The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: Specter-Sestak, Blanche Lincoln, primary challengers, Justin Bieber is a Canadian?

May 14, 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.

Live Fix fast facts:

Soundtrack: Tallest Man on Earth.  If you do not know this man, you must. Here's a taste.

Food: No coffee this am. Just tea. In honor of the British elections.

Random thought: What happens if Arlen Specter loses but Blanche Lincoln loses without a runoff? How do we analyze that one?  Suggestions welcome.


In most years, Sen. Lincoln could be expected to emphasize her chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, usually considered a big asset for a state like Arkansas, but this year perhaps not so much (see Bennett, Mollohan, and increasingly liikely, Spector)..Is she better off embracing this, avoiding it, or trying to pivot, considering she' may still have a runoff and a tough general election to work through?

It's an interesting dynamic down there.

Given that the common thread between Bob Bennett in Utah and Alan Mollohan in West Virginia was that they both had coveted seats on the Appropriations Committee, I would generally advise incumbents not to focus too much on what they have done in Washington.

That said, the Lincoln people are convinced that in a small-ish state like Arkansas people know that seniority matters. As a result, you have seen a fair number of ads that tout Lincoln's spot at chair of the Senate Ag committee.

I don't know if it will work. If Lincoln does win on Tuesday without a runoff, it will be a bit of counter-conventional wisdom to the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington narrative that most people believe is at work this year.

If Spector loses on Tuesday, does he go ultra-Lieberman and just vote any which way without repercussions? Could this have an effect on the Kagan nomination?

At the moment, I don't think how Specter votes -- win or lose on Tuesday -- has much impact on Kagan.  She looks fine, again, at the moment, to be confirmed and neither side seems to be too keen on a fight.

Also, the phrase "ultra Lieberman" made me smile.

Can Sen. Bennet's removal from the ticket really be called a full-on "Defeat"? He didn't lose in a Primary, he lost in a Convention that the Tea Partiers packed. Can he come back with a write-in vote?

He could pursue a write-in candidacy and has left that possibility open.

I think it's unlikely he ultimately does it, however, and even less likely that if he does do it that he wins.

And, like it or not, the nominating process in Utah goes through the state convention. Bennett knew that perfectly well and didn't do what he needed to get right with the folks who go to those conventions.

I wish Lewis Black would start a third party and run for President.

Isn't he still walking on a beach somewhere?

I'm up pretty early to send in this question. Somebody I think that is lacking in the national coverage of the special election in Hawaii's 1st congressional district is that more then people being supporters of Ed Case or Colleen Hanabusa is that the majority of the electorate here doesn't want Charlie Djon. I think the Charlie Djon whoopla is similar to Nick Clegg in the United Kingdom election. A lot of hype, but in the end, strategic voting wins out and he under performed.

Well, people probably don't want Charlie Djon because he isn't running.

Polling does suggest though that Charles Djou is ahead and widening his lead over Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa.

The problem here for Democrats isn't terribly complicated: they had two candidates who were both pretty well known and had some level of support within the party. They couldn't get either one out of the race. Democratic vote split, Djou -- running as a non-partisan problem solver -- shoots the gap.

Still, it's never to lose a 70 percent Obama district in a special election with 172 days left before the midterms.

I've never heard one of his songs, but I'm guessing like anybody else who spends more time online then he/she should, I'm aware of the existance of teen idol Justin Bieber. I don't why, but I was going to type a question about Terry Goddard, but the person right next to me told me Justin Bieber is from Stratford, Ont. and I did a spit take. What's weird is that I have no idea why this was shocking to me.

The Canadians are a diverse and wonderful people. Also, I watched a segment on "Today" show this am that had Bieber singing with Maria Menoudos.

Man I love America.

Who runs better against Toomey in the general -- Specter or Sestak?

That's a MAJOR point of contention.

The latest Quinnipiac poll suggests Sestak is the stronger candidate but there is also lots of data out there that points to Specter.

Argument for Specter: Known commodity, lots of appeal to moderate Republicans and indies, amazing fundraiser

Argument for Sestak: Less political baggage than Specter, fresh face, avoids generational contrast with Toomey.

Regardless of who wins, I think this is going to be a MUCH more competitive general election than some Democrats would like you to believe.

Lots of attention has been given to Specter-Sestak and the seat held by the late Jack Murtha, but what about the race to succeed Ed Rendell? Cook calls it a toss-up. What say you, bespectacled Homeless Man's Bill Simmons?

