The Fix: Iowa Republican debate: Winners and losers

Dec 16, 2011

Note to readers: This chat will start a few minutes late since Chris is currently on the Diane Rehm show. Thanks.

Live chat with The Fix's Chris Cillizza as he lays out the winners and losers of the Iowa Republican debate.

Agree with him? Disagree? Submit your questions and opinions now!

Sorry for being a few minutes late folks...I was -- NAME DROP ALERT -- on the Diane Rehm show!!!

Armed with a skim mocha -- got to watch the waistline, I am ready to go.

Your colleague Carter Eskew had it right about the endless Republican debates. This is all just a pretense for a reality series, isn't it? It's The Apprentice version of campaigning, which is exactly why Trump wants to host a debate. I'd much rather watch these demagogic clowns on the granddaddy of reality shows, MTV's The Real World.

I will acknowledge I am somewhat surprised -- pleasantly so -- by how big an audience these debates have drawn.

I think that the reality TV phenomenon could be part of it. I also like to think -- maybe naively -- that people understand the stakes in 2012 and are more engaged than they have been in the past.

Or maybe it's just the Fix live-tweeting of the debates that is responsible for the increased viewership.

I'm one who is kinda hoping for a Perry resurge. But do you think he took a big risk last night by comparing himself to TT?. Reason: Tim and the Broncos are facing the Patriots this weekend which could be the end of this roll of this quarterback. If the Broncos are crushed, Perry might have wished he hadn't used this analogy. Just sayin'. By the way, I'm from Wi. and a Packer fan so no chips in this fire!


Obviously the Perry mention of Tebow was preplanned. And, as I wrote last night, it felt somewhat forced but was also effective.

It's been one of the quotes used in the debate wrapups etc and that's good for Perry.

Also, it kind of goes without saying that Tebow is a popular figure in the evangelical community so associating yourself with him ina  GOP presidential primary is never a bad idea.

I agree with Michele's Conservative philosophy but disagree that she came across well last night. Do you not think that she was mean and petty? Remains to be seen if her attacks on Newt caused him damage. I sure hope her critique of Paul does. He's certifiably nuts.

I didn't find her to be mean and petty. But, again, as I always say when  analyzing this stuff: 1) people perceive things very differently and 2) I am often wrong.

I thought Bachmann was forceful and effective in prosecuting a case against Gingrich. I am not sure it changes anything but I thought she acquitted herself well last night.

Hi Chris, Why do you think the top candidates are so reluctant to go after each other in these debates? It seems like a million years ago, but this soft in face to face chance was part of Tim Pawlenty's undoing. Of course they are all against Obama, but if they can't explain why they are a better choice then other primary candidates why should I vote for them?

First of all, Ron Paul, Bachmann and Santorum did attack their rivals when given the chance.

As for the others...

Newt: He is trying to appeal to voters desire for solutions not more fighting so not attacking makes sense. Gingrich also knows he can't win an escalating arms war against Romney.

Romney: After attacking Newt last Sarturday, Romney clearly made a decision to stay above the fray this time.  Romney isn't very good when he is on the attack -- he tends to make mistakes like the $10,000 bet -- so he figures to leave the hits to his super PAC.

Perry: We've written before that Perry can't really attack until he builds himself back up as a credible messenger. He appears to have done that with some segment of GOP primary voters and so is starting to attack Newt/Mitt on TV but not in the debates.

Chris, thanks for the chat. With Gov. Nikki Haley and Christine O'Donnell endorsing Mitt, do you believe that Romney is becoming more loveable to the Tea Party or do they see him as the best alternative to defeating Obama next November?

The latter.  Romney never wins a "heart" vote of GOP primary voters/tea party types.

He has to hope that the calculation they make is that the key is to nominate someone who can beat Obama (aka the "head" vote).

Hi Chris, Currently it seems like GOP is down to Newt versus Mitt. Do you see any of the others moving back up into contention? I know Perry still has money and Michele Bachmann still has energy. Any hope for either of them?

Perry for the reason you mentioned: money

Ron Paul because he could win Iowa

Bachmann because she is still a very gifted communicator.

Mitt seems like he has the country club and DC Republicans and Ron Paul has the religious Republicans. Doesn't Newt have to get the non-DC/country club Republicans to consider him as the one who can take it Obama?

I think Ron Paul has the Ron Paul supporters -- many of whom are not Republicans.

Evangelical voters, right now, are with Gingrich but I could see them slipping back to Perry.

The most entertaining part of the debate was the back and forth between Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann on Iran


Either that or the Tim Tebow thing.  I love all things Tebow.

What is on the Cillizza gift list this year?

