The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza

May 07, 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.

Good morning everyone.  You are looking live at the Falls Church Starbucks where I am sipping on a venti black tea lemonade (unsweetened) -- the best under $ dollar drink at Starbucks.

Political world is abuzz with talk that Utah Sen. Bob Bennett may fall in the Utah Republican convention tomorrow. And, we have primary results in Ohio, Indiana and NC to sort through.

Let's do it.

When does Hawaii hold its primary and will both Case and Hanabusa be running? If Djou wins, how nasty will the Dem primary be? I know that a win is a win, but this will be simular to the LA seat and swing back to the Dems in November, right?

May 22.  But, it's an entirely vote by mail race and voters got their ballots a week ago.

That's not the only quirky thing about the race. All the candidates -- including former Rep. Ed Case (D), state Senate Prez Colleen Hanabusa (D) and Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) -- run on the same ballot.

With Hanabusa insisting she is "in it to win it" (an odd time to quote Hillary Clinton, no?) earlier this week, the race looks close to unwinnabel for Democrats.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is openly contemplating the idea of pulling its ads down to spend more money in the PA-12 special on May 18.

Democrats should win this seat back in November but politics is a funny business and predicting it (see Scott Brown) is difficult.

Do the Dems have anyone to turn to if Bennett loses his primary? Or do they consider this unwinnable no matter who the Repub is?

Not really.

Utah is one of the most Republican states in the country and it's hard to see Bennett or whoever else the convention-goers choose this weekend coming up short.

Democrats best hope to win statewide office at some point is Rep. Jim Matheson who is the son of the former governor.

The unemployment rate just rose from 9.7 to 9.9 percent as announced this morning, but the Post headline onlilne distorts this news by saying: "Employers Add 290,000 Jobs, Beat Expectations." Is this yet another example o the Post's liberal, pro-Democrat and pro-Obama bias?

So there's this....

Any thoughts on why the Post headline this morning focuses attention on the rising unemployment rate when the news is that many more jobs than expected have been ADDED to the economy, which is prompting more people to come off the sidelines and look for jobs -- thus increasing the technical unemployment rate. The headline is truly misleading...

Ezra Klein explains why we can add jobs to the economy, but unemployment still rises.

And then there's this...proving that you can't please all the people all of the time ;)


As the Badger State is my home I want to say hats off to Dave Obey for his record of service to the Nation and Northern Wisconsin. State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D - Weston) is considering a run for Obey's seat and has to be considered the prohibitive favorite to defeat Sean Duffy. Decker has much greater name recognition and the ability to raise campaign cash. Northern Wisconsin is dotted with college towns, Tribal Indian Reservations and communities with unionized industrial plants all of which give the 7th District a distinct Democratic lean. It seems likely Decker or one of the other two Democratic State Senators being mentioned as candidates will prevail in this scenic lake and forest district.

Thanks for the good rundown of the district.

I am not as certain as you are that this seat will land in Democratic hands. Obey's retirement clearly made it more competitive and Duffy has overperformed (admittedly low) expectations to date.

But, Decker does seem like a strong candidate. The question is whether Democrats can/want to clear the field for him given Wisconsin's very late primary.

With news of today's blockbuster employment report the nation created 300,000 new jobs this month and 230,000 last month the political climate is rapidly changing in favor of the Democrats for the mid-term elections. Also, consider that a Gallup survey says voter enthusiasm among Republicans is dropping fast. This was borne out by the extremely light voter turnouts in primary elections in Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina this week. Seems like with continued strong  job growth this summer the Democrats will be just fine.


But, in conversations I have had with Democratic consultants who are seeing lots of data from congressional districts , they seem to suggest that the environment remains very difficult for their party.

That, of course, can change particularly if perception settles in that the economy is improving.

But it's worth remembering history here.  In a first term midterm election, the president's party typically loses around 25 seats.  Couple that with the 50+ seats Democrats gained in 2006 and 2008 -- many of them in districts that, by the numbers, Democrats shouldn't hold -- and it's hard not to see Republicans making substantial gains this fall.

An improving economy would mitigate those losses; a declining one would exacerbate them.

Seems like he's seen a bit of a bounce over the last week. Or am I delusional?

Your support of the "Live Fix" chat suggests that not only are you not delusional but you are in fact a person of significant taste.