It's not the most exciting of races at the moment.

Tom Corbett will be the R nominee. He's the AG currently.

Democrats have a more contested primary but Dan Onorato who is the Allegheny County Executive is likely their nominee.

Polling suggests that Corbett is a strong fav.

Also, nice HMBS reference!

I saw an article on Politico about how Bob Bennett being an appropriator hurt his chances for renomination. Yet, Dick Shelby is one of the biggest earmarkers in the Senate and he'll cruise to renomination and reelection this year. John McCain, of course, is facing a tough challenge from the right despite being the leader of the anti-earmark movement. It can't be Bennett's TARP vote because John Thune voted for TARP, too, and isn't facing a challenge. So really, it comes down to Bennett's cosponsoring of a health care bill with a Democrat, doesn't it?

Think Bennett's vote for TARP was actually the catalyst. Health care didn't help and being an appropriator wasn't a great item on the resume either.

It's never a single thing when incumbents lose.

Dino Rossi - in or out?

I think in. He's got a few more weeks. Filing deadline is June 11.

For those unaware, one of the differences of Pennsylvania law as opposed to other states is that should Arlen Specter lose in the primary, he is done in the Senate race. Primary losers cannot run in the November elections. Although, given some strange dynamics, he could still run for Governor...

Now THAT would be a story ;)

Since reading your live chats, I've honestly taken an interest in this Raj Goyle. It's hilarious to read the comments on Wichita Eagle's Politics blog about him. They're so obsessed with his wife and it's so over the top, it's wild.

Dare I call this Goyle-mentum?

Why would it be so hard for Bennett to win a write-in campaign? TV advertising in Utah can't be very expensive and it's not like he's an unknown in the state.

Because to win he would have to siphon off lots of votes from whoever eventually winds up as the Republican nominee. And, that will be hard to do for the same reason that Bennett can't finish any better than third at the state convention.

Also, writing in someone's name takes a massive voter education effort for it to work since it's a lot easier to just vote for one of the major party candidates.

I think your previous questioner was referring to Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), but confussed him with Michael "Rockin' the Single T" Bennet (D-Colo.). Actually, what's the latest buzz on the Colo. senate race? Anything to watch out for?

The single "T" is fascinating and marvelous.

Bennet has a primary fight against the former state House Speaker in August. he should win but it's not a guarantee.

And, the general election is going to be a brawl. Republicans believe Colorado has moved back strongly in their direction over the past 18 months or so.

Awesome new band from the UK (Wales). Amazing female lead vocal/guitar. Manchester sound with a hard edge. The "Popinjay" video on their namesake website blew me away!

Love it.

Keep them coming.

Anyone have a thought on Mumford and Sons?

I have a theory that many Dems are wary of Specter due to his role on the Warren Commission as the proponent of the "single bullet theory" in the assassination of JFK. Specter now claims to be a "John F. Kennedy Democrat." Do you think he could improve his odds of retaining his seat if he openly discussed his role in the investigation into the Kennedy assassination? If he shed new light on this touchy subject, I believe more PA Dems would be willing to support him.

Um, no.

Don't overread this either...Bennett went back on his "2-terms and out" promise, and Utahans take promises seriously.

Good point...term limit pledge was another piece of the puzzle in sealing Bennett's fate.

Hey Chris, Any idea who's entered the Democratic primary for the fall election in Hawaii-01? Is this going to be a re-run of Case/Hanabusa, or is the party going to try to get a fresher face?

My guess is that it will be a re-run. And, in a Democratic primary, Hanabusa would almost certainly be favored.

The prospect of a Djou-Hanabusa race in the fall gives Republicans some hope that they can keep the seat in the column if they win it next Saturday

I've always thought the political pros aversion to contested primaries was overblown... however, I can't be denied the worst-case scenario is having a contested primary where the losers refuse to "kiss and make up". Is there any anxiety that if Specter loses, he won't endorse Sestak? Or, visible shudder down the spine of Reid, he endorses Toomey?


I don't think so. But, Specter is unpredictable -- see his party switch and his "not proven" vote in the Clinton impeachment -- so it's hard to know.

The White House would lean heavily on Specter to line up behind Sestak but as a lame-duck incumbent it might not matter.

