Romney Narrows Potential List Of Running Mates

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With the veepstakes underway, NPR's Jennifer Ludden and Political Junkie Ken Rudin talk with Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, about the strategy of selecting a vice-presidential candidate.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jennifer Ludden, in Washington. Mitt Romney still won't release his tax returns. Ron Paul and Sarah Palin are still waiting for invitations to the GOP convention. And Twitter alert: Anthony Weiner wants back in politics. It's Wednesday, and time for a...

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Big-boy and big-girl pants...

LUDDEN: ...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)

LUDDEN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us for a recap of the week in politics. It's getting ugly out there, and it's only July. Also, the Romney VP team staffs up as the veep stakes heats up. In a few minutes, we'll talk with Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California about what makes a good vice presidential pick.

And later in the program, Andrea Seabrook joins us to talk about a decade of covering Congress and what she'll be doing next. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A to kick off the show with a trivia question, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Hi.

RUDIN: OK, well, with Mitt Romney thought to be close to be naming a running mate, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's name has come up prominently as a potential vice president. So the question is: When was the last time a major-party presidential ticket was comprised of two governors or former governors or a combination of the two?

LUDDEN: All right, and if you think you have that answer, give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255. Our email address talk@npr.org. The winner gets that fabulous no-prize T-shirt in exchange for a promise to send us a digital image for our Wall of Shame. Ken, it's a rough week out there for Mitt Romney.

RUDIN: Well, it is, and you would think that with the economy doing poorly and with the economic numbers doing poorly, one would think that it would be President Obama on the defensive, but his campaign has very astutely gone after Mitt Romney on what Mitt Romney's weaknesses apparently are, and that is his ties to Bain Capital, his failure to release tax returns, things like that.

LUDDEN: And they've actually even suggested that his ties to Bain Capital and - there's a criminal element here, that his...

RUDIN: Well, if he lied - he says he left after 1999. If he really left after 2002, as the Boston Globe reported, there may be some felony involved there, and of course the Romney people think that's over the top.

LUDDEN: Right, on CNN, Mitt Romney dismisses allegations that his disclosures about his time at Bain Capital might be criminal.

MITT ROMNEY: It's disgusting; it's demeaning. It's something which I think the president should take responsibility for and stop.

LUDDEN: So Ken, he's suggesting these allegations are absolutely false. Do we know the facts here?

RUDIN: Well, we don't. It seems to - first of all, it seems that he did leave Bain Capital after 1999, but there are some documents in the - here's where it's important because after 1999, Bain Capital did have a record of outsourcing jobs. And so if Mitt Romney was still part of Bain Capital by 2002, then his - for him to say that I had nothing to do with outsourcing is not true.

Of course, Romney says he left in 1999 to head up the Winter Olympics...

LUDDEN: And he retroactively retired.

RUDIN: Well, I mean, it wasn't a permanent break. I mean, he was still on some documents as the CEO and things like that. But he really didn't have a daily involvement in Bain Capital after '99.

LUDDEN: But legally speaking, I mean, is this going to rise to the level of anything...

RUDIN: Well, no, this has - actually, this has very little to do with legality, and it has a lot to do with politicality(ph), a word I just - but basically, that's what it is because the fact is, you know, that Romney just can't get seem to get off the dime on what he may have done at Bain Capital, what about his offshore investments, what about his outsourcing of jobs.

And the Obama campaign is relentless on this, and there is tremendous frustration among Romney's allies, saying that you've got to come back. Why are we on the defensive when the economy is in the toilet? And yet Obama is winning. And it just drives a lot of Republicans nuts.

LUDDEN: OK, so we also heard this week another Republican, John Sununu, having to apologize for some comment that he made. Let's see here - yesterday, in a conference call with reporters, the former New Hampshire governor - and he's a surrogate for Romney out there - said the president does not understand the economy.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONFERENCE CALL)

JOHN SUNUNU: The president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions. The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses, their businesses, from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world. It is the American way. And I wish this president would learn how to be an American.

LUDDEN: So he has since apologized, saying he meant to say he wished the president would embrace this American way of job creation. But what does this do for the campaign?

