Hickenlooper And List On Pre-Election Atmosphere

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May 16 Junkie TOTN segment

The push for civil unions recently failed in Colorado, and Governor John Hickenlooper has some ideas about why. Also, former Nevada Governor Bob List talks about the influence of Ron Paul on the Republican Party. And NPR's Political Junkie columnist Ken Rudin rounds up the news.

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's back: Boehner pushes up against the debt ceiling. POTUS and Mitt bat around Bain. And two Jersey guys play the veep stakes for laughs. It's Wednesday and time for a...

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I got this...

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 BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. Yesterday, Nebraska - nice(ph) - surprised in the GOP Senate primary. The president and his prospective rival play to the base at graduation. Mitt thanks the predecessor for his four-word endorsement. Ron Paul stands down, kind of, but his supporters work to take over state parties. We'll talk with a former governor who won't be a delegate in Tampa. And Republicans kill civil unions in committee in Denver. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will join us.

Later in the program, a Democrat warns Wisconsin on the unintended consequences of the recall. But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A, and as usual we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Well, the big story yesterday in Nebraska, of course, was the Republican primary, which we will talk about, but the Democratic primary for the Senate was won by Bob Kerrey, who left the Senate on his own after 2000. Now, so the question is: Who was the last person to voluntarily leave the Senate and then later come back?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last United States senator to voluntarily leave the world's greatest deliberative body and then return, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Of course the winner gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. And Ken, actual votes when we can: Nebraska.

RUDIN: Nebraska is a big story. I mean, the week before we were talking about Dick Lugar losing in Indiana, and that was not unexpected. But the unexpected thing yesterday happened in Nebraska: Deb Fischer, 61-year-old state senator who nobody ever heard of basically two weeks ago, won the Republican primary for the seat. This is a seat that Democrat Ben Nelson is giving up.

And everybody expected that the attorney general, Jon Bruning, was the overwhelming favorite, he had a 25-point lead like two weeks ago. But tons of money coming in for a third candidate, State Treasurer Don Stenberg, paid for by Club for Growth - or Glub for Crowth(ph) as we would call it - and Jim DeMint, they spent a lot of money on Stenberg's behalf, trying to tear down Bruning on character issues, ethics issues. But Deb Fischer won it.

CONAN: And this is one of the ads that, well, helped turn the tide.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Now we know Jon Bruning praised the Obama stimulus and has a big spending record, but there's more. Bruning once called for higher gas taxes and Social Security taxes.

CONAN: That's an anti-Bruning ad. The Club for Growth expected that ads like that would drive support to Stenberg. No, the candidate who played it nice got the votes.

RUDIN: Right. The problem, of course, is that Stenberg had run for the Senate three times already and lost every time. He was not - he was kind of like old news. As you say, as you've pointed out, Bruning had a, you know, a questionable record, questionable record, had some ethics problems. And we saw - we've seen this before.

Quickly going back to Illinois, 1992, Senator Alan Dixon was being attacked by his rival, his chief rival, and a third candidate, Carol Moseley Braun, wound up winning the primary because the other two beat each other up so much. And that's what happened in Nebraska yesterday.

CONAN: Two other primaries yesterday. Any surprises?

RUDIN: No, that would be Idaho and Oregon, just congressional seats up for grabs, nothing to report.

CONAN: In the meantime, one of the - well, I guess in Highlander terms, in the end there can only be one that's presidential. Ron Paul pulled out of the presidential stakes, and Mitt Romney is left alone.

RUDIN: Well, he didn't really pull out. What he - and the media seemed to report that he did pull out, but what he actually did, he told his supporters that he will not go into the 11 states that have not voted yet, but they will fight, continue to fight for delegates in the states that have already voted. And we've seen in Nevada, in Maine, perhaps this weekend in Minnesota, that a lot of Ron Paul supporters are taking over delegate spots.

Now, remember, he has not won a primary or a caucus all year long, and yet his delegates are doing very well, thank you very much, at the state convention.

