Former Louisiana Governor Announces 2012 Run

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is the second person to officially toss his name in the Republican field for president. Host Neal Conan and political editor Ken Rudin speak with Roemer about his presidential bid.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Another long-shot joins the GOP presidential race, Akaka bows out quietly in Hawaii, Ensign decides to avoid an especially ugly primary in Nevada, and Congress still can't pass the budget. It's Wednesday and time for a stalemate edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Where's the beef?

Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week. Not one but two senators announce retirements. Former Representative Heather Wilson throws her name into the hat for New Mexico's Senate seat, and the Wisconsin 14 and the new governor may all face recalls but won't meet at the Illinois border.

In a bit, we'll talk with former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, who became the second Republican to officially announce a run for the presidential nomination. So we're going to want to hear from those of you in Louisiana a little later.

But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hi, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, there's not much going on at NPR. So we can just talk about politics today. But one thing to be specific about: Buddy Roemer declared himself as an exploratory committee. He didn't actually declare his candidacy. But according to the FEC, that may be the same thing, and we can talk about that, too.

Tough trivia question today. Buddy Roemer, who is going to be on the show today, potential Republican presidential candidate, he was once governor of Louisiana and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana, but he was never a senator.

The question is: Who was the last presidential nominee of a major party who previously served as governor and House member but not as senator?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, again: Who is the last major-party presidential nominee who previously served as a governor and a member of the House of Representatives but not in the United States Senate, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And the winner, of course, gets a fabulous no-prize T-shirt.

In the meantime, Ken, the junior senator from Hawaii retires.

RUDIN: Yes, that young whippersnapper Daniel Akaka, who is 86 years old. And of course, he's a junior senator by age, as well, because he's four days younger than Daniel Inouye. But Akaka, who has been in the Senate since 1990, has not been raising money.

It's not a surprise. Democrats feel that they can retain his seat, especially with President Obama on the ballot next year. But everybody is watching to see if Linda Lingle, the former two-term Republican governor, can win, you know, can run that seat. Republicans might have a shot. Republicans haven't won a Senate race in that state since 1970, when of course, as you well remember, Hiram Fong won...

CONAN: Hiram Fong, absolutely. In the meantime, in Nevada, it looks like we could have another corker of a senatorial race now that John Ensign has bowed out.

RUDIN: Good news for the Republican Party. I mean, obviously involved with the sex scandal that we've talked about many times since 2009, when he admitted having an affair with the wife of a top - one of his top aides.

Anyway, John Ensign said he's not going to run again, and it's good news for the Republicans. Dean Heller, a congressman who represents basically the entire state except for where the people live, Las Vegas and Henderson in the south. Dean Heller is likely to run.

He's former secretary of state, so he's run statewide in the past. Shelley Berkley, a congresswoman from Las Vegas...

CONAN: The other part of the state.

RUDIN: The other part of the state, where the people live, may run, as well. Republicans really caught a break with Ensign not running.

CONAN: And what about Sharron Angle?

RUDIN: Sharron Angle is a possibility. Actually, when Dean Heller was elected to Congress, he beat Sharron Angle for a House primary. And then, of course, she ran and lost to Harry Reid in 2010. She's either going to run for the Senate, or she may run for Heller's House seat, a lot of speculation on Sharron Angle.

CONAN: Okay, in the meantime, there is the standoff that we know about in Wisconsin, where the governor and the Republican Senate would like to pass the reform bill that would include, among other things, ending almost all collective bargaining rights for state public employees. The 14 Democratic members of the state Senate have decamped to Illinois to prevent that vote from happening.

There were apparently talks to get things going again. Those may have collapsed.

RUDIN: Well, yes and no. They seem to have collapsed, and they may be starting again. There seems to be some indication, there seems to be some hinting that Governor Walker might not - may give up some things or at least concede some points for the Democrats. Right now, it doesn't look good.

But the political stuff still goes on. There are serious recall efforts underway both to recall several of the Democratic senators who fled the state and some Republicans who have pushed through Governor Walker's economic proposal. So a lot of anger, a lot of rancor still going on in Wisconsin.