RUDIN: Well, I mean, the fact is John Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba. It's interesting for him to be talking about what a real American is. But the point is that this is part of the Romney frustration, that every time they seem that the Obama campaign is so effectively attacking Romney, you have somebody like John Sununu who, you know, wants to rebut what the Obama people are saying, but he puts his foot in his mouth by saying he's not a real American.

And then I think at one point Sununu also went on to say that well, you know, he spent a lot of his time as a youth smoking something. I think they just feel so frustrated that Obama's winning that they'll basically say everything.

It was an interesting quote from the Obama campaign after Sununu made his attack and said: This only calls to attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation. But Republicans will make the case that, well, it's the Obama people who are changing the conversation by talking endlessly about Bain Capital, and yet it's effective, and it's working.

LUDDEN: Am I misremembering that this was sort of the discussion of, like, August, September, or is it always kind of this nasty this early?

RUDIN: It is nastier than usual. I mean, to say that, you know - I mean, it seems to be getting worse and worse. A lot of the vituperation that we've seen so much basically since January of 2009 just seem to be ramped up in this campaign, and the fact is the Obama campaign didn't have to spend any money because it wasn't really challenged during the primaries.

So in the past couple of months, the Obama campaign has been on TV spending $25 million on negative campaigns against Romney, and Romney and the Republicans are saying, well, we are being swift-boated, which is very ironic for Republicans and Romney to complain because Romney spent a lot of the campaign attacking fellow Republicans like Gingrich and Santorum and things like that.

LUDDEN: OK, in another instance of odd statements out there, in the Florida Senate Monday, Majority Leader Harry Reid was pressing for campaign finance legislation called the DISCLOSE Act. And he criticized some big Republican superPAC donors. Here's what he said.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Mr. President, if this flood of outside money continues, the day after the election, 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they've just bought the country.

LUDDEN: OK, Harry Reid's maybe not angry, but he is kind of a senior citizen white man...

RUDIN: Kind of an angry white man. And, of course, the last time we heard from Harry Reid talking about race, he complained that - he said that President Obama was benefiting because he had no negro dialect. So I think Harry Reid knows a lot about race.

Look, the point is this was about the DISCLOSE Act that would basically increase the transparency of corporate and political campaign spending during the campaigns. But for him to talk about white men, again it's one of the things that Harry Reid seems to stick his foot in the mouth, as well. So Harry Reid is known for this.

LUDDEN: OK, and Vincent Gray, here close to home, we've had a bit of a scandal coming out in recent weeks about our own mayor here in the District of Columbia. Tell us...

RUDIN: We haven't talked about this because I think we're so close to home, and we think it's so local that nobody will care, but the point is the history of D.C. mayoral embarrassment certainly go back to Marion Barry with crack cocaine and prostitutes and things like that. But this is a real scandal. This is not - I mean, even under Barry, the city was running pretty well.

But Vincent Gray apparently when he was elected in 2010, defeated Mayor Fenty, there was illegal and unreported campaign funding in his campaign, and he says: I have no intention of resigning. But apparently, he talked to people who did raise all this unreported money, and it sounds very Nixonian or Watergateonian or something.

But - and again, it's a scandal that seems to be getting worse and worse, and a lot of people are predicting that Mayor Gray is not going to survive his term. At least three members of the city council have already called for him to resign.

LUDDEN: All right, let's see how folks are doing on that trivia question out there. Let's go to John(ph)...

RUDIN: Do we want to repeat the question?

LUDDEN: Please go ahead, just if there's a Romney-Pawlenty ticket, when was the last time a major-party presidential ticket was comprised of two governors of former governors.

John in Waterloo, Iowa, what's your guess?

JOHN: I'd say Clinton and Gore.

RUDIN: Well, Clinton of course was governor of Arkansas in 1992, but Al Gore was never governor of Tennessee.

JOHN: He wasn't, OK, thank you.

LUDDEN: Thank you, John. And let's see here, Mark(ph) in Boston, hi there.

MARK: Hi, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale?

RUDIN: Well, same guess. Jimmy Carter in 1976 was the former governor of Georgia. Walter Mondale, of course, was the senator from Minnesota - Minnesota with an R, yes, former attorney general but never - that's my Bronx side.

LUDDEN: You're from Boston.

RUDIN: Yeah, but never governor of Minnesota.