CONAN: We'll be talking more about that later, but Ron Paul no longer campaigning actively for the presidential nomination. In the meantime, there was - this is graduation season, commencement season, and both the major party political candidates, the expected Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, was at - this is Liberty University. Jerry Falwell established that, and this was where he was addressing some people, the evangelical community that he expects to be part of his electoral base.

MITT ROMNEY: People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes will wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.

CONAN: And he got generally good reviews, especially for that line about people of different faiths like you and me.

RUDIN: Well, you mean like Neal and Ken?

CONAN: Exactly.

RUDIN: Well, here's the story. I mean, obviously that he's had a lot of problems with evangelical voters. We saw that during the caucuses and the primaries. But when it comes down to Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, evangelical conservatives have really only one place to go, and you'll see that more and more supporters from that point of view are backing Mitt Romney.

CONAN: Particularly as gay marriage becomes an issue again, and again, more about that a little later in the program. In the meantime, President Obama went to what I guess can be regarded as his political base. He addressed the graduates at Barnard College in New York and talked about women and their role in politics.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One reason we're actually refighting long-settled battles over women's rights is because women occupy fewer than one in five seats in Congress. Now, I'm not saying that the only way to achieve success is by climbing to the top of the corporate ladder or running for office, although let's face it, Congress would get a lot more done if you did.

CONAN: And that a predictable applause line.

RUDIN: True, but of course if President Obama really cared about women in higher office, he would have let Hillary Clinton win the nomination in 2008.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: But obviously, look, the Democratic Party is trying to make the point that the Republican Party has this, quote, war on women, and this is part of the Obama campaign strategy.

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 United States senator to voluntarily leave that office and then return, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Peter, and Peter's with us from New Bend in Oregon.

PETER: Barry Goldwater.

RUDIN: Well, Barry Goldwater is a very good guess, and it's correct in the fact that he did give up his seat voluntarily.

CONAN: To run for president.

RUDIN: Yeah, but he could have run for re-election, and he didn't because they were allowed to do - in 1964. And he did come back in 1968, replacing Carl Hayden, but he is not the most recent example.

CONAN: Peter, thanks very much for the call, good try. Let's go next to - this is Victor, Victor with us from Boston.

VICTOR: That's me. I'm guessing Hubert Humphrey.

CONAN: The happy warrior, Hubert Horatio Humphrey.

RUDIN: Another good guess, very good guess. I mean, he gave up his Senate seat to be elected vice president in 1964, came back in 1970 to replace Eugene McCarthy in the Senate, but again, that's 1970. We're looking for somebody more recent. Good guess.

CONAN: Victor, thanks very much.

VICTOR: You're welcome.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Kim, Kim with us from Niota in Illinois.

KIM: Yes, it would be Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey senator.

CONAN: A Jersey guy.

RUDIN: Well, even more recent than the two previous callers, that's a good guess too. Frank Lautenberg gave up his seat after 2000, came back in 2002, when the Honorable Robert Torricelli was forced to resign.

CONAN: (Unintelligible)

RUDIN: Exactly, so - but that's a good guess, but not the most recent. Very good guess.

CONAN: Thanks very much, let's go to Jay, and Jay's on the line from Fort Wayne.

JAY: Is it Dan Coates?

RUDIN: Is it Fort Wayne, Indiana? Because that is correct. Dan Coates is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: He quit the Senate in 1998 because Evan Bayh was running - that's one reason he left - and when Evan Bayh retired in 2010, Dan Coates came back, won the seat.

CONAN: All right, Jay, stay on the line, we'll collect your particulars and send you a Political Junkie no-prize t-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing self-same and so that we can post that on our wall of shame. Thanks and congratulations, Jay.

JAY: All right, thank you.

CONAN: All right, in the meantime, well, there are a lot of issues going around in this campaign, but I think to some people the main argument was engaged this week, Ken, when President Obama issued an ad that attacked Mitt Romney's private equity firm, Bain Capital.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Bain Capital was the majority owner. They were responsible. Mitt Romney was deeply involved in the influence that he exercised over these companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: They made as much money off of it as they could, and they closed it down. They filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families of the communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It was like a vampire: They came in and sucked the life out of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.

