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The Fix Live: Why Republicans feel "Blah" about the 2012 GOP field

Mar 16, 2012

None of the top three Republican presidential candidates has created much enthusiasm among GOP voters, according to new poll numbers released by Gallup on Thursday.

The Fix's Chris Cillizza live chatted about why Republicans feel "blah" about the 2012 candidates, and more.The Fix's Chris Cillizza discussed the latest in political news.

Good morning everyone! We are four hours away from the Georgetown game against Belmont and, yes, I am already nervous.

On the political front, we have the Missouri vote this weekend and then Illinois on Tuesday. It's the race that just won't end.

Soundtrack for the chat: "Wrecking Ball" by Bruce Springsteen

Coffee consumed in this chat: One Misto already in the gullet.

Let's do this thing.

Is the Romney campaign (including SuperPAC) still outspending Santorum & Gingrich by the same margins as it was earlier in the race?

Basically, yes. 

I have a theory on this -- where Romney's spending is effective versus where it isn't -- but I am going to save it for a blog post a little later today.

Think retail politics states versus TV states...How's that for a cliffhanger!

That's gotta be a big Romney state, right? Chicago & St. Louis TV are expensive. A little over 1/2 of GOP primary votes should be cast in metro Chicago -- which should vote much like metro Detroit or Cleveland -- strongly for Romney. If anything, Romney should be a little stronger in Chicagoland.

Yes, he absolutely should win there. And, yes the cost of TV is a critical reason why.

But I've already said too much...you won't read the blog post!

If no one gets the 1144 delegates, what do you think Gingrich and Paul do with theirs?

Hold on to them. And then try to recruit some of the unpledged delegates to their side.

Of course, the mosy likely result is that someone like Gingrich or RON PAUL keep their delegates with them for as long as possible in order to increase their leverage over the eventual nominee. The longer it takes Romney to get to 1,144 the more power the Newts and Pauls of the world have within the party.

Fix, could a Republican win the nomination while writing off the far right wing of the Republican party? Romney, for example, isn't getting any of their votes, and just looks absurd (and irritates moderates) by trying to pretend he is one of them. He will end up the nominee (if he does) by virtue of the votes of non-far-right voters. So why not just campaign that way, and be much less damaged for the real election?

I did a little riff on how big a piece of the Republican electorate identifies themselves as moderates: It's about one in three.

The full post is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/how-moderates-deliver-mitt-romney-a-victory/2012/03/15/gIQAZGKpES_blog.html

What Romney HAS to bank on is that conservatives dislike the idea of a second Obama term more than they dislike the idea of a Republican more moderate than they are winning.

Hi Chris, In the never ending search to keep you and Mrs. Fix entertained I found this movie you may not have seen yet. Chak De! India - 2007 Indian movie about the Indian national female field hockey team. Sort of Friday Night Lights from Bollywood.

Have heard good things. Will absolutely check out. Thanks!

I heard the primary was moved to a later date. Do you know when it is and since it is at a later date, will it matter?

Looks like it will be May 29. The problem has been that the congressional district lines have sparked a massive legal and political fight, which has forced the pushing-back of the primary.

Hi Chris, thanks as always for doing these chats. Conventional wisdom (and past Fix columns) suggests that Rubio is the #1 seed for Romney, should he win the nomination. The recent poll showing 70% Latino support for Obama (vs 14% for Romney) would indicate that the GOP does indeed need to do something to reach out to Latino voters, especially given demographic trends. My question is this: would picking Rubio actually address this? Has there been any polling to show whether or not a (some might say blatantly pandering) move to pick a Latino VP would actually counter the Republican policies that Latino voters tend to dislike (harsh views on immigration, anti-Sotomayor comments, etc.)?

GREAT question.

Look, simply putting Rubio on the national ticket doesn't change the basic math of the Hispanic vote. BUT, putting Rubio on the ticket does give Republicans something of a second chance with Latinos to make the case for why the GOP is a better home for them going forward.

Republicans need some sort of foothold into the Hispanic community. Rubio gives them that foothold. What they do with it remains to be seen.

