Republicans Jockey Ahead Of Iowa Straw Poll

Guests

Ron Elving, senior Washington editor, NPR
Shawn Johnson, state capitol reporter, Wisconsin Public Radio
Bob Vander Plaats, CEO, The Family Leader

Republican presidential hopefuls will descend upon Iowa State University Saturday. The gathering traditionally launches the presidential nomination contest, and sometimes — but not always — provides an indication of how the candidates may fare early in the election season.

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NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The downgrade takes center stage in the Washington blame game, a straw poll in Iowa Saturday, and Democrats fell short in Wisconsin yesterday. It's Wednesday and time for a recall edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

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

BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

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

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

President GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Political junkie Ken Rudin is on vacation. We'll recall him in a couple of weeks. Today, NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us to recap a tumultuous week in politics. Here in D.C., the supercommittee seems to take shape, a debate in Iowa tomorrow, and Saturday's straw poll could winnow the Republican presidential field.

Rick Perry looks set to enlarge it again. Republicans survive a scare in Wisconsin. And the dime got dropped on Mitt's mystery million-dollar donor. In a few minutes, we'll focus on the upcoming straw poll in the Hawkeye State. Conservative kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats will join us.

Later in the program, no clear politics, no apparent protest. What's behind the riots in Britain? But first, guest political junkie Ron Elving joins us here in Studio 3A. Ron, thanks very much for coming in.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And whenever we can, we actually like to start with actual votes. And a lot of people cast yesterday's recall elections in Wisconsin as a 2012 bellwether.

ELVING: Yes, in a sense, in Wisconsin, 2012 is now. And they had a big round of voting yesterday, six different state Senate districts. That's out of 33 in the whole state. Six of those districts voted yesterday. They had tremendous turnout, turnout you would associate normally with a November election and not with a special election in the middle of August, when every sensible person in Wisconsin should be fishing or somehow having fun in the woods.

And in those races, the Democrats needed to pick up three to move into a position to take over the state Senate. Now, there is still more voting to come next week, but the Democrats needed to win three yesterday. They did not. They got two. And as a result of this bid to take over the state Senate is over. The final numbers on what the ratio will be are not known yet, but we now know that the Democrats have failed in their attempt to take over the state Senate in mid-session.

CONAN: Well, let's go now to Shawn Johnson, who covers the state capitol for Wisconsin Public Radio, with us by phone from Madison. Nice to have you with us today.

SHAWN JOHNSON: Hi Neal, good to be here.

CONAN: And is this a triumph for the governor?

JOHNSON: The Republicans are certainly painting that way. I mean, you could look at it from a different angle and say no, at no time in history have two legislators been recalled on the same day for a vote they took on a bill like the governor's collective bargaining bill.

But expectations were very high in this race, and Democrats and unions felt like they needed to take those three seats. They said they were going to take those three seats, and they didn't. And so they're left in a position where they still don't - they're still in the minority in our state Senate and our state Assembly, and the Republicans still runs the governor's office. So it's not exactly where they wanted to be on this Wednesday.

CONAN: And how close did they get to that third seat?

JOHNSON: They got within a couple thousand votes, about a four-percent margin. You know, in a normal year, a normal election cycle, you'd look at that, especially with this particular seat, it's a Republican district. It's been Republican since the 1800s. It didn't even draw an opponent the last couple times. It's one that would normally be safe Republican.

So the fact that they pulled close is somewhat of a victory for them, but it matters not at all today because the Republicans pulled out in that close race. And some of the other races, where Democrats were hoping to be competitive, they, you know, fell behind and lost by 20 percent last night.

CONAN: And as you said, there's still another round of voting to come next week. These are two Democrats who are being challenged by Republicans. Earlier, another Democrat survived a challenge. What's the prospect in those races?

JOHNSON: Yeah, the (unintelligible) two of the Democrats, two of the 14 Democrats who left Wisconsin earlier this year to try to block the governor's collective bargaining plan, one of the Democrats serves in a very Republican district, or at least a marginally Republican district in northern Wisconsin, where it's really tough to predict turnout and so, you know, tough to say exactly what's going to happen up there.