ROMNEY: As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, it breaks my heart.

CONAN: A two-minute version of that airing in some swing states, a six-minute version of that available on the Web, but interesting that the Romney campaign was ready with an immediate response.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: When I started, we had close to 1,400 employees. Now we're over 6,000.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think there's a lot of pride in what we've built out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: But SDI almost never got started. When others shied away, Mitt Romney's private sector leadership team stepped in.

CONAN: And this campaign is going to be fought about a lot of issues, but the economy is going to be the main issue. And it's interesting - Mitt Romney refused to allow the Obama campaign to paint him, paint his image, to define him, without responding.

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly right, and obviously the Obama campaign realizes that for all the talk that Mitt Romney is talking about his business acumen, what he did at Bain Capital with the buying of companies, laying off workers, you know, buying and selling companies, what side is Mitt Romney really on, that's the Obama campaign commercial.

And of course Mitt Romney is going to make the argument that I do have the business acumen to be president, and look at the last three or four years about the economy - I'm the guy who's going to get it done.

CONAN: In the meantime, he also said, you know, that company they were talking about, I wasn't even president of Bain anymore when that decision was made.

RUDIN: The bane of his existence, exactly right.

CONAN: But it's going to be, this is going to be an issue that comes back and back and back as, well, the unemployment numbers, the GDP numbers, is there economic growth. These are the statistics that are going to decide this election, at least that's what everybody thinks.

RUDIN: And not only the numbers, it's the sense of it. In 1992, when George W. Bush was - George H.W. Bush running for re-election, the economy was getting better, but there was a mindset in the country that it had been so bad for so long, Bush was responsible. The question is whether the numbers can change what the feeling is in this country about what's going on.

CONAN: In the meantime, sad news out of Pierre, South Dakota today: Jim Abdnor, the former U.S. senator, died earlier today.

RUDIN: Right, he beat George McGovern in 1980, and six years later he lost his seat to Tom Daschle, in 1986, in South Dakota.

CONAN: Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. Up next, civil unions never see the light of day in Colorado, at least never make it to the legislative floor, and Ron Paul won't campaign but continues to battle for delegates. We'll talk with one GOP delegate who will not be going to the convention. 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 is with us, as always, and Ken, ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: There happens to be, yes, the winner was Kevin Cross of Baltimore, Maryland. As you well know, Baltimore defeated the Yankees yesterday, but he still wins anyway. But the ScuttleButton puzzle, there were three buttons. The first one was a - change the scene with Gene, Gene McCarthy. The third button had a jar of Hellman's. So ultimately the answer was Cinco de Mayo.

CONAN: Ooh, because it was Cinco de...

RUDIN: Well, actually the puzzle came out on Cinco de Ocho, but I was thinking of Cinco de Mayo, but I didn't have a Hellman's ocho button.

CONAN: We'll be sending him a political junkie no-prize T-shirt, even though he resides in Baltimore. That ScuttleButton puzzle, the new one, and Ken's latest political junkie column can both be viewed online, npr.org/junkie. In a few minutes, we're going to focus on Ron Paul's recruitment of Republican delegates in Nevada, but first to Colorado, where Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper called the legislature back to session this week to take up, among other issues, civil unions.

The legislation went nowhere. Republicans parked it in committee, where it died. John Hickenlooper is the first-term governor of Colorado, former mayor of Denver and joins us by phone from his office at the state capital, and Governor, nice to talk to you again.

GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER: It's a pleasure, nice to talk to you again.

CONAN: And it seems like there were the votes in the House to pass this legislation, a Republican majority in the House, but nevertheless it looked like their votes were there.

HICKENLOOPER: Yeah, there were five or six Republicans that were - had said they were likely to support civil unions. So it could have come out of committee, and it, you know, at the end of the session, a week ago last Tuesday, a week ago yesterday, they actually got it out of committee, and it was coming to the floor, and that's when they started to filibuster and ended up adjourning the legislature so that they wouldn't have to bring it to the floor for a debate and a vote.

