The Fix Live

Sep 21, 2012

The Fix's Chris Cillizza discussed the latest in political news.

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Good morning everyone.  You are looking live at the Starbucks on the House side of Capitol Hill which is where this chat is coming to you from.

Armed with nothing more than a grande mocha and a pumpkin scone, I am ready for your questions.

Bring it.

Chris -- everyone understands campaign 101, define yourself before your opponent does. Mitt Romney has been running for almost 5 years, but he still has been unable to define himself. Is this simply because of who he is, his campaign team or both? This is eerily similar to Kerry 04 in almost every way.

I think part of Romney's definition issue is that to win the Republican nomination he had to cast himself as something he really isn't: an ideologue.

I think Romney is, by nature, a problem-solving, consensus builder not someone who takes his ball and goes home when people don't agree with his views.

But problem solving, consensus builders don't win presidential primaries -- see Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani and so on and so forth -- so Romney emphasized his more conservative views during the primary (and with success).

As I wrote this morning though, I think now is the time -- in truth it's probably past time -- for Romney to embrace his fundamental nature as a problem solver and, tonally at least, a moderate.

You can read the whole piece here.

How would you rate, 1-10 and awful to outstanding, the summer (6-20 until today) that the Obama and Romney campaigns had?

Obama 8 in terms of campaign strategy and tactics, 3 in terms of overall political environment.

Romney 3 in terms of campaign strategy and 8 in terms of overall political environment.

Once again Obama made a statement that was taken out of context yesterday by the Romney team. The TV media has since repeated the charge over and over even though they admit that it was taken out of context. Good Morning America ran it continuously on their morning ticker. Why do they do this? Don't they realize they are just passing along disinformation. BTW I am sure it has happened to Romney too.

Campaigns are, largely, still conducted through 30 second ads. And that means that by definition things are taken out context.

Doesn't make it right. Just makes it reality.

Hi Chris: Let's say an NFL team with a record of 10 and 2 will be playing a team with a record of 2 and 10: even though the coach of the better team feels that he will win by 20 points, will always say that "anything can happen, etc It seems that pundits even after giving all the reasons why Obama is way ahead in the electoral map and Romeny has no room for error, will always after taking about Obamas leads will always end with something liike "anything can happen". Is that an unwritten rule with you guys and are pundits afraid that is they tell their real feelings no one will tune into or read them anymore for the "horserace"?

Not at all.

Political history has shown that races can be unpredictable so it would be crazy to declare a race over with 46 days until election day.

I think it is fair to say two things:

1. Barack Obama is having the best 2 weeks of the last year (or so) of his campaign

2. Mitt Romney's path to 270 electoral votes is as narrow as it has ever been (although, in truth, it's never been terribly wide.)

Neither of those factors are determinative of the final outcome however. 

Seeing as President Obama is expected to win 90% of the black vote, I was surprised he wasn't more competitive in a state like Mississippi which is 35-40% black. Is the white vote that monolithic in the south?


This is the same reason why Democrats can't win in Texas or Arizona despite the large number of Hispanic voters.

Does the name rhyme with Fitt Hominy?

Let's call him Mitt R.  No, M. Romney.

Lots has been written this week about the Senate and at least the implication that there is something of a pro Democratic wave beginning and Mitt dragging down the prospects of Republican senatorial candidates. If there is a bigger trend going on here how will it manifest itself in House races? What is the likely net outcome in the house right now?

Obama would need to win the national vote by 3 or 4 points (I think) to swing the House to Democrats. Short of that sort of national wave -- and, amazingly, a 3-4 point national win would constitute a wave, I think Republicans hold on to the House.

Our honorable punditry and commentariat have been debating whether this election would be more like 2004 or more like 1980. I'm starting to think 1964. Do you see any chance of a sea-to-shining-sea blowout?

I don't. If Republicans had nominated Santorum or Gingrich or Cain(!), maybe. But Romney is an absolutely credible messenger for the vast majority of people who are Republican or Republican leaning -- and that means a total blowout is VERY unlikely.

What did you think of The Boss last Friday. Loved the fact he played for nearly 3.5 hours

Loved almost all of it. Top of the list was "Prove it all night" and "racing in the streets".