And so that's where political forces are descending this week. It's less important than it would have been had Democrats flipped three last night, for example, but still, you know, certainly Republicans don't get a chance to flip a seat in mid-cycle very often, and so they're taking this one seriously.

CONAN: And as we've all learned, you cannot recall a legislator or a governor in the state of Wisconsin until after they have served at least one year, and the - that's why the governor himself is not facing a recall election this year. What are now the prospects that he will next year?

JOHNSON: Well, the Democratic Party had a conference call today and said that that's the next goal, that they want to recall the governor. And, you know, they can begin working on that early next year if enough people, you know, more than a half-million people get together and circulate signatures.

It's no easy task, and given that you also have a race for the, you know, the presidency, a race for a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin, if you talk about putting a race for governor in the middle of summer, that's a lot of resources they'd have to expend, and you don't know what's going to happen.

So ideally, they want to push that into the November election if they can, but nothing's a given.

CONAN: And Ron Elving, there will be many tea leaves from Wisconsin that are being read in places like Ohio.

ELVING: That's right, where they are going to be voting in November on essentially a referendum recalling some of the decisions that were made or reversing some of the decisions that were made there under the new Governor John Kasich having to do with collective bargaining rights for public employee unions and so forth.

But there are going to be tea leaves read all over the country as to whether or not a situation like this, where millions of dollars was poured into the state from outside by labor unions and also by groups that supported the Republicans in Wisconsin, particularly supported Scott Walker, who's the governor, whether or not that kind of test vote, whether or not that kind of attempt at reversing the decisions that voters have made in the past is really an efficient use of resources.

As Sean was saying a moment ago, they came within a couple of thousand votes in one district, in one district. Had they been able to surmount that obstacle, just get that many more votes, they would have gotten the three seats, and everyone today would have been talking about is this the death knell for the Tea Party and so on, which would be overstated, but that would be the narrative with just a couple thousand more votes.

And it's important to note that in these six districts, you had in all but one, over 50,000 people voting. This was a large turnout. People are politically energized this year, and it wasn't only because of that outside money.

CONAN: Wisconsin, a swing state yesterday, Shawn Johnson, and likely to be a swing state in November.

JOHNSON: It looks like it. I mean, it's a role that we're used to here.

CONAN: All right, Shawn Johnson, thanks very much for your time today.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CONAN: Shawn Johnson joined us from Madison, Wisconsin, where he covers the state capitol for Wisconsin Public Radio. And, well, there seemed to be some other events that were occupying the nation's mind this week in Washington, D.C., and, well, obviously, Ron Elving, a lot of eyes on Wall Street. But the downgrade by Standard and Poor's of the U.S. long-term credit rating from AAA to AA+ on Friday night, the first time in history U.S. credit rating has been downgraded. Well, on Monday, the president came out and called for common sense and conciliation. And, well, here is what responded as John Kerry opened the assault.

Senator JOHN KERRY: This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate.

CONAN: And Tea Party Republican Senator Rand Paul fired right back.

Senator RAND PAUL: Blaming the Tea Party is sort of like blaming the fireman when he comes to put out the fire.

CONAN: And this is not common sense, and, well, it's certainly not conciliation.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ELVING: Well, I suppose John Kerry thinks he's speaking common sense, and Ron Paul surely thinks he has...

CONAN: I think it was Rand Paul.

ELVING: I'm sorry, Rand Paul, Ron Paul's son. We're thinking a lot about Ron Paul this week because of what's going on in Iowa.

CONAN: And more on that later.

ELVING: And more on that later. But I think both sides really do have - and this is part of the reason that this has been such a difficult gap to close with respect to the debt ceiling, with respect to the larger issue of the deficit. It's extremely difficult to get these two sides to compromise when they both think that they are exactly right and that everyone should agree with them and that it's simply common sense to see things the way they see them.

CONAN: And we are going to get a reading on how they see the prospects of this supercommittee that is a byproduct of the deal to raise the debt ceiling. And this is a committee of 12, three from each party from the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

They will be authorized to be a supercommittee because whatever they recommend will go straight to the floor of the House, straight to the floor of the United States Senate, no poison-pill amendments, no long debates, nothing like that, up or down vote on whatever it is that these guys can recommend and women can recommend.

