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Washington Post The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza On The GOP debates beginning to form for ’12 already

Friday, November 12, 2010

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HH: I’m still addicted to Chris Cillizza, though I wanted to scream when I got my Fix today, because he did the first presidential line of 2012. Honestly, Chris, I felt ashamed that I read it.

CC: Too soon? It’s never too soon for me, but maybe it’s too soon for a few people. I know it’s not for everybody, but you know, I figured I’d put it out there with the caveat, Hugh, that predictions made at this point are even more useless than predictions usually made in politics.

HH: Oh, I read every word, but it’s like getting the Christmas carols out right now.

CC: It’s a guilty pleasure.

HH: It’s a guilty pleasure. Now Chris, a couple of things about that, number one, people who want that, let’s just plug away at The Fix right now.

CC: Sure.

HH: chris.cillizza@?

CC: washingtonpost.com.

HH: All right.

CC: Just send me an e-mail, I will add you like I added Hugh to our distribution list.

HH: And you, it’s just like crack cocaine. I’m addicted to this stuff. Now a couple of issues that are near and dear to my heart. First of all, I’ve started a draft Bill Bennett for RNC, and I’m going to be the…

CC: Oh, interesting.

HH: I just think we need someone who knows what to do and when not to…Saul Anuzis is coming up next, and he’s a good inside guy. But is there any movement out there for an outside person, someone like Bennett who’s got the chops to go one on one with the media, but also knows when not to be in the media?

CC: You know what’s hard, Hugh, is that I think that you always have to remember that this is 168 people who decide this. These are sort of the most dedicated, the most dedicated party warriors, you know, RNC committee men and women. Lots of them have been at this and have had this job for years and years and years. And to be honest, during the Bush years, they were kind of told who the RNC chairman was going to be. You know, when the president is in the White House, he says I want this person, and you kind of go along with it. And I think, you know, a level, this happens on the Democratic side, too, a level of resentment builds up. And when the party doesn’t control the White House, I think there’s a desire among these 168 people to have one of their own. I think it’s why you see lots of state chairs, people like Chris Healey from Connecticut, Reince Priebus is out there mentioned from Wisconsin. You see a lot of these people who are not known, certainly not as high profile as a Bill Bennett, for example, mentioned and taken seriously, because again, you’re dealing with the most narrow of the most narrow group who are voting on this, and they kind of want one of their own.

HH: Yeah, but I know that Bennett could just raise seven figures on a weekly basis. He is…

CC: Well, and I do think that’s, you know, I think it’s a very important part. I think fundraising and sort of organization, and making…you know, part of it, you’re a manager in a lot of ways, and you’re just kind of trying to manage all the various pieces of the national party. And so those two skills, I think, are really, really important. And I think anybody who runs against Steele, and I think Saul is obviously running, and I think there’ll be other people. I think they’re going to emphasize their ability to raise money and stay organized.

HH: All right, now let me talk to you about a second issue. This is going to be a little bit more sensitive. And I stipulate. Jim VandeHei, John Harris, great guys. I love having Mike Allen on the program. And I love having you, I love having Beltway guys on the program.

CC: Are you buttering me up?

HH: I am. I’m about to tell you what I…today, Politico sent out a note that they’ve got Nancy Reagan to issue an invitation to have all the Republican would-be people that you listed today come to the Reagan Library with NBC and Politico.

CC: Right, right. Yup.

HH: And I, as a conservative, I’m tired of Beltway journalists, most of whom, I’m not going to name any names, but most of whom are left of center, and have them set the agenda and the questions, run these events. I’m going to go on the warpath to get our guys and gals not to go anywhere near those kinds of debates until after they’ve sat down with a debate or a forum with conservative radio talk show hosts, conservative bloggers, conservative newspaper columnists. So Chris, don’t you think it’s about time they answer our questions first?

