Pa. Republicans Weigh New Electoral College Plan

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Ken Rudin, NPR
Terry Madonna, political scientist, Franklin and Marshall College

Some Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature have proposed changing how the state allocates its Electoral College votes. Critics argue the plan would benefit GOP candidates. NPR's Ken Rudin and political scientist Terry Madonna discuss the proposal and its implications.

NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Beltway buzzwords this week, include rogue, confidence men and the Buffett rule. It's Wednesday and time for a...

Representative JOHN BOEHNER: Class warfare...

CONAN: 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 add: Where's the beef?

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

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

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

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us for a dip in political waters. Today, Perry, Romney and the rest of the Republican candidates prep for another debate; wildcard Sarah Palin says it's not too late; a shakeup in GOP leadership in the Senate; and two new GOP candidates for the world's greatest deliberative body.

In a few minutes, an old debate on the Electoral College in a new venue, as Pennsylvania proposes new math. Later in the program, Maria Bello and the new "Prime Suspect." But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, I just got back from Baton Rouge, WRKS in Louisiana, and boy is my po'boy tired.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: They're big fans of the Political Junkie there, although they want to know that - some people want to know why you're so mean to me all the time.

CONAN: It's the sherberty(ph) shirt.

RUDIN: I think it could be that, that's right, as you can see on radio. So anyway, in their honor, in the honor of WRKF, a Louisiana trivia question: Louisiana elected its first Republican senator since Reconstruction in 2004, And that was David Vitter. That state held off longer than any other state in electing its first Republican senator. What state had the second-longest streak?

In other words, what state finished second to Louisiana in the longest Democratic winning streak in Senate elections?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer - and the question again - besides Louisiana, the state that elected Democrats the longest since Reconstruction - 800-989-8255...

RUDIN: To the Senate.

CONAN: 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Yes, to the United States Senate. And speaking of Louisiana, not much attention down there, to the governor's race.

RUDIN: There is a governor's race there. Bobby Jindal is running, basically unopposed. It's an October 22nd election, when all the candidates are on the same ballot. But for the first time in history, if not memory, which usually with me, it's the same thing, but the Democrats don't have a candidate for governor.

I mean, there are some people who will be on the ballot along with Bobby Jindal, but there's not a Democrat for governor or lieutenant governor or attorney general, no statewide offices, and I believe - given the fact that Louisiana has gone so long being a true Democratic bastion in the South, when even other states were turning to the Republican Party, but this is just a tremendous turnaround for - bad news for the Democrats in a state like this.

CONAN: Other elections, gubernatorial elections this year?

RUDIN: There are. There's - you know, in Kentucky, Steve Beshear is running for a second term, and he looks like he'll hold on, he'll get re-elected. In Mississippi, it looks like - although Haley Barbour is term-limited, Republicans should keep that. I should point out that the Democratic candidate there is African-American, the first time that's ever happened in the state's history.

And there's a special gubernatorial election next month in West Virginia. Earl Ray Tomblin, who became governor when Joe Manchin moved on to the U.S. Senate race, Senate seat held by the late Robert Byrd, Democrats are favored to hold the governorship in West Virginia.

CONAN: In the meantime, Washington, D.C., is buzzing about two new books, one on Sarah Palin. And it appears that the new Joe McGinniss book on Sarah Palin has had the curious effect of creating sympathy for Sarah Palin.

RUDIN: Well, I don't know about sympathy for Sarah Palin but certainly more derision for Joe McGinniss. The book is filled with innuendo and allegations, and, you know, it's titillating, and, you know, people who don't like Sarah Palin will just love sitting and reading it. But ultimately, from all accounts, it seems to be a completely unfair book filled with just, as I say, trash-slash allegations that often have nothing to do with her qualifications, or lack of same, for office.

CONAN: And in the meantime, she is still flirting with the idea of running for president of the United States. Speaking on Fox TV to Sean Hannity last night, he was - she was asked about the 2012 plans.

PALIN: There is still time, Sean, and I think on both sides of the aisle, you're going to see people coming and going in this race because there is still time, and I'm still one of those still considering...

CONAN: Both sides of the aisle, that's interesting. She is not the only person saying that maybe Barack Obama will decide not to run for re-election.

