The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: Stupak to retire, Stevens to retire, threats against Congress, more

Apr 09, 2010

Every Friday, The Fix goes live, as Chris Cillizza discusses the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and all the latest political news.

Latest Fix: Bart Stupak to retire


What a morning. First Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, the man at the center of the political maelstrom over health care, decides not to run again.

Then Justice Paul Stevens -- not to be confused with Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones --announces he will step aside.

Dang. Whatever happened to slow news Fridays?

Lots of questions. let's get to it.

What are the pros and cons of the president choosing a liberal (as opposed to a moderate) Supreme Court nominee? (And how about a Northwestern grad to replacing the retiring one?)

There are SO many political implications from Stevens announcement it will take a little bit of time to sort through them all.

The basic Democratic argument will be that Stevens was a liberal vote and, therefore, it shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that President Obama will nominate someone with a similar worldview to replace him on the Court.

Republicans, who obviously have no influence over the pick, will almost certainly try to cast whoever gets the nod as out of the mainstream.

Ah, politics. And, yes, this SCOTUS fight will consume the next few months in Washington.

I figured that his seat was destined to go Republican again anyway. Is this really such a loss for the Democrats? And, strategy-wise, did he call too much attention to himself by holding out until the last minute during the health care vote, a la Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky? Thanks.

There are two levels on which the Stupak retirement works.

The first is the granular level. This is a swing district -- Obama won it with 50 percent in 2008 but George W. Bush carried it in 2004 and 2000 -- and in a difficult state and national political climate (like this one) for Democrats, it could be a hard hold.

That said, candidate recruitment is just beginning and who each side gets will make a difference in the final outcome.

The second level is at 10,000 feet politically where Republicans are already moving to cast Stupak's decision as evidence that he is bowing out in the wake of the flack he has taken over the bill.

Stupak -- and other Democrats -- are pushing back that this was a decision long coming and not directly affected by the health care fight.

Chris, thanks for the chat. Will the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens give the GOP a good talking point about the direction of the Court with Obama already on his second pick or will be it a non-issue if the nominee can be confirmed quickly?

Just think it is too early to know but my long-held belief is that NOTHING is not political in an election year -- particularly something as high profile as a Court vacancy.

My guess is that there will be a real fight over whoever Obama picks. But, I have been wrong many times before.

So, what are the chances for a filibuster on this nomination, just because the Republicans want to be as contrarian as possible?

A filibuster is a high-risk play for Republicans. As I said above, I think it's too early to make any assumptions about how this plays out but to filibuster a presidential nominee for Supreme Court would mean an all-out political war.

The only way that happens for sure is if Republicans believe there is evidence that the person is fundamentally unsuited to be on the Court. And, since we don't even know who the President will pick yet, we can't know the answer to that question.

What, if, any, effect would you expect the Supreme Court fight to have on the midterms? I'm guessing relatively little unless (1) Obama surprises most and picks someone *very* controversial or (2) some Republican says something unpleasant or dismissive about a female nominee (and I expect a woman).

I have a few thoughts and am working on a Fix post about that very stay tuned.

I think the thing to remember is that a Court fight is among the most high profile of all political fights with all sorts of moving parts.

Any mistake -- on either side -- is therefore exacerbated and has at least the potential to be a bigger deal than it might be otherwise.

It's an unknown radical in the political mix.

After his performance against Arsenal in the Champions League, Messi is the best player in the world. Right? That was a breathtaking performance, particularly when he chipped the keeper to get his hat trick.

I think it's hard to debate that Messi rules at the moment. I am a Wayne Rooney guy -- I just like his aggression  -- but I think Messi can do it all.

As long a Cristiano Ronaldo -- Mrs. Fix's favorite footballer -- isn't in that mix I am happy.

Hi Chris, What do you think Joe Sestak's realistic odds are to beat Specter in the Pa. Senate primary. I am bummed that he's trailing so badly right now but I'm hoping he comes on strong at the finish. Your thoughts ?