Ken Burns civil war series

A mirror to shave in the shower

A Starbucks gold card

A happy and healthy Mrs Fix and Fix Jr


How much does Nikki Haley's endorsement help Romney in South Carolina?


South Carolina tends to be a momentum state more than anything else -- meaning that the winner is hard to know until we see what happens in IA and NH.

Romney has had problems winning over evangelical voters in the state and while Haley might help, she doesn't solve that problem.

I tend to think either Newt or Perry is the favorite in SC. I am interested to see whether the Haley endorsement forces or compels Romney to spend more money/attention in SC than he was planning to.

I am totally Tim Tebowed out. Was not surprised that Rick Perry brought his name up.

I am totally Tim Tebowed in. Great story. Love it.

I am still baffled as to why Jon Huntsman has not gained more traction

Through South Carolina (Jan. 21) would be my guess. If Perry can't make any move in SC, he is done for.

That said, if he finishes way back in the pack in IA (4th or lower) it could be curtains.

Why such a protracted discussion of the word Zany on the DR Show ?

Because it's been a hot topic in the GOP race for days. Also, because Diane wanted to talk about it. And when Diane speaks, I listen :)

I'm not a Ron Paul supporter, but I have to disagree with your assessment that Paul is wrong to discuss his foreign policy. He's right on the Iranian issue. Iran ISN'T a serious threat to the United States and could never hope to be. You give credit to Bachmann for being forcefully, belligerently wrong. That makes her a winner and Paul a loser?

It makes him a loser in a Republican primary race where the vast majority of the people who will vote disagree with him.

I am not arguing the merits of Paul's position. Just noting that his position does not match up with the belief system of GOP primary voters.

Who is more likely to surprise (in a good way) with their showing in Iowa: Bachmann, Santorum, or Perry? Perry seems to be getting a response with his "part-time Congress" line.

I say perry because he has the money -- both in his campaign and via his super PAC -- to push out his outsider, anti Washington message.

Plus, Perry did just well enough in the last 2 debates to keep any momentum he has built rolling.

What does Nikki Haley's endorsement of Mitt Romney mean for him in South Carolina? Does it carry votes, or just raise expectations for Romney?

I am sure it wins him SOME votes. But, I am always skeptical of reading too much into any one endorsement.

Most voters don't do what any politician tells them all of the time. People like to make up their own minds.

That Freddie Mac line of questioning was harsh last night. Is this the beginning of is end?

His answer was NOT good. Defending government sponsored enterprises like Fannie and Freddie is a recipe for disaster in a Republican primary.


Isn't the most important question really what you thought of the Gang's dance?

Don't ruin it for me! I DVR'ed.

I am totally going to thundergun it this weekend.

Do you consider followers of Chris the same way Chris Jericho would: Cillizzaholics?

I do.  That. our incredibly brawny builds and our long flowing blonde locks are three things Chris Jericho and I have in common.

If you're auditioning to be the leader of the free world, should you be comparing yourself to a 24-year-old athlete?

Isn't it the same thing as declaring yourself the "Comeback kid"?

Did you see it yet - very compelling story.

Not yet because there was a dang debate on the night it aired.

I am excited for it. Not sure anything can beat "The Best That Never Was" though. That was amazing.

Are we witnessing a change in how candidates campaign for the presidency with less reliance on retail politics and more emphasis on the debates? Or is this just because Iowa isn't as important as it used to be for Republicans?

This campaign has been entirely prosecuted on the national level via a series of debates. I am not sure whether that's an anomaly or a trend. But it's definitely true.

Ann Romney keeps leaving messages on my phone inviting me to meet up with her. I keep ignoring her. Will this be over soon? Jaded Iowan

HA!  And, you chose to live in the first in the nation caucus state. I am sure Michiganders would gladly swap places with you.

Also, is there anything better than EVERY ad during the evening news being a political ad? Politics rocks.

University of Iowa student newspaper, a reliably liberal outlet, has endorsed Ron Paul in the Iowa Republican primary. Too bad most of the kids will be on break January 3 so they won't be Iowa City to vote.

That's "Dr. Ron Paul" to you.

The 3 of them seemed to get much less questions than the others. Was it just me or was that the case?

Remember that te distribution of questions -- and where the candidates stand on stage -- is based on where they stand in polling in the state and nationally.

In the case of Santorum and Huntsman, at least, they are at or near the bottom so it follows that they didn't get many questions.

Rick has visited every county and yet his numbers don't show much of a bounce. Why do you think this is?

I really don't know.

Maybe that he is running a traditional campaign in a non traditional year?

That people just don't get excited for him?

That his time is coming?

Will Huntsman drop out after Iowa if he does badly or is he still counting on NH to carry him through to other states?