RUDIN: Well, or that the Democrat from the left will challenge Obama because he's not sufficiently progressive. But regarding Sarah Palin, it's true she probably does have more time to run. I can't believe we're still talking about her, given the fact that there are at least eight Republicans already running for president. I say at least eight, because people like Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson don't even get into the debates anymore, that makes 10.

But - and you could say that, well, Bobby Kennedy didn't run for president until after New Hampshire. But that was a lifetime ago.

CONAN: A long time ago.

RUDIN: When nominations weren't decided right away. Ultimately, I still don't think she's going to run, but there are a lot of people who just say enough already. But there are also, in fairness, a lot of Republicans who say look, she's their candidate for 2012. They've been hoping that, you know, ever since her vice presidential candidacy in 2008, that she would come forward and declare.

CONAN: The other book Washington, D.C., is talking about is a - Ron Suskind, who's examined - a veteran journalist who's taken a look at the first year of the Obama administration, not very flattering look, in "Confidence Men."

RUDIN: It's not, and especially regarding economic policy. There seems to be a lot of either reliance on Larry Summers, reliance on men, like quotes in the book that says a lot of women were either discriminated against or just not held in high regard, that they were overruled by a male-dominated administration. So that was kind of disappointing.

Of course, the White House has struck back and said a lot of this is hearsay and taken out of context, but Suskind says no, and he has the tapes to prove it.

CONAN: And a couple of new candidates, Republicans in this case, have thrown their hat into senatorial races. One in Wisconsin that we expected.

RUDIN: Right, and that's Tommy Thompson, and he's not a new candidate. I mean, he was governor for four terms in the 1980s and 1990s. But at the same time, he's a new candidate for the seat that Herb Kohl is giving up. The problem with Tommy Thompson is that he's not only being attacked by Democrats but also Republicans, as well.

Club for Growth is savaging him as saying he's a big spender, he supported Obama on the health care bill. He's hardly the new kind of face that we in Wisconsin have with like Scott Walker and Senator Ron Johnson. So Tommy Thompson is being battered from - by both sides.

CONAN: And the electoral ring is - will welcome back another previous candidate in Connecticut.

That's right. Linda McMahon, the former wrestling executive who spent $50 million of her own money and lost by 12 percentage points to Richard Blumenthal in the 2010 Senate race in a big Republican year, is running for the Republican nomination again. This is for the Joe Lieberman Senate seat.

RUDIN: Chris Shays, the former Republican congressman, is also in the race, but she has a huge lead over Shays in the polls for the Republican nomination. But she also has very high unfavorables.

CONAN: Who are the Democrats looking at in that race?

RUDIN: Well, Chris Murphy is a congressman there. Susan Bysiewicz, the former secretary of state, they seem to be heading the Democratic pack. Most people feel the Democrats will keep that seat.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. That is besides Louisiana, what state elected Democrats to the United States Senate, consecutively, after Reconstruction, for the longest? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Of course, the correct answerer gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. Roy(ph) is on the line from Nampa in Idaho.

ROY: Hi there.

CONAN: Hi, Roy.

ROY: I have to go with my home state of Massachusetts.

RUDIN: Well, Massachusetts - well, it's not a bad guess. Of course, Scott Brown was elected in 2010. But Ed Brooke was elected senator in Massachusetts in 1966 and 1972. So he - so Massachusetts is not the state. I mean, I'm talking about a state that really went a long time with no Republican, and this is just about - I mean, 30 years is a long time but not close to a record.

CONAN: Thanks, Roy, thanks for the call. Let's go next to - this is Joseph(ph), Joseph with us from Baton Rouge, where Ken was earlier this week.

JOSEPH: Hello. I was wondering if it was Mississippi.

RUDIN: Well no because you had - you had Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. Thad Cochran was elected to the Senate in 1978. Trett Lott was elected to the Senate in '88, I believe. And so I'm looking for states that went even longer with Republican election to the Senate.

CONAN: Thanks, Joseph. Let's try next to Christine(ph), Christine with us from Churchville in Maryland.

CHRISTINE: Hi there. Is it Arkansas?

RUDIN: Arkansas is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

CHRISTINE: My husband was right. He'll be so excited.