Well, the primary isn't until May 18 so he still has a little time.

But, I agree. I am sort of baffled as to why Sestak, who has somewhere near $5 million in the bank, isn't already up on television introducing himself to voters statewide and beginning to make the case against Specter.

Polling suggests Sestak needs to get moving -- and soon. Specter was at 53 to Sestak's low 30s in the latest Q poll.

Numbers can move quickly when people start paying attention to a race but it seems clear that Specter is perfectly content to run out the clock on the primary.

The onus is on Sestak to create momentum -- and fast.

Can you find out what made Keith Olbermann, decide to join Twitter ? Will he soon join Facebook?

I think Keith O. just finally gave in to the siren call that is Twitter. Either that or he signed on so that he could follow "TheFix". ( I am kidding. No angry emails please.)

For those folks who want to follow Keith on Twitter you can check him out here:

Also, Keith's decision to join Twitter got me to thinking about who isn't on Twitter but should be. Suggestions?

I heard there's some internal poll out there that has Case at 32, Djou at 32, and Hanabusa at 27. I also heard it was conducted by the DCCC. Is any of this true?

What is definitely true is that national Democrats are getting more and more worried that unless Colleen Hanabusa or Ed Case drops out that they are going to lose the seat.

The issue is that all candidates run on a single ballot, meaning that Case and Hanabusa could split up the Democratic vote and allow Charles Djou, who is running as a non-partisan problem solver, to shoot the gap.

This race and special election in PA-12 on May 18 are HUGELY important to both parties heading into the fall. Lose both and Democrats will go into panic mode. Win both and Democrats will have a right to feel far better about their chances this fall.

So when does Crist announce he's dropping out of the primary to run as an independent?

Never, according to him.

For people who read the Fix regularly -- and if you are not in that number you should be! -- they know that I have been skeptical of past assertions by Crist that he won't switch and run as an independent.

But, he released a statement yesterday to the Florida papers that was  close to Shermanesque about an independent run.

Crist still has until the end of the month to change his mind but this statement really boxes him in.

If Crist is running as a Republican he's got a lot of work to do. Not only is Marco Rubio ahead in the primary but Rubio just announced he raised $3.6 million in the first three months of 2010 -- a ridiculously good total.

Crist has time -- the primary isn't until Aug. 24 -- but he needs to start making up ground now.

Bush didn't replace O'Connor with a moderate. Elections have consequences and picking a SC nominee is the most important act a POTUS can do with lasting effects. This is why Obama must pick a liberal.

Thanks for the thought.

The stuff that Wayne Rooney says to refs during a game should be on Twitter. It would be insane and probably introduce some type of parental control device to Twitter.


Other people who should be on Twitter but aren't: Mrs. Fix (trenchant hilarity), Politico's John Bresnahan (great reporter), the Post's Paul Kane (Springsteen + Congress - genuis) and more of the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team (Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark are all on Twitter already).

What role will Gingrich play in 2012?

That depends on who you ask.

Newt would say he will be president. Others say no.

I do think Newt wants to run for president. Remember that he kind of, sort of ran for 24 hours in 2008 before dropping out.

He has said he will make a decision b y Feb. 2011 and, to be frank, I don't know what that decision will be. (I think he probably runs but Newt is a tough one to predict).

If he does run, Gingrich is a serious person with lots (and lots) of ideas. I am not sure he is in the top tier just yet but if he runs full bore, he is someone all of the other candidates will have to pay attention to.

Marco Rubio is running for president in 2016, right?

Why not 2012?

Mark my words: If Rubio wins this fall, there will immediately be talk of a run against President Obama.

I tend to think 2016 is the better chance for a Rubio run but that presumes that Obama gets re-elected in 2012 and the office is open four years after that.

I do think that Obama's incredibly rapid rise through the political ranks has changed the equation when it comes to politicians considering national bids.

