Lessons From The 2012 Election

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President Barack Obama takes questions from reporters at the White House today, in his first press conference since March. NPR's Ken Rudin and political strategists Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman, and Anna Greenberg, a democratic pollster, analyze the President's remarks.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. President Obama's taking questions from reporters now in the East Room of the White House. Our regular political panel - Ken Rudin, Anna Greenberg and Vin Weber - will put the president's remarks and the election in context after he finishes.

But we'll now join the news conference in progress. He's just been asked a question about Benghazi and also about whether he got a mandate last week in the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CONAN: President Obama in the East Room of the White House, wrapping up the news conference, his first since August, the first formal news conference since August, and taking questions on any number of subjects. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

The president was asked about the Petraeus situation, the resignation of the Central Intelligence Agency director. He said as far as he knew, there were no national security implications, no secrets revealed in that scandal, but investigations are ongoing. He had nothing but praise for General Petraeus' record in Iraq and Afghanistan and as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

He said perhaps the moment has arrived for immigration reform, that conversations had already started with Republican leaders. And he talked about his mandate that he received in the election just a week ago. One mandate I have, he said, and that is to work on behalf of the middle class and those who aspire to be in the middle class.

Asked about Syria just a moment ago, he said that he's encouraged by the formation of a new and perhaps more moderate organization, umbrella organization, to try to unify the opposition groups. Unity has been hard to find on that front for some time, but says right now we're going to continue to go slowly. He said - no indication that he would change that.

Iran - said he still thinks there is time for diplomacy to resolve the situation with Iran, though time, as he said before the election, is not unlimited. He would not speculate on one-on-one conversations with Iran. Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us here in Studio 3A. And Ken, it was interesting - at one point the president said it's hard to remember the election was just a week ago. He said in fact he forgot about it last Wednesday.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Yes, certainly a lot has happened, and of course - first of all, what he didn't mention is that by speaking this long, he gets rid of the trivia question on Political Junkie. He didn't mention that. There was no apology.

CONAN: Or your birthday. He didn't mention that either.

RUDIN: Was that yesterday?

CONAN: Yeah.

RUDIN: Oh, thank you so much. Anyway, but yes, first of all, it's the first comments he's made about Petraeus, but you mentioned the first press conference since August. Actually, it's the first time he took questions in the White House from reporters since March 6. So it's been a really long time before - since the White House Press Corps has gotten a chance to get at the president.

But I thought what was new was of course talking about Petraeus, but a lot of it was old. We heard about what he said throughout the whole campaign about no tax cut for the wealthy, that, you know, we're going to let the Bush tax cuts expire on the top two percent. That is not new. The stuff about immigration, that he's hoping to get some kind of reform, about border security and the, you know, legalization, pathway to citizenship, things like that, that was not new.

So for the most part - but what struck me the most was the fact that the last president who was re-elected, George Bush, talking about I have this political capital, and I'm going to, you know, take advantage of it - he didn't seem to crow the way Bush seemed to do after the election of 2004.

CONAN: In the meantime, we want to bring in our regulars we've been talking to throughout the political campaign. Anna Greenberg is senior vice president and partner - principal at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. She's with us here in Studio 3A. Anna, as always, nice to have you with us.

ANNA GREENBERG: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And Vin Weber, partner at Mercury Public Affairs, economic advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign. Vin, nice to have you back .

VIN WEBER: Great to be with you.

CONAN: Anna, your side won.

GREENBERG: Yes, we did.

CONAN: What did we learn last Tuesday?

GREENBERG: We learned a lot about the changing demographics of the country, though frankly I'm mystified that the Republican pollsters weren't aware of the changing demographics of the country, but something that will happen by natural population growth, the country will be more diverse. The country will be younger because Generation Y is a bigger generation than even the baby boom.

So that was, I think, you know, really the biggest story of the election, but - in terms of what we learned.

But what to me, was really interesting about it, is to watch what the Republicans - sort of their reaction to it. An immigration forum, while you're right, Ken, is not new. The fact that there are actually, you know, Sean Hannity and others are talking about immigration reform, suggest that it's completely politically expedient, of course, because of what happened. The fact that they are talking about some kind of immigration reform, I think, means that we actually make a real progress on it.

And so while the president, I think, was appropriately modest about what kind of mandate he might have, I think there are various areas like that in direct reaction to what happened in this election that are going to affect the president's ability to get some things done, which he was not able to do in, certainly, the last two years of his term because of the Republican Congress.

CONAN: Vin Weber, let me turn to you. Yes, the president at his news conference said he would hope to have an immigration reform bill on the floor of Congress shortly after inauguration day, which, of course, is January 21st this year because it's a Monday. But as you look ahead to what was learned last Tuesday, a lot of people say Republicans were extremely confident going into Tuesday. What happened?

