Redrawn Districts Could Shake Up Congress

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Guests

Ken Rudin, political junkie for Talk of the Nation
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Democrat from Texas

In Illinois, Republicans object to a map that endangers their delegation in a state with a Democratic-controlled legislature and governor. The opposite is underway in Texas, where the Republican legislature and governor approved a map that Democrats say doesn't accurately reflect population growth.

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NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. New jobs ad, new tax plan, but Perry wanders off-message. Nevada blinks, and the president visits Jay Leno. It's Wednesday and time for a...

President BARACK OBAMA: The White House is going to get egged.

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 ad: Where's the beef?

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

Senator 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 BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. As expected, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal cruises to re-election. As predicted, Nevada moves its primary back. As scheduled, Rick Perry introduces his optional flat tax and then unexpectedly harps on the birther conspiracy.

Herman Cain wins the endorsement of his campaign manager, and Florida's Marco Rubio learns what life is like under the microscope. In a few minutes, we'll talk redistricting with Texas Democrat Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and you can email us now: What do the new congressional lines look like where you live? The address is talk@npr.org.

Later in the program, Washington Post foreign correspondent Liz Sly about the violence in Syria. First, though, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A, and we begin, as we always do, with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, according to the latest New York Times-CBS poll, Herman Cain is the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. There's a new ad, by the way, that's out, that you see it just in the nicotine.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: But we'll talk about that later. Anyway, although...

CONAN: Smoking.

RUDIN: Exactly. Although Herman Cain ran in the primary for the Senate from Georgia in 2004, he has never won an election to office. Name the last two people who became major-party presidential nominees without ever previously holding elective office.

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last two major-party presidential nominees never to previously hold elective office, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Got to get them both. In the meantime, Ken, when we can, we begin with actual votes, and there were some in Louisiana.

RUDIN: And there were. How's Bayou(ph) , by the way. Yes, on Saturday, Bobby Jindal, a Republican, was re-elected to a second term with 66 percent of the vote. The - matter of fact, since - there were nine other candidates on the ballot. Since Louisiana went to the open primary, when all the candidates are on the same ballot regardless of party, this is the largest margin, the biggest margin that anybody ever running for governor of Louisiana has had since they established this system in 1975, including Edwin Edwards, who has won four times.

But anyway, Bobby Jindal, you know, was not a surprise. There was no big name - the fact - the big surprise, I guess, is the fact that the Democrats could not recruit a single - or married - a single candidate, you know, with any kind of, any kind of money, any kind of reputation. And now, of course, everybody's talking about what's next for Bobby Jindal. Is it vice president? Is it in the Cabinet? Will he run for the Senate against Mary Landrieu?

So of course everybody was watching the election for lieutenant governor to see who may be the next governor. Next governor, right.

CONAN: Bobby Jindal sort of immediately came up as possible vice presidential material, then sort of derided for an inept performance in a response to President Obama's first State of the Union message.

RUDIN: Right, it wasn't State of the Union, it was an address to Congress, yes, in 2009.

CONAN: Yes, but since has re-emerged. He's - along with a few others, one of those touted now as possible vice president.

RUDIN: He has. His education policy has improved. The unemployment rate is like seven-plus-something, which is of course lower than the national average. There were some people - his opponents say that, well, he hasn't really improved the state's education system. And of course the state has a lot, a lot of problems. But for the most part, he's pretty popular.

CONAN: In the meantime, another person touted as a possible GOP presidential candidate this time around was Marco Rubio, the new senator from Florida, the Tea Party favorite - famously, of course, the son of those parents who fled Fidel Castro, except that when they fled Cuba, it turns out Fidel Castro was in Mexico plotting a return to Cuba.

RUDIN: Right, yeah, exactly. He fled Batista. They fled Batista. What happened is the narrative about Marco Rubio has always been that his parents escaped Cuba...

CONAN: Communism.

RUDIN: Communism in Cuba, to avoid Fidel Castro, to get away from Fidel Castro. As it turns out, he - the family left in 1956, three years, or two-and-a-half years, before Castro came to power in '59. And so the Washington Post had this big expose saying that this narrative has not been true.

Now, now...

