The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza

Apr 30, 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.

Sorry for the delay.

I have but two words:



Let's chat.

I would have agreed with your take on the Crist/Rubio race until I saw a George Will column a few weeks back in the Post that described an exchange between Crist and Rubio about Social Security's long term financing. Rubio actually mentioned a couple of ways to reduce its expenditure trajectory (ideas that will surely be used against him in the future) while Crist said the solution was to "cut waste" which anyone who understands the issue is a classic copout. What good is Crist's moderation if it means he just tells voters what they want to hear?

You've touched on one of the key problems for Crist.

He has to prove that running as an independent is not simply a political calculation designed to preserve his chances of winning but rather a principled choice based on a set of issues where he thinks the two parties are failing people.

Crist's political career has not been terribly heavy on issues. He'll need to find a few -- education, climate change -- on which to make the case that being an independent is the best way to make change happen for the American public.

Why is there not more pressure put on incumbents to stay in office when their parties will certainly suffer from their resignations? In Hawaii, couldn't the Dems trouble have been avoided?

GREAT question.

The truth is that there IS considerable pressure put on incumbents not to resign -- unless they are named Eric Masa -- for just the reason you outline: it creates a messy (or potentially messy) race to replace them.

Take Neil Abercrombie. His decision to vacate his Hawaii seat to focus full time on running for governor has created significant political peril for Democrats as they try to hold a seat the President carried with 70 percent of the vote in 2008.

National Democrats urged Abercrombie to stay -- make no mistake about that. But, he believed his chances of winning the governorship were dependent on him getting out of Congress and so out he got.

Ah, politics.

How about an update on the Hawaii and Pennsylvania special house elections. Any chance the Repubs will get a "W?"

I think Republicans need to win at least one of the two races to credibly make the case that the fall is going to see them make widespread inroads into the Democratic majority or put the House in play.

Both races look winnable for Republicans at the moment.  In Hawaii, two prominent Democrats are splitting enough of the vote to give Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, the Republican, a real path to the nomination. In Pennsylvania, President Obama and the Democratic party broadly are very unpopular and if Republicans can turn the race into a referendum on Democrats in Washington, they could well win.


Any arcane Florida voting rules we should know about since the winner of a 3 way race will certainly not have a majority? Run-off? Plurality wins?

Not that I know of. But, as we all know, Florida does have lots of arcane election laws so....

Was told last week that Inslee's re-elect numbers in a recent poll were under 40 percent. Does that sound possible to you? How does he stand with his district?

Sounds plausible.

Remember that in the Post/ABC poll released earlier this week just 32 percent said they were planning to vote to re-elect their member of Congress -- the lowest that # has been since 1994.

My guess is that the playing field in the House is going to get bigger -- potentially a lot bigger -- between now and November.

The biggest question is whether Republicans will have enough money to capitalize if people like Inslee do wind up being endangered.

Today, they don't.

Since when did Florida become so conservative that TWO Republicans would both be running ahead of a Democrat in a three-way race? Is it just name ID at this stage? If so, what do you think Meek's chances are and what constituencies can he assemble (African Americans, law enforcement, liberals?) to reach 33%+1?

I think a lot of it has to do with name ID at this point (and Meek made the same point in a CNN interview yesterday).

Meek is a relatively junior Congressman from Miami while Crist is the governor and Rubio is the newest national star of the Republican party.

For Meek, the central question is whether he can raise enough money to get known enough for voters to pull the lever for him. That plan got more complicated this morning when billionaire Jeff Greene announced he was running for Senate as a Democrat.

Greene will spend enough to make Meek have to respond, a response that will drain precious dollars from the Congressman's campaign account.

Can he win? If so, how?

A tentative yes.

I am going to do a MUCH bigger take out on this question in the Fix next week but here's the short answer:

1. Raise another $8-10 million

2. Act a governorly (is that a word?) as possible

3. Find an issue or two and, to quote Randy jackson, make it your own.

4. Hope Rubio and, to a lesser extent, Meek, slip  up.

Where's Millbank and why can't we access his chat transcripts?