Did you see the video of Kate Middleton playing field hockey with the British Olympic team? Didn't realize she was the captain of her college team (not sure if that means high school in the Brit system). From the video, do you think Princess Katherine could make the CUA varsity?

[Furiously Googling this as we speak...]

I think Santorum will win that state a week from tomorrow. Is that a correct assumption?


A very conservative electorate is expected (it's the South AND it's a caucus) and as Alabama and Mississippi showed us, Santorum is the choice of conservatives.

Does Romney have the edge going into Tuesday or has Santorum seized the momentum?

I think Romney by a hair...

Why were you bullied? How old were you?

Yeah, I have been speaking out a little bit more on this of late.

[I guesthosted Andrea Mitchell's show yesterday and we did a whole segment on bullying. It's here: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/mitchell-reports/46749597/]

For me it started in 9th grade and continued until I transferred to a different school at the end of my 10th grade year. I woke up every morning in those two years with an awful feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I was embarrased. I didn't want to tell my parents.

I want to shine a light on bullying so kids know it's nothing to be ashamed of and that it always gets better.

Is he on track to win any upcoming state?

Not that I can see. You could make the case that he could win Louisiana but that seems far-fetched after he lost in Alabama and Mississippi. One thing Newt HAS won: Our Worst Week in Washington award!

LINK: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/who-had-the-worst-week-in-washington-newt-gingrich/2012/03/15/gIQAHtC4ES_story.html

Santorum is not going to end up with more delegates than Romney heading into the convention. Do you really think the Republicans, the party that values order, winning, and tough luck, is going to pass over the person with the most delegates in favor of someone else just because he (Romney) didn't earn a majority?

Almost certainly not. But, if you were Santorum, wouldn't you make the argument that they might?

I am not sure about this, but I think Louisiana is the last southern state to vote for awhile. If Gingrich doesn't do well there, will he finally call it quits? The South is where he has performed the strongest and he has only won 2 states. After Louisiana, I don't see any other state where he could do well that has a primary coming up.

Agreed. And, as I said above, I don't see how Newt beats Santorum in Lousiana either.

With all the fuss over Congressman Bob Turner entering the race, does anybody anywhere see her getting less than 65% in her re-election campaign?


Hi Chris, Recent post by you described how Romney is "different" from the rest of us. His background, except for the Mormon part, isn't much different than that of George W, but W could pass himself off as just a regular guy. Romney is so bad at the "regular guy" act that it almost seems he would be better off not even trying. Any suggestions for the poor guy?

I think his awkwardness on the campaign trail does accentuate his otherness.

I also think that it's a mistake to underplay Romney's Mormon faith as a distancing factor.  Bush was a protestant.  Protestants are A LOT more common than Mormons in this country.

Jets owner Woody Johnson is betting a lot on Mitt Romney and Marc Sanchez. Which one is less likely to disappoint this fall?

Romney. Anyone who saw the Jets "Hard Knocks" knew that Sanchez was not a big time player.

They've become pretty predictable, haven't they? Santorum dominates among evangelicals, rural voters, and those who call themselves "very conservative." Romney rules among the affluent, the elderly, big-metro-area residents, and more moderate Republicans. Newt matters in the South (particularly among more conservative men), but not elsewhere. Any possibility of a change?

Not really. More than half th country -- 26 states -- have now voted and I think you correctly assess the various constituencies for the candidates.

The one quibble I would have is that there is a possibility that without Gingrich in the race, the dynamic could shift. I am not sure what that shift would look like. But my guess is it would occur.

If I were the Democrats, I'd just tank this Senate race and throw my support behind King. Sure, he'd be a centrist in theory, but King will find little common cause with today's GOP. Snowe's leaving because she's too moderate, and King is well to the left of her. Even if he wanted to caucus with Republicans, they wouldn't have him.

Remember that Angus King has said he would wait to see the lay of the land in 2013 before deciding who to caucus with. That's got to be a bit worrisome for Democrats, no?

