuned!

A man who helps a friend out with funds, advice and support is great. A married man who does this for a female friend and fails to tell his wife about these actions is not ready for prime time.

My rule of thumb: If I told Mrs. Fix that I had a female friend she didn't know about and who I was sending money to and exchanging text messages with, what would she say?

Answer: She wouldn't say anything. She would just take my stuff and deposit it on the front lawn.

I prefer Mary Ann

I am a Gilligan guy.

Should those dubious about Newt's durability at the top of the polls take into consideration that it's been 17 years since the 1994 GOP revolution. A new generation of voters has come of age since then, with little memory of many of Newt's foibles.


Though if he stays at or near the top of polls, the Romney team will begin a re-education effort asap.

This is where your personal belongings would be left outside your house by Mrs. Fix if you ever "helped" some other women like Cain has.

Good to know that people know Mrs. Fix so well :)

You nod a lot on Hardball. Did you pick this up once you got married or have you always been a nodder?

I have always been a nodder! And, yes, the first thing I thought of when I wrote "nodder" was those cars in "Cars" who push Mack around when he falls asleep driving Lightning McQueen to California.

I saw John Prine with Richard Thompson at Wolf Trap a few months ago. SO declared Prine "too country" and Thompson "too bleak." I loved 'em both!

Prine is AMAZING.

Listen to "6 O'Clock News", "Far From Me" and "Angel from Montgomery" and tell me he isn't one of the top 3 songwriters of his generation.

Chris, I'm a struggling (female) writer. Would Mrs. Fix mind if you gave me some money to help me out?


Well, that's 1:39 minutes of my life that I won't get back. Your wife is a good woman. (All said with love.)

Yeah, that rap was long ago in a universe VERY far away.

But I sometimes watch it and laugh. 

who is responsible for the jobless number that is released? It seems unrealistic and not that positive, when you dig into it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics. They have all kinds of awesome charts here.

why is he playing hooky?

No idea? Afraid of the nerdy white rapper?

Who else could the Democratic Party run? I don't think McAuliffe can ever make himself enough of a household name to win. Insiders know him, not the average jane.

I think Terry is going to be the guy. Can't imagine there would be a sentiment for Creigh Deeds again.

How many wrestling quotes should we expect from it?

One in each chapter. Maybe more.


Who was is that said that Rubio could not be picked because the nation won't elect anyone with a vowel at the end of the candidate's last name? Let's look historically and see how accurate that is, working backwards: Obama.

And, Cillizza. I can only assume I will be elected president by acclamation sometime around 3030.

Who will the President face in the general election?

I still think Romney is the favorite.  Much more in our Friday Presidential Line later today.

Did Jon Huntsman's appearance with Seth Meyers on the "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update segment help him?

Helped him with NY/DC/Amtrak Acela smart set.

Which of course is 0% of the electorate in IA, NH and SC.

Mr. Cain, I've read about John Adams in books, I've seen John Adams on TV and you sir are no John Adams.

Well done.


Hi Chris, You describe Romney's relationship with the press as VERY formal. He WILL NOT give any quotes outside of press availabilities and has not done sitdowns with lots of news organizations either. Will he be able to continue that if he is the eventual GOP nominee?

Probably. I think he will HAVE to sit for more interviews with the press but this won't ever be a replay of McCain 2000 and the Straight Talk Express.

I'm trying to wrap my brain around Newt winning enough in the early states to be the presumed nominee. What does the party do knowing they just handed President Obama reelection and perhaps the house back to the Dems? Do they find a way to broker the convention and draft Jeb or someone/anyone else?

1. I think assuming anything about whether Newt could win a general is a mistaken. Who knows what will happen in an election as unpredictable as this one?

2. If Newt beats Romney in Iowa in 33 days, all bets are off.

Chris, How can someone run a Presidential campaign and not realise that stories about or by these multiple women will eventually come out? It's SO naive! Really, someone in the Cain camp should have been ready with a cover-up, face-saving story. What do you think, psychologically, is behind it? Hubris?


How could John Edwards think he could/should be president (or vice president) given that he had not only had an affair but fathered a child from that liaison?

Politicians are great compartmentalizers. They deal with the problems right in front of them and are able to rationalize away the ones on the back burner.

But when those back burner problems become front burner ones, it's trouble.