Fixer, I'm an independent living in CA. I'm fairly certain I'm voting Republican this year, not necessarily b/c I support them, but because I am afraid for my future and my children's future if the Sacramento is again controlled wholly by Democrats (the haphazard, free spending ways of the ObamaPelosied trifecta has only reinforced this fear). Do you know of any good sources, independent resources for contrasting Whitman vs. Poizner? They're websites are self serving claptrap, and the rest of the stuff I find is hardcore conservative stuff where if ypou believe in dinosaurs, you are a traitor to the nation. Thanks

The truth: both are moderate Republicans trying everything they can at the moment to cast themselves as conservatives.

Primary politics is the reason. No matter which wins -- and it's a genuine toss up at the moment -- they will immediately move back to their natural center-right positioning in the general election against Jerry Brown.

Can you tell me why the DCCC and the White House are not lining up behind Hanabusa? I understand that Case is their preferred candidate but with both Case and Hanabusa on the ballot there is a strong chance Djou will pull out the win. Were the DCCC to approach Case and ask him to step aside and if he refuses then they should throw their support to Hanabusa, this seems to me to be the only scenario that assures the Dems will hold the seat.

Well, it's WAY too late for that sort of thing now as this is a vote by mail election and the ballots have been out to voters for several weeks now

The thinking of Case over Hanabusa from national Democrats was based on the belief that Case could take independents and even moderate Republicans away from Djou while Hanabusa couldn't.

You seem pretty against having the candidate's sibling as a campaign manager. When I hear that, my first thought goes to Bobby Kennedy in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. Worked out pretty well for him (well, electorally but both he and his brother was murdered). Also another example is the far larger upset then Charlie Crist's potential win. In 1972, the 29-year-old son of a used-car salesman, who was a little-known lawyer and been elected as a member of the New Castle County Council just one year previously , ran for U.S. Senate against powerhouse Sen. Caleb Boggs. Sen. Boggs lost by a margin of 1.4%. The Fix probably know who I'm referring to, but anybody else reading, that was incumbent Vice President Joe Biden and the campaign manager was his big sister.

I tweeted this morning that having your sibling as your campaign  manager -- as Charlie Crist is doing -- is "usually" a bad idea.

And so, of course, there are a few examples of where it's worked. But there are WAY more examples where it hasn't.

So, with your tea, are going more conservative on your use of milk and or sugar as you mix up your drinking coalition?

I am a liberal user of sugar. Sorry, David Cameron.

I saw Gov. Christie's response to the reporter who tried to bait him regarding whether he was "confrontational" (translation = not liberal enough for that reporter) and he's now my new hero. Any chance that he might throw his hat into the nomination ring in 2012?


He's up for re-election in 2013 and so will be right in the middle of a bid for a second term during the heat of the 2012 presidential race.

More likely though: he's in the mix for VP.

Believe me, us Canadians have always known that Bieber is Canadian. And we're very, very sorry to have inflicted him on you.

This plus the whole Celine Dion thing may be a bridge too far, Canadians.

In the old days there was an East vs West split in the state -- one Sen. from each, now two from the East; Toomey, Sestak and Specter (and Casey) all from the East. Corbett from the West. Is this divide over?


Specter is likely to clean up in Philly and southeastern PA and Sestak should do well in the rest of the state. The question is how big a margin Specter can build in Philly.

In 2002, Ed Rendell, who was the mayor of Philadelphia at the time. hammered Bob Casey in the city and suburbs by enough of a margin to win easily statewide even though Casey got more vote outstate.

Specter is hoping to re-create that formula. But, remember, that Sestak represents a Philly-area district, which complicates things for Specter.

I was on a 9-hour bus ride once from Rwanda to Uganda and all they played was Celine Dion. They adore her.

Things I don't like:

nine hours bus rides

Celine Dion

mean people

Am I a red state or a blue state?


I think you are a purple state.  Most Democrats (and Republicans) believe that if McCain hadn't been the R nominee in 2008 that Obama would have carried it.

And, it will be a major focus of Democrats in 2012. Seems to me to be a toss up in that election and 2016.

The x factor of course is how the immigration law plays out in the state -- particularly among the burgeoning Hispanic community.

"I wish Lewis Black would start a third party and run for President." I second that! And, Betty White for VP!

You heard it here first.

But why not White Stripes frontman Jack White. That dude is cool.

What's your feeling about Law & Order getting canned? It was never the same after Lennie Briscoe was written off.

I was never a big Law and Order guy. Mrs Fix got very into Special Victims Unit for a while but lost interest.