One thing I don't like: That upbeat version of "Johnny 99".

Will there ever be a time where you wear the Ric Flair robe while hosting The Daily Rundown or Andrea Mitchell's show?

[Currently ordering one on the Internet]

I see you got your wish! Racin' must have been awesome. How was the show?

I actually wanted Darkness of thr Edge of Town. But Racing was amazing too.

How significant that many Senate GOP candidates quickly distanced themselves from Mitt Romney's 47% comment?

Scott Brown

Linda McMahon

George Allen

Those are the ones I remember off the top of my (admittedly tired) head.

Does Tim Pawlenty leaving the Romney campaign signify anything?

Nope.  Other than that Tpaw needed to make a little cashola in his life.

Are you surpised that he seems to be making little difference either way. The Democrats seemed to think they would be able to attack him but I have seen no evidence that that has been successful. On the other hand, I can't see any great benefit that he has brought to Romney -- his speech at the convention was widely derided, Romney is still getting killed in Wisconsin, and Ryan doesn't seem to deal with specifics any more than Romney does.

I think he has helped marginally in Wisconsin.

That said, VPs almost never make any real electoral difference so I am not sure why we would think Ryan would have been ny different.

Chris, I know you love The Wire and frequently quote characters like Omar and Frank Sobatka, but have you seen all of the seasons yet? If you haven't seen the later seasons, which deal more with politics, elections, and newspapers, you need to do so NOW. I know there's this whole election thing going on, but find some time. I mean, come ON!

Am currently in the beginning of season 3....don't ruin it for me!

If I missed it, who won the Joe Biden caption contest? I'd really like a signed copy of your book!

We announced the winner earlier this week!


First time able to join you (at least a little bit) from the west coast. Boy it's early.

Way to tough it out.

At what point will the GOP take the money from Romney and concentrate on keeping the House and trying to capture the Senate?

They won't.

The idea that this will be 1996 again is just wrong. The GOP donor and activist base is WAY too invested in beating Obama to walk away from Romney. Can you imagine Democrats walking away from Kerry in 2004?

Does this presidential race remind you more of 2004?

How dare you abandon the latte for a scone! You'll be regretting this when the PSL isn't available.

PSL and a pumpkin scone? That's overkill, is it not?

I agree, I don't think the real Romney is who he tried to be in the primaries. The trouble is, that he now can't be who he actually is because then he risks confiming the believe that he is someone who is untrustworthy and/or insincere. Rock meet hardplate. I really think this sums it up - people don't belive him when he says he supoorts certain positions, because they don't think he really does and he only said so to get the nomination. This leads to the belive among many that he actually stands for nothing, as he can be so easily swayed to say anything he needs to say in order to get the job. The American people do not like a con job or a bait & switch and yes we can recognize both. Ironically, if actually elected and could finally state his actual beliefs I think he could do an OK job as a consensus builder, I just don't know if he is ever going to be honest and real about who he is. Maybe that is the trouble with running for this position for so long, he's put so much into this, it is now about winning and less about why you wanted to run in the first place.

I am not convinced that the "Romney is a flip flopper" attack still has much saliency among the VERY small number of people who still haven't made up their minds about the race. 

Don't know about Mississippi, but in the cases of Texas and Arizona, I think you need to add "for now" in a statement that Dems can't win. 2020, for example, I think will look quite a bit different.

Yup. True.

More and more it seems like Romney needs WI to take the election. Plus, a Baldwin, um, win would give some wiggle room to Dems looking at Senate control, right?

I think Romney needs Ohio. If he doesn't get Ohio, he needs WI and IA or either PA or MI.

I live in the swingingest of states, and deal with business owners and fellow capitalists all day long. No one who previously liked/leaned Romney was put off by that concept, and vice versa. So despite the efforts to paint him as Mr. Burns, Mitt probably hurt himself less than you and yours would have hoped.

Don't get the "you and yours" assertion.  I know this is hard to believe for partisans of both sides but I simply don't have a dog in the fight. I try to cover the news of the day, week and year as it comes --  not through any partisan lens.

As for your other point, I agree that assuming that everyone knows about the 47 percent comments (or cares) could well be a mistake.