At what point do we start believing the entire GOP is secretly in the tank for Obama with all of their war on women bills, ie AZ, TX, PA?

How Machiavellian of you.

Ive seen a number of polls recently that have Obama VS either Santorum or Romney in a close mid 40s match up. Do you think this is an accurate assessment of the race, or is it an inconclusive snap shot?

My guess is that Obama, nationally, may lead Romney by 1-3 points and Santorum by 5-7 points at the moment.

Of course, Obama is riding high while Romney/Santorum are still beating each other up in a primary. So, once the primary clears, assuming Romney is the nominee, my guess is that we are in a total toss up race.

How much do you think the contraception issues throughout the country will hurt the Republican nominee in the general election?

Depends how much they stay in the news. Remember that we are a LONG way from November.

But Republicans are clearly not helping themselves with independent women at the moment...

I grew up in a rural area. I frequently rode in the back of pickup trucks at highway speed and our dogs did as well. I simply do not comprehend how people are criticizing Romney over the dog riding in a protected carrier on top of the car.

Fair point.  It depends, like almost everything, on the perspective you bring to it.

Here's my riff on Romney's dog FYI: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/seamus-the-dog--an-explanation/2012/03/15/gIQAyd2YES_blog.html

The basic, simplistic characterization of the IL race (suburbs v. downstate) just doesn't work. Sure, Romney votes will come from Chicagoland, but he has to fight for those votes more than Santorum has to convince downstaters. Look to the most recent results--the IL suburbs voted in Tea Party candidates. It's not pro-business, country club Republican territory like the East Coast media (sorry, it's true) likes to think. Even the gubernatorial candidate, Bill Brady, was out of the mainstream.

Thanks for the insight.

The Republicans in 2012 seem like the Democrats in 1988... Waiting for the next election.. Who are the potential 2016 Republican candidates that might "re-inspire" the electorate?

Agree that this GOP field feels kind of like the interegnum between the Bush years and the next crop of rising stars.

Stay tuned to the Fix on Monday. We will be unveiling a 2016 feature I think you will like...

Are there any more debates before the end of the Primaries?

Not currently....The March 19 debate in Oregon just got canceled! I am, oddly, disappointed.

Go Lehigh! Beat Duke!

Couldn't agree more. The Patriot League is in the house!!!

Of all the senate races this year, which one do you think its very likely that a winner may not be declared immediately because of the margin between the candidates?

Montana or Virginia.

Both going to be VERY close methinks.

When Santorum made his remarks about English becoming the official language in Puerto Rico, was he seeking favor from the tea party people in the US? Or did he simply want to annoy everyone in Puerto Rico?

Not sure there was that much strategic thought put into it. Especially because he tried to walk it back (he was taken out of context etc) soon after.

That's one major problem for the Santorum campaign: he has a tendency to wander off message.

What's the status of Illinois senator Mark Kirk? How is his recovery going?

Here's the latest: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2012/03/sen_kirk_is_coming_back_rep_sh.html



Isn't it kind of a cheat to say it *always* gets better? For some people, it doesn't really get better.

I think as you get older, you are able to gain more perspective on it which helps ease the pain of it.


Chris, living well is the best revenge. I bet none of those erstwhile bullies landed a wife anywhere near as cool as Mrs. Fix!!!

That is 1000% true!

I'm asking in all seriousness, because even though I disagree with Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul, when I think of them, I have a picture in my head of what they'd try to accomplish with their presidencies. When I think of Romney, all I think of is money, stiffness, and awkwardness. I really don't have a sense of his vision. Is there one that his campaign is trying to sell, aside from that he wants to be president and can beat Obama?

That's his problem.

Like it or not, most successful candidates are able to boil down their message into a bumpersticker.

Obama: Hope and change

Bush: Compassionate conservatism

Romney struggles to do that. In effect, I think his bumpersticker message if "The right experience" as in his time spent in the private sector gives him the right experience to govern the nation at this time of economic uncertainty.

But he's not, to date, sold that message all that well.