CONAN: In the meantime, getting back to the Senate, Jeff Bingaman, we announced that he would be stepping down and not running in 2012 in New Mexico. Again, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, graduate of the Air Force Academy, has decided to throw her hat into the ring. Is she going to face a tough race in the Republican primary, though?

RUDIN: She will. As a matter of fact, two years ago, well, 2008, when Pete De Medici retired after decades in the Senate, Heather Wilson ran for that seat. And she lost the Republican primary to Steve Pearce, who was then a congressman and is once again a congressman.

The thing about Heather Wilson is that she's probably a very strong general election candidate. Because she's considered a moderate, she'd have tough trouble winning a Republican primary, and that could be what basically her political obituary is.

CONAN: And we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, a toughie: the last person to be the presidential nominee of a major party to have previously served as a governor and a member of the House of Representatives but not a U.S. senator, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We'll start with Joe(ph). Joe's with us from Norfolk.

JOE (Caller): An oldie but a goodie. How about Al Smith, 1928?

CONAN: Oh, you know me, Al.

RUDIN: Well, Al Smith was governor of New York, but he was not a member of the House.

JOE: All right, thanks.

CONAN: Thanks very much, and let's see if we can go next to - this is Roy(ph), Roy with us from Napa, Idaho.

ROY (Caller): Yes, how about Mike Dukakis?

RUDIN: Well, Mike Dukakis is the same exact thing, governor of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Miracle, but never a member, never ran for, never a member of the House.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Here's an email answer from Chris(ph) in Ravenna, Ohio: Is the answer Bill Richardson?

RUDIN: Bill Richardson was governor. He was also a member of the House, and he was - he did run for president. But we're looking for the nominee of a major party. Bill Richardson was never the nominee of a major party or never the nominee, a presidential nominee.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Corrinda(ph), Corrinda with us from Fort Wayne.

CORRINDA (Caller): Hi, is it Grover Cleveland?

RUDIN: Grover Cleveland was governor of New York. I don't believe he was in the House, but I will tell you I'm looking for somebody more recent than Grover Cleveland.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

RUDIN: We're looking for the last one.

CONAN: Let's go to - this is Carrie(ph), Carrie with us from Santa Rosa, California.

CARRIE (Caller): Hi. Is it Howard Dean?

CONAN: Howard Dean?

RUDIN: Well, again - first of all, Howard Dean was never a member of the House.

CONAN: That scream of an answer.

RUDIN: I think he likes the podcast though - I mean the TALK OF THE NATION because we hear him every week. But he was never a member of the House, nor was he the nominee of his party.

CARRIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks. This is email from Justin Riddick(ph) in Nashville: William McKinley.

RUDIN: William McKinley is a very good guess because not only was William McKinley the governor of Ohio...

CONAN: A shot in the dark, if you will.

RUDIN: Don't. Please don't do that - and a member of the House. But -and he was the last president, elected president who served as governor and House member but not senator. But he is not the last nominee.

CONAN: Let's go to Ramona(ph), Ramona with us from Philly.

RAMONA (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hi.

RAMONA: My guess is Huey P. Long of Louisiana.

RUDIN: Well, Huey and his two nephews, Dewey and Louie. No, Huey Long again was never - first of all, he was never a member of the House, but he was never the presidential nominee of his party. He did - he was talking about running for president in '36, but he was assassinated in 1935, never the nominee of his party for president.

CONAN: Good guess, though.

RAMONA: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go email, Charles Oliver(ph) in Boston says: William Jefferson Clinton.

RUDIN: Well William Jefferson Clinton ran for the House in 1974 but lost. So he was governor but never a member of the House.

CONAN: Go to Jeremy(ph), Jeremy with us from Birmingham.

JEREMY (Caller): Yes, James Cox of Ohio, whose running mate was FDR.

RUDIN: That is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: James Cox was the 1920 - he was the Democratic nominee against Warren Harding, former member of the House. He was the governor of Ohio. And of course, Jeremy is correct. FDR was his running mate, a pre-governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. James Cox is the correct answer.

CONAN: All right, Jeremy, stay on the line. We'll collect your particulars, and we will send you a political junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself to be posted upon our Wall of Shame.