I have a lot of syympathy for candidate spouses in generally, but my first reaction when I heard Ann romney's remark about this being hard--- was if you think this is hard, what do you think it will be llike when you are president? I think the less the spouse says about policy the better-- see bill Clinton. What do you think?

I think Ann Romney's comments were a little tin-eared -- yes, running for president and taking the slings and arrows that come with it is hard but lots and lots of people in the country would trade their current situation for that of the Romneys (or the Obamas) in the drop of a hat.

Is Heather Wilson helped (by less attention on Obama v. Romney) or hurt (less energy and money) by Team Romney pulling out of NM?

Just think that despite the fact that she is the best candidate Republicans could nominate, Wilson is being hurt by the fact that she is running in a Democratic leaning state with a big Hispanic population in a presidential year.

That makes it very tough for her to win.

If the Dems hold the Senate, what is their strategy to avoid a repeat of 2010, given that turnout is so much less durin the non-presidential cycle.

We wrote this week about how 2014 is going to be as tough (or tougher) an election cycle for Democrats. That piece is here.

Your west coast chatter made me think about how you have said you like to sleep in. I too once had a 3 yo and a newborn. By what sorcery are you able to sleep in?

Not possible these days.  

If you could ask Mitt Romney just one election strategy question (and have him answer it honestly) what would it be?

What didn't you move to the middle faster?

My question for Obama: Why didn't you just embrace Simpson-Bowles from the start?

Obviously, he doesn't have a chance of winning anywhere, but could Johnson's name recognition in New Mexico influence Romney and Obama's vote totals to a significant extent?


I looked for you in your bandana. We were in the club section. My SO likes the acoustic version of Johnny 99 better. I listened to it. Nice.

It's an incredibly depressing song lyrically which felt totally mismatched to the rhythm.

If you win WWIW three weeks running, do you get to keep the trophy?

Anthony Weiner, I believe, won it four straight weeks. That's like Dimaggio's hit streak -- a record that may never be broken.

Hey, Chris, I've been a little confused about campaign ads for the past few weeks. I live in New York, and I'm seeing an Obama ad almost every day. There's no swing states around here, so what gives?

HMMM.  What you are likely seeing is part of a national cable TV buy....

Chris rank these events and their relative importance in affecting the dynamic of this campaign. 1) Bill Clinton DNC speech. 2) Supreme Court upholding Obamacare. 3) Obama's barrage of Bain ads. 4) Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as VP. 5) The Republican primaries

From most to least impactful






Who has a higher chance of being elected a new Senator in your estimation? Heidi Heitkamp, or Joe Donnelly?

HMMM. I guess Donnelly because my guess is that Obama will lose worse in ND than IN.  But it's just a guess. And I would be surprised if either won. Same goes for Linda McMahon who is basically tied in CT right now.

Are there any signs or indications that Virgil Goode making the ballot in Virginia is going to affect the race there one way or another?

Not one.

If they want to win, are they better off sticking with Akin or rolling the dice on a (female) write-in candidate?

They won't win -- under any scenario -- if Akin is on the ballot as the GOP nominee...which I think he will be.

Can Akin's latest gaffe hurt him more or is that possible?

Not possible.

Just want to point out that in the past election cycel there were a lot more people hosting chats. I know that some, such as Dan Froomkin, no longer work for the Post, but what about the rest? It would be great to have someone like Charles Krauthammer participate-- even with his limited keyboarding skills. You and Eugene Robinson cannot be the only people at the Post who can host chats.

Gene and I=all you need. Not just in chats. In life too.

Thank you very much for autographing my copy of The Gospel According to The Fix. Fellow chatters, get your copies--I figure it will be worth even more than the initial read when Chris finishes his quest for world domination.

Well said, Mom.

I think the point that that 53 misses is that there are some people who are truly undecided at this time (e.g. my wife) - and hearing Romney's comments could affect the way she votes. For example, she was unemployed for almost 1 year and the unemployment assistance we received helped us weather the financial storm - she certainly didn't see herself as a victim that enjoyed collecting UI.

Fair enough.

What do you think is more important for Romney during the first debate? Landing some huge punches on Obama and constantly hammering away at him, or presenting his Mr. Competent with a plan persona, in essence defining himself without filter to the largest audience of the campaign?

