Social Conservatives Vie For Role In 2012 GOP Debate

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is working to keep fiscal concerns front and center for candidates vying for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. But Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, hopes to incorporate social issues into the debate as well.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

She's back. Palin plays Madison, the speaker needs Democrats to pass the budget, and the president wants a fight on health care. It's Wednesday and time for a you-think-we're-stupid edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, Im reminded of that ad. Wheres the beef?

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

Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, youre no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You dont have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But Im the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics, though last week we got upstaged by the commander in chief. This week, the birth certificate bill got vetoed in Phoenix, Justice David Prosser retains his seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum explore the GOP nomination for president, and Shelley Berkley will run for the Senate in Nevada.

And we remember former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer and conservative pioneer William Rusher. In a few minutes, Ralph Reed on the role of social conservatives in the GOP presidential primaries. Later in the program, a super-smuggling sub surfaces in South America.

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

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal, and before we go to the trivia question, I just want to tell you, I just came back from the University of Alabama, and boy, is my Tuscaloosa. But a wonderful trip to Alabama, a lot of political junkie, TALK OF THE NATION fans.

I met with Morris Dees, who is the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, you know, battling the Klan for decades and just fascinating stories. He was George Wallace's fundraising head in 1958, great stories.

Also, Stephen Black, the grandson of former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black doing some great stuff with students at the University of Alabama, just great love stories, you know, great history there.

CONAN: And are they the focus of this week's trivia question?

RUDIN: They are not. They have nothing to do with the trivia question. But as it is, this week's special guest is Ralph Reed, as you said, the conservative political strategist. He's long been involved in campaigns, but only once did he run for office. He lost the GOP primary in Georgia for lieutenant governor in 2006.

So with this convoluted thinking, name the last major-party presidential nominee who, earlier in his career, ran for lieutenant governor and lost.

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to the last major-party presidential nominee to previously lose a race for lieutenant governor, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And, of course, the fabulous no-prize T-shirt goes to the winner of the contest.

RUDIN: Unbelievable.

CONAN: It's unbelievable. But Ken, it looks like the freshmen GOP like to give the speaker of the House a hard time.

RUDIN: Well, they do, and it's not a surprise because we said from the - they said from the beginning, from the moment they were elected in 2010, that they're not going to go along with politics as usual, and they're not going to go along with the way government is run and financed.

And so even though the Republicans came up with this agreement, Speaker Boehner and the White House came up with a $38 billion spending cut through September 30 for 50-some-odd Republicans, many Tea Party supporters, they said that was not enough, and they voted against it. And Boehner basically needed Democrats to help him pass that compromise.

CONAN: Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, had to go over to the Democratic side and say: We're going to need some votes here.

RUDIN: And that's what's interesting because, for the most part, Nancy Pelosi, and you remember how she was once speaker of the House...

CONAN: Used to be speaker, yeah.

RUDIN: And in a lot of the papers. She was almost ignored in this whole battle, and of course she voted against the compromise or the deal or whatever you want to call it. But the fact is that had the Democrats not supplied those votes, that compromise could have very well gone down.

CONAN: There is also some news to update on what looks to be a crackerjack senatorial race in the state of Nevada.

RUDIN: That's right, and you have two - you have two members of the House who look like they may be running against each other. Shelley Berkley, who represents Las Vegas, who has never run statewide before, announced her candidacy. This is a seat that Republican John Ensign is giving up, he of the sex scandal, the previous sex scandal.

So Shelley Berkley may very well be the Democratic nominee, although other Democrats are looking at the race, and the Republican looks like Dean Heller, a member of Congress from the northern part, the less-populated part of the state, just as Harry Reid of Nevada was a huge, big story, that Senate race was a big story in 2010, this could very well be a big story in 2012.

CONAN: We're beginning to get some of the results of redistricting. The census, of course, in 2010 means that all 50 states have to redraw the lines. Some states pick up seats, some states lose seats. But every state will redraw the district lines.