CONAN: Marco Rubio says, all right, maybe I got the dates wrong, but the facts of the matter don't really count that much: I'm still the son of exiles.

Senator MARCO RUBIO: I don't need to embellish my narrative. My narrative is very simple. I am the son of exiles and of immigrants, and that has framed my political thought.

CONAN: And that may fly with somebody, has yet to fix up his political website.

RUDIN: Well, you know, something, the good news for Marco Rubio is this is not happening in Tampa, Florida in September of 2012, when the Republican presidential nominee names Marco Rubio as a running mate. But still, it is a blip, and it is an embarrassment. How far this goes and how far it hurts him again remains to be seen.

CONAN: Getting back to the Republican presidential nomination this time around, we have a new frontrunner. Herman Cain had been neck and neck with Mitt Romney before. Now he's in front.

RUDIN: He's in front almost everywhere, and yet it's interesting because these numbers are coming after a debate last week where, for the most part, I mean, his 9-9-9 tax plan has been derided. And he also had other...

CONAN: Well, he had to tweak it to 9-0-9.

RUDIN: Right, right, and, you know, but there's also, you know, questions about his view - his position on abortion. For the longest time he said that I am opposed to any abortion, including rape or incest. And he was very absolute about that.

CONAN: But this is what he said to CNN's Piers Morgan last week...

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

HERMAN CAIN: It ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make, not the president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide.

CONAN: Which sounds like a pro-choice position.

RUDIN: It sounds like it to me too. And of course he's tried to backtrack on, trying to explain it.

CONAN: Even later in that same interview.

RUDIN: But that's what Herman Cain's been doing a lot of times. When he talks about – remember, he was talking about the electrified fence, the barbed-wire fence between the U.S. and Mexico, about the moat with alligators and everything like - everything else is a joke or a retraction. And yet that certainly doesn't hurt him in the polls. When Rick Perry is supposed to be the alternative to Mitt Romney, and yet Rick Perry is languishing at six percent, Herman Cain seems to be leading.

He's leading in the CBS-New York Times poll. A new Quinnipiac poll this week shows that he's leading Romney in Ohio. And yet an ABC News poll shows that by 20 points people disapprove of that 9-9-9 plan.

CONAN: And in the meantime, of course, there's the Cain numbers. Rick Perry, who came in as the frontrunner, well, as we've mentioned a couple of times, wandered off-point. He had a big event this week, yesterday in South Carolina, a big important early primary state where he presented his flat-tax plan but kept having to fend off questions about his – about mentioning the birther conspiracy.

And of course this week he also unveiled his first TV ad, this one in Iowa, where he promises to create two-and-a-half million jobs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

Governor RICK PERRY: In Texas, we've created over one million new jobs while the rest of the nation lost over two million. I'll start by opening American oil and gas fields. I'll eliminate President Obama's regulations that hurt other sources of domestic energy, like coal and natural gas. That'll create jobs and reduce our reliance on oil from countries that hate America. I'm Rick Perry, and I approve of this message.

CONAN: Created a lot of jobs for American violin players there.

RUDIN: Well, there's too much sex and violins on TV anyway.

CONAN: Clearly.

RUDIN: Exactly. But first of all, he's talking about creating 2.5 million jobs. There are, what, 16 million Americans out of work. So I don't know how that helps that much. But more importantly, yesterday, as you say, he was in South Carolina touting his flat-tax plan. It was supposed to be his major contribution to the political dialogue, and yet there was a question asked about Donald Trump and the birther issue, and he played along with it.

And while he said, oh, I was just trying to, you know, poke...

CONAN: Lighten things up.

RUDIN: Right, and tweak President Obama, again, that's - predictably, that's what got the headlines, and that's not what Rick Perry needed.

CONAN: We're getting questions, replies to our trivia question this week, which was the last two major-party presidential nominees to never previously get elected to office, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Let's start with Deborah(ph), Deborah with us from Chanhassen in Minnesota.

DEBORAH: Yes, sir.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

DEBORAH: My guess, Dwight David Eisenhower and Ulysses Simpson Grant.

RUDIN: Well, Grant is a very good guess. Of course there's somebody much more recent than Grant, I'll just put it that way.