CC: Well, let me first say I’m pro the candidates sitting down with as many people as possible. And the only thing I’m opposed to, Hugh, is not dealing with people who are asking questions. You know, I’m kind of interested broadly as a journalist, and just frankly as somebody who’s curious, especially because a lot of these people running, with the exception of Sarah Palin and maybe Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, we don’t know that much about. I mean, I don’t think the broad, most people know that much about Tim Pawlenty, know that much about Haley Barbour, know that much about John Thune. So I have no issue with, I’m kind of a more the merrier, come on in, the water’s fine. I don’t know how that synchs with you, but my general attitude on this is I’m more than happy to have people from across the ideological spectrum asking questions, because I think overall, it allows voters who are making a very important choice to get to know these people in a meaningful way. And ultimately, that, to me, is the best thing that we’ve going for democracy.

HH: Okay, objectively, what would get more ratings and be more interesting – a panel of Brian William and John Harris and Anderson Cooper asking eight Republicans questions, or a panel of Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved, four different radio networks, asking the same people questions? What would be more interesting, Chris?

CC: And I don’t want to sit on the fence, but I think, I mean, I think there would be two different sets of questions, potentially.

HH: Oh, hugely.

CC: But I don’t know that either of them would be uninteresting. Maybe I’m too deep into the Beltway conventional wisdom. But I tend to think, I know there’s not, on both partisan sides there’s not a lot of happiness sometimes about the questions that get asked. I remember that during the long Democratic debates. You know, there were about five hundred of them. There were a lot of Republican debates, too. Partisans not happy about the questions, and some thought they were frivolous.

HH: Remember the GOP debates with Santa Claus and the plant, and all those different yahoos that they let in because they wanted to embarrass the candidates as oppose to actually talk things over?

CC: Well, this goes to my point, Hugh. I mean, I guess I’m sticking to it, which is I’m pro more debates rather than less. I don’t, I’m not…I’m agnostic about who’s asking the questions. I think Brian Williams can ask the questions. I think Hugh Hewitt can ask the questions. As long as we’re getting questions and direct answers, which often times we don’t get, no matter who asks the questions. I’m not…I guess I’m not terribly focused on who’s asking them.

HH: All right, last area, which goes to Obamacare. I was on Fox today talking about this. And the conventional wisdom has developed that there are some Democrats in the Senate who will go along with repealing 1099 requirements, and the Republicans ought to make a deal with them, Chris, I think Obamacare is toxic for the Democrats. I think it’s metastasizing and people hate it, and pretty soon, it’s going to be like campaigning…defending Obamacare is going to be like defending high unemployment.

CC: You know, Hugh, we saw in the campaign, there were two people who did it. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, and Scott Murphy up in upstate New York, a House member, and he lost.

HH: Amen.

CC: There really weren’t a lot more Democrats than that. Now I will tell you, the White House and some national Democrats point to the exit polling, which says that, you know, I think it was 17%, don’t quote me exact on that number, but 17% of the people said it was the most important, health care was the most important issue. Vastly more, 60 plus percent said economy. As they said, it’s kind of a non-issue. Now I’ve written about this, I’ve talked to lots of people within the Democratic Party. There is a real disagreement there. People who ran campaigns said it was a big problem not in and of itself, but that it was indicative of this larger stereotype the Democrats got caught under this kind of big government, government’s going to save everything, and we’re going to spend out way out of the problem, that health care contributed to that broader argument. That worked for Republicans.

HH: What about the argument, though, they broke it, they bought it. Every price increase, every premium increase, every plan change, every doctor who turns you down, has got Obamacare written over it large, and they have not fixed anything? You’ve got about 45 seconds, Chris Cillizza.

CC: I mean, I think that’s the debate over do Republicans put their political chips on the table to repeal it, or do you let it stand as is, even if you do, if you are a Republican or a conservative, and you believe it’s bad policy because it’s good politics. And I don’t know the answer to that, Hugh. It seems to me like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are readying a fight to repeal it. And I think that will be a major, major fight in the 112th Congress.

HH: And it will go on for two years. Chris Cillizza, always a pleasure on a Friday afternoon. Chris.cillizza@washingtonpost.com. Get your Fix. It’s become a fix here on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

End of interview.

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