Dana had to cancel today. You can find his transcripts here.

What was the Crist credit card scandal that supposedly was being broken by the New York Times? What made the papers in Pennsylvania did not seem to be very scandalous, in my opinion. Is there more to this story?

In short: LOTS of money appears to have been mispent by the Florida Republican Party. At the moment, the scandal doesn't appear to be landing at the doorsteps of Crist or Rubio any time soon but this is politics and things can and often do change.

Does the way the new chat format tracks your number of responses bother you? Do you compete with other people at the Post for who provides the greatest number of responses per hour?

I am typing so fast my fingers bleed.

But, no, there isn't much competition.

Take that Weingarten!

Have you watched any of the debates in Britain? Any thoughts?

Just one: If I had a British accent I would seem far more serious minded.

Chris, I know this wasn't you, but I heard one telejournalist call Mark Rubio a "political newcomer". He was the Speaker of the Florida State House fer cryin' out loud! Is it the intention of the Tea Party to paint their candidates as not having any political experience, whether they have it or not?

"Mark Rubio"!

I agree that Rubio is not the prototypical tea party candidate in that he has been very much embraced by the political establishment even prior to his Senate bid. (Rubio is a close ally of former Gov. Jeb Bush, for example).

That said, I think Rubio wound up benefitting from tea parties not necessairly because of who he is but becuase of who he was running against. Tea party people HATED the economic stimulus package (or econstimpack) and Crist's public support for the measure enraged them.

Rubio happened to be in the right place at the right time to capitalize politically from that anger. And, timing is most everything in politics.

How closely have you been following the British elections? I assume you've seen Gordon Brown's "macaca" moment. Where do you rank that among the biggest flubs in electoral history? I never thought he was a great politician to begin with (he's no Tony Blair, for example) but this episode actually made me feel sorry for him.

Biggest gaffes!

Not sure exactly where the Gordon Brown "hot mic" fits in but it has to be in the conversation with George H.W. Bush looking at his watch, Ed Muskie "crying" in New Hampshire and the Dean scream.

What others am I missing?

(1) There a serious Democrat in the race; the Republican opposing Lieberman and Lamont was a joke. (2) Not only was Lieberman a national figure, he had been prominent in Connecticut for a generation. Crist is much newer to the scene. (3) Lieberman actually waited to leave his party until he lost the Democratic primary (by a small margin). Crist is jumping months in advance. (4) Charlie Crist has had a long reputation for being shallow and pandering. Whatever people disliked about Lieberman, no one would call him lacking substance.

I wrote an entire post entitled "Why Charlie Crist is noe Joe Lieberman"!

Live Fix super-producer Andrea can you link to it?

Do you mean in that particular district? The most recent poll (Rassmussen) has Obama job approval at 48/52, which seems to be about nation average (though Rass has a strong GOP house effect, so I imagine most polls would be better for BHO).

Yup. Apologies. Too many Cinnamon Dolce Lattes this morning.

That district -- the 12th -- is in southwestern Pennsylvania and President Obama and his health care bill are running well behind how each is doing statewide in PA.

Thanks for the chance to clarify.

What's the worst thing that actually has a likelihood of happening to the Democrats prior to November? Republicans?

Are people going to go see the new Nightmare on Elm street movies? Yes? No? Maybe?

Worst case for Democrat: lose House and Senate. I think that is VERY unlikely.

Worst case for Republicans: very modest (10 or under) gains in the House and a seat or two pickup in the Senate. Again, not likely.

What are the odds that a Democrat (White) wins in Texas AND a Republican (Whitman) wins in California? Would the world automatically reset to 1962 if this happened?

I think there is  CHANCE for both to happen.

I think Whitman is the better bet at the moment simply because of her vast personal wealth and Jerry Brown's potential weakness in an anti-politician environment.

