As Gingrich Fades, Eyes Turn To VP Picks

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Ken Rudin, Political Junkie columnist, NPR
Lucy Morgan, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent
Mike Thompson, WOSU director of news and public affairs

Mitt Romney swept all five primaries on Tuesday, solidifying his hold on the GOP presidential nomination. Newt Gingrich made a last stand in Delaware, but came up short and aides to the former House speaker say he plans to suspend his campaign soon and will likely endorse Romney.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Newt cries mayday, Marco Rubio's Freudian slip on the veep stakes, the just-a-sinner defense in the Edwards trial and the Political Junkie returns. It's Wednesday and time for a...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Knuckleheads...

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 BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

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

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. No surprises yesterday as Romney romped through all five primaries. Newt cries mayday, bad day for the blue dogs in the Keystone State. Senator Hatch falls 32 votes short and will face a runoff.

Tareq Salahi hopes to crash the governor's mansion in Richmond, and the ratio of the week, Speaker Boehner puts the odds of another Republican majority in the House at two to one. In a few minutes, we'll go to Florida and Ohio as we begin to rate the race for the vice presidential nomination.

Later in the program, to Oslo to recap five days of testimony from the man who admits to 77 murders and argues that he's sane. But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Back from Boise, as usual, we'll begin with a trivia question.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Yes, I'm back from Boise as usual. Last week, we were in Boise for the State Impact Project, working with the folks at Boise State Public Radio. They're great people. But just a little quick anecdote, we're sitting in the Modern Bar in Boise.

CONAN: At the Modern Hotel.

RUDIN: The Modern Hotel and the Modern Bar, and the bartender says: You know, your voice sounds like the Political Junkie on TALK OF THE NATION.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: So I said well, it just so happens I am. And so they made a Political Junkie drink, which was...

CONAN: A cocktail?

RUDIN: It was a cocktail with - I mean not that I'm old enough to drink, but had I been old enough to drink, I would have had - it was Irish whiskey and Scotch and orange stuff, and after seven of them, I said wow, these are good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: So anyway, a trivia question.

RUDIN: A trivia question. So anyway, I was wondering yesterday how Rick Santorum would do in the Pennsylvania primary because he had already dropped out, and of course he didn't do well in Pennsylvania, but it led to this question: Who was the last presidential candidate to win a primary after he or she had already dropped out?

CONAN: So if you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last presidential candidate to win a party primary after he or she had already dropped out of the race, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And Ken, as usual, we begin when we can with actual votes.

RUDIN: Well, it's no surprise, but there were five presidential primaries yesterday, and Mitt Romney won all five, in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island...

CONAN: So this time, it's really, really, really, really, really over.

RUDIN: This time we're not kidding. And I think the other presidential candidates acknowledge it, certainly the Republican National Committee acknowledges it because they're about to merge the Romney for president campaign with the RNC. But he won all five. He won some of them, you know, some he got under 60 percent, like in Pennsylvania.

In Delaware, where Newt Gingrich was basing his entire campaign, and Newt Gingrich got I think 26, 29 percent of the votes, something like that, but anyway, the point is Romney won big. Five primaries up, he won all five, and I mean, not that there was ever doubt on who's going to be the nominee prior to yesterday, but there was no doubt.

CONAN: Some interesting congressional races, but before we get to that, he is, Newt Gingrich, saying, at least sources are saying he's going to drop out on May 1 and probably will endorse the putative nominee, that's Mitt Romney.

RUDIN: That's what it sounds like. That's what we're hearing, too. But it seems also interesting that he still nonetheless will campaign for the next week in North Carolina, which is - holds its primary on May 8, two weeks from yesterday, and that's kind of odd, but it looks like yes, he's out of the race May 1 with a possible or perhaps probable endorsement of Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum, for his part, is meeting with Mitt Romney on May 4, and there may or may not be an endorsement coming out of that as well.

CONAN: In the meantime, there were a couple of races in Pennsylvania where, due to redistricting, Democratic incumbents, House incumbents, were running against each other.

RUDIN: Right, the Republicans control the process in Pennsylvania, and in the western part of the state, they merged Jason Altmire, who represents the Pittsburgh suburbs, with Mark Critz, who succeeded his former mentor, the late John Murtha out of Johnstown. Now, most of the - two-thirds of the population there represented Altmire in the old district, and Altmire had much more money.

But what Critz had, and Critz won this primary, Critz had the backing of the labor unions. Altmire had voted against President Obama's health care bill, although Critz didn't support it, either. But the unions were out to get Altmire, and they got him. And it was, you know, won by four points but pretty much of an upset given the fact that most of the population was Altmire country prior to this.