RUDIN: Unless, of course, you're a state with one congressman.

CONAN: Right, except Alaska, for example. But in any case, in Iowa, some interesting news.

RUDIN: Big news. Yeah, basically, it goes from five members of the House to four, and so the new lines, it's a nonpartisan commission. It's not one of the typical politics as usual, it's kind of a - basically a commission that gets along with everybody.

But what it did was it merged the districts of Tom Latham and Steve King in the west, two strong Republicans. Latham announced he would not run against Steve King. Instead, he will move a little further east, run against Leonard Boswell in the Des Moines, Third District. And what's also interesting is that Christie Vilsack, the wife of I guess agricultural commissioner Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor, she announced - she's about to announce, we understand that she may run against Steve King for that House seat.

CONAN: In meantime, in Wisconsin, a bitter judicial battle seems to have fallen to the - well, towards the governor's side. He wasn't running, but he was the issue.

RUDIN: Well, exactly right. This is the one this is the supreme court race, which is ostensibly nonpartisan. David Prosser, who had been the incumbent, former Republican speaker of the House in Wisconsin against JoAnne Kloppenburg, who is - backed by the Democrats and the anti-Scott Walker people.

Anyway, it was a very, very close race until they suddenly found 14,000 votes in a county, and it gave, basically, David Prosser a 7,000 - I think 7,319, something like that, vote lead and victory. Kloppenburg has until 5 p.m. Central Time today to decide whether she wants to have a recount.

CONAN: All right, in the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the last major-party presidential nominee to have previously run for lieutenant governor and lost. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

And we'll start with Janine(ph), Janine with us from Berkeley.

JANINE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

JANINE: I am guessing Walter Mondale.

RUDIN: No, Walter Mondale never ran for governor or lieutenant governor.

JANINE: Okay.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can go next - this is Juno(ph), Juno with us from Rochester in Minnesota.

JUNO (Caller): Hi, this is Juno in Rochester, Minnesota, and I believe it was Michael Dukakis.

RUDIN: Michael Dukakis is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding on the second try. That's early. Good guess, Juno.

RUDIN: In 1970, he was a Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Kevin White, the mayor of Boston, was the Democratic nominee for governor. And as a matter of fact, when Michael Dukakis later ran for governor, his lieutenant governor was a guy by the name of John Kerry.

CONAN: Interesting. So Juno, stay on the line, and we will take down your particulars and mail you off a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in response for your promise to take a digital picture of yourself to be mounted on our Wall of Shame.

JUNO: Will do, and can I say hi to my son?

CONAN: No, you cannot say to your son, Juno. It's absolutely forbidden.

RUDIN: But we will. But we will.

CONAN: But congratulations.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: He's on hold. In any case, there are - there is some news - well, in a couple of different cases, we had President Obama, during the budget dispute, acting as if he wanted to be above the fray until he went back to his hometown, and an open microphone caught him, well, in the fray.

President BARACK OBAMA: I spent a year and a half getting health care passed. I had to take that issue across the country, and I paid significant political costs to get it done. The notion that I'm going to let you guys undo that in a six-month spending bill...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. OBAMA: I said: You want to repeal health care? Go at it, we'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel- and dime-ing me in the budget. Do you think we're stupid?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And the White House afterwards said: Yeah, open mic, we didn't expect it but not embarrassed by anything the president said.

RUDIN: Right, I mean, exactly. This has been his argument all along. And for all the critics of President Obama said that he's been, you know, invisible during this whole battle, once Paul Ryan came out with the Republican argument for the cuts in the Medicaid treatment and things like that, it seems like only recently has President Obama gotten more involved and more energized. And basically, this will be the theme of the 2012 elections.

CONAN: One thing that probably won't be a theme of the 2012 election is the president's birth certificate. Interesting, it's come up in Donald Trump's race, we're going to be talking about that in a little bit, as one of the issues that social conservatives may be interested, Ralph Reed will join us in a few minutes.

