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Can Clinton's
'Inevitability' Be Erased?

Every weekday, members of the Washington Post political team take your questions on politics. Here are highlights from today's chat, where Jonathan Weisman discussed, among many topics, Sen. Larry Craig, Romney and Giuliani's shifting positions and Clinton's growing lead.

Alexandria, Va.: Did any House Republicans facing tough races next year vote against the SCHIP bill yesterday?

Jonathan Weisman: An excellent question. I noticed that Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) voted against it before he noticed all his colleagues voting for it. He then switched his vote. Jim Saxton, another Jersey Republican under Democratic attack, did vote against the bill, as did Thelma Drake of Virginia. But 45 Republicans voting for it is a real sign of how tough an issue this is.

Chicago: Thanks for taking questions. There have been a number of retirements of GOP congresspeople recently (including several here in Illinois). What's the scuttlebutt on who will be next? Is a large number of retirements by GOP House members a really good sign that they don't think they can take the House back any time soon?

[Related: see The Fix]

Jonathan Weisman: Last question first. Yes, it is a very strong sign that Republicans have resigned themselves to minority status at least for a few more years, and life in the minority stinks. Speculation on resignations is hottest on Ralph Regula, John Doolittle, Bill Young of Fla., and Barbara Cubin of Wyoming.

New York: I have a question about Hillary Clinton's growing lead in national polls. Isn't it true that the more Clinton increases her national lead and cements her status as the presumptive nominee, the greater the snapback will be if she loses in Iowa? After all, the higher you rise, the harder you fall (just ask Howard Dean). How are Obama and Edwards faring in Iowa? Is there a chance Hillary could lose there, and in so doing erase her national air of "inevitability"?

Jonathan Weisman: I do think the higher she flies, the harder she falls -- if she loses in Iowa. But that's a big if. And remember, John McCain crushed Bush in New Hampshire, but Bush's superior national operation quickly made that a footnote.

Anonymous: Has Sen. Leahy received all the info he wanted from the White House re: the U.S. attorney firings? Will he hold true to his word and not confirm a new attorney general until he is satified the White House has complied?

Jonathan Weisman: He has not received anything like all the information he wants, but given the track record on threats, I'll bet Attorney Gen. Mike Mukasey will be on the job long before we learn anything about Karl Rove's role in the firing of those attorneys.

Rolla, Mo.: So Waxman is basically saying Condi Rice attempted to stifle investigations into Blackwater's operations in Iraq. Can you think of another rising star at the beginning of an administration who has fallen so far as Rice?

Jonathan Weisman: She's cooked, isn't she? But I'd still put Colin Powell higher on the fallen star pantheon. The man was idolized, and he will never be able to get from under that UN speech to get us into Iraq.

Reading, Pa.: Do you know if the Dems are hoping to put war veteran Rep. Murphy up against Arlen Specter for the Senate? In your opinion is Specter vulnerable ?

Jonathan Weisman: Since Specter isn't up for re-election in 08, I've heard nothing of the sort. By 2010, the war issue will look very very different, and if a Democrat is in the White House, that cycle could be very good for the GOP. I wouldn't hold my breath (although Murphy really is a star up here).

Chicago: I just saw that SCHIP passed the house with 8 Dems voting against it. Can you identify the eight Democrats who voted no?

Jonathan Weisman: Sure, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Betty Castor of Fla., Bobby Etheridge of NC, Baron Hill of Indiana, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Jim Marshall of Georgia, Mike McIntyre of NC., and Gene Taylor of Miss. Boren, Hill, Taylor and Marshall are conservatives who probably didn't like the tobacco tax. The North Carolinians were obviously voting with their tobacco farmers. Castor and Kucinich felt the bill didn't go far enough, especially a provision insisted on by Senate Republicans that blocks access to S-CHIP for legal immigrants.

San Diego: How much longer do you think Senator Larry Craig will remain in office? And do you think his career has been irreparably damaged, or is there potential for him to salvage some thin shard of respectability?

Jonathan Weisman: Respect is something Sen. Craig does not appear to value much anymore, along with dignity. He has said if the matter is not resolved by Sept. 30, he is resigning. That is this Sunday. If he doesn't make good on that promise, I think his colleagues will make him make good. And the foot stomp won't be a nice, light graze under the stall.

Fairfax, Va.: Obviously, a large chunk of Northern Virginia has been voting with the Democrats in the last couple of elections. But given his moderate stances on a lot of issues, if Rep. Tom Davis were the GOP nominee for the Senate seat, how competitive would he be in Northern Virginia against former governor Mark Warner?

Jonathan Weisman: He would be competitive, but Warner is a Northern Virginia guy too. Davis would have to clean his clock, I'd guess, because in the primary, Gilmore is going to try to make Davis look left of Ted Kennedy downstate.

Washington: Do you think Mitt Romney and/or Rudy Giuliani can really succeed with the transformations they've made in the past year or so? Can a politician in this age of media scrutiny still win even though he basically says ignore everything I've said before 2006? These guys make Sen. Kerry look like a bedrock of consistency!

Jonathan Weisman: It'll be tough, but somebody has to get the Republican nomination, and if it is Romney or Giuliani, they would tack quickly to the center anyway. They could be in more trouble about their efforts to disavow their past than their actual past in the general election.

Lincoln, Neb.: Any scoops on what Bob Kerrey's plans are? In my opinion, if Kerrey runs for the Senate here in Nebraska, there would be a good chance for the Democrats to pick up a seat.

Jonathan Weisman: Well, Lincoln, you'd know better than I would. There's a lot of speculation that with Mike Johanns in the race, Kerrey might give it a pass afterall. I would bet Johanns and the GOP will try to paint Kerrey as an effete New Yorker who long ago abandoned Nebraska for a leftwing university in Manhattan. Do you think Kerrey could beat that rap?

By Washington Post editors  |  September 26, 2007; 12:40 PM ET
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