CONAN: And another blue dog lost also in Pennsylvania.

RUDIN: And that's Tim Holden. That's also because of redistricting. He has always been a Republican target. He also voted against the health care bill, but the new district is now 80 percent new for him, far more liberal, with Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and things like that, and he lost pretty overwhelmingly to this Scranton attorney, a solid Democratic district.

CONAN: As we keep talking about a more conservative Republican Party, a more liberal Democratic Party.

RUDIN: Well exactly right. I mean, we always talk about how the Tea Party are forcing out the moderates in the Republican Party, well, here are two moderates in the Democratic Party, of course one forced out because of redistricting against another Democrat, but Holden forced out because he was not - he was too far to the middle or too conservative for some liberals.

CONAN: And then we go to the calculation by the speaker of the House about, well, the odds of a Republican majority returning after November's election.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: I'd say there's a two in three chance that we win control of the House again, but there's a one in three chance that we could lose. But I'm being myself, frank. We've got a big challenge, and we've got work to do.

CONAN: Well, he's trying to raise money to get that majority secured if he can, but a lot of people say Democrats need 25 - a net of 25 seats to resume the majority. That's a long shot.

RUDIN: They need Annette Funicello, is what they need. But I mean, the last time a president was re-elected, and a party got 25 seats, picked up 25 seats, was Lyndon Johnson in '64. Nobody thinks the Democratic Party is going to get the 25 seats. A few people think they'll get the 25 seats to recapture the majority. But having won a net of 63 seats two years ago, John Boehner knows the Republicans will be losing seats this year, and he's trying to fire up the troops.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the last presidential candidate to win a party primary after he or she dropped out of the race. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Joel(ph), Joel on the line with us from San Carlos in California.

JOEL: Yeah, I'm going to take a (unintelligible) and guess Ronald Reagan.

CONAN: Ronald Reagan, the Gipper.

RUDIN: Well, Ronald Reagan of course did not drop out of the race. We're talking about...

CONAN: '76.

RUDIN: Talking about 1976, when he challenged President Ford, but he never dropped out of the race until the convention.

CONAN: He's still running, in fact.

RUDIN: He's still running. He challenged Ford all the way up to the convention so never dropped out of the race that year.

CONAN: Nice try, though. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Ken(ph), Ken with us from Buxton in Maryland.

KEN: Yes, sir.

CONAN: You're on the air, Ken. Go ahead, what's your guess?

KEN: It's North Dakota, not Maryland.

CONAN: Oh, I'm sorry, I apologize.

KEN: Anyway, I think it was John Anderson.

CONAN: John Anderson the independent candidate for president.

RUDIN: John Anderson was a Republican candidate, congressman from Illinois who after his race was going nowhere became an independent, but he never won a primary after he dropped out of the race.

CONAN: Thanks, Ken, and I'm sorry for misreading ND as MD. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Ian(ph), Ian with us from Malvern in New York.

IAN: I'm guessing Gary Hart in 1984.

CONAN: That's monkey business. Anyway, go ahead.

RUDIN: Well, Gary Hart did win a lot of primaries, including California, the last day of the primaries, but again Hart stayed in until the very end, got out of the race after the primaries were over.

IAN: OK, thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's go next to - this is Steve(ph) and Steve with us from Nantucket.

STEVE: Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

STEVE: I'd like to guess Hillary Clinton.

RUDIN: Well again, Hillary Clinton did win tons of primaries, she won 20 of them as a matter of fact, but again, she didn't drop out of the race until the primary battles, her primary battle with Barack Obama was over in 2008.

STEVE: Ken, can I ask you one more thing?

RUDIN: I think so.

CONAN: I think so, yeah.

STEVE: When you guys say the percentage of Republicans that voted for whoever, could you add how many people actually voted?

CONAN: Oh, the vote totals? They were very low in the turnout because you know what? Everybody in the world has been saying it's over for the past five or six weeks.

STEVE: Oh no, but I mean, every time you say vote totals for Republicans or whoever else, just what percentage of the voters actually voted for - registered voters actually voted for the people who they voted for.

CONAN: We've got you, Steve.

RUDIN: That's a fair question. That's the kind of stuff we really won't know until later, but of course those numbers are down, and they're down in most years, yeah.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Mamadu(ph), Mamadu with us from Louisville.

MAMADU: Yes, sir. My guest would be Howard Dean.