But in the state of Arizona this week, Governor Jan Brewer, no political ally of the president, nevertheless vetoed a bill that would have required every presidential candidate appearing on the ballot to provide proof of their nationality, their citizenship.

RUDIN: This was passed by the state legislature, the Republican-controlled state legislature. And Jan Brewer, who, as you say, is very strong outspoken on guns and things like that. But she said this was a bridge too far. This legislation, she vetoed it.

And obviously the business community in Arizona has been very embarrassed about the new - the reputation of what's going on with Arizona. And I think somebody must have said something, that this is going - taking a step too far.

Fourteen other states, by the way, are considering such legislation about having birth certificates and proof of citizenship. And Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, has said that if the state legislature passes it, he will sign it.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have to remember two political figures who passed this past week: William Rusher, a contemporary and ally of William F. Buckley at the National Review and a conservative, one of those conservatives who brought the movement back to political life, you'd have to say, after the Goldwater debacle all those years ago.

But the more colorful character who passed away, William Donald Schaefer, two-time mayor of Baltimore and later two-time governor of - four-time mayor of Baltimore and two-time governor of the state of Maryland.

RUDIN: Right, and he was elected, William Donald Schaefer, the Democrat, when he was elected governor of Maryland in 1986, basically he was still mayor of Baltimore. He loved Baltimore, and he did a lot for the city.

You know, he was there when Camden Yards was built, when the National Aquarium was built. But he also cared about litter in the streets. I mean, he was like an alderman, like a city alderman who just loved his city.

And he almost got sad. It looked like he was sad when he was elected governor in 1986.

CONAN: He wore an admiral's uniform to his inauguration.

RUDIN: Yeah, he was a quirky guy. He was not the typical politician, but he was an interesting guy. But he just loved the city of Baltimore.

And William Rusher was interesting, too, because he was one of the founders of National Review, part of the draft-Goldwater movement, an early conservative, when there was no conservative movement in the country.

CONAN: Coming up, Ralph Reed will join us. The former head of the Christian Coalition is working to bring social issues to the fore in the 2012 race. If you vote Republican, will social issues decide your vote come the presidential primaries? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We'll be back with Ralph Reed and our political junkie Ken Rudin in just a moment. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Im Neal Conan.

Political Junkie Ken Rudin is back with us, as he usually is on Wednesdays. He's NPR's political editor. You can find his column, podcast and solve his ScuttleButton puzzle at npr.org/junkie.

Today's all about the growing field of Republicans who are vying for the White House. In a moment, former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed will join us to talk about social issues and their prominence in the 2012 race.

So for those of you who vote Republican, will social issues - abortion, gay marriage - will issues like that decide your vote come primary day? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Joining us now from his office in Atlanta is Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. RALPH REED (Faith and Freedom Coalition): Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And all of the talk in the Republican Party, certainly inside the Beltway these past couple of months, has been about the budget and fiscal sobriety and all that sort of thing. Is that going to crowd out social issues as the major part of the platform for Republicans?

Mr. REED: No, I don't think so. I think the way you win an election is by focusing on the issues that are determining voting behavior. And if past is prologue, the exit polling from 2010 indicates that by an overwhelming margin people were voting on the economy, particularly the poor performance of the economy - jobs, taxes, spending and health care.

How will they be voting and on what issues in 2012? I think it's way too early to tell. But unless there's a big turnaround in this economy, that's going to be issue number one for the candidates of both parties.

CONAN: So social issues you would expect to take a backseat?

Mr. REED: I certainly wouldn't use that term. I think what I would say is that when people are getting ready to lose their home, and we know that about one in every five mortgages today in America is either in foreclosure or underwater or in distress, and when people can't find a job, and there are roughly 13 million people looking for work and probably another 10 million who have given up, it's not surprising that that's what the election's about.

CONAN: What do you make of...