Democrats are bullish on Bill White in Texas and I think that if this was 2006 Perry might lose. But, in a pro-Republican national environment, it's harder for me to see. Not impossible by any means. But difficult.

"Crist's political career has not been terribly heavy on issues". I'm not sure Crist helped himself so much on the Today show this morning. After being asked what distinguishes him from Rubio and Meek, he stated that, to paraphrase, "I've been listening to the people...". Then he went on over the next 3 minutes to mention "the people" six or seven more times ("government of the people, by the people and for the people", honest to God). At least this morning, Charlie wasn't much more forthcoming.

Again, his reputation -- whether well deserved or not -- is that he is more of a politics than a policy guy.

To effectively run as an independent, Crist has to show that the decision to leave the GOP was about more than a simple calculation that he couldn't win the nomination.

People never like when politicians act like politicians and that's especially true in this environment.

Jeff Greene is a Democrat, so we'll have to see what kind...but he makes a great point: the other three candidates have basically never held a private-sector job. Those of us who work for a living are getting a little tired of career politicians.

And he is worth ONE BILLION DOLLARS. (In my best Dr. Evil voice.)

Money matters always in politics but especially in a state the size of Florida where most voters meet politicians through their television sets.

Not so much a gaffe as a brutally honest statement: Admiral Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate, making his opening line in the VP debate, "Why am I here?" As I remember, he looked actually puzzled, as many of us where by Perot's choice, notwithstanding the Admiral's extraordinary fortitude as a prisoner of the Vietnamese.

"Why am I here"!

Yes. Absolute insta-classic.

I heard yesterday that there are those in the Republican Party (apparently some of them took some sort of an oath) that are demanding that Crist return some of the money contributed to his campaign--the question is, does he legally have to do so? If the money is given to his campaign, does that imply it is going to his party or to him?

Not sure his legal obligation but from a practical political perspective it would be crazy for Crist not to return money if people ask.

As I wrote yesterday in the Fix, he has to hope that the amount that people want returned is -- at worst -- in the low seven figures. Any more and it could impact his ability to communicate with voters in the fall.

Governor Perry shot a coyote while on a run with his dog. How does a man like that lose an election in Texas?


I see Rick Perry suggested Charlie Crist withdraw from the race, remain a Republican, and run for the Senate in two years. I wonder how much thought Charlies Crist gave to this idea?

I think some.

But, Crist likely concluded that the problems Republicans have with him won't go away in two years time and by then the political winds could have shifted in a way that made him being elected totally impossible.

Is American politics an extended practical joke of the rest of the world? Does this woman really have a chance to beat Sen. Reid? Should Reid promise to repeal the law of gravity to regain supremacy? As a Canadian, I have to thank you for making our politics look adult by comparison.

You're welcome.

And, yes, if you believe polls in Nevada Sue Lowden has to be considered the favorite to beat Reid -- chicken bartering controversy notwithstanding.

Voters in Nevada seem to have tired of Reid and nothing that has happened over the last few years seems to have impacted those feelings much.

Lowden leads a less than stellar cast of characters in the Republican race but as of today this race looks like a referendum on an unpopular politician in Reid so it mayh not matter who Republicans nominate.

In 2004 I lost by only 23,000 votes to KY. Sen. Jim Bunning - less than 1%! Why doesn't the Democratic Establishment Support me? Why do all other Statewide electeds endorse AG Jack Conway? Why does the DSCC seem to favor him over me? I almost beat Bunning when he was considered invincible? Why Don't they Love Me [sob, sob]?

Playing on my weaknesses for "I am [fill in the blank] politician" question!

Well done.

I think national Democrats are actually more agnostic about who wins the Kentucky primary than most people think.

That said, Jack "One tough son of a bitch" Conway has shown a capacity to raise money and is from the population center of Louisville.

Mongiardo is neither.

Mike Dukakis riding in that tank.


Also, John McCain's "the fundamentals of the economy are sound" comment in the fall of 2008. DOH!

I'm not sure that being a real estate speculator counts as a "real job."

Oh snap!

