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DC at Night

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Look at the Less Than Holy World of Politics

As soon as the last race is run at the Olympics in London this week, the news scene will shift back across the Atlantic to America where 2 men will finish a marathon race of their own which will end in a flurried finish-line sprint in November to determine which of them will spend the next 4 years living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Of course, no one knows if Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will capture the presidential contest. But that doesn't stop the unceasing speculation. And one of the people best positioned to engage in that speculation is Chris Cillizza, political analyst and author of the Washington Post political blog The Fix.

Cillizza, who is also an MSNBC contributor, appeared at the Newseum yesterday to discuss the presidential race and the highlights of his new book The Gospel According to the Fix: An Insider's Guide to a Less Than Holy World of Politics.

As part of the Inside Media program, Cilllizza answered a wide range of political questions posed by moderator John Maynard and audience members.

Who will Romney pick as his vice-presidential running mate?
"That's almost impossible to answer now. It's a classic case of those who know aren't talking and those who don't know are," Cillizza said. "I think ultimately Romney wants to make a competency pick. The cloud of Sarah Palin still looms large". Cillizza says there about 5 viable candidates. So who does he think it will be? "Rob Portman (a U.S. Senator from Ohio) is almost the opposite of Palin," he said.

What effect will the 3 presidential debates have on the race?
"I do think those debates matter" Cillizza said. But he says we shouldn't expect any startling revelations or last-minute innovative programs. "Both sides are very wary of making mistakes," he said

What are the top 10 issues we won't hear any policy about this fall in the presidential race?
  1. immigration
  2. health care
  3. education
  4. debt reduction
  5. energy
  6. foreign policy
  7. foreign policy again (it's so important and so ignored it gets 2 spots)
  8. campaign finance
  9. gun control
  10. terrorism
What about all these negative ads?
"You  may not like them; everyone says that. But they work. Campaigns are not going to dump money into things that don't work. They worm their way into your consciousness. I guarantee if you go into a voting booth, whether you vote for Romney or not, you're going to think about the fact that he really can't sing 'America the Beautiful,'" Cillizza said.


What is the impact of the Citizens United ruling and large campaign contributions?
Experts say the race between Obama and Romney may cost upwards to $6 billion. "Super-PAC money has kept Romney in the race," Cillizza said. "But I think we will really need to look at the Senate and Congressional races to see the real impact. There could be a case where 1 or 2 millionaires could contribute enough money to get a friend elected."
 
How did he come to write The Fix?
In 2005, Cillizza was doing political writing in Washington. John Harris, who was the founder of Politico but  was working at the Post, asked Cillizza to write a regular political blog for the paper. "The Fix is not for everyone," Ciollizza said. "It is for people that really like politics."

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
Chris Cillizza
Cillizza also writes "The Worst Week in Washington", a weekly feature that appears in the Sunday Outlook section of the Post and briefly explains which political figure or group had, as the title explains, the worst political week. Cillizza says sometimes the choices are easy. "Matthew Weiner, (the New York City Congressman of underwear photo fame) had 3 or 4 straight weeks. It was a Ripkin-esque run (a reference to 3rd baseman Cal Ripken who set a record for most consecutive  starts by a Major League baseball player)," Cillizza said. Others picks are more nuanced. But what do the politicians that Cillizza has to write about regularly think about the feature? "Everybody likes it until they appear in it," he said. "It's kind of a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I thing. We all make mistakes; we're all human. I'm sure I will have to give it to myself some week. I've been really close." Did Cillizza have any concerns when it was first suggested that he write the Worst Week. "I thought we might struggle to find  people to write about, but so far, that hasn't been an issue," he said, provoking laughter from the audience.

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