Mr. REED: But having said that, I think as we saw in 2010, to be pro-life, to be pro-family and to be pro-marriage is an advantage at the ballot box, and if you dont believe me, you know, just ask some of the Democrats who said they were pro-life and voted for Obamacare who are now no longer in Congress.

CONAN: Interesting, but you of course have heard of Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, who said: Yes, given the urgency of all of those economic issues, why don't we call a truce on some of the social issues and focus on the economy?

Mr. REED: Well, I don't really have any argument with Mitch Daniels. He's a friend. He's a great governor of Indiana. He's doing a terrific job in that state, and I think he'd be very qualified to be president. And I hope he - and I hope he runs. I really do.

But the problem with the phrase truce is that by definition to have a truce, both sides have to agree to it. It's kind of hard to have a truce when you have the Obama administration, you know, saying that they're not going to defend marriage in the federal court, which they recently said with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act.

CONAN: That's not quite what they said. They said they wouldn't defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts because that would get it before the Supreme Court, which would then decide the case.

Mr. REED: Well, but they won't defend a federal law, which they are legally obligated to defend.

CONAN: Again, that's not quite what they said, Mr. Reed. They said they would not defend it when the case came before the Supreme Court. They would, of course, continue to enforce the law, because it's the law.

Mr. REED: No, no, that's not accurate.

CONAN: I think it is.

Mr. REED: It went beyond that.

CONAN: Let's agree to disagree on that and move on. I think I'm right on that.

Mr. REED: The Justice Department went beyond that and said that they did not believe the law deserved to be defended. And this was a law that was passed by a bipartisan supermajority in the House and the Senate and was signed into law by a Democratic president.

CONAN: And again, in the Supreme Court is what they meant, and let's agree to disagree on that, and I'll turn you over to Ken, who will ask a nicer question.

Mr. REED: The law is on appeal to the Supreme Court.

CONAN: Yes, good. We'll get it before the Supreme Court. Ken?

RUDIN: Ralph, thanks for being on the show.

Mr. REED: You bet.

RUDIN: Going back to Iowa, we saw, obviously in 2008, Mike Huckabee, who was a favorite of the social conservatives, winning the Iowa caucuses. We saw Pat Robertson, who you were involved with in 1988, doing very well in the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. REED: Right.

RUDIN: And yet you have people like Mitt Romney, who probably what he should have done in 2008 he's doing in 2012: He's focusing on the economy, as we agree is the number one issue.

But can - is there an unease or an unrest among social conservatives with a Romney, with somebody's who looking for a Huckabee kind of candidate who can excite, you know, these social kind of issues?

Mr. REED: Well, it's really a two-track process. You historically, going back to the Robertson candidacy in '87, '88, you have candidates like Mike Huckabee, you know, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, John Ashcroft - if he had gone in 2000 - he looked at it, decided not to - the kind of candidate who has a really strong cultural and faith-based affinity with social conservatives and can eloquently articulate their values.

Those candidates are going to over-perform in places where a large percentage of the vote is going to come from evangelicals and Roman Catholics. That's going be Iowa, it's going to be the South, it's going to be especially South Carolina.

RUDIN: And less so New Hampshire, right?

Mr. REED: Right. But what usually ends up happening is, first of all, someone else usually ends up being the nominee - Bush in '88, Dole in '96, Bush again in '00 and '04, and then McCain in '08. So the person who generates that enthusiasm and that intensity usually over-performs but not to the point of becoming the nominee.

What the nominee does then is they find a way to connect with those voters, sometimes by putting somebody on the ticket that they're excited about - think Quayle in '88 or Kemp in '96 or Palin in '08 - and they learn how to develop a language and a vernacular that connects with those voters.

And I think in the case of McCain, not to look too much backward, but you remember when he went to the Saddleback Civil Forum with Pastor Rick Warren, I thought that was one of the best nights he had during the entire campaign.

So I don't think it's anything to be overly concerned about. I think it's -just as in the Democratic primaries you have people like Howard Dean, who really sort of fire up the base, but then you usually have somebody else become the nominee.