RUDIN: Howard Dean is the correct answer.

CONAN: Correct, ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: He's so happy there. But Howard Dean dropped out of the race in, I guess it was early 2004, and then two weeks later, he won his home state of Vermont in the primary, and Howard Dean is the right answer.

CONAN: Well congratulations, Mamadu, stay on the line, and we'll take down your particulars and send you a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing it that we can post on our Wall of Shame.

RUDIN: But before Mamadu gets a T-shirt, he's going to have to do the Howard Dean scream, I understand.

CONAN: Oh really?

RUDIN: No, maybe not, maybe not.

MAMADU: (unintelligible)

CONAN: OK, thank you. Stay on the line. All right, in the meantime, it was interesting, Orrin Hatch in Utah, the Republican incumbent senator, was trying his very, very best to avoid a primary runoff. If he could get 60 percent of the vote in the convention, he could do it and fell agonizingly short.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. I mean, there was like 19,000 delegates there. He fell 32 delegates short. But he's very mindful of what happened to his Utah colleague, Bob Bennett, Senator Robert Bennett two years ago, when Robert Bennett finished third at the state convention, didn't even make it into the primaries.

So Orrin Hatch gets 59 percent of the delegates in Utah and moves into a June 26 primary with a Tea Party opponent, Dan Liljenquist, who, again, has that Tea Party support against Orrin Hatch, who is 78 years old.

CONAN: And there is great political drama unfolding in the state of North Carolina but hard not to - whatever you may think of John Edwards, hard not to cringe as the testimony unfolds.

RUDIN: It is cringe-inducing, and, you know, whatever you think about John Edwards, and of course there's nothing likeable to say about John Edwards, the question is what he did, you know, to raise the money and hide the money to cover up an affair and, of course, the out-of-wedlock birth of Rielle - his affair with Rielle Hunter. The question is: Do you go to jail for 30 years for that? And that's what the battle is in North Carolina this week.

CONAN: And there's going to be plenty more testimony to follow. Ken Rudin's going to stay with us. When we come back, we'll be talking GOP veep talk in two states, Florida and Ohio. Republicans, who should be your vice presidential nominee? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Or drop us an email, 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. It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin's back, so is his column and the ScuttleButton puzzle. And Ken, any winners to announce?

RUDIN: I think there is, actually. The previous puzzle, the last puzzle, there was a picture button of Alan Alda. Then there was another button of presidents George Bush and George Washington - so basically, it was Alda President's Men.

CONAN: Alda President's...

RUDIN: Yes, my New York accent. Dan Sideman(ph) of Watertown, Massachusetts is the winner.

CONAN: And he will get a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for his blinding willingness to perpetuate the ScuttleButton puzzle on himself. You can find the latest Political Junkie column and that devious ScuttleButton puzzle both at npr.org/junkie. Ken Rudin is not among those yet mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee for the Republican Party, but plenty of other rumors are flying now that Mitt Romney has all but locked up the party nomination.

Some of those mentioned: Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the top pick in a recent survey of GOP insiders. More about him in a moment. This week, much of the speculation centers on another Republican senator, Marco Rubio from Florida, who campaigned with Mitt Romney last week and made what some say was a Freudian slip.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president - I'm sorry...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You guys all got that, right? You all got that, right?

RUBIO: If I do a good job as a senator instead of a vice president, I'll have a chance to do, I'll have a chance to do all sorts of things.

CONAN: That's Marco Rubio at a National Journal breakfast last Thursday. Well, Republicans, who should be your party's vice presidential nominee? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Or send us your nominee by email, talk@npr.org. We're going to go to several states over the course of the next few months because we're going to have very little else to talk about.

Lucy Morgan covers politics and, among others, people, Senator Marco Rubio, for the Tampa Bay Times. She's senior correspondent, former capital bureau chief for Tallahassee and joins us by phone from North Carolina. Nice to talk with you again.

LUCY MORGAN: Hi, Neal, good to talk with you.

CONAN: And Marco Rubio has done the first thing any vice presidential nominee has - is required to do, and that's disavow any interest whatsoever.

MORGAN: Absolutely, and the interesting thing will be to see what he does if it gets offered to him. I think that he probably realizes he's not ready for primetime, at least in the kind of light that would be put on a vice presidential candidate, but it would be - you know, a man's ego when he gets into politics is sort of hard to tamp down when something like that gets - drifts by him.

CONAN: And a lot of people say a big plus for the ticket and for the Republican Party is the fact that he is Latino, Cuban-American.