CONAN: And so you called this special session in part for this bill?

HICKENLOOPER: Yeah, when they adjourned, they killed 30 other bills, including $61 million worth of water projects, an ability to save a ton of money by bonding our unemployment insurance programs. Several things like that were - everyone agreed to and wanted to support, but they didn't get a second reading, and the legislature had to totally adjourn the next day.

So we thought - and they had said that the reason that the, you know, civil union measure wasn't coming to the floor was they didn't have enough time. So since we had to call a special session anyway, we were hoping that there would be enough time that they would bring it to the floor and give it a chance for a debate.

CONAN: And the Republican leader in the House had the option to put it before any number of committees and chose one where it looked like he did have the votes.

RUDIN: Yeah, yeah, it was interesting. He - obviously, they intended it to die and make sure that it didn't get to the floor and have a debate. You know, to a certain extent, the will of the people was thwarted. I think that's a fair way to say it.

CONAN: Did the other measures get through?

RUDIN: Yeah, the unemployment insurance went through. The water projects went through. There was another couple of smaller ones. There was a (unintelligible) and five nanos of - I can't remember. Something to do with driving while ability impaired connected to marijuana.

CONAN: I see.

HICKENLOOPER: That didn't get through. And then, there was a benefits corporation bill that didn't get through. But the ones, the biggest ones got through.

CONAN: And there was a rally, as I understand it, yesterday in Denver by those who oppose civil unions celebrating the failure in the legislature.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, there was - yeah, there was a tremendous amount of talk of how, you know, this was gay marriage, and no matter how many times we pointed out the word marriage wasn't in the bill, that what we were saying was - and I've said this, you know, since I used to run restaurants, right, that we don't think any government should ever tell any church who they should marry, who they have to marry and who they don't have to marry.

That's the church's business. In this country, we give our religious institutions a huge amount of freedom that most other businesses don't get. We don't tell religious institutions that they have to ordain women or do anything else. They have freedom almost unique in our society. And we weren't telling them - we've never suggested telling them who they should marry.

We just said: Let's make sure, at least on a state basis, that, you know, that everybody has the same rights.

CONAN: To cover issues like hospital visitations, that sort of thing.

HICKENLOOPER: Exactly, to make sure that you have responsibility for financial support of a partner or medical care and treatment, you know, responsibility as a priority conservator, those kind of things, you know, the basic kind of blocking and tackling, the ability to inherit real and personal property.

CONAN: So now in a state where there is a constitutional amendment that bars gay marriage, this is going to be an issue, no, come November?

HICKENLOOPER: I think so. I think that there - certainly the polls we saw - and again, I thought it was going to pass, to be quite honest. I don't - again, it's just civil - it's civil unions. It's just making - it's an amendment to the civil code. So no one's talking about marriage. And there's one poll we saw last week that showed 75 percent of the people in Colorado supported civil unions, and 56 percent of Republicans support civil unions. I mean, it's a pretty nonpartisan thing, at least that's what we thought.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Governor, you know, as we, Neal pointed out, you know, the twice gay marriage or gay rights have been on the Colorado ballot, voters have rejected it both times. But watching the Republicans not even bring this up to a vote, how did this - how do you think this moves public opinion in the state? And if that measure were on the ballot today, what do you think might happen?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think civil unions, right, and making sure that people understand that we're not telling any religious organization who should get married or who they should marry in their place of worship, right? We're not going there. We're talking about the legal rights that everyone should get, and they should all be the same.

I think that there was a level of frustration. We've never gotten more calls at the office about this than any other issue ever than we had about this. And, you know, almost 80 percent of them were supporting civil unions.

CONAN: One question before we let you go, Governor, and that is that four years ago, Senator Obama carried Colorado. identified these days as a purple state, could go either way. How do you think President Obama is going to do come November?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, he's I think done a remarkable job of, you know, snatching the economy from disaster and helping, you know, bring it back. And that's what most people in Colorado are going to look at and say, you know, we were in the middle of a financial crisis, the place was going to pieces, and Obama not only stopped that but has really focused on how do we, you know, double our exports in five years; those kinds of ambitious goals that, you know, he seems to be succeeding at.