As long as television sees fit to keep "Friday Night Lights" on, I will be happy. Already getting excited about the episode tonight.

Also, if I could be reincarnated as anyone, it would be Tim Riggins. Texas forever.

Based on his recent unfamiliarity with the existence of German, I'm glad it's the Canadian education system that has failed him, not the U.S.


Or maybe prime minister. He can't get elected to our top office since he is, well, Canadian.

Him and Jennifer Granholm.

You let this go by. C'mon, this is a Republican talking point. What specifically is the writer referring to? Health care reform? That's supposed to lower the federal deficit, at least according to the (non-partisan) CBO. TARP and bailouts? No, that was the Bush administration. The huge defense budget? Don't Republicans think you can never spend too much on defense? What specifically is haphazard? What specifically represents free spending?

Didn't even see it. Maybe it's the 4 hours of sleep I got last night. Good times.

Really? REALLY??

Who said he was tough? I mean, I am not saying he ISN'T tough...

What's your take on Todd Palin, former First Gentleman of Alaska, publicly endorsing and fundraising for Joe Miller, the Republican primary opponent of Sen. Lisa Murkowski? Why isn't his wife doing it herself? My own guess is along with her recent endorsements of more mainstream candidates Nikki Haley and Carly Fiorina, she trying to not upset the Republican establishment as much as she used seem to do.

I tend to agree. I think Palin's endorsements of late (Haley, Carly Fiorina) are much more mainstream -- and smart -- tha what we had seen out of her last year.

As for the Iron Dog, I have NO idea. Alaska is a different sort of place.

Chris Cillizza writes: Things I don't like: nine hours bus rides Celine Dion mean people

Considering how you spend your working day, how do you reconcile your dislike of mean people with your job? Lots of mean people in politics (and following it).

Lots of great people too.

And, I just ignore the mean ones. I am a less attractive version of LiLo in "Mean Girls".

Can I just say, as a Fix fan, that I'm not a fan of the new "Worst Week" column. It seems to personal and negative and representing an unneccesary piling on. I hope this doesn't mean there's a Politico-ization of the Post.

Who had the worst week in Washington?

Check out Chris's video chat at 2pm on why he picked this week's winner.

Is there such a thing as "unnecessary piling on" in politics?

I kid -- sort of.

Look the goal of "Worst Week in Washington" was to -- in a fun, playful way -- draw attention to the person, place or thing who just really didn't do well.

For some, it will be a temporary way station on their way to long term success. For others, it won't.

Circle of life and all that.

Apparently he did ;-)


My favorite "tough" quote of this cycle came courtesy of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway who referred to himself as "one tough son of a bitch".

So awesome:

Rand has it in the bag. But the Dems are in a dead heat! If you were a betting man? Would you put Fix Jr's college fund on Conway or Mongiardo to squeak it out?

I don't bet Fix Jr's college funds -- anymore.

I think it is a genuine toss up. Conway appears to be gaining ground but Mongiardo is better known.

Central question: Can Conway win big enough in Louisville -- awesome town -- to make up for Mongiardo's margins everywhere else?

Concerned about convincing published evidence at that blog moderation is used as a cover for censorship of political speech under the guise of warrantless surveillance. I'd rather put up with the blog-spammers than see comments of extrajudicially and unjustly "targeted individuals" diverted and spiked by Big Brother.

I am all in favor of more comment moderation not because I want to suppress peoples' opinions but rather because I am SO sick of watching a few voices shout down others who want to participate in the conversation at the Fix.

The goal is to broaden -- not narrow -- the number of people actively commenting so that we can have a genuine dialogue not a shouting match.

Love Mumford and Sons! Strangely enough, it was on Bill Simmons iTunes mix (true story). What are the chances Wa Gov Gregoire goes to Washington replacing Kagan? PS- I don't think Dino runs. If he loses, he's officially done.

This just proves that Simmons and I are long lost brothers. He did sports, I did politics. He is famous, I write a political blog.


NO idea on gregoire. My guess is she might entertain the offer since she is term limited out in 2012. But, who knows.

That's all I have time for folks. Have to get back to the Friday House Line -- we are doing the top 30(!) races so it's a big project.

Also, one other thing. Make sure to look for the work of deputy Fixes Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake to appear more frequently on the blog. They are talented young reporters who will be helping me cover this amazing election. You can also follow them at and

Have a great weekend! And, spread the word!


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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