MORGAN: It is, except that he's sort of the wrong flavor Latino. He's a Republican, and I think the bulk of Latino voters in the rest of the country are Democrats.

CONAN: And you also say that he is not ready for primetime. This is his first term as senator. Another first-term senator is currently sitting in the White House. So what's Marco Rubio's problem?

MORGAN: Well, I think that the senator sitting in the White House has been - has sort of matured a bit around the process a little bit more than Marco Rubio has. He was a very young man when he became speaker of the Florida House. There were some serious questions raised about him that have not been thoroughly vetted on the national scene since then.

He had some pretty serious financial difficulties then. He does not take well to questions about his own interests and financial background. He bristles pretty sharply when anybody tries to ask questions about it.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Lucy, when you say that he's of the wrong party, but I mean if the Republican Party is so weak with Hispanic voters, isn't a Republican Hispanic exactly what the party needs, if you buy the argument that that's going to, you know, chop into the Latino vote?

MORGAN: I'm not sure that they need a - I'm not sure they need a Hispanic candidate who is as untested on the national playing field as he is.

RUDIN: You also alluded to some kind of unanswered ethics questions. Anything more you can say about this? Because I keep reading about hints about that but nothing concrete.

MORGAN: Well, there are a number of different things. For instance, he had a negative net worth most of the time he was in the House. And then when he got to be speaker, he went to work for a law firm, which also hires lobbyists, who paid him something like 300,000 a year during the two years he was speaker. So he emerged with a small net worth when he finished.

But there have always been questions about the way he made his living, and one of his closest friends, Congressman David Rivera, has been under federal investigation for several years for the handling of a lot of money that was funneled into a corporation that Rivera's mother owned a primary interest in.

The feds have just announced they're not going to prosecute him, that the - or the state has, that they lack the law they need to prosecute such a case. But it doesn't make - I mean, it doesn't look good when you start analyzing the relationship.

CONAN: He also - you mentioned he's a little thin-skinned, bristled when reporters probed into his story that he told a long time on the stump, that his parents had fled Castro's Cuba when it turns out they fled five years before Castro took over.

RUDIN: They fled Batista.

MORGAN: Yeah, he - I thought that by now he would be better at answering questions like that. When he first began to run in the Senate race in Florida, in 2009 or '10, he was really hostile to answering those kinds of personal questions. And, you know, most candidates get to where they can answer those pretty easily or effectively dodge them, at least.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. This is Gwen(ph), and Gwen's on the line with us from San Francisco.

GWEN: Hello.

CONAN: Hi, who do you think should be the Republican nominee, vice presidential nominee?

GWEN: Well, because I'm a Democrat, and I'm voting for Obama, I certainly hope they choose Marco Rubio. It would be an incredibly cynical choice, much like the Sarah Palin choice, although I think hers was a bit more - it involved a bit more stupidity, to use a strong word.

CONAN: So, well, we did ask for Republicans to call, but in any case, Gwen, you think Marco Rubio would hurt the ticket?

GWEN: I think they think he would help, but again, I think they have a very shallow, the Romney campaign and Republicans in general have a very shallow understanding of the electorate's ability to see that they are just slapping a Latino on the ticket, hoping that somehow that will raise their numbers. I really don't - I don't see how his self-deportation argument and Marco Rubio go together, but I'd like to see them try.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much for the call, Gwen. And Lucy Morgan, one of the things a vice presidential nominee can bring to the ticket is to help in an important state. Florida certainly is an important state, went to Barack Obama four years ago.

MORGAN: Yes, no question that it is. I think if Jeb Bush were the candidate you were putting on this ticket, it would be of enormous help in Florida. But I don't think Jeb Bush would say yes to this offer.

CONAN: He is also...

MORGAN: I don't think he ever sees himself as a number two.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: And also when you talk about, you know, candidates on the ticket to help a state, they didn't pick Joe Biden or Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney to win those states. And the people they did put on to win a region, like a John Edwards or a Lloyd Bentsen or Geraldine Ferraro, they didn't win those states at all. So I think that trying to win a state by putting a VP candidate on the ticket is overrated as well.

MORGAN: I agree completely, and particularly Florida. Florida is such a weird state to politic in. It's like you have 10 different states sort of Balkanized into one.

CONAN: And lately we've seen polls that, hey, it's April, but we've seen polls that as the employment numbers improve, so do Barack Obama's political chances in Florida.

MORGAN: I think that's absolutely true.