I think it's dangerous to say whether Prez O is moving up or down in a meaningful way based on one week of data. His handling of the Gul Coast oil spill could well be responsible for any bump that you are seeing, however.

Chris Would Hawaii's two senators really rather see Hawaii 1 go Republican than to have Mr. Case returned to the House? Isn't this an odd position for such devoted Democrats? It would seem that if they were really determined for the seat to stay Democratic the President could find a appointment to another job for Sen Hanabusa.

Thanks for the question, Congressman Van Hollen.

Akaka and Inouye would argue that Hanabusa represents the party's best chance to hold the seat and Case should get out.

Worth remembering: Case challenging Akaka in a 2006 primary, a no-no in the small state politics of Hawaii. So, I am guessing that Akaka at least would probably prefer Djou to Case -- assuming the party can take the seat back in November.

Hi Chris, love your chats. Don't actually have a question, just wanted to say welcome back to coach taylor and the panthers!

Impossible for me to describe how excited I am. This year's White House Correspondents Dinner was a HUGE letdown because last year I got to meet Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor) and Connie Britton (Principal Taylor).

FNL is the best show on television. Am i wrong?

Just an FYI for Live Fixers: South Carolina Sen. Linsey Graham who had been working on a bipartisan energy deal has said that the bill should be put off in light of the oil spill.

Nice puff piece on Thune - do you seriously believe an lobbyist-turned-senator from one of the least populous states in the country, who isn't exactly brimming with charisma, is going to be a serious candidate for the 2012 nomination?


Wait, you were being sarcastic.

I think Thune is looking at running and given his profile -- guy who beat Tom Daschle, social conservative without being scary to moderates, good looking, from a state that borders Iowa -- he will at least get a look from some activists and donors.

But, you correctly identify some of his problems to which I would add the fact that he voted for TARP.

Would you put Charlie's college (Hoya) fund on Sestak winning in PA?

I have written -- and said -- repeatedly that predictions that the Specter-Sestak race was over wete far overblown.

Since Sestak has gone on TV, he has grown (not surprisingly). Now, he is up with an ad that will make or break the race -- using Specter's own words to paint his party switch last spring as entirely opportunistic and self-interested.

Specter's support among Democrats is somewhat soft but he also still has advantages -- most notably President Obama helping to drive turnout in Philadelphia, particularly in the black community.

It's going to be close...

It's six months until the elections and Obama isn't even on the ballot, yet I check his approval numbers every single day. Is this at all informative or do I need to seek immediate medical attention?

Numbers I think matter

1. Obama job approval

2. Generic ballot

3. Enthusiam among likely voters.

4. Unemployment/job growth

5. Right track/wrong direction

I watched about three hours of BBC's coverage last night and it was awesome! Where else do you get to see candidates wearing kilts on stage? Also, I wish American news personalities were as aggressive in their questioning as England's.

Watching the coverage affirmed to me that I would be WAY cooler (and have more gravitas) if I had a British accent.

Cheerio! Queue up for the lift.

No member of Congress has lost a primary this year. (However, Dan Burton of Indiana had a razor-thin winning margin in securing his party's nomination on Tuesday.) Which House incumbents do you think have a very real chance of losing their party's nomination and what factors are involved in them being vulnerable?

Good question.

Keep an eye on Alan Mollohan on Tuesday. He faces a serious challenge from state Sen. Mike Olivero and Democrat operatives say it is basically a jump ball.

And, on the Senate side, I think Bennett is in VERY deep trouble.

Were you at the WHCD? If so, did Leno bomb as badly as it has been reported?

I was. And, he wasn't went on too long and had too many video elements.

The President was good. He understood brevity is the soul of wit -- particularly at a dinner where everyone wants to go the after-parties anyway.

Whither Bob Bennett??? How crazy is this story. My money is on him being out. Is there is any room for a (very conservative) democrat to sneak into Bennett's senate seat. Matheson? Ashdown? Who's thinking of a run? A few cycles ago (2006), I thought Matheson was toast. He, of course, is in the unenviable position of representing salt lake and the rural areas, and is neither liberal enough for one group nor conservative enough for the other. But, the republican nominee's radio ads were like listening to an SNL parody. If they'd just nominated a mainstream conservative, I don't think there's any way Matheson would have won. Anyway, my point is, there are some brands of crazy that are just too much even for Utah. Any possibility of this race getting exciting?

See above.

I don't think so but one never knows.