DEBORAH: Thanks, guys, I love your show.

CONAN: There's many people more recent than Grant, including a major presidential nominee not previously elected to office. Thanks very much for the kind words, Deborah. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Jerry(ph), Jerry on the line from Tallahassee.

JERRY: Hey, well, I was going to guess two generals too, and one of them was Eisenhower. But I went even further back and said Washington.

CONAN: Well, yeah, of course.

RUDIN: That's true. George Washington did actually - not only was he - did he never run for office before, I believe he left after two terms because of tradition. He wanted to keep that two-term tradition.

CONAN: Keep that two-term tradition. Thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next, and this is Casey(ph), Casey with us from Cleveland.

CASEY: Yeah, let's try Eisenhower and Garfield.

CONAN: James Garfield from Ohio.

RUDIN: Well, actually, James Garfield, when he was elected in 1880, he was already a member of the House. He was in the House for, like, 12 years, I think. But Garfield was a member of Congress.

CONAN: He was after Grant, but...

RUDIN: He was also a cat in the comic strips.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Nice try, Casey. Let's see if we go to - this is Don(ph), Don with us from Sarasota.

DON: Yes, hi. Dwight Eisenhower and Wendell Willkie.

RUDIN: And that is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: For the longest time, before it was Ike and Tina, it was Ike and Wendell. Very few people know that. Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Wendell Willkie in 1940, Republican nominee, lost to Franklin Roosevelt. Neither had run - neither had run, let alone elected, neither had run for office before.

CONAN: And one of them actually won. Stay on the line, Don, and we'll collect your particulars and mail you a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in return for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing it that we can post on our wall of shame.

DON: Absolutely.

CONAN: All right, congratulations. In the meantime, while the Republican nominees are in a new phase, the president of the United States, the Democratic Party nominee, is appearing on "The Tonight Show," being asked about, well, his favorite TV programs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TONIGHT SHOW")

OBAMA: I am probably a little biased against reality TV, partly because, you know, there's this program on C-SPAN called Congress that is...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, taking a light punch at Congress, whose numbers are even worse than his.

RUDIN: I know, the last poll I saw said nine percent approval rating of Congress. Now, of course the Democrats control the Senate, the Republicans control the House, but I think the good news for Rick Perry and Mitt Romney is that they're not members of Congress.

CONAN: Stay with us. Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, and up next, the art of gerrymandering. Both parties are redrawing congressional maps to their own advantage where they can. We'll talk with Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who won by a comfortable margin two years ago and now faces a tough primary and a tougher general election in his redrawn congressional district in Texas. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. 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. It's Wednesday. Political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as usual. And Ken, we forgot to ask: Was there a ScuttleButton winner last week?

RUDIN: There absolutely was, by the way.

CONAN: How curious.

RUDIN: Yes, it was Jim Harword(ph) of Williamsburg, Virginia. The puzzle was a button that says I love Ringo, the next one said Bucks County for Nixon, the second one said women make policy, not coffee. And of course, that makes - gives you star - Ringo Starr - Starbuck's Coffee.

CONAN: Oh wow.

RUDIN: Good puzzle today, by the way.

CONAN: A recycled puzzle.

RUDIN: We'll talk about that later.

CONAN: All right. Anyway, you can find that puzzle at npr.org/junkie. And if you must, you can read Ken Rudin's political column there. Ken might rewrite the Scuttlebutton rules, but states around the country are redrawing congressional district. Gerrymandering, the long-standing political tradition, is back.

In states like Ohio, North Carolina and Maryland, political leaders pit incumbents against incumbents, splinter districts, all in hope of bolstering their own party. In Illinois, Republicans cried foul about a map that endangers their delegation in a state with both a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor.

The opposite is playing out in Texas, where Democrats worry they're losing seats at the hands of a Republican legislature and governor. In a moment, Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett will join us. How is this playing out where you live? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Lloyd Doggett represents the 25th District of Texas and joins us by phone from his office on Capitol Hill. And nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Representative LLOYD DOGGETT: Great to join you, Neal, Ken. In Texas, we call it Perrymandering, though.

CONAN: That's nice. But you're - the - Austin, the county around Austin, which is highly Democratic, this new map it looks like a piece of pie.

DOGGETT: Well so it is. One part of Austin connected almost a couple hundred miles to Fort Worth, another to Houston, another to Waco, another to San Antonio. The only piece that's left in which a Democrat can be elected is a district that I currently represent about half of, and the other half is down in San Antonio. And it was drawn to make it as difficult as possible for anyone from that area to be elected as a Democrat.

CONAN: Students of Texas politics might say it was drawn carefully to make it impossible for you, personally, to win.

DOGGETT: Well certainly that's true, and four of the five pieces of Austin, which are solidly Republican districts, even though it took, you know, a long distance to find enough Republicans to balance out the - a portion of Austin. Fortunately, in what has now been renumbered 35, the district that has most of the people that I represent today of any of the districts, is one that I'm actively campaigning for re-election in.

I do have a challenger. It will be a challenging election. But it's one that I feel very good about. Republicans just don't want anyone so deep in the heart of Texas who will stand up against the Wall Street banks and the pharmaceutical companies and the corporate tax-dodgers, as I have done for years, and they will do anything to get rid of me, even if it means colluding with some Democrat to do it.

CONAN: And the allegation is that Democrat is the person you may face in the primary from San Antonio.

DOGGETT: Yes, I have a challenger who does not represent any of the district, nor does he represent the district. I think maybe he has a block or two that he once represented. But yes, in sworn court testimony, it's come out that he, in fact, helped the Republicans design the district. So they've tried to draw it as unfavorably as possible for me.

I've been working on the ground in San Antonio since June. We'll be back there again tomorrow, and I feel very good. You know, the Republicans obviously don't want my neighbors to vote on my service because they know they can't prevail there. That's why they've tried to connect me with as many people I've not served as possible.

But I think my continual attention to San Antonio, combined with the support I already enjoy in Lockhart and San Marcos and Austin will be sufficient to give me a chance to continue battling Republicans here in Washington.

CONAN: We should mention there is a different version of the story of how that district got drawn from your potential challenger, but we'll let that go for a minute. But gerrymandering in Texas, well, you were victimized, what, 2004?

DOGGETT: Yes, in 2004, it was Tom DeLay instead of Rick Perry, and he thought he only had to divide my district in three pieces and connect it to the Rio Grande River with no straight road. This time, it's a couple-of-hundred-miles-plus shorter in the length of the district, but it's a district that's really unfair to San Antonio.

It divides up neighborhoods, minimizes the voice, particularly the east side and south side of San Antonio, connecting them to the airport in Austin instead of the nearby airport in San Antonio. So I think it's really a map, with its crooked lines, that is about as unfair to San Antonio as it is to all the communities heading up to Austin.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Congressman, you mentioned the mid-decade redistricting of 2003-2004. Basically, that's what brought down Tom DeLay, because of the kind of things he tried to do to make sure he can pull that off. And I also want to mention that you and I met in 1984 when you were running against Phil Gramm in the primary.

DOGGETT: Yes, I was the Democratic nominee in '84, and so I've really been battling with kind of the same folks all along, and it's amazing how much the issues then, like protecting Social Security and Medicare, trying to get the economy moving and controlling our deficit in a way that would involved shared sacrifice instead of putting all the burden on working people, those same issues that were at the core of that battle, remain at the core of my current attempt to be re-elected.

RUDIN: One of the big issues in Texas redistricting, of course, is that because of population gains, Texas gains four seats, and most of those population gains are from Hispanic residents. And yet by the map I've seen, it looks like that the Latino district, Latino gain may only gain one of the four seats.

DOGGETT: Well, that's - your analysis is certainly correct. You would think, unlike a state like Illinois or Ohio or New York that are losing members, in Texas it would be extremely easy. I represent an area that has some of the greatest population growth, and we're getting four new seats. But instead, this is really a plan to try to assure that Hispanics and African-Americans do not get the seats to which they are entitled and to claim that the only - and I think it's a false claim - that the only seat that they call an opportunity district for Hispanics is one designed specifically with help from my challengers to try to run me out of office.

I don't think it will work in San Antonio. I enjoy the support of a big Latino for Lloyd group, and I think we'll overcome it. But I mainly hope that the courts will act in a hearing next week in San Antonio and another hearing in Washington to begin taking the steps to declare this outrageous plan - which it does deny opportunities to Hispanics and African-Americans - to declare it in violation of the Voting Rights Act and help us get a more fair and just plan.

CONAN: Is your argument undermined somewhat, when Republicans make the same complaints about the maps Democrats drew in places like Illinois and Maryland?

DOGGETT: Well, I think the situations are different, but I think that the courts will have to look and apply one standard across the country, and if they apply the standard that has existed previously with the Voting Rights Act, as well as recognize the changes we made in that act on intentional discrimination, I think they'll invalidate the Texas plan.

The Department of Justice has filed a very strong response to the state here in the Washington, D.C., part of this case. I think they have to maintain that position uniformly. I don't know all the details of the other states. I do know the details of the Perrymandering plan, and I think it is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act.

And just about every group, we may have some differences about how to remedy it, but just about every group except the state involved in this lawsuit have taken the same position.

CONAN: Lloyd Doggett represents the 25th District of Texas and hopes to represent the 35th after the next election. Congressman, thanks very much for your time today.

DOGGETT: Thank you so much.

CONAN: And, by the way, we'll be keeping up with these issues and of course have people on from the other party who have been victimized, as they see it. But Ken, this is - the Texas case is going to court. It seems like every other case, every other - you know, more than half the states are going to end up in court.

RUDIN: Right, I think right now there are 22 states that are in court. And what's interesting is that when the Democrats draw the plans, the Republicans are upset. When the Republicans draw the plans, the Democrats are upset. And yet you have an independent commission in California, which did it without so-called, without political influence...

CONAN: And Arizona, too.

RUDIN: Yes, and both parties are upset about those. So, you know, nobody seems to be satisfied the way these lines are being drawn.

CONAN: We'd like to hear where these new redrawn congressional lines are playing out where you live, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's go to Diane(ph), Diane with us from Marietta in California.

DIANE: Yes, that's correct. And currently I'm in Dan Lundgren's Third Congressional District. And last November, 2010, the Californians passed a law to have a commission redraw the - or redistrict the map. And they have the authority to have, sort of, an unbiased way to get the maps redrawn.

And now, since this map has been redrawn, my district will have a Democratic advantage over Dan Lungren. So that's a really interesting phenomena that has come out of this redistricting.

CONAN: So the allegation by Republicans, and they include Dan Lungren, is that this was not a truly nonpartisan commission. They've drawn a map that heavily favors Democrats.

DIANNE: That's right. But there's Democrats in the state, so I don't understand their argument. And this was approved by the voters. And as far as I can tell, there's three Democrats, three Republicans and four people who don't have - aren't identified as Democrats or Republicans. So there was, you know, I thought it was weighted pretty reasonably.

CONAN: Ken?

DIANNE: But they're still taking it to court.

RUDIN: Well, here's a - I mean, that's a good question. Here's the perfect example why it is pretty reasonable because not only are Republicans being hurt in California - David Dreier is thrown in with another Republican, Elton Gallegly, Gary Miller, but Democrats as well are thrown in together. Just this week, Dennis Cardoza, a Blue Dog Democrat was thrown in the same district as his friend Jim Costa, another Democratic congressman. So he's retiring. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in Los Angeles district...

CONAN: We can't have a Berman-Sherman runoff?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Exactly. Sherbody-Peabody(ph) maybe. But that's the whole point. The point is both parties, especially in California, are finding themselves that their whole political future is on, you know, up for grabs because of this new commission.

CONAN: Dianne, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Let's see if we go next to - this is Ben. Ben with us from Charlotte.

BEN: Yeah. Neal, and Ken, we are charting waters we've never seen before because last year, for the first time since 1860, the Republicans took over both houses of our state legislature. And one of the money raising and campaign things was is that we would control redistricting for the first time. And our Democratic governor has a veto right, but it does not extend to redistricting. So we will probably see David Price and another current Democratic congressman lose their seat...

RUDIN: Larry Kissell.

BEN: And...

RUDIN: Right? Larry Kissell?