CONAN: All right, well, Lucy Morgan, thanks very much. We'll be checking in with you as we get closer to November, appreciate your time.

MORGAN: Any time.

CONAN: Lucy Morgan is a Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent, joined us on the phone from her summer home in North Carolina. Let's see if we can get a caller on the line. This is Ken, Ken with us from Lincoln in Delaware.

KEN: Hey, how are you doing today, Neal?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

KEN: I'm thinking Rob Portman from Ohio. I think that he really needs to bring his numbers up and win Ohio. If he cannot win Ohio, he's going to have a very hard time winning the electoral college.

CONAN: You mean he - by he you mean Mitt Romney.

KEN: Right, Mitt Romney, when we're looking for the VP.

CONAN: Well, that's an interesting suggestion, Ken. As we mentioned, another senator rumored for contention is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who recently insisted he would not be of much help to Mitt Romney in Ohio.

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: I think Mitt Romney has a good opportunity to win in Ohio. Barack Obama won the last go-around. George Bush won...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Would he have a better chance - would he have a better chance with Rob Portman on the ticket?

PORTMAN: I don't think so. I think, you know, honestly, I'm going to help him all I can. And you know, I think the key thing is going to be who's got the better plan.

CONAN: Joining us now from the studios of member station WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, Mike Thompson, director of news and public affairs, host of COLUMBUS ON THE RECORD. And Mike, nice to have you back on the program.

MIKE THOMPSON, BYLINE: Great to be here. Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And Senator Portman may not have national name recognition, but he's popular in the state of Ohio, another first-term senator.

THOMPSON: Yes, very popular congressman for 12 years down in southwest Ohio. Then he moved on to the Bush administration as - first as trade representative and then he was the Bush administration, George W. Bush administration's budget director. And then he won quite easily in 2010 in the U.S. Senate race.

CONAN: That was a big Republican sweep year in the state of Ohio. Nevertheless, Rob Portman led, I think, the ticket. And people say, yes, he would help in the state of Ohio.

THOMPSON: He could. I mean, the polling showed that Rob Portman might be right when he - in that clip that you played, that, you know, it's not a slam dunk that he would help President Obama - president - Mitt Romney win Ohio. The polling showed that he helps Mitt Romney a little bit, but the margin is still within the margin of error. So it's uncertain whether or not he would actually help Mitt Romney win Ohio. It would definitely help in the key part of the state, though, southwest Ohio, where he's from.

He would win re-election by 70 percent down in the Cincinnati-Dayton area, where he represented folks in Congress. And that's a key area for Republican - the Republican nominee who - for Mitt Romney to win if he's going to win Ohio.

CONAN: And turn those people out. Ken.

RUDIN: Mike, obviously, you know, we're trying to compare what Mitt Romney will do compared to the impulsive choice of Sarah Palin by John McCain four years ago, and Rob Portman, who is lacking, shall we say, in personality and charisma...

CONAN: Flamboyance.

RUDIN: ...and pulse - oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: But I mean, you know, he's obviously not the most exciting thing. But if the weak - if the problem with Mitt Romney with the party is that he's not a true believer, or at least the Tea Party conservatives don't see him as a true believer, would Rob Portman excite the base, or is that necessary?

THOMPSON: I don't think he would excite the base. He certainly would not annoy the base. He is a straight, down-the-line conservative: pro-life, pro-gun ownership, a fiscal conservative, really is a conservative - true-and-true conservative, but he's not a rabble-rouser. He's not - sometimes you want a vice presidential nominee who's a bit of an attack dog. That is not Rob Portman. He's got a great resume. I mean, he is - the word you hear associated with Rob Portman during this speculation is he is safe.

He's got a great resume. He spent a lot of years in Congress, worked at high levels of a presidential administration, and then now is in the U.S. Senate. He would be qualified to be president of the United States.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: I just want to say quickly, though, but he also has the Bush name on his resume. The fact that he was President Bush's budget director, that helps the Obama argument that Rob Portman was part of the problem that he, Obama, inherited in 2009.

THOMPSON: That was used against Rob Portman in his 2010 Senate bid to no avail.

CONAN: Yeah.

THOMPSON: Rob Portman still won. But you're right. Being associated with George W. Bush puts that - if there are - if he has any baggage, those lines on his resume are his baggage.

CONAN: Mike Thompson, I know we're going to be back in Ohio before the November election. We'll see you then.

THOMPSON: Right. Thank you.

CONAN: Mike Thompson, WOSU's director of news and public affairs, host of WOSU's "Columbus on the Record," with us from the studios there in the Ohio capital. You're listening to the Political Junkie on TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. And let's get Demos(ph) - is that right? From...