LUDDEN: All right, thanks, Mark.

MARK: Thank you.

LUDDEN: And Paul in Fernandina Beach, Florida, a beautiful place. What's your guess?

PAUL: Good afternoon. How about Nixon-Agnew?

RUDIN: Well, Agnew, when he was picked as vice president in 1968, was the governor of Maryland, but Richard Nixon was a senator and a congressman from California but never governor.

LUDDEN: Thanks, Paul.

PAUL: Thank you, anyway.

LUDDEN: OK, we've got another here, Mike in Cincinnati. Hi there.

MIKE: Hi. Earl Warren and - for vice president and Tom Dewey for president in 1948.

RUDIN: Mike, that is the correct answer.

LUDDEN: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Last time two governors, Thomas Dewey of New York, Earl Warren of California, and that was the last time it happened with a major-party ticket.

LUDDEN: All right, Mike, I'm going to put you on hold, hang on there, and we'll tell you about all the fabulous prizes you get for that, non-prizes for that.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Well, he wins that famous T-shirt.

LUDDEN: There you go, Mike, thanks so much.

MIKE: You're welcome.

LUDDEN: And all right, political junkie Ken Rudin is sticking with us, and when we get back, we will get into the veep stakes. In general terms, what do you look for in a vice presidential candidate? Let us known 800-989-8255. Or drop us an email, the address is talk@npr.org. We'll have more in a moment. I'm Jennifer Ludden. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUDDEN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm Jennifer Ludden. It's Wednesday, so NPR's political junkie Ken Rudin is with us. We don't know who Romney's pick for VP will be, but we're pretty certain it's not Ken. He outlines some of the...

RUDIN: What?

(LAUGHTER)

LUDDEN: Other options in this week's Political Junkie column at npr.org/junkie. And you can also find his ScuttleButton puzzle there. Ken, who won last week's ScuttleButton?

RUDIN: Well, last week's puzzle, first of all there were several buttons. There was a J.C. Watts button, a free Bobby Seale of the Blank Panthers button. There was a button for the mayor of Quincy, Massachusetts. And interestingly, there was a Ken Rudin for president button, which is a long story.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: So when you add the Watts button, the free Bobby Seale, the mayor of Quincy and Ken Rudin, you have "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: It's a song by REM, I swear it was.

LUDDEN: OK.

RUDIN: And anyway, Susan Cerna(ph) of Anchorage, Alaska - I could see her house from my kitchen window - she was the winner of last week's ScuttleButton puzzle.

LUDDEN: Congratulations. All right, let's see if you guys can solve the next one. A new poll out today from CBS News and the New York Times shows that the choice of a vice presidential candidate is very important to voters. Who knew? Seventy-four percent of registered voters said the VP selection matters a lot or somewhat.

So who is on Romney's short list? We're hearing lots of names floating around for a possible running mate. At the top of several lists, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was a contender for the same spot in 2008. Of course John McCain's surprise pick, then, though, was Sarah Palin.

Other popular options this cycle include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. There have even been some rumors that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could be on Romney's list.

We want to hear from you. What's important in a vice presidential candidate? What do you look for? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And joining us now from member station KUSC in Los Angeles is Dan Schnur. He's the director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, and he served as the national director of communications for John McCain's presidential bid in 2000. Nice to have you, welcome.

DAN SCHNUR: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

LUDDEN: So what do you think Romney should look for in a running mate?

SCHNUR: I think the most important consideration for Romney, aside from the qualifications of the man or woman to be president, of course, is whether his campaign requires a boost, in which case a riskier, more aggressive pick makes sense, or if they're feeling pretty confident about where things are, in which case a safer, more conventional pick makes sense.

LUDDEN: Yeah, but didn't risky and aggressive backfire four years ago with Sarah Palin?

SCHNUR: I would argue, and that pretty much makes my point, the difference between picking Sarah Palin or John Edwards on one hand or picking Dick Cheney or Joe Biden on the other is the difference between a campaign that feels like it's got to do something to shake up the mix and one that's feeling pretty confident about the way things are going.

So back in the spring, when Romney was running 10, 12, 15 points behind Obama in the hypothetical match-up polls, there was a lot of talk about Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida; about Chris Christie, as you mentioned, the governor of New Jersey; about Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico.