So certainly it's going to be a tough year for all over the country, but Colorado, you know, really goes by independents. We have almost a third Republicans, a third Democrats and one-third independent voters. And I think those independents are, at least what I hear, is they're probably leaning towards Obama right now.

CONAN: Governor Hickenlooper, thanks very much for your time today.

HICKENLOOPER: You bet, always a pleasure.

CONAN: John Hickenlooper, I should emphasize a Democrat and first-term governor of the state of Colorado, former mayor of Denver. Joined us by phone from his office at the state capital there. As we mentioned earlier, Ron Paul suspended active campaigning this past week. He has not won a single primary, but continues to fight for and occasionally wins delegates at state conventions.

Earlier this month, Paul supporters took a majority of the delegate slots in Nevada and Maine despite the fact that Mitt Romney won the primaries in both those states. Former Nevada Governor Bob List was set to serve as a Republican delegate for Romney at the GOP convention in Tampa, a slot that went instead to a Ron Paul supporter. And Governor List joins us now by phone from Las Vegas. Nice to have you with us today.

BOB LIST: Yeah, nice to join you, thank you.

CONAN: So what happened?

LIST: Well, the Ron Paul people showed up, and the Romney people did not. There were a total of - for example from Clark County, which is the Las Vegas area, which is the largest proportion of the state, the delegates from Clark County were entitled to have 2,900 in number, and only about 1,500 showed up, and most of them were Ron Paul people.

And so they simply took control of the convention and elected their people to be delegates. One thing I would point out that - just for clarity is that I will continue to serve as national committeeman until the end of the convention. So I will be a delegate.

CONAN: Oh, so you will be at Tampa, forgive me.

LIST: I will be a delegate, but actually there are only going to be I think six delegates who are Romney people personally, out of the total of 28 delegates. So the Ron Paul people will be out in force.

CONAN: Doesn't that tend to subvert the purpose of the primary election or the caucus?

LIST: Yeah, caucuses are what we have here, and it truly does. But, you know, the lesson is that the campaign has to educate the people that are chosen at the caucus to move forward to the county convention, then to the state convention. And if they don't, they're just - they're going to lose their position.

And it's a little confusing at times, I guess, for people to understand it, but the way it works simply is that at the caucus, you take a vote at each caucus around the state on who they favor for president. And of course Romney won a little over 50 percent of the total vote.

And had those people then gone on and shown up, showed up at the county convention and showed up at the state convention, they would have continued to dominate. But they didn't. And Ron Paul people, who only had 19 percent at the caucus, were motivated and driven, and they came out and took control, and of course the majority rules. They won it fair and square.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Governor List, so the Ron Paul delegates who have been elected to the state convention are pledged to vote for Romney at the national convention on the first ballot. They say if it goes to a second ballot, then they could choose whoever they want, presumably Ron Paul. First of all, nobody thinks the convention is going to a second ballot. What do you think the Ron Paul folks are really trying to do? What's their aim?

LIST: I think they want a voice. They want to be heard. They want to be noticed. They want to feel that they're playing a part. And it's very difficult, frankly, to see the practical end result of that from a Ron Paul movement standpoint. They'll probably get, I'd say, a fair amount media attention at the convention. They'll speak out and express themselves. But in the long run, obviously Romney is going to win it on the first ballot. And the Ron Paul people, hopefully, will then come alongside as we move toward November.

RUDIN: Given the fact that Nevada is a swing state, both parties are actively trying to win the state, is there a chasm between Romney and Paul supporters that could hurt the party's unity for November?

LIST: Well, there's certainly a bit of a chasm. Some of the Ron Paul people are, you know, expressing the thought that Romney is equivalent to Obama, which I think is certainly far from being accurate. And I think as the election comes along, the chasm will begin to close because certainly the Romney campaign, the Republican Party, is going to point out the significant differences and the fact that that Romney is far more conservative - certainly in a fiscal sense and in a social sense - than Mr. Obama. And in the end I think they'll be on board.