DEMOS: Yes.

CONAN: ...Lindon, in Utah.

DEMOS: Yes. Demos. And I'd like to make a suggestion of someone who said she would never re-enter politics, but who's a good American and might answer the call, and that's Condoleezza Rice.

CONAN: The former national security adviser and secretary of state. Ken...

DEMOS: Yeah.

CONAN: ...recent polls showed a lot of people would be interested in Condoleezza Rice.

RUDIN: She's on the list, and although she has said, absolutely not, she would not accept it. But everybody said John Edwards - who we talked about earlier in the show - said he absolutely would not accept it until he accepted it. So everybody says no. The only people who really said no and meant no is when George McGovern asked them to - after Tom Eagleton dropped out. But Condi Rice remains popular, had never run for office, of course, but I suspect that she will not get that offer.

CONAN: But if Rob Portman has Bush baggage, Condoleezza Rice has Bush luggage.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: She certainly does.

DEMOS: It's a - I was going to say that it's interesting that she's also been involved in a recent study on American education, so she's getting some domestic credibility here, too.

CONAN: All right, Demos. Thanks very much for the call.

Let's see if we can get one more in on the Republican nominee for vice president - Jennifer, Jennifer with us from Oklahoma City.

JENNIFER: Hi. I think that because of him being the opposite - or his being an opposite of Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee would be a great choice: Southern, charismatic, energizes the base.

CONAN: Great...

JENNIFER: I love him.

CONAN: Great speaker, great communicator. In fact, making a lot of money on television and radio.

JENNIFER: Well, yeah, I'm sure that's true. But, you know, when your country calls, I think Mike Huckabee will answer that call.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: I think he's on the short list, and the fact is having run for president in 2008, he's already been vetted. So I think all the secrets that are out about Mike Huckabee, we already know. He's on that short list, I believe, yes.

CONAN: All right...

JENNIFER: Yay! I win.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: You don't get a Junkie T-shirt, though. Thanks very much for the call, Jennifer. Appreciate it.

JENNIFER: Thanks.

CONAN: In the meantime, a couple of things we missed, one of which was we mentioned congressional House races in Pennsylvania, a Senate primary in the Democratic Party, as well, and the incumbent there sailed through.

RUDIN: Yes. And that's Bob Casey. You know, no Democratic senator from Pennsylvania has been re-elected since - in 50 years. But the Republicans put up a guy named Steve Welch as their anointed nominee. Governor Corbett endorsed him. All the party endorsed him. He finished third in the primary to a guy named Tom Smith, who's a coalmine owner, coal business owner, who spent $5 million on his campaign, but nobody's ever heard of him. So the Republican Party is at a big deficit, trying to defeat Casey for a second term in November.

CONAN: A Democrat who was vulnerable, seen widely as vulnerable is in Missouri, Claire McCaskill. Interesting political ad that she put out this week, campaigning not against her opponents in the Republican Party, but against their backers.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They're not from around here, spending millions to attack and attack. But what they're doing to Claire McCaskill is nothing compared to what their special interest agenda will do to you.

CONAN: And that's an attack on the superPACs that are running ads against her. It's a tricky tactic.

RUDIN: It is. Claire McCaskill has far more money than any of the Republicans so far, like $6 million in the bank, compared to a million-and-a-half for the leading Republican. But she knows that these big superPACs will be going after her in November, and she's trying to, obviously, get in front of that argument. But it is a questionable tactic, but I think it's a gutsy tactic, as well.

CONAN: In the meantime, no primaries coming up. Well, there - speaking about a vulnerable Republican - vulnerable perhaps in his own party's primary, and that's in the state of Indiana.

RUDIN: Right. There's no primaries next week on May 1st. But on May 8th, there are three states, including Indiana, Dick Lugar trying to win a seventh term in a very, very tough battle with a conservative opponent, Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer. Big race to watch.

CONAN: Ken Rudin will be back next week with another edition of the Political Junkie, and we're going to continue to go around the country and look at the various possibilities for vice president. Again, it's a long time between now and Tampa. In the meantime, his latest column and ScuttleButton puzzle are at npr.org/junkie. Ken, thanks, as always, for your time.

RUDIN: I'm going back to the Modern Bar in Boise, Idaho.

CONAN: And have one for me. Coming up, Norway's confessed mass killer says he's sane, and that he'd do it all again. We'll get an update on the trial from Oslo. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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