That's - those aren't necessarily dangerous selections, but they're less conventional, riskier ones. Now that the polls have gotten closer, you hear a lot more about a more conventional alternative like a Portman or a Pawlenty. Think of it as a football coach in the fourth quarter. If you're two touchdowns behind with five minutes to go, you put the ball in the air, and you risk an interception because you've got to do something to change the dynamic of the game.

But if you think the game is close, you run the ball into the line, and you try to get the - you try to move down the field more gradually. Think of Rob Portman of the political version of the Romney campaign running off tackle.

LUDDEN: Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: Dan, I mean, I kind of agree with you. I think it actually is going to be Rob Portman. I know Pawlenty's name has been mentioned a lot, as well. But the problem, in addition to the fact that Romney seems to be on the defensive over the latest Obama tax, he still has problems with his so-called base, the conservative base, and they are always talking about a Rubio or a Christie to shake it up.

What - the argument against a Pawlenty or a Portman is that they are kind of bland, they are kind of vanilla, they won't excite the convention. How important is exciting the convention, and how long does that last?

SCHNUR: Well, it doesn't last a lot, and if the Romney campaign is really concerned with the trajectory of the campaign, either because they believe that the Bain attacks are taking a toll or because they really are concerned about the conservative base of the Republican Party and their level of enthusiasm, then they do need to do something more dramatic, you know, like a football team that's running behind in the fourth quarter.

It looks now, because you hear so much more speculation about safer choices, that while they might not necessarily be confident of victory, they do feel like it's a pretty close race. That said, you know, Romney gets back from his trip to Europe in two weeks. If we're still talking about Bain, and we're still talking about tax returns, a more aggressive choice - not a Hail Mary like Sarah Palin, but a more aggressive selection like a Rubio - might become more alluring to them.

LUDDEN: Let's bring a listener in on the conversation. David's in Hartford, Connecticut. Hi, David.

DAVID: Yeah hi, thanks. I think that Romney is in a real jam here. I think that the rumors are that he's going to wait until after the Olympics to announce his choice. I do think it's going to be a boring choice, and that will dominate the news cycle for a couple of days, and then the attacks about Bain Capital and the Republicans asking for him to put out his tax returns will continue.

I think he's in a serious jam, and I'd like Ken's comment about, you know, the history of sort of campaigns that are hobbled by decisions like this.

LUDDEN: Thank you.

RUDIN: Well, I mean, we'll have Dan weigh in, as well, but I mean, of course if you pick somebody who is going to excite the base, like a Marco Rubio or a Chris Christie, they could be somebody who is going to have their own problems. I mean, there are a lot of questions about Marco Rubio's finances that have been kind of unreported by the national media.

Chris Christie, while very popular with some in the party, has proven himself to be a bully and not an attractive bully I think in a lot of places. So ultimately, you know, I think, you know, the argument for a Portman is that he's ready to take over at any time. But I don't think he solves - but I think he - but he doesn't answer David's question about whether it removes the questions about Bain Capital and the problems that Romney has.

SCHNUR: You know, Ken, if I can weigh in on that, I would suggest to you that there is not a running mate selection that can permanently address a campaign's problems. I'm not aware, looking back at the last half-century or so of modern American political history of any running mate that has fundamentally changed the dynamic of the campaign.

RUDIN: I think you could make...

SCHNUR: In other words, if a candidate of either party has serious troubles with the party's base, with tax returns, with a particular issue, the running mate is a distraction, as you talked about a moment or so ago, but it doesn't solve the problems.

RUDIN: Yeah, I think other than Lyndon Johnson in 1960, who gave Kennedy states that he may not have gotten on his own, I don't think any vice president has made that much of a positive difference. Of course, a Dick Cheney did add to Bush's lack-of-foreign-policy resume. Joe Biden added to Obama's lack of experience in public office. But for the most part, other than Lyndon Johnson, it's hard to say who made more positive, you know, reaction.

LUDDEN: All right, we've got an email here. Alexis(ph) writes in: I definitely would want a vice president that works together with the president, someone who doesn't overshadow the president through the media. They shouldn't be on the same side on all issues, she writes, so that they can negotiate better for the people.