JEREMY: Absolutely.

CONAN: Thanks very much, and congratulations.

RUDIN: He didn't sound too excited, though.

CONAN: No, he didn't. Maybe we should hang up on him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: In the meantime, we have hearings coming up this week in the House of Representatives. Peter King, the Republican from New York, the head of the - now the chairman of the...

RUDIN: Homeland Security Committee.

CONAN: Homeland Security Committee. And this is going to be about the radicalization of Muslims in this country.

RUDIN: Well, this is very, very controversial. Peter King, of course from Long Island, as you said, a Republican who is the new chairman of this committee, instead of taking on radicalization in America, he decided to say radicalization of the American Muslim community, and of course, a lot of people are seeing this as racial profiling. And a lot of people are very upset about this.

But he says that, you know, the mosques are being infiltrated, things like that, very controversial. The hearings start tomorrow.

CONAN: And speaking of controversial, there was a gotcha video that was posted on the Web yesterday where an NPR senior executive caught making very embarrassing remarks about the Tea Party and Republicans and conservatives. He resigned yesterday.

Today, the president of NPR, Vivian Schiller, resigned. What's the likely fallout of that as the budget battle continues on Capitol Hill?

RUDIN: Well, it couldn't come at a worse time for NPR, of course, given all of the hubbub over the Juan Williams thing and things like that. But it gives conservatives the ammunition because Ron Schiller was caught on tape saying that NPR does not need federal funding, we could do without federal funding.

CONAN: Though he did say a lot of stations would go dark without it.

RUDIN: Which is very true, as well. But the point is it's allowed the people like Jim DeMint and Eric Cantor and all these Republican leaders in Congress to say: Let's defund NPR because they don't need the money. It was just - the timing couldn't have been worse.

CONAN: What about NPR supporters or public broadcasting supporters?

RUDIN: Well, we haven't heard - you know, it's interesting. In the past, we used to hear Republicans saying good things about NPR, and I know for a fact that many Republicans love NPR. But they did not come forward in Congress.

The only saving grace may be the fact that President Obama has still insisted on increasing funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so we'll see what the two budgets, the House and Senate budgets look like.

But again, it just was just a disastrous of a day yesterday.

CONAN: And the presidential press spokesman, Jay Carney, the new one, said today the president still supports funding for public broadcasting. Again, we're going to have to see how this plays out.

NPR political editor Ken Rudin is our guest. When we come back, we'll be talking with president hopeful Buddy Roemer, who will join us when we return. So we're going to want to hear from those of you in Louisiana. You know him best. What are his pluses and minuses as a potential Republican presidential candidate? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan.

Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. You can check out his ScuttleButton puzzle, his column and his podcast at npr.org/junkie.

We're covering the candidates as they enter the Republican primary in hopes of unseating President Obama. Last week we spoke with Ed Rogers. That was on the assumption that former Speaker Newt Gingrich was going to announce. He stepped back from the ledge at the last moment. He may dip his toe in sooner or later.

But this week former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer officially entered the field of two and gave his first national speech as a candidate at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Convention.

Mr. BUDDY ROEMER (Former Republican Governor, Louisiana): We cut unemployment in half. We balanced the budget for four years. We sold the airplanes, the limos, delayed paychecks, didn't replace workers who quit. We forced big oil and big chemicals to clean up the air and water. We dropped toxic emissions by 41 percent. We stopped prevailing wage. We angered the unions. But we built on the right to work. We broke teacher tenure by testing teachers, find out who can teach, and we paid them 30 percent more.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ROEMER: And if that wasn't enough to get the attention of the corrupt good-old-boy network, I changed parties while in office.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

CONAN: Louisianans, you know Buddy Roemer better than the rest of us. What are his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org/talk.

And Governor Roemer joins us now from his office in Baton Rouge, and nice to have you with us today.

Mr. ROEMER: Well, thank you, it's good to be here. I love Iowa, but, you know, it snowed the two days I was there, good Lord of mercy.

CONAN: You've established an exploratory committee. Do you think you have a shot at the nomination?