RUDIN: Wait, you're married? You told me you weren't married. Oh, I'm sorry, I meant somebody else. Arkansas is the correct answer. Tim Hutchinson in 1996 became the first Republican elected to the Senate since Reconstruction. He was defeated by Mark Pryor after one term. Arkansas is the correct answer.

CONAN: Well, congratulations, Christine. Hang on the line, and we will collect your particulars and send you off a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself that we can hang on our wall of shame.

CHRISTINE: I'm so excited.

CONAN: Congratulations, Christine.

RUDIN: That sounds like the Christine I remember, but I just didn't know she was married.

CONAN: Well, this one spells it with a K, anyway, on our board. Anyway, was there a ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: There was, as a matter of fact. Last week, we had three buttons. One was Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Du Burns from Baltimore button ,and an unhappy - not a happy face - but an unhappy face. And so the answer was the Markey-Du-Sad. Yes, I know, I'm sorry. And the winner was Tim Cross(ph) of Williamsburg, Virginia.

CONAN: And there is - well, in some ways we're still talking about the timeline of the - Thanksgiving - for the supercommittee to come up with its proposals to reduce the debt by $1.2 trillion. But in a way, within the last week, we've seen very much the frame of the electoral campaign we're going to see for the next 14 months, between Speaker Boehner and President Obama.

RUDIN: You mean class-warfare Obama.

CONAN: Oh, yeah.

RUDIN: Yes, well exactly. Here's the thing. I mean, for the longest time, President Obama has been criticized by many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party of being too willing to compromise. And I think in fairness, Obama was elected in 2008 saying he would reach across party lines.

He had been trying for the longest time to work out a deal with Speaker Boehner, but one, probably Boehner doesn't speak for his caucus anymore; and two, there is an absolute decision verbalized by Speaker Boehner last week, that there will be no raising of taxes on millionaires or anybody.

And President Obama finally said Ok, enough is enough. We are not having this, and we are going to have no cutbacks in Medicare, Social Security, all the concessions are not going to be made on the expenditure side, on the entitlement side. And so basically, he laid down the law, laid down a marker for the Republican Party, which, you know, is it going to get passed in Congress? Probably not. But it is going to be the theme of the 2012 elections, probably so.

CONAN: And speaking of 2012 elections, one of those who might be thought to be considering a challenge to the president from the left, Dennis Kucinich, because he got districted out.

RUDIN: Well, he did get districted out. For the longest time, he was talking about running in a new district, or at least the rumors were that he was going to run for an open congressional seat, a new seat in Washington State. The Republican people who decided the lines in Ohio said he's going to run in Ohio but against Marcy Kaptur in a Democratic primary.

CONAN: So that's going to be an interesting race come that primary election. Stay with us. Ken Rudin is our political junkie, with us here in Studio 3A. Up next, the new electoral math proposed by Pennsylvania Republicans. We'll talk about the politics of the CD split and explain what we mean. 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. Ken Rudin, the political junkie, is with us, as he is on Wednesdays. His latest column is up, and just this morning, he unleashed a new ScuttleButton puzzle - Markey-du-Sad - you can find both of those at npr.org/junkie.

And now a primer on presidential elections. As every political junkie knows, it's 51 separate elections. Whoever wins the most in each state and the District of Columbia gets all of that entity's electoral votes except in Nebraska and Maine, which use a different system.

Whichever candidate wins the most votes in each congressional district wins that district's vote, and whoever wins statewide gets two more, which represent the state's two senators.

So far, that's not been very important because Nebraska and Maine aren't very big and aren't swing states, anyway. Pennsylvania is very different. The Keystone State will have 20 electoral votes in 2012, and many Republicans there want to adopt the CD split. If that had been in effect last time around, Barack Obama would have received 10 electoral votes and John McCain 11, even though the Democrat carried Pennsylvania by a 10-point margin.

More on Pennsylvania and the politics of the CD split in just a minute. Supporters of this idea say it's fundamentally fairer. Under the current system, for example, a Republican in New York or a Democrat in Texas basically doesn't have a vote in the presidential election. So how would this system change things where you vote? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Terry Madonna is a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and joins us on the line from his office there. Nice to have you with us today.

TERRY MADONNA: Hey, thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And so why propose the change to the Electoral College vote?