For what it's worth, I would be surprised if Bennett survived this weekend, based on what I am hearing out of Utah.

Have you found time to listen to anything besides his new record this week?

I HAVE NOT listened to it yet. SO bummed. But will.

He is playing in DC tomorrow night. If you live in the area and don't have anything going on -- or even if you do -- you need to go check Josh out. Amazing artist.

Is it really possible for him to win this thing once the Dem and GOP bases come home?

I don't think so.

The problem for Crist is that both Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek will have enough money to make sure base voters know about their candidacies, making it harder for Crist to benefit.

In the Mason-Dixon poll on the race, which I just glanced at, Crist is winning almost half of all Democrats. My guess is that once those Democrats get to know Meek and know they have a chance to vote for a Democrat rather than an independent they will probably leave Crist.

All that said, being ahead in a series of polls is great for Crist at the moment. It allows him to go to donors and make the case that he is not only credible but that he is the frontrunner.

And, money is what he needs more than anything as it will allow him to run a robust media campaign this fall.

The headline read; to paraphrase - Unemployment Rises while Jobs Added - I think the problem is, that the headline forces you to read further to understand what is going on, and most folks apparently don't want to do that any more. Shame on both posters who found evidence of bias in what is a perfectly balanced headline!


How dare we expect people to actually read the story ;)

Wouldn't you love to be writing a Brit Fix right now? Imagine the horsetrading going on between Labour and Lib Dems, Tories and Lib Dems, the 8 members of the House of Commons from that minority N. Irish Party, the single new Green Party member of Parliament--that would be political handicapping par excellence!

I really would. The Brit Fix would rock.  (Wheels turning in Fix head...)

"black ice tea with lemonade the best under $ dollar drink at Starbucks." - Yes, that one is good, but my favorite is a Doppio Compana; two shots of espresso with a dollop of whipped cream. (I add just a drop of sugar) Two bucks and you're ready for the day. You're welcome.

Ooh. That intrigues me.


I hope you are getting royally pounded over the birther column this morning. DON'T GIVE THESE IDIOTS ANY MORE INK OR IMPLIED CREDIBILITY.

Um, royally pounded? Is that a thing? Also, I think you accidentally hit your caps lock button.


As for the post this morning, I think it is well worth a blog post that tries to understand how large this group is and what political affiliation they carry.

Does detailing the results of the poll somehow validate the birthers false claims? Absolutely not. (and, in the post, I make clear that the entire idea has been disproven).

But, it does show that there is a certain strain -- and a not totally insignificant number -- in American politics who believe it despite evidence to the contrary.

I find that fascinating.

I am a solid, primary and special election voting Dem, so this question does not apply to me, but how is it that Tim Kaine and Dem political strategist cannot understand that "The Party of No" is an awful campaign message? Republicans are thrilled that their party says NO; Independents are like any other human being and therefore wary of rapid change, so NO may strike many of them as a good thing; and for Dems like me and those less motivated "Party of NO" gives me absolutely zero reason to steel myself up for volunteer phone banks or even a trip to the voting booth in inclement weather. Tell me they have a "Plan B"

I think this is a really good point.

I am working on a big post about how the message fight in 2010 is between a referendum (Republicans preferred message) and a choice (Democrats preferred nomenclature).

Party of No is, to Democrats' mind a way of saying to voters: "You may not like what we are doing but look at what the other guys would do."

If this election is a choice, it's the right strategy. if it' a referendum, it's not.

(And yes, I am aware I made a Lebowski reference above. You can mark it 0, Donny.)

Tom Carper, oh Tom Carper. When was the last time you even saw that name in print? Has the dude ever turned up on TV; in the press; on a committee? Do we really know anything about him? Can we trust him? But seriously, he must be the most under-the-radar senator. I suppose this is not really a question.

Live Fix super-producer Andrea Caumont -- she is Bruce Dickenson to my Blue Oyster Cult -- googled Carper. So there!

Just now received an email from Sestak campaign declaring a deadheat with Specter at 43-43. Is this just a bunch of hooey because from where I'm sitting Sestak has been dead in the water for weeks and certainly not moving up -- especially after that laughable debate performance.

That's a Muhlenberg College tracking poll they are citing and, as I said above, I would be a little wary of any ONE poll in any race.

But, I do think Sestak is moving up on Specter -- a somewhat predictable rise given that no one knew him and now they do because of his ads.