Mr. ROEMER: I do. Well, and for a couple of reasons. I think my beliefs about the greatness of America and what to do to protect it for our children and grandchildren are relevant to this campaign.

And number two, I think the field is unformed and unproven. So I've been a Republican for 20 years. I've not only preached, but I've practiced what I preach. I build companies from ground zero, create new jobs, and I'm the only guy talking of running who's been both a governor and a congressman. So it'll be an interesting campaign.

CONAN: We see some Republicans, like Senator Orrin Hatch, catching flak from the Tea Party just for working with Democrats. You used to be one. Is that going to be a problem?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROEMER: I hate when you bring up these things, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROEMER: Well, I was born a conservative Democrat in north Louisiana, I guess if you can be something at birth. I grew up in a one-party state, Louisiana, had one Republican governor in its history up until I became number two, served in Congress with Ronald Reagan as president.

I was a conservative Democrat. Remember the boll weevils? I was one of the three leaders of the boll weevils. We worked on tax reform, on budget balance, on strengthening the military, on Star Wars, on aid to contras in Nicaragua.

I mean Ronald Reagan just broke the back of the Soviet Union and I am real proud I played a small part right there at his side as a conservative Democrat.

CONAN: And some people might...

Mr. ROEMER: As governor - as governor I was elected as a Democrat, and then two years later I changed parties, and I'll tell you why. I could not continue in the Democratic Party the way it was going. There's some good people there. I have no problem with that. But I'm a guy that thinks we ought to have jobs and growth and smaller government. So I proudly changed parties.

I challenge the other Republicans. I like my Republican credentials better than theirs. We actually did these things.

CONAN: You said you - some people in the Democratic Party you like. If we had more time, we would ask you their names. But Ken Rudin...

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Governor Roemer...

Mr. ROEMER: You are a dangerous man.

RUDIN: Governor Roemer, by all accounts you seemed to be the star of the event in Iowa on Monday, and every account I read seems to be that you were the guy who led that show.

But here's the thing: You've been focusing on the money, the corruption of money in politics.

Mr. ROEMER: Yes.

RUDIN: And yet - and you talk about you're limiting your contributions to $100. That was a charge that many made about Republicans in 2010. There were a lot of outside special interests that came in, and yet Republican voters didn't seem to mind that at all.

Mr. ROEMER: Yes, and I think our voters often get used to the status quo. I mean, I've had it asked me a thousand times: Well, you can't win, Buddy, you can't win unless you get a big PAC with hidden contributions.

RUDIN: I mean, President Obama will have $1 billion to spend in 2012.

Mr. ROEMER: Well, let me tell you how you do it. I traveled the country with John McCain. I know this business, although I've not run for office for a decade or longer. I want a president who's free to lead. Energy independence, scrubbing the budget, throwing out the tax code - it's 5,500 pages - and starting out with a five-page format.

You're going to listen to me in this campaign. We're going to talk about how to change America. But at the heart of it, guys, you can't be in bed with a special interest. It can't be done.

Look at the healthcare bill. It didn't touch insurance. It didn't touch tort reform. It didn't touch pharmaceutical competition. It didn't touch it. And those are the costs in healthcare. It was a joke, 2,300-page joke. And President Obama is no different from the rest of them. He talked about change in America. There has been no change. Big money talks in Washington.

One other point: Washington, D.C. is a boom town, and the rest of America is hurting. Why is that? Because every special interest in the world has moved to Washington so they can buy a vote. I'm against it.

CONAN: We want to hear from our listeners in Louisiana about Buddy Roemer. They know him better than we do, 800-989-8255, email talk@npr.org. Ingrid with us from Baton Rouge.

INGRID (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Ingrid, go ahead, please.

INGRID: My husband was a state worker, and when the governor was in office - and he talks about delaying paychecks for employees - what he did was, it was going to end up costing a paycheck in a year. And it meant that we had to go to court in order to get that paycheck back.

And especially in light of what's going on in Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana and trying to - and Florida now laying off state workers, I don't think that he's the right person to have in the highest office of the land right now.

CONAN: Ingrid, did you ever get that paycheck back?

INGRID: Yes.

CONAN: Okay. So Governor Roemer, your response?