Unlike, say, being a journalist.


You don't think it's the other way around?

Not really. I mean, if Lexi implodes I don't think it helps President Obama but I can't see it being a decisive factor in the 2012 presidentia race either.

Giannoulias is in a danger zone at the minute -- one week removed from the failure of his family bank. He spent this week trying to put Mark Kirk, his Republican opponent, on defense over Goldman Sachs and financial regulatory reform -- a sound strategy.

But, the bank's failure has given Republicans something close to a trump card to play in the fall. It's a tough race for Giannoulias.

Chris- You said even if Charlie has no legal obligations, politically he should return donations- WHY? Those people won't vote for him anyway - and the issue of donors temper tantrums is a bit esoteric for the average voter isn't it?

Because people "invested" in him when he was a Republican.  I think lots and lots of people won't ask for their donations back.

But, if Crist is running as an independent to listen to "the people", it would seem a little weird if he didn't give some of those people their  money back, right?

Jerry Ford: There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. And Gary Hart's challenge to the press to catch him cheating on his wife.

Gart Hart: "Follow me around".

That gaffe gave us not just Donna Rice but Monkey Business, the single greatest name boat in the history of the world.

Hi Chris, Thanks for taking questions. So now that Crist is officially an independent what will his placehold Senator Lemieux do? Will he endorse Crist? Will he moderate his voting behavior in the Senate to match Crist's new moderate profile?

Lemieux statement this morning: "I will support our Republican nominee."

And that ain't Charlie Crist.

Remember that Lemieux wants to run against Sen. Bill Nelson in  2012 and doesn't want to alienate the GOP base in advance of that bid.

Wait a minute, I don't know Jeff Greene, but when did making money mean he was a good candidate? Meeks was a State Trooper, are you saying he has no connection with the real world? He earned his salary trying to keep Floridians safe, as opposed to making some lucrative real estate deals. I'm not saying that Greene is a bad person, but I think I'd trust the person who has been a trooper, worked his way up and is still not wealthy, over the guy with 5 homes and a 145 foot yacht.

I didn't say good candidate. I said rich candidate.

And, if Greene plucks down a hefty chunk of change on ads introducing himself in the best possible light to voters he could quickly gain traction.

Faced with heckling from supporters of Sen. Al D'Amato, sitting attorney general and Dem candidate for Al's seat lost his temper and used the word "fascist". Sen. D'Amato pounced, calling it a racist slur against his Italian heritage. Abrams never recovered, and D'Amato squeaked by and won re-election.

Senator Pothole!


Queue up for the lift.

Mind the gap


(Gravitas building by the second.)

This morning on NPR, John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, stated that he thought there could be 100 seats in play...your thoughts on that number?

Depends on what the definition of in play is.

I would guess that we are looking at 75 or so seats that will be genuinely competitive with two well funded and serious candidates.

Could be more. Could be less.

But, Republicans need to find ways to fund a bunch of races that they could win but don't have the money for at the moment.

Have you tried Curbside Cupcake? I just discovered them. Fabulous! I think they are right up there with Hello Cupcake, G'town, etc. And so fun that they are mobile.

They are awesome!

I follow them on Twitter but haven't tried yet. They are on the list.

Without knowing a single thing about Greene, I guarantee you he helps the Democrats. At least, he gives them a second option in the race and he could run as an "outsider." And he'll do something no one has ever done: make Meek win a competitive race. I'm not sure many people know this but Meek has never (NEVER) faced a true challenger for re-election to a seat he won when he replaced HIS MOTHER. He's hardly battle tested.

Good points.

I've got to run to write the Friday Senate line. Come back at 2 for a video chat where I talk about why I ranked the races where I did.



PS -- Andrea, can you give the good folks a link they can check out for the video chat?

What's the story Cillizza are you two timing us by doing a second chat later today ?

You get a Fix bonus today! Chris will deliver his top 3 Friday line picks via our new video chat format. Check it out! (And send y0ur q's)

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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.
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