The question is just how soft Specter's support is among  Democrats and how much/little can the White House serve as an effective validator for the party switching incumbent to loyal D voters.

Do you foresee the fact that a Republican presidential candidate who voted for TARP going to haunt them in the 2012 primaries the way that a vote for the Iraq War haunted certain Democratic presidential candidates in 2008?

Yes. I wrote that yesterday in my "puff piece" on Thune ;)

Andrea, can you link to my Thune piece? (Although I assume everyone on the chat has already read it.)


Not to turn the FIX Q&A into a full-on plug for FNL....but lets face it the show needs whatever audience it can get. This article is good primer for Fixees who are wondering "What is this FNL they speak of?" Alan Sepinwall does a great job explaining the show too.

Best. Show. Ever.

(And, yes, I am angling for a guest appearance. It's as natural as can be. A DC-based blogger and a show about Texas football. Seamless.)

Sen. Bennett has two major problems for GOP voters in his state: his vote in favor of TARP (he doesn't seem to be able to explain it in a way that connects with people), and the fact that he is running for his fourth term despite originally promising to only stay for two. The latter issue is exacerbated by the general anti-incumbent feeling that exists in Utah as elsewhere--even upstanding incumbents in local races with no baggage, long time GOP stalwarts, are facing hostility. From what I've heard, this also exists to some degree on the Democratic side, as there are some who are trying to oust the centrist Rep. Matheson with a more liberal candidate (which would simply ensure that the entire state congressional delegation turns red). On a more national note, whoever the Republicans replace Bennett with will likely squeeze DeMint and Coburn out of the Most Conservative Senator slot, which won't do much for any coalition building, regardless of how things shake out in November.

Would add that Bennett's years on the Appropriations Committee don't help him either.

I'd assume the Democratic leaders, both within Utah and the national ones, would rather have Jim Matheson kept Utah's 2 congressional district safely blue instead of a long shot bid for the U.S. Senate, right? That's sorta the rationale why Michael "Rockin' a single T" Bennet was and U.S. Rep. John Salazar wasn't appointed to his younger brother Ken's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate.

GOT to love the single "T".

And, I don't think Matheson will be running statewide this year. Just that he would be the best Dem to run statewide at some point in the near future.

The only one item on your list I wouldn't agree is the generic ballot. It takes out the entire reason political parties run one candidate and not the other. As somebody who takes an interest in primary fights and "will they/won't they" on potential candidates, I figured you wouldn't be a fan of the generic ballot either.

I agree that using the generic ballot ot predict specific House races is a mistake.

But I do think it is one of several useful barometers when it comes to trying to understand what direction the political winds nationally are blowing.

And, in a midterm election, national trends matter.

Fix, you kill me. Lemonade is not lemonade without sweetening, either sugar or a substitute. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Dude I get enough sugar as it is. Can't have it with my breakfast drink too.

When I was checking out Post Politics website (congrats on that BTW), the very first congressional district I checked was Kansas' 4th congressional district just to see what all the fuss is on your live chats about Raj Goyle was about. Still a bit confused about Raj Goyle's prominence within your live chats.

Thanks for the chance to plug the AWESOME 2010 map on the new

And, if you haven't bookmarked yet, you are going to want to go ahead and do that immediately.

As for Raj, his prominence on this chat is as inexplicable as why "Ed" went off the air.

Hey Chris, What some useless David Cameron trivia? One is that he was a big fan of Barack Obama.  Another trivia is that his 4th-great grandmother was a illegitimate daughter of King William IV, making him and Queen Elizabeth II fifth cousins, once removed.

Hard not to love those facts.

You'd have to use "but at the end of the day" in every sentence. It's the Brit equivalent of the Canadian "eh?"

I could do that.

If I said it with a British accent it would still rock.

Dude - the lemonade is sweetened. They didn't sweeten the tea but the lemonade has plenty of sugar to make up for that and then some.

Good point.

Thanks, as always, for joining me today.

A few other things:

1. I am doing a live VIDEO chat at 2 pm to go through my top three primary races in the country. So tune in.

2. Bookmark Or else. (We're kidding. But, not really.)

3. Live in the DC area? Come out to "politics and pints" our monthly night of political trivia at the Capitol Lounge on Monday night. It's from 7-9 pm.  Here's the Facebook invite.

Have a great weekend.


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.
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