Hey Fixey- Posting from my phone at the airport, how geeky is that? Seeing that Kyl has already called for a filibuster if Obama nominates a "liberal" I'd say the Rebubs are itching for a fight. Not sure why Obama isn't entitled to a pick as far left as Alito and Roberts are right 'tho...

From the airport! Impressive.

I think b0th sides are itching for a fight. Remember that midterm elections are about base turnout/energy and a major fight over a Court justice is just the sort of thing that will rile both sides up.

As I have said above, I think talking about filibustering a nominee and actually doing it are two very different things so let's wait a little while to see if Republicans make good on their talk at the moment.

Love, Hillary


Clinton to SCOTUS would be an absolutely massive story. And, she would almost certainly coast to confirmation. That would be fascinating (if I wasn't typing I would be rubbing my hands together in glee....)

Crist Comeback Enjoyed your recent piece on Marco's Millions I love a good political comeback - (Clinton in 91 McCain in 2008 GOP Primary, and Hillary's New Hampshire Stunner). Do you think Crist can make a comeback? PS wouldn't that be a nice post someday? Ranking the top political combacks?

GREAT idea. And I am putting that down on the to-do list.  Try to make it happen in the next week or so. Email me suggestions:

Other ones off the top of my head: McCain in 08, Dave Heineman in Nebraska in 06, Debbie Stabenow in 2000....others?

So who does The Fix think is going to win the World Cup? Anonymous Poster's money is on Argentina (literally).

Soft spot for Italy (for obvious reasons) although their style of play is absolutely BORING.

Because of Rooney I would like to see England do well.

And, any team that Drogba is on I would like to see play as much as possible.

Won't Newt Gingrich's messy personal life be a serious problem for any presidential run? Remember Rudy Giuliani.


Newt's past marriages would almost certainly be an issue although it's likely none of this potential rivals would talk about it publicly.

The issue would be how (and whether) he could make the case to social conservatives that he was one of them despite the past marriages and divorces.

I know that was a typo: "Springsteen + Congress - genuis" and should've been "= genius", but I'm sure that PK will laugh and forgive you. You're a fun chatter, but your typing is almost as bad as Boswell's....

PK will forgive!

For folks who don't follow PK's chat (he did one yesterday), you should. That guy is hilarious. And man can he give driving directions...he's like a human Google maps.

Karen Tumulty from TIME magazine soon joins your crackerjack Washington Post political staff. Hope that the two of you will be working on FIX items and online chats. Not sure where she stands on field hockey or coffee houses, but she's a good writer.

THRILLED Karen is coming on board. She rox!

And, she is originally from San Antonio -- home base of many of the Fix in-laws -- so you know she's good people.

Half an hour's gone by and you haven't said and no one has asked, where are you and whatcha drunking. This usually consumes 10 percent of the chat, Wha' happened?

HUGe oversight on my part.

In the office thanks to Bart Stupak's early morning retirement.

In hand: Campfire Mocha from Caribou. (My Lenten sacrifice of giving up all sweets is over!)

In the headphones: Elvis Perkins channel on Pandora.

Anyone got any good music suggestions for me? Kind of digging the Tallest Man on Earth.

Not judging from one of his quotes, "I'm not a natural leader. I'm too intellectual; I'm too abstract; I think too much." It's what he's thinking about that gets in the way of his leadership.

Funny. That's a verbatim quote of my answer when people ask me why I haven't made the NBA yet.

Just curious, how does it feel to have your mom on Twitter?

My mom rocks.

She is indeed on twitter but isn't an active user. Too bad.

Please tell me that some type of coffee/cupcake combination paralyzed your thinking to write "any team that Drogba is on I would like to see play as much as possible." Really? Seriously? I am stunned and befuddled.

Drogba=force of nature.

Am I wrong?

Truman in 48. Time polled something like 50 election reporters, analysts, etc., before the election, and all 50 said Dewey would win. As did the ChiTrib, of course.


The comeback that made political comebacks forever. Keep them coming.