Mr. ROEMER: She's absolutely right. I went after waste, fraud, abuse, and a system of government we could not afford. True story: I inherited a budget from my predecessor, Edwin Edwards, who went to the penitentiary for 10 years, that was 25 percent out of balance.

And how do you restore balance and create jobs? We had a 12 percent unemployment rate, guys, and a budget that was a billion dollars out of balance over five years. We had teachers with contracts for life, and many of them couldn't teach. I went after every labor union. I went after public employee. I went after every part of the state that was not performing well.

And I didn't - I didn't eliminate people. What I did was ask everybody to give. And I asked state employees, who later got a three percent pay raise from me, I asked them to give a delay of five days in one check, and they did.

I asked the big oil and the big chemical companies to clean up their toxic waste, and I enforced - and we lowered it by 40 percent. Guys, there's no easy way to balance a budget. You've got to get on it.

CONAN: And...

INGRID: Right.

CONAN: ...Ingrid, go ahead.

INGRID: And on the backs of state employees, as if they're the most highly paid people in the world. They work for the state government at a cut in pay compared to what they would get outside the public sector, and then make it sound like they were asked to give up their...

Mr. ROEMER: Well, let me tell you how bad it was, Ingrid.

INGRID: I lived it, sir.

Mr. ROEMER: The retirement system for state workers was unfunded, unfunded. It's funded now. You know who did it? I did. And I don't want to be with unfair with anybody, and I love people who work for a living, like you. But we're in this together, and state workers were not having to sacrifice like the taxpayers and the small-businesspeople and the small farmers were.

And I thought the best way to do it was that if we all joined together and did it.

CONAN: Ingrid, we accept that you're not going to agree with former Governor Roemer. We're going to have more on public employees, by the way, tomorrow on this program. So join us for that. Thanks very much for calling.

Mr. ROEMER: Well, you know, let me say this. I appreciate what these governors in Indiana and Wisconsin and Ohio and New Jersey are trying to do. I did it 20 years ago. It doesn't make you popular.

But here's what we did: We balanced the books. We created almost half-a-million new jobs in our little small state. We dropped unemployment from 12 percent to six percent. We paid our bills. Our bond rating went up three times, and companies started coming to Louisiana, and people had jobs. That's what a leader does. That's what we have to do now.

CONAN: Here's an email from Karen in Buffalo, South Dakota. Every issue I am concerned about he addressed. Thank you.

So, Ken, you have a question?

RUDIN: Governor Roemer, I hate to - I don't want this to be a pile on, but all the things you did in your four years as governor - fighting corruption, fighting the unions, things like that - but four years later, you were beaten by the same Edwin Edwards that you succeeded four years prior.

Mr. ROEMER: Look at the race. Look at the race. You're absolutely right. I made a lot of people angry. You know, it's like having tough love in a family. You've got to come together and tell the truth, and they went after me with everything they had.

What really beat me at the end was the fact that I had changed parties midway through. That's what beat me. I lost by one percentage point in one of the roughest, meanest, terrible elections in our state history, but it was an open primary. Edwin Edwards got his 30 percent. It was the African-American vote. That's what he got. I usually got 15 percent of that vote, and that election, I got zero because I was a Republican.

The Republican Party needs to learn to have an open tent and to get new members. And that was my first time running as a Republican, and I'm sure I didn't do everything right in the campaign. But I lost by a whisker. And who did I lose to? Edwin Edwards and David Duke, and they both went to the penitentiary under laws that I had passed in my term about clean money and about honest reporting. They couldn't do it.

CONAN: Governor Roemer, thanks very much for your time.

Buddy Roemer has established an exploratory committee to think about running for the Republican GOP nomination. We thank him for his time today.

Mr. ROEMER: Thanks, guys. I appreciate the opportunity.

CONAN: Buddy Roemer joined us from his office in Baton Rouge.

In the meantime, he was not the only person to show up at the Iowa forum there, Ken. There were a couple of interesting people. We mentioned earlier Newt Gingrich. Well, we'd expected him to announce that he would be a candidate by this time, by the time he was in Iowa. He hasn't done it yet.