CONAN: What does this say, though, about the Romney organization in Nevada? Is there a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of organization? What?

LIST: I think there's a certain lack of organization, there's no question about it. And now, with the Ron Paul people having captured control of the state party, there's - we have a bit of a dysfunctional apparatus from a party standpoint, because they've never run anything like this before and probably are not going to be as effective as would have otherwise been the case on behalf of Romney. So there's a lot of work to be done in the state of Nevada.

CONAN: What practical difference does that make?

LIST: Well, it's all about, as we know, getting - identifying potential voters that are not registered, getting them registered and then getting them out to the polls on Election Day. And so it's a matter of grassroots organization and, you know, boots on the ground to motivate people to turn out and vote. And the party is normally charged with that, while the campaign works more on identifying their individual voters. The party tries to drive people out because it has an effect from the top of the ticket on down. All votes rise with the tide if the party does a good job of bringing your folks out.

CONAN: We're talking with Governor Bob List, who served as governor in Nevada from 1979 to 1983, currently practicing law at the firm of Kolesar & Leatham. He's with us on the phone from Las Vegas. It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And are there questions, Governor List, about the agenda of these people come November? Are they going to be trying to organize for something further down the road or organizing for the election of Mitt Romney?

LIST: Well, hopefully they'll be organizing in the short term for the election of Mitt Romney because they - while they might have a broader agenda long term, it's certainly isn't going to be well-served by the continuation of the Obama policies. I think they honestly believe that some day they will be a majority of - in their thinking - of the party on a national level. At least that's their stated objective. And of course they have a long way to go to reach that point. They had - I think they had also hoped that they would get five states in which a majority of the delegates were - to the national convention - were Ron Paul supporters, so that they could actually put his name in nomination.

That is required under the rule - that is, to have those five states joined together in order to qualify to nominate their candidate. I don't believe they've reached that goal at this stage. And whether they're still pursuing that, I guess, is an open question. But they have both the short-term and long-term goals, and they are, to a large extent, quite libertarian in their thinking. They're very independent. And here in the state of Nevada, it's a bit of the Wild Wild West. Many of them are from the rural areas, and they're absolutely anti-government in almost every sense. And so they're a force to be reckoned with in this part of the world.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Governor List, if Ron Paul had won the caucuses in February and Mitt Romney elected delegates to the state convention, I would suspect that the Ron Paul people would be up in arms, but it seems like the Romney people are not contesting this or upset even.

LIST: Well, they don't have a position to contest it. They simply didn't do their job in showing up. They've closed their headquarters in Nevada after the caucus. I think that was ill-advised. They moved their staff onto another state after the caucuses and simply didn't follow through and organize like they should have. And I think they've learned a lesson. They take Nevada seriously, of course, as a bellwether, a swing state, a battleground state. And so I think that there's been a serious wakeup call. And fortunately it's come early enough that there's plenty of time to correct it.

CONAN: Well, Governor, thanks very much for your time today. We hope you have a wonderful time in Tampa.

LIST: Well, thank you. It will be interesting. We'll look forward to it. Thank you again for having me on.

CONAN: It will certainly be interesting. Former Nevada Governor Bob List with us by phone from Las Vegas. And Ken, just a couple of quick items before we go to the break, and that is Americans Elect. The online effort to form a third party seemed to have come to fizzle this week.

RUDIN: Well, that's very strange. Americans Elect, they promised they'll be on the ballot in 50 states. They've raised 30 - they've spent $35 million for the idea of getting an online third-party candidate to run for president. Everybody hates the extremes on the right and the left. They want a centrist thing. But the deadline came and went, and they didn't get anybody who made - had the qualifications or met the criteria to be on the ballot. So a big defeat for them. We don't know what's going to happen.

CONAN: And we'll hear four words that George W. Bush uttered on the presidential campaign, likely the last he will utter on the presidential campaign - I'm for Mitt Romney - as the elevator doors closed. The candidate - the putative candidate described him as the predecessor - did not say his name. More from the Political Junkie in just a moment. Stay with us. It is NPR News.

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