MADONNA: Well, I think, you know - and this, by the way, created quite a controversy. Certainly not all Republicans are in favor of it. Governor Corbett, who strongly supports this idea - he didn't obviously propose it, he's governor not a lawmaker - went down over the weekend and visited the Pennsylvania congressional Republicans. And as far as I can determine, in the congressional House delegation, there are 12 Republicans who represent Pennsylvania. Not a single one of them has come out in favor of this.

The reason that they're giving is this would show the diversity of the state. In other words, we've got the winner-take-all going on, and you could win, you know, 48, 49 percent of the popular vote of our state or any state and not win a single electoral vote.

Doing it out of congressional districts, they argue: A, would better represent the diversity of a large, complex state like the Keystone State; and be more reflective of the percentages of the popular vote, meaning that you would win some based on the congressional district level, not the winner-take-all level.

So they argue fairness, and they argue diversity, but at the moment, there's quite a pushback from a lot of people on the idea.

CONAN: Well, those include Democrats, who sniff partisan advantage here. They're saying hey, wait a minute, we won by 10 points last time, we would've actually given most of those electoral votes to the other side.

MADONNA: Right. Yeah, I think it would have been 11 for Obama, 10 for McCain. McCain won 10 congressional districts. We - Obama nine. We have 19. We'll go to 18, as you accurately point out, next year.

CONAN: Plus the two for Senate seats, yeah.

MADONNA: And the two for the Senate, that's correct, sir. So - but here's the deal. Republicans chafe at the fact that Philadelphia delivers about 400,000 votes, you know, give or take into the presidential election for the Democratic candidate. If you take the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, the four counties in the Philadelphia suburbs, you add them to Philadelphia, that's historically enough to elect a Democratic candidate.

And so what some Republicans are saying is, well, we need to reduce that huge advantage that Republicans get out of that big cache of votes that Democrats pull particularly out of the city of Philadelphia. So that's another argument that has been used by some supporters of this in the last week or so in which this issue has created not just a huge controversy in the state but a pretty big issue around the country, as well.

CONAN: Well, Ken, people are saying this would, well, undermine the integrity of the Electoral College.

RUDIN: Well, there are a lot of people who are not happy with the Electoral College anyway, but if we're just going to do this in Democratic-leaning states - and the point is Pennsylvania has voted for Democrat ever since Bill Clinton in '92, five in a row - but if you're just going to do it in states like Pennsylvania or Michigan or Wisconsin or Ohio and not do it in solidly Republican states like Texas, for example, then you're really giving the Republicans an unfair advantage if only certain states do the change and not all the states do it.

But the other question is: Terry, I mean, obviously, it's a swing state, but if it's divided by its congressional district, and the solid Republican districts go Republican, and the solid Democratic districts go Democratic, why would any presidential candidate campaign in Pennsylvania?

MADONNA: Well, Ken, by the way, knows this state very well. You're absolutely right about that. I mean, one of the complaints out of even some Republicans like the Republican state chairman, who's not been enamored with this, say that we think we have a chance this year, next year rather, to win all of the state's electoral votes.

So some Republicans are using the argument yeah, that's right, we haven't won since '88, but other than the Obama election, the elections in Pennsylvania are fairly close, you know, two and a half, three, four points, under five points.

Democrats are arguing, and some Republicans, that this will mitigate any interest in presidential candidates coming to Pennsylvania because this will make us much like smaller states. You know, with five or six electoral votes in play, we'll have five or six electoral votes in play because two-thirds of the congressional districts we know in advance how their electoral vote will be cast.

And so some Democrats and not a few Republicans are saying Pennsylvania, one of the most visited states in the country in the last several election cycles, a lot of interest, that means a lot of clout, that means presidents pay attention to the state after - candidates pay attention to the state after elected, that will be lost if Pennsylvania just goes to, you know, becomes another small or middle-sized state with five, six electoral votes in play in presidential elections.

CONAN: Some speculate that Joe Biden might even more back to Delaware.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MADONNA: Well, you know, yeah, who knows what Joe - you know, we claim him here. You do realize he's Scranton-born. He moved out of Scranton for...

CONAN: I think he may have said that a few times the last few years.

MADONNA: Yeah, that's right. We think everybody starts their campaign in Scranton. You know, Hillary Clinton has relatives there. So - but he may move back to Scranton. You know, we'll see what happens to the vice president.