But as we look at some of the nominations, the Democratic senators are Patty Murray, who will be the chair; John Kerry; Max Baucus. Republican Senators: Jon Kyl, Pat Toomey and Rob Portman. And Republican members of the House Dave Camp, Fred Upton and Job Hensarling. What do we read into those nominations?

ELVING: One immediately begins to look for people who might be tractable. And John Kerry, despite that very partisan remark that he made the other day and that you just played, I think is viewed by many people as someone who is willing to talk about changing entitlements, some kind of restraint to the Medicare program in particular in terms of its long-term cost curve.

And he's willing to talk about other kinds of spending cuts, as long as the Republicans are willing to put some revenue considerations on the table. So you start looking for some Republicans who might be willing to talk about revenues, and of course that's not quite so obvious right from the very beginning.

Jon Kyl, who's the number two Republican in the Senate, he's one of the people on the list...

CONAN: But on his way out.

ELVING: But he's retiring. Exactly. This is his last time in Congress, and it is conceivable, one can imagine that he would be the voice of leadership on this committee. You also have Rob Portman, who is a first-term senator but a long-term Washington figure. He's been in the House. He was the Office of Management and Budget director for the second Bush.

And he is a person who might be tractable. We don't know that he's going to be willing to talk about these issues, but he is someone who is at least viewed as being sophisticated and long-time government person.

CONAN: And then there is Senator Toomey.

ELVING: Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania is closely associated with the Club for Growth, which was in Wisconsin for that fight this week and which sees any kind of talk of revenues as absolute anathema. Pat Toomey was actually running that organization before he was elected to the Senate.

So he is probably not going to be on the side of a compromise. You need to get a majority of the 12. Now it's a little bit difficult because this is an even-numbered group. So you're going to need to get seven at least, and it would be far preferable to sell the package if you could get eight or nine of the 12.

CONAN: And interesting to see if fire-breathers or perhaps potential compromisers are named by Nancy Pelosi from the Democratic side of the House of Representatives. That has to be named by next Tuesday?

ELVING: August 16.

CONAN: All right. Coming up, we're going to be talking about the Iowa straw poll, which comes up this weekend. The GOP is flocking to Ames, Iowa. Republicans, who would get your vote and why? 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's Wednesday, our favorite political day of the week. Unusually, political junkie Ken Rudin is with us. He is probably poolside right now, on vacation this week. We're lucky enough to be joined by senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He joins us here in Studio 3A.

And for Republicans trying to garner their party's nomination for the 2012 presidential election, there is only one place to be this week: Iowa. The Ames straw poll is this weekend. If you're a Republican from Iowa, let us know who's getting your vote and why, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also chime in on our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

First of all, Ron, how important is the Iowa straw poll?

ELVING: The Iowa straw poll is both completely unimportant and highly meaningful to those who will participate in it and watch such things. If that can be possible, it is both. Ronald Reagan never won the Iowa straw poll. The person who finished number 10 among the people who were on the ballot in Iowa the last two times they had the Iowa straw poll, number 10, 10th was John McCain, who wound up winning the nomination one of those two times, finishing second the other time.

So this is not a flawless indicator of what's to come, but it has been a pretty decent indicator of who's going to do well in the Iowa caucuses that come up at the very beginning of the nominating process early next year.

So we have seen most of the candidates in recent years who have done well in the straw poll, finished first or second, do well again in the Iowa caucuses.

CONAN: The Family Leader, a Christian conservative advocacy group, is among the most powerful political organizations in Iowa. CEO Bob Vander Plaats is something of a kingmaker among conservatives there, and he joins us today from Des Moines. Nice to have you with us.

BOB VANDER PLAATS: Hey, Neal, it's really good to be with you.

CONAN: And let me put that same question to you. You've run three statewide campaigns in Iowa. What's the value of that straw poll?

PLAATS: Well, you know, the value of the straw poll is going to have a very short shelf-life, but for those who do well, it's going to be very, very important, and for those who do poorly, there's always some casualties after the straw poll.

I think if you take a look at the last straw poll that was taken, although Mitt Romney won the straw poll, he wasn't really the winner that day. Mike Huckabee was the winner because he did much better than anticipated. Huckabee went on to win the Iowa caucuses, and he took second place in the primary season of 2008.

So I think if you ask Mike Huckabee, he would say it's pretty important, Neal.

CONAN: And if you asked Tim Pawlenty, it may be pretty important what happens on Saturday.

PLAATS: Well, there's no doubt that it's going to be very important for Governor Pawlenty, and it's going to be very important for Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, for all of those that they want - they want to show that they have some early organizational strength, they have a lot of backing, and, Neal, they're willing to move forward to the caucus season.

CONAN: And there is one - first of all, would your perception be, and the reading we get here in Washington, which can sometime be off, but the reading we get here in Washington is Michele Bachmann is now expected to win the straw poll.

PLAATS: Well, there's no doubt Michele Bachmann has a lot of charisma. She has a lot of energy. She has a lot of enthusiasm. She's a highly intelligent lady who says what she believes and believes what she says, and that's really attracting a lot of straw-poll-goers to her.

That being said, Tim Pawlenty has a tremendous organization throughout the state. The big question is going to be can that organization produce on Saturday. Ron Paul, who has got a very loyal following, he's going to do exceptionally well. But we're starting to hear vibes here at the Family Leader that Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are both catching fire, as well.

So I think this straw poll is going to be very, very intriguing, especially after tomorrow night's debate, to see how the people of Iowa vote in the straw poll.

CONAN: And that's the one remaining game-changer before the straw poll, or potential game-changer. And I think a lot of people, after Mr. Pawlenty pulled a punch against Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, are looking to see how he does tomorrow night.

PLAATS: Well, I think they're looking to see how everyone does tomorrow night, including Governor Pawlenty. And as I told the media yesterday, I think what the Iowa straw-poll-goers are looking for and the Iowa caucus-goers, they're looking for someone who's going to display bold leadership when it comes to the economy, bold leadership when it comes to the debt ceiling, bold leadership when it comes to getting this economy back on track and limiting the size of government.

They're going to look for people who are going to be bold and distribute those characteristics of someone that they're going to jump behind. And again, I think that's why Michele Bachmann is doing exceptionally well right now.

CONAN: And you just - obviously, these are the issues on people's minds: jobs, the economy, the debt ceiling debate that we just had here in Washington, D.C. A lot of people thought that social issues, things like gay marriage, would be prominent there in Iowa.

PLAATS: Well, you know what it is is I believe from our standpoint, we're looking at anything that impacts the family as an issue, and obviously the economy impacts the family, debt impacts the family, as well as the other social issues.

So as these candidates go through Iowa, they're definitely being vetted on where they stand on the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, constitutional principles, the appointment of judges. But then once they get past those core value issues, they want to hear what is your pro-family vision for this country.

And I believe today, Neal, people are really starting to connect the dots that fiscal issues and family issues are definitely correlated. You'll never have limited government if 41 percent of the kids are born outside of wedlock. You'll never have a thriving economy if you don't have thriving families. So people are starting to connect that dot very, very well.

And I used to teach economics. So for me, it's rewarding that people are finally being able to connect those two dots.

CONAN: Ron?

ELVING: The social issues in the past have gotten Iowa the reputation of being a body politic, a polity that perhaps, as opposed to New Hampshire or some of the other early primary participant states, really goes after a candidate who is going to be strong on those issues.

You mentioned, of course, Mike Huckabee, and he was somebody of whom that was true. Do you think that has changed because of the economic circumstances, or the emphasis, the stress that's been put on economic circumstances in recent weeks?

PLAATS: No, you know what it is? I think we have a field of candidates today that are pretty bona fide on those issues, whether it's Governor Pawlenty or Congresswoman Bachmann or Rick Santorum or Herman Cain. They've all spoken very openly about where they're at on the core value issues.

And so people, once they're comfortable with them on the core value issues, now they're going to look at what are the vision issues on the economy, the budget, the debt and a lot of other things, national security.

Huckabee, again people didn't question him on the core value issues, and so Huckabee was a person that people just continually liked and liked and liked more. As a matter of fact, a lot of people think he should have been the nominee, and that's why he polled so well in 2012, the potential 2012 race, until he decided to pull out.

So I think Iowans have a much more comprehensive, conservative view on who they're going to launch, but we definitely have unprecedented access to the candidates, to vet them on a host of issues before we launch the person we think should be the next president.

CONAN: Let me ask you about the expectations campaign. A Herman Cain or a Rick Santorum could surprise everybody finishing third, for example, and come out of this doing awfully well. On the other hand, a Tim Pawlenty, should he finish fourth or fifth or sixth, well, at that point people would begin asking if Governor Pawlenty can't win in Iowa, where can he win?

PLAATS: Well, there's no doubt. There's a lot to deal with expectations going into the straw poll. A lot of people believe right now that Governor Pawlenty either needs to win the straw poll convincingly or come in a very, very close second.

Others are, as you mentioned, looking at Rick Santorum and Herman Cain. If they're able to leap-frog, say, in front of Governor Pawlenty or in front of someone else, that they might have the validity to stay in through the entire caucus.

And I think in - again, 2007 was a good predictor for 2011. You had Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee both challenging in the straw poll. Huckabee took second. Brownback took third. Brownback left the campaign, and Huckabee won the caucuses.

CONAN: And one final question, and that is the man whose name is not on the ballot and is expected to join the race as soon as this weekend, and that's the governor of Texas, Rick Perry.

PLAATS: Yeah, you know, Governor Perry, I believe he's being a smart strategist. He's calling a lot of activists in the state of Iowa. He's not only called me, but he's called three other team members of the Family Leader, just basically trying to survey the landscape of - the political landscape in the state of Iowa.

It looks like he's going to come in probably on the day of the straw poll. I'm not sure if that's smart politics or not. There may be some Iowans who take offense to that.

But anyway, I think Governor Perry will be a welcome voice to the race. I think he'll make the race stronger, and the eventual nominee, whether it's Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Tim Pawlenty or whoever, they will be a better candidate, I think, because of Rick Perry's entrance.

CONAN: And you have not endorsed anybody yet. Will you do so after the straw poll?

PLAATS: Well, you know, I've been on record as saying that I'm going to remain neutral through our November 19 Thanksgiving Family Forum, where the candidates will be present. We'll have between 2,500 and 4,000 caucus goers in attendance. It will be kind of our final vetting process on the pro-family vision. And then after that date, you know, I may make a decision or The Family Leader may make a decision that we need to back a particular candidate.

CONAN: Well, Bob Vander Plaats, thank you very much for your time today. Have a good time.

PLAATS: Hey, Neal, I really appreciate it. We're looking forward to it.

CONAN: Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader, a Christian conservative advocacy organization in Des Moines, and joined us by phone from the capital there in Iowa. And, Ron Elving, interesting that in all that discussion, there is a prominent name we did not raise at all, and that is, of course, the former governor of Alaska.

ELVING: The former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who it was not too long ago thought would be a formidable candidate and a part of this whole process, but her name is not coming up so often anymore, although she is still a commentator on Fox. We do still see her occasionally in magazines, but she has not made a move to enter this race or to make the kind of preparations that people would expect someone to make who was going to enter the race. Michele Bachmann has largely taken over, if you will, a lane that many people thought Sarah Palin might have occupied, particularly with regard to social issues.

And now, we have Rick Perry, and with Rick Perry moving in to contest that lane with Michele Bachmann, it's not clear exactly where the space would be for Sarah Palin were she do decide to get in. But we should say she's still left the possibility open, and she says she'll decide late this month or early next.

CONAN: And Rick Perry, you think will join the race not on the day of the straw poll but the day after.

ELVING: He has indicated that he's going to speak to RedState.com on Saturday, and that is a convention of conservative bloggers who are gathering in South Carolina, which is, of course, another rival to Iowa for early voting, one of the other states that's going to vote at the very beginning of the process. And the fact that he's in South Carolina that day gives him a chance to speak to a somewhat different mix of Southern conservatives and also to get into everyone's story about the Iowa straw poll without after - without having rather to actually go back to Iowa and contest that contest, which is so far along, and he's just now getting in. This will not be, apparently, his most formal indication of candidacy, but he will set up his formal announcement of candidacy on Saturday.

CONAN: And all right. We've not had the straw poll much less the Iowa caucuses. But if we look ahead, could you conceive of three different Republican candidates winning the first three contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina?

ELVING: Yes. At this point, I would say most experts who have been watching this think that if Michele Bachmann continues on her current trajectory wins the straw poll on Saturday and if Mitt Romney is not too badly damaged by having been left out of this process, he'd stood out of this process. He'll be in the debate on Fox tomorrow night but - and he will - his name will be on the ballot in Iowa, but he has not been contesting it. He won't be there. And then, if he wins in New Hampshire, as he's widely expected to do, he has a very strong position in the polls there now.

He was governor of neighboring Massachusetts. And then if, let us say, Rick Perry, as the strongest Southerner in the race, were to win in South Carolina, then you would have a three-way contest as we move towards the meat of the batting order, as it were, and we could actually see a long-running and fairly evenly divided contest among these Republicans for their nomination.

Now, that's not to say, by the way, that Rick Perry is conceding Iowa caucuses. He's not in the straw poll this weekend. But, as I understand it, he's planning to come into the state and appear there on Sunday, the day after the straw poll.

CONAN: We're talking with guest political junkie Ron Elving. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And there are a couple of other interesting developments during the week, one of which was that the mystery million-dollar donor to Mitt Romney's campaign has been identified. And what's interesting is this is a man who's long associated with Mitt Romney, gave money to Romney before. Now that he's identified, Governor Romney says, well, the story is gone. This man created a corporation apparently for the sole purpose of making an anonymous million-dollar contribution.

ELVING: So it would appear, and this is an individual who was previously associated with the governor, as you say, as one of his associates at Bain Capital. I mean, this is how Mitt Romney's fortune arose, not his family fortune, but his own self-made fortune as a businessman, a business consultant with Bain Capital. And this man, Edward Conard, is one of his former business associates. So it's not as though he is coming from some faraway planet to suddenly get involved in the Romney campaign; he's given him money before.

And it's mysterious, I think, to a lot of people why he would go this trouble to, apparently, conceal his identity, except, I suppose, that it's such a large contribution that he felt that maybe his identity would, in some sense or another, harm the Romney campaign if it were known. This has probably done more damage, however.

CONAN: And this is also a part of the fallout from the Citizens United decision that corporations can make unlimited contributions to independent agencies, and this is not directly to the Romney campaign but to a group set up to support the Romney campaign.

ELVING: And here we go. This is going to be a wild and wooly 2012 financing campaign because amounts of money are going to go even beyond the previous record-setting amounts that we've seen spent, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. The president was just talking about spending a billion dollars on his re-election campaign. And all kinds of these new entities are entering into the field, liberated to a large degree by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which was pretty close to being - throwing the whole process wide open and saying you all come and you can do whatever you want because free speech - money, in this case - is free speech, and free speech is protected by the First Amendment.

CONAN: So a lot of money being spent in Wisconsin over the past few weeks on that very principle. Before we leave, Ron, we have to remember two great political figures who left us since we were last on the air, and one, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, will now be regarded as a vanished breed, a liberal Republican.

ELVING: Well, you know, he didn't like liberal Republican or moderate Republican. Interestingly, he gave the keynote address at the 1964 Republican Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater, trying to pull the party back towards the center. He liked sometimes calling himself a libertarian, in fact, and he was well-known as being kind of a peacemaker, really a dove during the Vietnam War. He was outspoken person on that issue.

And also in 1995, he was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the balanced budget amendment, and his vote was the crucial vote that kept the balanced budget amendment from clearing the Senate in 1995. That's probably going to be remembered this fall when we have our next big vote on the balanced budget amendment.

CONAN: And the other figure, Hugh Carey, a congressman from Brooklyn, who later ran for and was elected twice as the governor of New York. I covered New York City politics at that time and remembered his former adviser and friend Abe Beame, who came to resent him deeply...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: ...but Hugh Carey remembered as the governor who saved the city of New York.

ELVING: That's right. Elected in 1974, took office in January 1975 and brought a lot of people together to save that hopeless fiscal situation for New York City in those years that followed.

CONAN: Curious character Hugh Carey may - brought some interest to Albany once he was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Ron Elving, thank you very much for your time today. We're going to see you next week?

ELVING: Good to be with you this week and next week, Neal.

CONAN: Next week filling in again for Ken Rudin, who will return the week after. In any case, when we come back, we're going to check in on the riots in London and around England. Brits are still trying to suss out the reasons for all the rage. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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