Definitely won't drop after IA. He has ignored the state. If he doesn't win or come in a close second in NH, he is almost certainly done.

Why doesn't the WashPost iphone App carry the live blogging (or these discussions!) feature? It sucks to have to pull out the laptop, just to read what ya'll got to say (so I usually 'listen' via twitter)

HMMM. Good idea.  Will pass question along to those smarter than me.

Just curious if you find "the base" or whatever you want to call it has more or less love for former Gov. Romney right now then they did for Sen. John McCain in 2008?

About the same. I think the base respects both men but doesn't feel passionately (or anywhere close to it) toeard either.

True or False: POTUS wins Florida as well as the usual Blue Suspects and he's gonna get 4 more years. Also, which GOP'er has what Florida voters are looking for, winning the nom aside?


Check out the piece we wrote earlier this week laying out Obama's 5 paths to 270 electoral votes:

Is this a game changing endorsement?

In a word: no.

Can you do a quick recap of the Bachmann / Paul back & forth on Iran? I was unable to see the debate, but my favorite thing in all of the debates is watching the looks on the faces of the other candidates when Bachmann makes ignorant and / or patently false statements. Newt's facial expressions when talking with her are priceless - he looks like a professor trying to figure out how best to articulate quantum physics to a 5 year old.

Paul: Iran isn't a nuclear threat. Biggest threat is American president overreacting to threat Iran poses.

Bachmann: You are horribly and profoundly wrong.

Done and done.

On Newt, I agree. His lack of regard for her is so thinly veiled as to be not veiled at all.

Tebow, an evangelical Christian, by all accounts, is saving himself for marriage. Brady is a Catholic who got his Hollywood girlfriend pregnant and ditched her for a foreigner before she had the baby. I think the cultural lines have been drawn for this Sunday.

Also, Brady at one point had long hair. Nuff said.

And Tebow's defenders wrongly claim that his critics are motivated by hatred of Christianity. It's the same mentality that Perry expressed in his campaign spot, insisting that he's not ashamed to be a Christian when no one is saying that he should. So if Perry wins a debate, will he pray before the camera like Tebow after a touchdown?

Do you mean will he Tebow?

We ALL know that our GB's Aaron Rodgers is the Untouchable One this season :-) But I'm tellin' ya, if the Broncos win this weekend...well, I believe in God..but now I"m REALLY GOING TO BELIEVE IN GOD. :-) How 'bout you?

Tebow has made me want to watch the NFL. That's a feat in and of itself.

How do you assess Ron Paul's chances to win the Iowa caucuses? Nate Silver currently has Gingrich at around 23% of winning and Paul and Romney tied around 20%.

Makes sense.

I think Gingrich is still the favorite. But I think it's more likely Paul wins Iowa than Romney does.

True or False: The GOP Nomination race will effectively be over 46 days from now, i.e., after the Florida primary.


I say true.

I know this was just a mistake, but I find it funny that in responding to a question about Huntsman, you accidentally ignored the guy and talked about Perry instead.



Also, all apologies.

Am I the only one who thinks Perry's "part-time Congress" idea sounded crazy? The biggest complaint about D.C. is that they never get anything done. So you're going to cut their hours to get even less done?

The Fox moderators made that point last night!

What are your favorite books out now that make a good read for the upcoming elections?

GOOD question.

I don't know the answer -- too much writing, not enough reading. Do other folks have good suggestions?

A couple of his responses last night had me thinking "What did he just say?" Did he pretty much claim that everyone who wants to buy a home should be able to? (reason for our sub prime mortgage crisis). Did he say that he wasn't in the business of "purging" Republicans and that he was busy writing 22 books as an excuse for one of Michele's accusations?

That's the problem for Newt. When he first says something, you are often impressed. If you go back and actually read it though, it can get him into trouble.

Go back and read the transcript on the government sponsored enterprises back and forth. Not good.

Isn't New Hampshire kind of irrelevant given that Romney is a favorite son?

Not if he loses it.

What odds do you give in the GOP being able to beat Obama in the 2012 general election?

50-50.  Genuine coin flip. If economy gets better, Obama slightly favored. If it gets worse, GOP nominee slightly favored.

You said: "Most voters don't do what any politician tells them all of the time. People like to make up their own minds." But you also said: "South Carolina tends to be a momentum state more than anything else -- meaning that the winner is hard to know until we see what happens in IA and NH." So South Carolinians doesn't do what politicians tell them to do; they do what IA and NH tell them to do. I think your first statement is wrong and your second statement is correct. Most voters don't really make up their minds. They just go with the flow, a key reason why we're so dysfunctional.