When you see "Clinton" in the press, do you Hillary or Bill? I ask because in your answer you wrote Clinton and for a half-second I thought "Bill Clinton to SCOTUS? Really?" Before I read the question. Guess I still associate "Clinton" with Bill immediate.

I tend to think of "Clinton" as HRC not WJC these days. Weird.

Will Tommy Thompson run or not? Has there ever been any talk of Paul Ryan moving to the other legislative body? One would suspect that Russ Feingold could be in a precarious spot if the Republicans can come up with a top tier candidate.

Tommy T is expected to make a decision in the next month or so.

If I had to guess -- and it is genuinely a guess -- I would say he doesn't run. He's looked at getting back in the game a bunch of times over the past decade and said "no". I think past results are indicative of future results and so until he proves me wrong I think it is slightly more likely he passes.

If Thompson does run, Wisconsin is a very serious race although Feingold is underrated and Thompson has been in public life for a very long time -- meaning that there will be plenty of opposition research for Democrats to mine.

As for Paul ryan, I think he is hoping Herb Kohl decides not to run in 2012. if the seat's open, my guess is Ryan is in and an early frontrunner.

Is this for real? Please, please, please open that can of crazy! And take care - there have been cops (in marked and unmarked cars) on Hillwood Ave in Falls Church writing drivers up for several weeks now. Speed limit is 25.

1. No.

2. Good tip. Thanks much. Although I ALWAYS obey the speed limit ;)

The Tea Party express is claiming his scalp. I only pay casual attention to out of area politics, but it seems they are justified. As a Paid Professional Political Person (4P), what say you?

Stupak and his allies insist that the Tea Party had nothing to do with his decision. The tea Party insists they drove him from office.

The truth is somewhere between those two extremes, I think.

it's hard for me to imagine that Stupak wasn't affected at all by the promises of primary and general election challenges.

But, he was mulling the possibility of running for governor prior to all of this health care agita so it's also unreasonable to assume the decision was entirely based on the reaction in the wake of his vote.

Nixon in '68. Bob Casey (three-time loser for Pa. guv before winning in '86). Across the pond, John Major's shocking win in '92

Terrific. THANKS. And Bob Casey is a great one.

Indeed, Drogba is a force of nature. But that's the problem. He is probably the strongest player on the ball in the game, but he flops and falls at the lightest touch and goes on whining about it for prolonged periods of time. Also, he's known for basically giving up when he's not happy about something and needs to be coddled and cajoled to perform. How do you root for someone like that?

Didn't say root for. Said watch. Dennis Rodman, back when he played hoops, was incredibly watchable. But, I didn't root for him.

I think those are two different things.

The Big Kahuna, Nixon in '68.

So true. "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore!"

As opposed to the riveting, thrill-a-minute action of regular soccer. Nothing makes TV golf look exciting like a split-screen with soccer.

Maybe it's the field hockey fanatic in me but I have to say that I am growing to appreciate the pace of soccer.

Has Rand Paul fizzled out with news that is not longer the top fundraiser in his primary? Also, what's you latest take on the Jack Conway-Dan Mongiardo race?

I think Rand Paul is still the favorite but the Grayson people released a poll yesterday that seems to suggest the race is a toss up.

On the D side, it's going to be a barn burner. Jack Conway is the better known candidate to national operatives and reporters but Dr. Dan has the higher name ID in state.

May 18 is going to be a BIG day. Kentucky Senate primary, Arkansas Senate primary, Pennsylvania primary.

I am getting excited already.

Have to run to write my piece on the political fallout from the retirement of John paul Stevens. Then the Friday Line on the top 10 most influential Republican leaders! Make sure to check out both on the Fix later today.

Thanks as always for the great questions. Politics is great, ain't it?

ALSO, clear your calendars Monday night from 7-9 pm. It's the April edition of "Politics and Pints", my political trivia night. It all goes down at the Capitol Lounge at 229 Penn Ave SE. Come one, come all! There will be prizes!

In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza 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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: