Is It Game Over Or Halftime For Romney Opponents?

The Beauty Shop ladies discuss Mitt Romney's three decisive primary wins, and Rick Santorum's vow to "kick off the second half" of the campaign in his home state of Pennsylvania. Host Michel Martin checks in with blogger Viviana Hurtado, reporter Mary Spicuzza, sports commentator Tandaleya Wilder, and policy analyst Michelle Bernard.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Today, we are going to hear a lot from women making news. Later in the program we will hear from the new leader of the Women's National Basketball Association, the WNBA, as the women's pro hoop season is about to begin. And we also plan to hear from lawmaker Gwen Moore from Wisconsin. She recently shared some personal details about her life story in an unusual place - the floor of the House of Representatives. We'll hear why she did that in a few minutes.

But first, it's time for a visit to the Beauty Shop. That's where we check in with our savvy women commentators to get their perspectives on the week's news. We want to talk about yesterday's primary elections and the much-discussed political news out of Wisconsin. We also want to get a sense of the buzz around Sarah Palin and her news nemesis Katie Couric, both hosting TV morning news shows this week. And we also want to catch up on sports news.

Sitting in the chairs this week are Viviana Hurtado, blogger in chief of the website The Wise Latina Club. Tandaleya Wilder is founder of She Got Game Media. Michelle Bernard is president and CEO of The Bernard Center for Women Politics and Public Policy. That's an independent conservative think tank, and Mary Spicuzza reports on state government for The Wisconsin State Journal. Welcome to everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.

VIVIANA HURTADO: Thank you.

TANDALEYA WILDER: Thanks Michel.

MICHELLE BERNARD: Thank you.

MARY SPICUZZA: Thanks.

MARTIN: Let's start with politics. Let's talk about yesterday's Republican presidential primaries. Mitt Romney swept all three races in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C., and he's beginning to focus his energy on a potential race against President Obama. But Rick Santorum the former senator from Pennsylvania says he's not throwing in the towel just yet. Let's play a short clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL SPEECH)

RICK SANTORUM: And so, I ask you over the next three weeks, this isn't halftime, no marching bands. We're hitting the field. The clock starts tonight.

MARTIN: I don't really get that metaphor but...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I think he's making the point that presumably he's already been on the field, but he's making the point that the next three - the next round of primaries in three weeks are in the Northeast including his home state of Pennsylvania and he's hoping to turn things around there. So Mary, let's start with you since Wisconsin was in the news. Mitt Romney finished about five points ahead of Rick Santorum last night in Wisconsin. What do you think was the deciding factor?

SPICUZZA: You know, Santorum was leading in the polls a few weeks back but we really did see kind of the opposite of a surge here for Santorum. It seemed like there was a lot of momentum gathering around Mitt Romney. We saw - I talked to a lot of voters who said, you know, we think he's the most electable, the most likely to beat President Obama. He was endorsed by Representative Paul Ryan last week, who's, you know, certainly a controversial figure, but among Wisconsin conservatives is very, very popular here.

And I think we saw him and Romney doing a lot of appearances around the state together and he was telling people, you know, there comes a point where this primary could be counter-productive and I think it's time to rally around Mitt Romney. And that message really seemed to sway a lot of conservative voters to back Romney over Santorum.

MARTIN: Michelle, what do you think? You heard Rick Santorum say that he feels that this next wave of primaries, particularly in his home state of Pennsylvania, will kind of reignite his surge. What do you think?

BERNARD: I think that it is mathematically impossible for Rick Santorum to become the Republican nominee. I mean, clearly, you know, women are not excited about Mitt Romney, social conservatives are not excited about him. Fiscal conservatives are not excited about him, but that being said, they're all - most of those voting blocks are more excited about him than they are about Rick Santorum.

It's just - it's not going to happen and, you know, Rick Santorum lost his race in Pennsylvania pretty badly and if he loses in the Pennsylvania primary coming up and loses very badly, he can say goodbye to 2016.

MARTIN: What do you think Viviana? I mean, what about the fact that conservatives really like Rick Santorum, but - and who are the base of the party, but he just can't seem to - you know, people say Mitt Romney can't seal the deal, but Rick Santorum can't either.

HURTADO: I think what's really interesting is that we're seeing that precisely with - in Wisconsin social conservatives, the strong base of the party is having a bit of a wake-up call. Mitt Romney did better with very conservative voters in Wisconsin than he did for example in Ohio. So, there definitely seems to be some kind of a wake-up call and really marching forward are we going to continue to have some kind of in-fighting within the party or is the party going to finally coalesce around Mitt Romney?

MARTIN: Mary, before we move away from Wisconsin politics, you know, that the Governor Scott Walker is it turns out going to face a recall election, and I think that they were hoping to forestall this, but it does appear that it will go forward. That the signatures, whatever the process is that allows that to happen, has been certified. What do you think the effect of this kind of primary fight has been on Wisconsin? Do you think that, that is enhanced Scott Walker's chances in the Fall, or the reverse? What do you think?

SPICUZZA: It's interesting. We were hearing so much about the recall and it being certified that in some ways I think the recall had been a distraction from the presidential primary. But there were, you know, I went to an event that I covered over the weekend here that was conservatives in Waukesha County and it really did kind of feel like a pep rally where they were, each of the candidates backed Governor Walker, spoke very highly of him, and it did seem like I think they're hoping that some of the get-out-the-vote efforts from the presidential primary will keep voters engaged as we head into the recall that's expected in June.

MARTIN: We're talking politics in our Beauty Shop roundtable. Our guests are Mary Spicuzza. She reports on politics for the - and state politics for The Wisconsin State Journal. That's who was speaking just now. Also with us, blogger Viviana Hurtado, Michelle Bernard of The Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. That's an independent conservative think tank. Also with us, sports commentator Tandaleya Wilder. Tanda we've ignored you so far so, we're going to go to you first on this.

We just talked about political rivals. Let's talk about another rivalry, a news rivalry. And I notice I did not say cat fight because that's not what I'm saying here.

WILDER: Oh, thank you.

MARTIN: Because that's not the issue here. The issue is you've got two sort of media titans battling it out on the morning news shows this week. Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, former vice presidential nominee. Of course, who doesn't know that?

WILDER: Um-hum.

MARTIN: Asked to host The Today Show and then Katie Couric on ABC's Good Morning America. Katie Couric doing the network (unintelligible). Now she's with ABC News. So yesterday the first shot was Palin surrounded by newspapers. Here's a clip.

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

MATT LAUER: We also want to mention it is a pleasure to welcome the former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to our program this morning. She's, oh, man. See, she's doing her homework. It looks like she's got it. Governor, it's nice to have you here. By the way she told me a funny story. Tell everybody what happened when you were coming to "30 Rock" yesterday.

SARAH PALIN: Oh geez, Matt, the nicest lady in the world, she stopped me. Asked me where I was headed. I said "30 Rock" and she said, oh, honey come here I told you Tina Fey is here, it's her.

MARTIN: Well, of course, the newspaper bit was a reference to the fact that for some reason she seemed to feel that she was being questioned about whether she was up on the news, but, so that's what it - so Tanda, what do you think?

WILDER: Yeah, well, I mean, I didn't see Sarah Palin's appearance but I heard she did a fine job and, you know, frankly I'm comfortable having her in that role if she sticks to discussing cooking, raising teenage girls and weight loss. You know, those are all subjects I think she's absolutely suited to discuss, and frankly I'd rather see her making friends and influencing people at "30 Rock" than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But that's just how I think.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOUNDBITE)

MARTIN: That's just how you feel. Well, yeah, well, what about that?

What are you saying? You don't think it's appropriate for her as a political official, as a former elected official to be in this role? I mean, what about Joe Scarborough, I mean, he's doing a very popular morning show on MSNBC. What about George Stephanopoulos, former political operative, Chris Matthews?

WILDER: Yeah, as I said I mean it's fine. You know, she can do it. You know, go for it. She can go for it. I just think the whole morning show war thing seems like media hype. I mean, you know, to call it a war just feels really contrived to me, and I guess the network execs want the public to think of it that way to drive up the ratings. But I'm just wondering, do most people really care? I mean, or is this sort of like, you know, the folks that are battling each other over there at the morning shows? You know, those are the people that actually care. I do - what I've been reading on the blogs and also on Facebook is the thing with Katie Couric going to "Good Morning America," the new promo that states that Katie will be taking over for Robin Roberts while she's out on vacation. The running joke on social media is that Robin Roberts better be careful not to take too many vacations.

MARTIN: I don't know. Viviana, what do you think?

HURTADO: I think what Tandy says is correct in that it's about ratings and where the war comes in is that there are millions of dollars wrapped up in advertising with morning shows, still the most lucrative and the most watched. That's why they're the most lucrative properties that these networks have.

The only thing that I would add is that I think it's - and I'm glad, Michel, that you didn't talk about a cat fight. We've certainly been reading about a network morning smack-down and we're talking about women. That's why they're using this kind of terminology. The critics, the blogosphere. When Josh Elliott, the news reader at "Good Morning America," was brought in, nobody really, you know, couched it in these terms that he was going to take over George Stephanopoulos' job possibly and they were kind of putting it in these derogatory and misogynistic terms.

What's interesting, of course, is that I wonder where are - where is my perspective in the morning shows, which is something I think that Tandy is getting to.

MARTIN: Which is what?

HURTADO: Well, I am a woman. I'm an acculturated Latina, which means that I'm equally comfortable being - and identifying with being American, but also with touches and very tied to my culture. Where is my perspective represented? And, interestingly, I don't think it's...

MARTIN: Natalie Morales?

HURTADO: Well, I think it's represented in the two women who may be - whose jobs may be in jeopardy, which would be Ann Curry, a woman of color, and Robin Roberts.

MARTIN: Mary, what do you think? As a political reporter, what do you think?

SPICUZZA: I thought it was interesting to have Sarah Palin, who has really led a charge against the mainstream media, calling us the lame-stream media and misrepresenting her and attacking her, to then - you know, it doesn't get much more mainstream than morning television. So I thought that was really interesting and, you know, obviously, since she had struggled to answer Katie Couric's question about which newspaper she read, I guess that was a good way to kind of enter in by making fun of herself a little bit and lightening things, but...

MARTIN: Well, you know, all politics is local, like your checkbook. Right?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Michelle, we're going to let you weigh in on this. We're going to take a short break, but when we come back, we'll go right to you on this. We'll get your perspective on the smack-down. I don't know. Does anybody have a problem with smack-down? The morning show smack-down. I don't...

SPICUZZA: I do.

MARTIN: You have a problem with it, Michelle?

BERNARD: I think I do. It makes me think of WWE wrestling and...

MARTIN: Yeah? And...

WILDER: And girl fights.

BERNARD: And cat fights.

WILDER: Mud wrestling. Yeah.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. OK, OK. I don't have a problem with it, so - we're going to be - we're going to take a short break and then we'll come back with more with our Beauty Shop roundtable with Mary Spicuzza. She covers state government for the Wisconsin State Journal. And Tandaleya Wilder is the founder of She Got Game Media, a PR and radio sports production company. She's with us from Miami. Here in Washington, D.C., Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, the website. And Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. That's an independent conservative think tank.

Please, stay with us. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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