And let's take another call, Audrey(ph), Audrey in Effie, Minnesota. Hi there.

AUDREY: Yeah, hi, thanks for taking my call. I live in Minnesota, as she just said, and I have to say that Tim Pawlenty would not - I don't think he would help this ticket at all because he is, as your commentator said, he's kind of a vanilla guy. And his record here in Minnesota is not a great one. He really didn't do all that much. He kicked the can down. He did a lot of - down the road. He did a lot of financial moving of things around but did not really address the financial problems of this state, so we're still having them.

LUDDEN: And Audrey, are you - can I ask, are you a Democrat or Republican?

AUDREY: I'm a Democrat, but I - there are Republicans that I highly respect, like former Senator David Durenberger. You know, Vin Weber is somebody, Tim Penny, who is now an independent. You know, so it's not just that I'm a Democrat, and that's it, because I find that there are people that I can agree with on the other side of the aisle.

But right now, I just think that - my personal - I'd like him to pick somebody terrible so he doesn't win, but I think Condoleezza Rice would be a far better choice for him because first of all, she's a woman, and I think that would help, and he's really having a hard time with women voters, rightfully so.

And she's a very smart person, and I don't see her as being quite as - being sucked into the right-wing super-conservatism stuff that would I think help with independent voters, which is really what this election's going to turn on.

LUDDEN: All right, thanks for the call, Audrey.

AUDREY: You bet.

LUDDEN: Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: Dan, Condi Rice describes herself as mildly pro-choice. Can you see a mildly pro-choice running mate on the Republican ticket?

SCHNUR: I think a mildly pro-choice running mate for Mitt Romney would cause a mild revolution on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. It's fun speculation, and Secretary Rice is widely respected for, you know, for all sorts of reasons. But going back to that football analogy, you've got to be throwing a pretty long Hail Mary to risk the kind of upheaval that a selection like that would pick.

And I don't say that to disparage or demean her in the slightest, just rather to talk about the likely effect it would have with a party base that Romney has already had some difficulty with.

LUDDEN: All right. Francis in Sonoma County, California, writes in: Romney needs someone who can appeal to those who aren't filthy rich and someone with recent experience as a leader in government or in Congress. Let's take another caller here as well. Jason, also out there in San Jose, California. Hi, Jason.

JASON: Hi. How are you?

LUDDEN: Good.

JASON: Great. So I've actually been a Republican for years and years. And in the last election, it was actually the choice of V.P. that actually caused me not to vote at all. When Sarah Palin was announced, I was just floored because my belief for a good vice presidential contender is that they really need to be somebody that's sort of the yin to the yang to the president, like somebody that brings their own strengths and gifts in this to the table. You have one caller mentioned or one email mentioned sort of the balancing-out effect.

And in that regard, you know, I'm on the fence right now in terms of even I'm going to stay Republican, but I can tell you that if Condoleezza Rice was the vice presidential nominee, that I - and was on the ticket, I would absolutely be voting Republican simply because she supplies that balancing-out effect. And, yes, it might be, quote, "revolutionary," but I'm hoping that the Republican Party has learned that by sort of throwing what ended up being a flash-in-the-pan but deadweight vice presidential candidate in Sarah Palin out on the floor that maybe somebody that would cause a little bit of revolutionary excitement might be exactly what Republicans need, especially to reach out and snag independent voters or to keep current Republicans like myself.

LUDDEN: All right. Thank you, Jason. And let's get another one in here before we go to our panel's comment here. Randy in Madison. Hi, there.

RANDY: Yeah. Hi. Ken, what I think is you've got a bunch of what sometimes is mistaken as blue dog but independent Democrats who like, for example, when Biden was picked. They were considering McCain, but, boom, they all went back to Obama overnight. Biden was the perfect choice for them. Now, you're right. It's very critical this time. If he would look at someone like - I don't know if this is the right guy because I'm obviously not a Republican - but someone like a Bobby Jindal who seems to show up always sort of saying the right things for those folks. He would be someone like who he needs to pick to bring those people into sort of their fold because Obama keeps sort of sticking his foot in his mouth with that group.

LUDDEN: All right. Thanks, Randy, for the call. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken Rudin.