Which Senate race do you think has the potential to surprise on election night and end up being much closer than expected a la Kentucky 2004, Virginia 2006, and Pennsylvania 2010?

North Dakota.

First Scott Brown was way ahead in the polls even after Elizabeth Warren announced. Then polls showed them even and some with Elizabeth Warren ahead and those Warren leading polls increased. Then Scott Brown is back to a much slimmer lead this week in one or two polls. It's hard to really say who is slipping up in that election so far.

Agree.  Take all the polls, average them and that's probably pretty close to the truth. My sense is that if the election were held today, Brown would win by 1-2 points. Of course, the election isn't held today.

Springsteen's keynote at SXSW was amazing! The man knows how to work a crowd, even when he isn't singing!

I need to find that on the Google machine.

Who cares if Republicans are blah about Romney? Democrats were even more blah about Bill Clinton in 1992!


I make that point here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/republicans-on-the-2012-gop-field-blah/2012/03/15/gIQAT7CSFS_blog.html

Hi Chris, Is there any accurate polling to indicate who Newt's supporters would vote for if Newt were out of the race? It always seems like Santorum, but I have no real idea.

Not really. I mean, you can argue that whoever Newt supporters say is their second choice would get the lion's share of his support if he dropped out.

But I am not sure that is even the most accurate way to figure out voter intention. The race would re-orient without Newt in it, and it's possible that either Romney or Santorum would be the beneficiary. Until Newt gets out, figuring where his support will go is very difficult to do.

Even as a democrat in this state, I don't see any chance he can win Nelson's Senate seat.

We are working on our latest rankings of the top 10 Senate seats likely to switch parties in the fall.

I don't want to ruin the surprise, but we agree with you.  It's a VERY difficult race even for someone with the track record of Kerrey.

There's a BIG difference between riding in the back of a pickup, where you can duck behind the cab to get out of the wind at highway speeds, and riding ON THE TOP of a vehicle! Will this story have enough legs to last until November?


And, no, I don't think it will dog Romney in the fall.


Are there any Democrats who say -- privately or publicly -- that Obama should not have pursued health care reform?

Yes, lots.

There is a wing of the Democratic strategist world who believe that by spending so much time and political capital on health care, Obama handed Republicans a cudgel to pummel him with.

Chris, Wanted to take a second and say thank you! I try to log-in for as many weekly chats as I can, and I think you are offering a valuable service to your readers.

Thank YOU!

I also grew up with dogs in the back of pick-ups and dogs sleeping outside. Totally different to crate on the station wagon roof for 12-hour drive and the in-door dog is clearly upset and defecating to show it. Just saying if people try to play this as "urban versus rural" thing, won't work. We like dogs in the sticks too!

The Seamus debate heats up....

Assuming Santorum keeps racking up delegates, won't there be pressure from the party base to put him on the ticket as Vice President, and not Rubio? Would Romney assent to that?

Maybe. But I REALLY struggle to see Romney picking Santorum.

...but in my bracket I have Georgetown losing today. Please forgive me.

Wow. Slap in the face. Of course, given that we have won one NCAA tournament game over the past 4 years, it's kind of hard to blame you.

In the words of principal Seymour Skinner: "Prove me wrong kids. Prove me wrong."

The ever-present chace of a "Maccaca Moment" that will

Um...I know all of these words are in English. And yet they make no sense.

That wouldn't happen so much if only he'd just use a TelePrompTer...


How confident is Obama's staff (White House and campaign) about his re-election?

Publicly: Not confident. (Challenging times blah blah)

Privately: Very confident.

It's fascinating.

The ever-present chance of a "Maccaca Moment" in the next 3 months that will instantly destroy Mitt Romney as the GOP Nominee, and he will be there to quickly pick up the pieces.


This isn't some happy hound riding in the back of a pickup truck. He was in a crate strapped to the car roof zooming down the interstate. For hours. That is not a normal way to treat a household pet.

People dimiss the Seamus story as a nothing-burger. And yet, it ALWAYS gets people talking.