CONAN: We're talking with Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, former executive director of the Christian Coalition. Republicans, or if you vote Republican in the primaries, give us a call. How will social issues affect your vote this time around? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's see if we can get Dennis(ph) on the line, Dennis with us from Grosse Pointe in Michigan.

DENNIS (Caller): Yes, hello, how are you?

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

DENNIS: Yeah, I am - I'm planning on voting in the primaries. I'm a Republican. And for me social issues are not what I vote. It's not what drives my vote during elections.

I think that social issues are a siren that lure Republicans into the rocky shoal consistently, and I think that they take a victory that they usually win on economic issues and they get co-opted into the social, looking at social issues as the reason. And I think that's a mistake on their part.

CONAN: Can you give us an example of what you're talking about, Dennis?

DENNIS: Well, I mean, I think if you look at, you know, the last time that the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, you know, basically they got voted in under the Contract with America, which was really not about social issues. It was about economic issues.

And I think that then they started messing around with the whole idea of social engineering and the Defense of Marriage Act and things that really to me are not core to what the Republican Party, in my opinion, is really about.

CONAN: Ralph Reed, would you argue the Defense of Marriage Act is core to what the Republican Party is all about?

Mr. REED: Well, it's certainly what's in the Republican Party's platform, and for that matter, until very recently it was Barack Obama's position. So I think if Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all have the same position on an issue, which is that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, which as I said was all of their stances in 2008, I'd call that consensus.

And I would go further and say if it is a liability at the ballot box, then it seems counter-intuitive in the sense that I believe either all but one or all of the marriage amendments that have been on the ballot in some 30-odd states have passed, and I think the average margin of victory is around 58 percent.

CONAN: I think you're right about that.

Mr. REED: Yeah. So if that's a liability, it's an awfully strange looking one.

CONAN: Dennis, thanks very much for the call.

Ken?

RUDIN: Ralph, it seems like whenever you look at a poll lately, it seems like, I mean, it's early, and we talk about, you know, a year away, but Donald Trump seems to be heading many people's poll - in the poll, and he's obviously focusing on the so-called birther issue, and yet, you see more and more Republicans saying this is just nonsense. This is something we should stay away from. The Republican establishment keeps saying don't do this, and yet, Trump's name is on the top of these polls. What do you make of that?

Mr. REED: I don't know that I would reduce his poll performance to just one issue. I mean, after all, Donald Trump is somebody who's been kind of a larger-than-life figure on the American stage for more than a quarter century.

RUDIN: Would he be a serious candidate?

Mr. REED: I think he'd definitely be a serious candidate.

CONAN: Could you support him?

Mr. REED: Well, I'm - because of my Faith and Freedom Coalition hat I'm unlikely to endorse pre-nominations or support pre-nomination. But I will say this. I'm intrigued by Donald Trump. He took a look at this in 2000. I think this is a much more serious look. I'm very pleased, and I think a lot of other social conservatives in the party are pleased that he is pro-life and pro-family and pro-marriage.

And I think given his business acumen and his business record - like Mitt Romney, maybe in a little bit different way with his business background Mitch Daniels would be another one - who can really turn the Barack Obama on a stage in a nationally-televised debate in the fall of 2012 and say I've run businesses and created jobs for 30 years. When have you ever created a job?

I don't think that's a bad contrast. So I'm not taking sides in the primary, but I've encouraged him to look at it, and I think he's looking at it very seriously.

CONAN: A lot of conservatives four years ago were uncomfortable with Mitt Romney. Do you think that has changed?

Mr. REED: I do. I think that there were some people for - you know, keep in mind, we had not really had a viable candidate for president in either party who was a Mormon - actually, I would argue since his father ran briefly in '68. The Republican Party has really opened the doors and brought in a lot of evangelicals since then. And so I think it took some adjustment.

I think Romney handled it very well. It was never an issue for me, by the way, but I think it was an issue for some. I think he addressed it, and I think that's really largely behind him.