BEN: Larry Kissell would be the other one. And then, there's also an increase in minority districts, but the overall count will favor the Republicans. And it was a very conscious effort to be able to control not only the redistricting at the federal level but more importantly at the state level so that we have a Republican - in all likelihood, we will have a Republican majority in Congress and in our state legislatures until 2020.

RUDIN: You know, during the election - on election night, we always focus on battles for the House and the Senate, but this is so - this is one example why the races for governor and the races for the state legislature are extremely important because every 10 years, as we note in this conversation, they redraw the lines, and they change the whole political dynamic.

CONAN: Ben, thanks very much for the call. Political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's see can we go next to - this is Tyler(ph). Tyler with us from Tucson.

TYLER: Hello. Thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Sure.

TYLER: Redistricting has been a fascinating thing to watch here in Arizona with our independent commission and the fighting that's come from all sides and, you know, the different opinions that come from people whether they want to see more Democrats elected, more Republicans elected or more minority-represented districts. On the map this time, I'd hope that we've seen at least three minority-represented districts in Arizona, and we ended up with two. The right wing in our state wanted to see three border districts instead of two, and they got that.

But as someone from Tucson, it's nice that we'll have three congressmen representing us are women, representing us in the next election. And it's nice to see you're a supporter of Congresswoman Giffords that her district will be much more favorable for her than it was in the past.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Yeah. Assuming Gabby Giffords runs again, I think, by all indications, she probably will, although, of course, there was some talk about her running for the Senate, and that's not going to happen. But it seems like if - you're exactly right, independent commission in Arizona and it seems to be the Republicans who are complaining the most. I think Ben Quayle, son of Dan Quayle, his district has also been changed. He may be thrown in with another Republican incumbent.

CONAN: Tyler, thanks very much for the call.

TYLER: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Ken, as you look at this map, I've seen some analysis that suggests that after the big Republican wave in 2010, not just in Congress and the Senate but, yes, in those state legislatures and state senates and state houses where all these things are so important about redrawing these maps in generally a very partisan way. They're not expected to actually pick up a whole bunch more seats when you weigh everything out but could be solidifying a lot of those swing states, swing seats.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. I mean, first of all, Republicans picked up a net of 63 seats in 2010. There's not many more seats they can come up with, but a lot of these seats are precarious. A lot of them were anti-Obama. A lot of these lines have to be redrawn by Republicans to make sure they have a chance for re-election in 2012, because whenever there is a big-wave election, two years later it's the freshmen who are most vulnerable.

CONAN: And also a lot of these maps are going to end up with the stamp of a federal court on them. How long does that process take? Aren't people filing for election now?

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly right. Like Ohio, for example, there may be a ballot initiative to force the Republicans to either change their map or redesign it completely. And now, the primary apparently has gone from May to June to give voters more time to - and for the mapmakers more time to establish the new districts.

CONAN: In the meantime, we do seem to have finally a set schedule for the presidential primaries that start January 3rd in Iowa.

RUDIN: We do, of course, as a caucus. And the big sticking point was Nevada. They wanted to have their caucuses on January 14th, but New Hampshire said that's not so nice. It's too close to us and we'll threaten to have it in 2011 if we have to. Nevada blinked. Their caucuses are now moved back to February 4th. And this week, Bill Gardner, the secretary of state, whose birthday is today, by the way...

CONAN: Well, happy birthday.

RUDIN: Happy birthday. Happy 63. Bill Gardner is likely to announce that January 10th will be the New Hampshire primary, and the schedule of the calendar will be finalized.

CONAN: But it is a lengthy calendar. There is no - there will be something called Super Tuesday, but it ain't as super as it used to be.

RUDIN: No. And a lot of these states because of budgetary reasons have moved back into April, May and June. So a lot of the states that could have had an effect on the nominating process, it's a sign that it's just not worth it, financially, for us. They're moving back - further back in the calendar.

CONAN: So, of course, Huey, Dewey and Louie are their cousins as well as of April, May and June. Coming up, the continuing cycle of protest and crackdown in Syria. Next Wednesday, Ken Rudin will be back with us with another visit with the political junkie. Ken, thank you very much as always.

Thank you, Neal.

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