Should have said that voters like to think they are making up their own minds.

It's easier to feel that way if you simply vote for the momentum candidate as opposed to voting for someone because Nikki Haley told you to.

Aren't they mad at him for leaving the Southern Baptist Church and covernting to Catholic when he married his 3rd wife?

They don't want Mitt and Newt looks like the most viable alternative -- at the moment.

Beyond winning Iowa, what would he have to do to be taken seriously?

Win another state. Which is hard to see happening.

How would you describe President Obama's relationship with the media? Is he more accessible / open than Pres Bush?

President are, as a general rule, not terribly accessible to the media. True for Obama and Bush.  

There is a poll showing Obama leading both Gingrich and Romney in South Carolina. If the Republican have to fight to win South Carolina, is that a possible sign they may have some electoral difficulties in 2012?

Polls are a snapshot in time. If Obama wins in SC, I would fall down dead.

Man, you are at 1 response per minute--Milbank has no chance. Are you laying down a challenge for him? Also, re Tebow: the Broncos always play well against the Patriots, but this game is going to be a tough one. Then again, I look foward to the deer-in-the-headlights looks from the Patriots that the Broncos have been causing all their other opponents.

My typing fingers are in mid season form -- all that live blogging.

If Tebow and the Broncos beat the Patriots this weekend, the Tebow story is going to go supernova.

Of course college students are going to like Ron Paul. They admire that he is former Economics Professor who has scholarly insights into economic and political issues, he supports legalizing marijuana, young people admire his willingness to tackle strong economic institutions such as the Federal Reserve, he supports legalizing marijuana, his courageous questioning of foreign wars and international policies, and he supports legalizing marijuana,

You are courting the ire of Ron Paul supporters. Having been on the receiving end of that ire, it is not a pleasant experience....

There've been persistent rumors that Biden will be replaced on the ticket by Hillary Clinton (with Biden going to State, or not), but the White House and all of the pundits, including you, have roundly denied this, in a very credible way...and I believed them. But when I went on the Obama for America website to buy bumper stickers, I noted almost nothing reads 'Obama / Biden''s almost all just 'Obama.' So while I can't imagine they could keep something like that a secret so long, and again the denials are strong and consistent and widely believed, I'm actually starting to wonder if this is a possibility. I'm reading tea leaves, but any thoughts?

Not. Going. To. Happen.


I know this isn't Presidential campaign news, but seriously, what is this nation coming to when Santa Clause is laid off? Yes, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, we read that Santa Clause (that is his real name, he had it legally changed) has been laid off from his 19 year job of being a mall Santa. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. And he's unemployed.

WOW.  Could be a late entrant for Worst the way, we are unveiling my pick for "Worst Year in Washington" later today....

You can check out my picks for best, good and bad years here:

Poop Happened by Sarah Albee. Seriously, this book explains one of the most significant social and health problems humans faced for centuries. More people died from diseases due to sanitary conditions than in all the wars. This book finally chronicles the importance of this in history, and even today's current public policies as issues of clean water are of extreme importance worldwide. Plus, the book has the word "poop" is the title.

Hard to argue with that kind of logic.  Thanks for the suggestion!

Is Trump getting in as an independent?

Who. Cares.

It was like watching a train wreck, or Tora Tora Tora: you kept yelling at the screen to watch out for the bad planes coming. But no one listened. Kinda like Congress.

Little know fact: I was groomed from a very young age to be a political blogger. Carrying Almanacs of American Politics up hills, hours spent crawling around coffee shops, sharpening my snarky, smarter-than-thou-ness etc.

Also, I was very, very unpopular -- the best training of all.

Doesn't that fall under NFL rules against excessive celebration (cf. ball-spiking, victory dances, taunting)?

The rules don't apply to Tim Tebow. You should know this after watching him complete even a single pass withj that atrocious throwing motion.

I guess God couldn't help him get even an average score on the Wonderlic, huh?


A witch?

Not a witch. But thanks for letting me clarify.

I know this is now off-topic, but...come on, God does not have a favorite football team. Even the Skins have a bit of good luck every now and then.

After the Giants win last week, I might beg to differ.

And, if God doesn't have a fav NFL team, he definitely has a favorite field hockey team: Mrs. Fix's Catholic University Cardinals.

Are the Fix Face Offs no more?

We are doing one final goodby Fix Faceoff next Monday at noon. After that, you'll have to settle for the text version of me via these weekly Friday chats.

That's all folks! Have a wonderful weekend.  Be excellent to each other.


Dana Milbank's chat starts now, and he's talking about why he calls NTSB's proposed ban of electronic devices while driving "an absurd overreaction to an unrelated problem."  Join in!

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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