CONAN: We're talking with Ralph Reed, now the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Political junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get Mary(ph) on the line. Mary with us from Leavenworth.

MARY (Caller): Yes. And I will be voting, and I'm going to vote the Christian values of this country that it stands for...

CONAN: And you see those as...

MARY: ...and it's more important than the economical - and I know people are having hard times. I know in our family it's come down to that.

But I'll tell you one thing. For a president to stand up there and say he's a Christian and say this nation is not Christian, he is not a Christian. So I'll be voting for the values, Christian values.

CONAN: And at this point, do you have any particular favorite, Mary?

MARY: Well, I have been listening, and right now Mr. Huckabee is one of my favorites, and he is a Christian. And I'm hoping he'll be the nominee. And yes, Mr. Donald Trump has been running a campaign, but I know one thing, he knows more about running things than Mr. Obama.

CONAN: All right, Mary. Thanks very much. Appreciate the call.

MARY: Bye.

CONAN: Here's an email we have from Sue(ph) in Hillsboro, Ohio. I'm a Republican and a Christian, though not especially conservative. However, as a Christian, I could not see myself voting for either Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich, both of whom are adulterers. It's incredible to me the party would even consider these two and expect Christian voters to vote Republican.

They do bring some baggage, Ralph Reed.

Mr. REED: Yeah. And I think those kinds of issues are going to be litigated during the course of a campaign. I think Newt has addressed it. I'm sure - I know Trump has already addressed it, in particular with an interview he gave to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

But, you know, my view on it is that the Gospel message is one of forgiveness, mercy and redemption. It's not one of condemnation. And you're disqualified from ever serving if you made a mistake or did something you later regretted. So, you know, we'll see what happens.

I think voters will cast their ballots based on a range of things, including some of these concerns, but in general, my view is that voters and the American people are very forgiving, and they're very fair. And as long as somebody is authentic about it and speaks about, you know, truthfully about a past they might have regretted, I think they forgive him and they'll judge him on the merits of their candidacy alone.

CONAN: Let's see if we get one more caller in. Pepe(ph) is on the line calling from Miami.

PATTY (Caller): Are you asking for Pepe from Miami?

CONAN: We are. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

PEPE: Thank you. I think there's a huge bulge in this country, a central bulge, that are fiscally conservative but socially is not liberal than slightly liberal to libertarian and a sense of individual freedoms.

I've been a Republican all my life because I never believe that the government should do for what the people can do for themselves.

And therefore, the Republican Party, however, has hijacked the idea of freedom and has gone into not only the bedroom but the uterus of women demanding that they know best what a woman should do with it, and I'm talking, of course, about the abortion issue and also the marriage issue, how people should live their lives, and therefore this great bulge in this country there's no place for us.

And if somebody - I do believe there are lots of us, and there's no party for us. And so if there is a Republican that comes down hard on those social issues that I'm firmly on the other side about, I certainly will not vote for them. So in that sense...

CONAN: Pepe, I don't mean to cut you off. I wanted to give Ralph Reed 30 seconds...

PEPE: Sure.

CONAN: ...to respond before we had to go.

PEPE: Okay.

Mr. REED: Well, I think that it's basically true that you have a conservative party and a liberal party, and the liberal party, the Democratic Party, is liberal on spending, taxes, the economy and social issues, and the Republican Party is the conservative party.

My own view is that when you try the socially-liberal-economically-conservative thing - you know, for lack of a better term, sort of a Mike Bloomberg-type appeal - it doesn't quite look as good on the track as it looks in the stable. It looks good on paper, but when you actually try to implement it, there doesn't seem to be a lot of intensity out there. So we'll see what happens, but that's my view right now.

RUDIN: Ralph Reed, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

Mr. REED: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CONAN: Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. As always, our thanks as well to political junkie Ken Rudin. He'll be back next Wednesday.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up next, the story of the Loch Ness monster of the Ecuadorian jungle. Stay with us.

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