I always think trying to land one huge punch is a major mistake because in swinging for that punch you get yourself off balance and open youself up to a counterattack.

I think Romney needs to steadily and seriously prosecute the case against Obama earning a second term while also looking and sounding like he belongs on the debate stage with the president.

I noticed POTUS doing a lot of the "fluff" shows- Letterman, The View next week with Michelle. I can't remember who said it but don't you believe the demo he is reaching out to is the key to the race. I haven't seen much of Mitt on these shows or magazines. Aren't the "political nerds" (and I include myself in that statement) too close to the race?

Low information undecided voters who don't watch cable TV, broadcast news, don't read newspapers or political blog (GASP!) and are generally far more interested in Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Those people watch The View and Letterman and read People. If they come across Obama or Michelle Obama in that venue, they may well wind up being just favorably inclined enough toward them to get off the fence.

Glad to see The King getting better from his heart attack


Will an Obama or Romney victory this year influence how Christie feels about running for reelection and/or how Cory Booker feels about jumping in?

Not sure. All signs point to the Booker-Christie race happening. If it does, will be a HUGE national attention getter -- and keep us political junkies happy even after the post presidential doldrums.

I guess these must be passe in the era of social media. I live in a very purple state and have seen fewer than a half dozen of these items for the presidential candidates this cycle. Or maybe people are afraid to display them for fear of being vandalized by rabid partisans on the other side?

Yard signs=meaningless.

Yeah, I said it.

I think you are right on about Obama and Simpson Bowles. For most of us who are not die hard partisans on either end of the spectrum, that has to stand out as his single biggest failure. It did and continues to undercut his entire self-presentation as a results-oriented pragmatist.

If he had wrapped his arms around that and pushed for its implementation, I think he is in a much better place for reelection right now.

Unitl this chat I completely forgot about Paul Ryan being the VP candidate. Did he quit? Where's he hiding when he's not rejecting Veterans Bills in the House that he once supported?

He is campaigning around the country. For people who think he has "disappeared" I would remind you that VP picks almost never have a high profile or make any real difference in how people vote for president. There's no reason to think that Ryan would have been any different.

Loved the way it seemed he would be finishing up about 11:20, then did the dance party until almost midnight. Fun!!

Absolutely. Also, for a guy in his 60s, he has an amazing amount of energy.

why does it seem that some media persons think more of not affending then to make a follow up question stick

What do you mean?

(See what I did there....)

Do you follow international politics at all? If so, which countries?

Do not. I do however follow international soccer/football.

Could this happen?

Yes. Don't think it's the most likely outcome but it is a possibility. [rubs his hands gleefully]

Do you have a white board like the late Tim Russert in your office so you can write down your thoughts about the electoral vote totals?

I wish.  I mostly just jot them down on an old reporter's notebook.

Am going to do an electoral college column for the Monday newspaper though -- or at least that's the current plan.

Who does The Boss support in this clash of the titans?

Definitely not Christie despite the gov's fanatical love of him.

Whose race has been more entertaining: Romney's, or Mr. Burns' for governor on the Simpsons? I'm not a die-hard partisan, but I have been seeing more than a few similarities.

Homer Simpson for Sanitation Commissioner. Not close.

Also, I am voting for Ron Swanson in 2012.  Campaign slogan? "I can do what I want."

What about the two royals who, in the midst of a grueling day of being photographed waving and smiling in exotic locales around the country, have to worry about being photographed topless around a pool? Who, even the poorest of us, would trade their lives for that, even with fabulous wealth included?

This guy.  Mostly because I just REALLY want a British accent.

What do you think is the future for Mia Love? She surprised me a lot in Tampa, I liked her.

Well she's in a very competitive race with a proven votegetter in Rep. Jim Matheson. If Love wins that one, she will immediately get a national profile within the GOP.

Obama and the missus have been on Letterman more than Larry "Bud" Melman. Nothing like immersing yourself in the echo chamber for self-affirmation.

Just a terrific Bud Melman reference.

Ok, folks. That's all I have time for today!

Thanks for joining me. I will be back at it NEXT Friday at 11 am. See you then and spread the word!


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 sons.
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