RUDIN: Well, his top aide, Joe Gaylord, had told a lot of people that he was going to form an exploratory committee. And as it turns out, according to the FEC, I was talking to Peter Overby - NPR's Peter Overby - about this right before the show. According to the FEC, there's no difference between actually declaring and calling for - and opening an exploratory committee.

So what Newt Gingrich has done, he's officially testing the waters, and therefore you could raise money to do this kind of stuff without declaring who's giving you the money.

CONAN: And the case - we're talking about politics with Ken Rudin as we do every Wednesday. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Interesting that the Iowa forum focused a lot more on social conservative issues rather than fiscal conservative issues. We mentioned Newt Gingrich. Here's what he had to say at the forum.

Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (Former Republican Speaker of the House): It doesn't begin, we hold this ideology, this philosophy, this theory, if we hold these truths. So what are the truths? That we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. GINGRICH: Now, why does that matter? Because it means the power comes from God to each one of you personally. You are personally sovereign. You loan power to the government, the government does not loan power to you. And that is the fundamental division between most Americans and the secular socialist people around Obama and the degree to which they do not understand America, cannot possibly represent America and cannot lead us to a successful future.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appearing at the Iowa forum. And he's got a bit of baggage in this contest - two divorces. Again, we should mention Buddy Roemer does, too, but that's going to be a problem with social conservatives.

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly it. I mean, the reason we talk about -they're talking about social issues in Iowa and not economic issues is because - look at previous winners of what's happened in Iowa. Mike Huckabee, who ran as a religious conservative and came out of nowhere to win the caucuses in 2008. Pat Robertson, of course, started off with a strong second place finish in 1988. The social religious conservatives are very, very strong in Iowa, and that's the key to winning the caucuses there on the Republican side.

CONAN: There were others who showed up. Tim Pawlenty, the other A-lister there at the event. Interesting, Ron Paul was in Iowa but not at the event. This is not his...

RUDIN: He's not a religious conservative (unintelligible) right.

CONAN: He's not a religious conservative, and it was Mitt Romney who was in New Hampshire, as opposed to being in Iowa.

And we have to note that we learned today that one of the preeminent political columnists of our time has died. David Broder wrote for The Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize there for his explanations of the Watergate scandal. He was a frequent guest on NPR and on this program. In election years, he tirelessly canvassed voters and knocking on doors across the country and places like Iowa and New Hampshire to make sure that he understood what American voters were thinking.

(Soundbite of archival audio)

Mr. DAVID BRODER (Columnist, The Washington Post): What we found over the years here is that these stories are really read in Washington because the neurosis in this city is that they're trying to govern the country, the people who work here, but they have this terrible sneaking suspicion, which is often correct, that they don't know what the hell is going on in the country. And I think they regard this as being reasonably authentic representation of what real people are talking about and thinking about.

CONAN: Washington Post columnist David Broder, interviewed in 2004 by Steve Inskeep, our colleague here, and he died today at the age of 81. He was, I'd say, preeminent political columnist. I think that's about right.

RUDIN: Neal, he was - every time I was in his presence, I just felt the greatness of him. He was exactly what a political journalist should be. He was not bombastic, he was not showy. He was smart. And he was fair, and he was analytical, and he was somebody who when you heard it from him, you heard the straight talk. And David Broder, there's very few of them left and a terrible loss.

CONAN: He said his model for political reporting was Teddy White, T.H. White, "The Making of the President," fill in the year. But he said sometimes we got so caught up getting inside the campaign we forgot that it was about the voters and not the spinmeisters.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. And David Broder was the exemplifier of exactly what it meant to the voters and how it would affect the people. He was a solid journalist.

CONAN: David Broder, one of the best, died today here in Washington, D.C. He wrote for many years for The Washington Post.

Ken Rudin, thanks very much for your time today. You can see Ken's political columns, you can download his podcast and solve his ScuttleButton puzzles at npr.org/junkie. He will be back with us every Wednesday right here on Political Junkie and TALK OF THE NATION.

Thanks, Ken.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up next, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us for an update on the attacks on peaceful demonstrators in the Ivory Coast. Stay with us for that. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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