But they sang! Haven't you seen 1776 the musical? I prefer all of my history lessons in the Broadway format.

Agree.  I learned everything I need to know about the French Revolution from Les Miserables.

John Prine has the best pro-drug song ("Illegal Smile") and anti-drug song ("Sam Stone") ever.

Sam Stone. BRUTAL.

Underrated: "Sabu visits the Twin Cities alone".

I'd actually put McDonnell a close 2nd to Rubio on his list. Lots of advantages there.

McDonnell DEFINITELY in that convo.

What candidate appeals most to liberal Republicans? I figured it would not hard to get this answered as it should not take the press long to interview both of them.

1. Jon Huntsman

2. Mitt Romney

4,598. Michele Bachmann

Given the fact that delegates aren't winner take all any more, even if Romney does win Iowa and New Hampshire, he won't have a huge delegate lead so why would anyone drop out?

Because the party will rally behind him. Kerry didn't have near enough delegates to win the nomination in 2004 but the party made clear the race was over. Same thing would happen to Romney.

Chris. You said you are "a Gilligan guy". Until I read that I thought you were Gilligan. Is Mitt Thurston Howell IV?

My closest analog in the world of TV is Tim Riggins from "Friday Night Lights". Troubled drifter with a heart of gold.

Not really. (Unfortunately).

I am more a Phil Dunphy, actually.

What will the rate be once Newt puts all those "poor" kids to work? When will Fix Jr be in the Post lobby acting as a greeter to learn "work skills"?

Fix Jr will be too busy training to make the U.S. men's national field hockey team to do much of anything else.

Isnt the Nerdy White Rapper and Chris one in the same?

You would think so.

If Newt does go bust again, will that put a stake in him or will he rise from the grave for the next election cycle?

I think this is the last hurrah for Newt either way. He is no spring chicken -- mid to late 60s -- and I think if he winds up losing this race he will be done.

If he wins this race though, he could be around for four or even eight more years...

The whole mess around Herman Cain makes me shake my head. Why, after Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, etc.etc. does anyone running for President think they can keep skeletons (or mistresses) in the closet. The one advantage Newt Gingrich has is that the shortcomings in his personal life have been out there for all to see for years. You either accept them or you don't, but they're out there.

See my compartmentaliztion riff from earlier.

But, yeah. I am amazed by it too. 

Still a witch?


How that Field Hockey Team doing? When are the playoffs?

Finished the season 17-2. Lost in 2nd round of NCAA tournament.

First time they have ever made NCAAs. Finished season ranked #9 in country. Best season in program history.

Mrs. Fix=John Wooden of field hockey.

Les Miserables was not about the French Revolution, but the June Rebellion in 1832. Which doesn't actually contradict your statement.

New Hampshire was the site of the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

I rest my case.

And this whole time I thought you were Arvid from "Head of the Class" on HGH.

TERRIFIC Arvid reference.

Do you think Newt Gingrich has a chance or is this another Republican "one night stand"?

He absolutely has a chance.  I think he has a slightly less strong chance as compared to Romney but he has a major chance.

I'm dying to know where Michael Ian Black's endorsement of Buddy Roemer for his pro-taco agenda fits into the endorsement hierarchy.

It's going to take hours to calibrate that one.

Have you seen the Indianapolis Super Bowl Shuffle rap?

Is it about drafting Andrew Luck?

And that's it in the entire state of Virginia for Democratic candidates? McAuliffe and Deeds? again? No one else can drum up statewide stature?

Well, we shall see. McAuliffe is the one out there working it at the moment. Doesn't mean other people can't emerge -- obviously.

If Romney can beat Ron Paul in Iowa, and make a good showing against Newt. I think he will still be the favorite as long as NH holds for him.

But would NH hold for him if he lost to Newt in IA?

And I am not sure the "well we beat Ron Paul" spin coming out of Iowa would work for Romney.

Having seen Mrs. Fix demonstrate a shot technique with one of her charges three years ago, I suspect she could neuter a bull blindfolded with a hockey stick (is that what they are called?), so I would worry less about stuff being deposited on the front lawn.

Well said.

Some of us thought you were Screech, from Saved by the Bell

That one really hurts. I always thought of myself as a Principal Belding type.

Thanks to everyone for the questions!

Have a great Friday. And make sure to check out our latest ratings of the Republican presidential field later today!

Be excellent to one another.


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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