RUDIN: Well, two things. First of all, going back to what Jason said earlier about Condi Rice. We also failed to mention that Condi Rice's relationship with the Bush administration is very, very strong - obviously, secretary of state during George W. Bush. And you don't want to bring up the Bush name and Iraq, and you don't want to mention that all over again. I think that would be a big mistake. As far as what Randy is saying, I mean, he's absolutely right. You do want somebody who can make a difference, and Bobby Jindal is interesting.

He's on the short list. Of course, he would be the first Indian-American elected. He's the governor of Louisiana. It wouldn't necessarily bring Louisiana because that's a solid Republican state, anyway. But, again, I think, again, as Dan said from the beginning, it would be more of a Hail Mary thing, and the fact is that Obama and Romney are still neck and neck, and I don't think that the Romney campaign needs to do something dramatic if all the attacks on Romney is still making it an even race, you know, I think that's why Pawlenty or Portman would be the most logical choice.

LUDDEN: Dan Schnur.

SCHNUR: Well, I think the caller made an excellent point about Obama's selection of Joe Biden. For all sorts of reasons, Biden was an ideal pick for then-Senator Obama. He had a great deal of foreign policy experience, which Senator Obama lacked at that point. He had extensive time in Congress, and Senator Obama was a relative newcomer back in 2008. And Biden, as much as any politician on the national stage today, is very, very comfortable reaching out to the working-class voters who can ultimately - may ultimately decide this election and who neither Romney or Obama are particularly good at talking to.

So if you look for somebody who can fill in those gaps for Romney the way Biden did for Obama, you can make a case for Portman in terms of his Washington experience, for Jindal from a generational perspective or for Chris Christie and his ability to talk to that particular brand of swing voters. But once again, I think it comes back to how comfortable the Romney campaign is with the trajectory of the race. If Pawlenty or Portman is running the ball, if Marco Rubio or Condoleezza Rice is a long pass, think of Bobby Jindal as maybe a short pass, five or six yards over the line of scrimmage; a little bit risky but not dangerous.

LUDDEN: Ken Rudin, you wanted to bring up a little point with former vice presidential candidate who was in the news this week - Sarah Palin and the unknown nature of her role in the upcoming GOP convention.

RUDIN: Well, you know, she has complained, or she sent at least emails out that she has yet to be invited to the convention. Of course, she has yet to endorse Mitt Romney, and she's kind of criticizing Obama and Romney at the same time. But it would be interesting what you do with people like Ron Paul, who also has not endorsed Romney. Sarah Palin hasn't either. What kind of role do they have at the convention? Four years ago, we could make all the jokes we want about Sarah Palin, but in St. Paul, she gave an amazing speech.

It was a very dramatic speech, far more exciting than anything that John McCain could have come up with. Now, ultimately, she turned out to be, I think, a very poor choice. But at the time, it was very, very dramatic. You know, you had somebody four years ago who got all the delegates to their feet. She has the capability of doing that, but again, a lot of this is about Sarah Palin. Her numbers with independents have really gone rock bottom. And the question is what the Romney people need to know and decide is whether it's worth the risk of having her speak there.

LUDDEN: Dan Schnur, we just have a few seconds left, but do you think a decision has already been made or is this really made all to the last minute? And when should we expect an announcement?

SCHNUR: Judging by the way the Romney campaign has handled other similar challenges, I suspect this is one that's going to go down at the last minute. There's no good answer for Mitt Romney here. He doesn't want Sarah Palin speaking during primetime for all sorts of reasons, but he also doesn't need her criticizing him from outside the tent through the summer and into the general election. There is a lot of finessing that would need to be done to make this come out OK. We'll see if either Romney or Palin is willing to go through that kind of negotiation process.

LUDDEN: All right. Dan Schnur is the director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and joined us from the studios of member station KUSC in Los Angeles. Thank you so much.

SCHNUR: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

LUDDEN: And Ken Rudin writes the Political Junkie column for NPR, joins us every Wednesday. Thank you, Ken.

RUDIN: Thanks, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Coming up, Andrea Seabrook joins us, not with her latest congressional update, but - so sad - an exit interview. This is your chance to pick her brain about nearly a decade spent covering what's now the least popular group of lawmakers in history. Stay with us. I'm Jennifer Ludden. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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