CONAN: We're wondering what would happen if the split CD system was enacted where you live. And by the way, this is entirely up to the states. Since the Democrats control neither body of the state legislature in Pennsylvania, nor the governor's chair, the Republicans can just do this if they want. They could do this in Wisconsin and Michigan, too, if they wanted, or in Ohio.

MADONNA: Yeah, the other thing, Neal, is I went back and looked at presidential elections since the end of the Civil War, actually. And if you just apply this to how it would help Republicans and not - arguably it would give - you know, we can debate it, nine, 10 electoral votes they wouldn't get - it would not have affected a single presidential election in history from the - I didn't look before the Civil War - from the Civil War up to now.

And if every single state adopted it, every single state adopted the congressional district plan, we would be talking about President Nixon in 1960 and a tied electoral vote between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976. But having said all of that...

CONAN: You should have just seen Ken's eyes light up.

RUDIN: Wow. Wow.

MADONNA: What's that?

CONAN: He wants to throw the election into the House of Representatives.

MADONNA: Yeah, that's right. Well, that was - not to get too far back into the constitutional theory of it, but that's what James Madison thought would always happen. This was before political parties, when the Electoral College was put into the Constitution.

The only other point I would make about this is that this has, you know, become deeply controversial in our state. The governor doesn't seem to have walked back from his support of it. And even though - here's the real dilemma.

If you're - Pennsylvania Republicans now hold 12 congressional seats to seven Democrats. We're going to lose a seat. Right, we'll go from 19 to 18. The Republicans control the legislature where redistricting will get done. They will merge two Democrats, probably two Democrats in Western Pennsylvania.

So here's the irony of this. The competitive congressional districts in Pennsylvania, two or three in the Philly suburbs and one up in the northeastern part of the state, are all in Republican hands. What Republican members of Congress don't - are saying whoa, whoa, wait a minute. What this means is instead of Democrats putting money in Philly, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to get the vote out, they'll put all that money in our congressional districts because they can win that - these are competitive electoral seats, and that will cause us serious re-election concern.

So that is why there's getting this big pushback from Mike Fitzpatrick in the 8th Congressional District, that's just north of Philly in Bucks County, and from Charlie Dent, a Republican who represents the district in the Lehigh Valley, said Republican members are pushing back on this very, very hard at the moment.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. How will this affect things where you vote? 800-989-8255. We'll start with Kevin. Kevin with us from Wilmington in North Carolina.

KEVIN: Hi. How are you doing?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

KEVIN: Good. It's good to actually be talking to not just conversing with my dashboard while you're talking.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KEVIN: So this is great.

CONAN: I hardly ever answer to those.

KEVIN: Yes. Yeah. What I was going to say is our state is gone heavily Republican on the state legislature and right now is gerrymandering with the census information and everything and is really breaking up a couple of Democratic districts. And what's going to happen if this goes to - starts becoming a national trend where we go to the congressional districts? The really vicious fights are going to be at the state level. And you're going to see a lot of money at the state levels for making all of these very vicious local elections rather than on the national front.

CONAN: The assembly...

KEVIN: So I really think...

CONAN: The assembly elections every 10 years to get the people who will be able to redraw the maps. But, Ken, it's hard to imagine redistricting fights more bitter than the ones that go on now.

RUDIN: Well, this will be pretty bad. And, Kevin, in North Carolina, Governor Perdue doesn't - the Democrat doesn't have a say in - she can't override a Republican legislature redistricting, can she?

KEVIN: No, she cannot.

RUDIN: Yeah.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much, Kevin. Let's go next to - this is Amy. Amy with us from Provo in Utah.

AMY: Well, yeah. So that's just the one word I was going to say: Utah. I think if our Electoral College were slightly more representative of the population, in states like Utah where I'm a progressive-leaning independent, and I think I would get - I always vote. But I think I'd get more active in the process, and I'd do a lot of more campaigning if I felt like what I did actually counted. And, you know, Obama got it. He got a slice of the pie. But that's not - that was represented in the election because, you know, to the victor goes the spoils, and he got - and so the Republican vote always, you know, always wins in Utah.