Does Mitt Romney at the top of ticket help or hurt Scott Brown? Mitt isn't very popular within the Commonwealth, right?

Probably doesn't Brown. But it doesn't hurt nearly as much as Santorum or Gingrich at the top of the ticket. Neither of those guys would do well AT ALL in Massachusetts.

Do you think Romney is going to ride high gas prices as an issue into November or keep trying to say the recovery is weak or non-existent? I don't think he can do both successfully.

Depends on what the unemployment numbers look like over the next few months, methinks.

Not that you need it, but honestly, you're one of the few media people in DC I'd like to have a beer and watch a game with. Very down-to-earth, Chris, so keep it up and make it a little easier for Fix, Jr.

Thanks! And, I am more of a root beer guy...

Did you see Bo Obama's adorable "photo-bombing" of a Univision reporter? Really, Bo could tip the election in his owner's favor!

The Canine Surprise!

1992 Democrats might not have been that excited about Bill Clinton, but the man had the personality to make them. Romney just doesn't. Look at the personality of the men who have recently defeated a sitting president, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Romney and "I ran a business you never heard of before" message isn't quite in that league.

Fair point. Clinton was incredibly gifted as a candidate. Even Romney's biggest defenders wouldn't say the same of their guy...

What IS the landscape shaping up in terms of house and senate for 2013? I'm a little out of the loop and haven't seen a projection yet. Or is it possible to make one yet?

Tough...still a little early.

I think Republicans have a 50-50 (or slightly better) chance of winning the Senate.

I think Democrats have a 35-40 percent chance of winning the House.

But it's WAY early

With Newt staying in the race, it is quite possible, no one could get the number of delegates needed. If that happens, what is next? Could Convention goers actually forget about all the current candidates and nominate one who is actually logical and could beat Obama?

Sure. But it wouldn't be easy and I don't see it happening.

He's Hispanic, but he's Cuban-Hispanic and now without the "Castro Exiled my Parents" Storyline. Can he really get some of the hispanic voters in AZ, CA or NM on Mitt Romney's Side?

Again, Rubio isn't the solution in and of himself to Republicans Hispanic problems.

But, he can be the start of a conversation that may produce a solution for the party.

The real shaggy dog story of the campaign is why Romney named his dog after a Pink Floyd song. Perhaps that's really why Romney wants the story to die.

HA. I am still trying to directly sync up "Dark Side of the Moon" with the "Wizard of Oz"....

You've already discussed what Romney would be likely to do for Ron Paul in order to get his delegates -- basically, show him respect, but no more. What would he do for Newt? He's not going to put him on the ticket.

Speaking slot at the convention?

What are you impressions on the Romney strategy? It seems like a "pivot" or shakeup is necessary? Or this the same sort of Harvard Narcissism we've seen from the Obama Admin refusing to shake up the Cabinet?

Strategy has been sound. Don't be something he's not. Run as a fiscal conservative who can win.

I think what the Romney campaign has run into is the dog/dog food problem.

No matter how good the marketing campaign is a for a brand of dog food, it doesn't matter if the dog doesn't like it.

That's Romney and conservatives in a nut shell.

Here's my question: do you think people are voting for Santorum as a way of not voting for Romney. I feel like Rick Santorum is the new Sanjaya (from American Idol) - you know - "Vote for the Worst". Please tell me that's true. Any other explanation is so frightening, I may crawl into a hole.

I think Santorum has become the Romney protest candidate. No question. But there are LOTS of people in the party protesting. And yet, the math is the math...

Chris, is there a VP candidate in the winds that would be the type of Game Change that Gov. Palin was in 2008? Someone completely out of the box that just might change the dynamics of the race? I'm thinking, other than Sen. Rubio, a minority or woman, because the only shocking white male pick would be a gay white male and as much as the Log Cabin Republicans would swoon, it ain't happening this cycle.

Rubio I think.

Maybe someone like Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico?

That's all folks! Thanks as always for joining me. I'll see you back here next Friday at 11 am. Until then, be excellent to one another. And, GO HOYAS!

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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