And, you know, I think if we got a little - if we got our piece of the pie, then people would realize that places where - like Utah where we sent tens of - being extremely Republican, then we're not quite as homogenous as people think that we are.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly the - I mean, this is what Terry mentioned earlier that there's a fairness, that if you're a Democrat in Utah or a Democrat in Texas, right now, you have no say in the presidential vote. It doesn't matter because we know those states will go Republican. And the argument is that if all the states did this, then at least these Democratic voters would have a say in determining the next president.

MADONNA: Yeah. And I mean I think the real problem that we have - in a column that we wrote last week about this - is the fact that, look, are we now going to have 50 states tinkering with the Electoral College? We agree that the Constitution and Article 1 is very clear that the states' legislatures are permitted to choose the manner in which electors are selected in their states. So we're not talking about the constitutional issue. What we are talking about is the wisdom and the advisability of doing this tinkering in one state after another primarily for partisan advantage. You know...

CONAN: And potentially one election after another. These things change.

MADONNA: That's correct.

CONAN: Yeah.

MADONNA: That's a great point. And, you know, we have this National Popular Vote project underway which California just signed on to. It became the ninth state. They now have 139 states of the nine in which the electors are committed. The electoral vote of nine states are committed to vote for the popular vote winner - the popular vote winner regardless of the vote in their state.

RUDIN: Of the country - the national winner.

CONAN: All right.

MADONNA: That's right.

CONAN: We're talking...

MADONNA: The national popular vote winner, that's correct. Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking about...

MADONNA: But California if - let's say a Republican were to - they got 139. They need 270. It doesn't look like they will be able to get enough votes to put this into effect. They got to get the 270 electoral votes in order for the compact to go into effect. But let's assume it would go into effect. California, which is solidly Democratic, hugely Democratic, could vote, let's say, for President Obama but yet if the popular vote nationwide went to - let's use - just say Rick Perry...

CONAN: Excuse me, Terry...

MADONNA: ...(unintelligible) election...

CONAN: ...hang on because...

MADONNA: ...their vote...

CONAN: Terry, hang on to that thought...

MADONNA: Yes.

CONAN: ...for a minute. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. So California could vote for President Obama by a wide margin but cast its electoral...

MADONNA: Yeah.

CONAN: ...votes for the Republican if the Republican wins the popular vote. We...

MADONNA: That's correct. I mean, and that came out of the 2000 election in which some Democrats were obviously unhappy that we're not talking about President Gore, you know, who won the popular vote by 500,000.

Look, I think the - look, the fundamental reasons why the Electoral College was put into place in 1787, in my humble judgment, no longer exist. The American people overwhelmingly support the direct popular vote. There is - I can't think of very many good reasons other than partisan reasons why popular vote should not replace the Electoral College, and we should just move on in this century, particularly.

CONAN: All right. Terry Madonna, thanks very much for your time today.

MADONNA: As always, thanks for having me.

CONAN: Terry Madonna, political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We're going to have to see whether the state legislature there in Harrisburg decides to adopt this change and whether other states may follow suit. But, Ken, before we leave this week, we have to remember a couple of well-known politicians who passed away within the past couple - past few days.

RUDIN: Well, yeah, Charles Percy, the former three-term senator from Illinois, you know, once upon a time, he was considered a rising star in the party. He was a moderate liberal, a dove on the war in Vietnam. The thought of a moderate liberal being the rising star of the Republican Party seemed so, you know, strange (unintelligible) but anyway, he was defeated by Paul Simon in 1984. And he died this week. Also Malcolm Wallop, former three-term senator from Wyoming, very conservative Republican, decided not to run for re-election in 1994. He also passed away this week.

CONAN: We should also remember the daughters of two well-known politicians, Kara Kennedy and Eleanor Mondale, both dead at the age of 51 within the past few weeks or so. That's a sad story. Ken Rudin, anyway, thanks very much for being with us. We'll see you again next Wednesday.

RUDIN: Markey de Sad.

CONAN: Markey de Sad. Hmm. OK. Ken Rudin is our political junkie. He joined us here in Studio 3A. Check out his latest column and that ScuttleButton puzzle at npr.org/junkie. Coming up next, "Prime Suspect," the British crime drama comes to the streets of New York this week. We'll talk with Maria Bello about adapting the show for American viewers and stepping into the role and trench coat created by Helen Mirren. So stay with us for that. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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