WEBER: Yeah. The main lesson for Republicans is it's much more disappointing when you expect to win and lose. That was a big shock. And I have to say, I, at the end of the day, drank the Kool-Aid along with most of the rest of my Republican friends. I went into election night believing Karl Rove and Dick Morris and the Romney campaign and Fox News and people like that, that said that the Democrats had modeled the electorate improperly. I made a huge mistake. I should've called Anna, ask her. She would've set me straight, but I didn't do that, so I thought we were going to win. They were wrong.

And they, as Anna points out, what we learned is this - the electorate that showed up in 2008 was not an aberration. It is the electorate going forward, with one qualification. There's the difference in midterm elections. But the country's changed, and Republicans are going to have to grips with that. And the fact that they thought that they were going to win led to a much deeper disappointment on part of the Republicans.

CONAN: And we'd like to hear from you too. What do you think we learned in last Tuesday's election? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. But, Anna, is it all that demographics is destiny or were there messages - were there lessons to be learned on message as well?

GREENBERG: Absolutely. There were, I think, a couple things that we learned about it. One, it really doesn't matter what your economic vision is, and I think that while Romney had a great first debate, he couldn't really seal the deal because I think he always struggled to articulate what that economic message was beyond lower taxes and deficit reduction. And I think in the exit polls, in the post-election research that we did, you could see that pretty clearly.

The number one reason that people said they voted to re-elect Obama wasn't economic reason, but part of it was that they'd actually seen some progress since he'd been president. And that was an argument he was making, you know, on the campaign trail. But also, you can see it in consumer confidence. You can see it in people's sense of what's going on the economy. The president was always very careful, and even in this press conference, to talk about, you know, the job not being done and the middle class struggles. But I just don't think that Romney ever conveyed what he was going to do to improve people's lives.

And the second is, and I know I'm a broken record player on this, but I think the women's issues were really important. I think, for suburban and educated voters, who might've been disappointed in the president, they found the Republicans unacceptable because of the various elements of their party, and it had a big impact on women. The Obama's margin with women was as big as this year as it was in 2008. So I do think there's a lot around message as well. But I do think that this election, because of the demographic story, does provide a lot of opportunities for the president that he might not have had had it been closer, obviously, if he had lost.

CONAN: Anna Greenberg is with us, also Vin Weber and, of course, political junkie Ken Rudin. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And, Vin, on that same point, the message, part of this election?

WEBER: Well, Romney won a lot of arguments. If you look at post-election polling, he did win some arguments about who's better to manage the economy and things like that. But one dimension that he lost, just overwhelmingly, was the question of - cares about people like me or understands the concerns of people like me. And that was not just a narrow loss. It was like seven, eight to one margin. And that goal is - maybe there's some flaws on our side, but also to the effectiveness of the Obama campaign because that's what much of their campaign over the summer when they attacked Bain Capital and things like that was aimed at bringing up - was that whatever you may think about Mitt Romney, however much you might like the fact that he's a businessmen, he is not like you, and he doesn't get you. And unfortunately, we did not rebut that, and that really stuck on much.

GREENBERG: Some of it was self-inflicted though. I mean, when you make comment about Cadillacs...

WEBER: I'm afraid I agree.

GREENBERG: ...and NASCAR and dressage horses. I mean, some of this was self-inflicted.

CONAN: That's actually dressage. But anyway, we'll forgive you for that.

GREENBERG: Dressage. Sorry. Well, I'm a common person, so I don't know how to pronounce it.

WEBER: She's proving her grassroots (unintelligible).

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Ken is getting off his high horse.

RUDIN: No. No. And they're right. Well, I should talk to Eric Cantor about that or take the Gallup poll. OK. Enough of those funny jokes.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: But, OK, not only we talk - we could talk about whether Mitt Romney was the right candidate or not, but what about the process itself? You have a white electorate during the primaries and caucuses when it seems like Romney tried to outdo Rick Perry, outdo Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich on the issue of immigration. You also have - but those are not the same kind of demographics that come back to bite you in the fall when you have a general election campaign. So one - so that's one of the concerns too. Two, the Republican Party was, unfairly or not, was helped defined by the Todd Akins and the Richard Murdochs of the world. What lesson do you think the Republican Party learned from those kind of candidates?

WEBER: Well, on the first point, let's - I think that the Romney campaign made some mistakes. But on ballots, Mitt Romney was a very strong candidate. Well, remember where we were four years ago. We basically didn't have a campaign. I mean, John McCain had gone from winning basically a one primary victory to put in together a national campaign that wasn't really a national campaign. Romney put together a strong national campaign for us, despite many things that he did that weren't very strong. And I think that you need to acknowledge that on his part.

I do think that they - we made a mistake on the immigration issue in the course of the primary debates. And I think that your - the reaction that Anna and others have talked about with, now Charles Krauthammer, saying we should stand up for amnesty. Sean Hannity is saying he's changing his position or moving his position, evolving his position in immigration. I think that there is a market in the Republican Party and was a market for a different approach to immigration if we'd actually debated it out in the course of those umpteen many debates the Republicans had.

But there was a fear that that was not the case. And on the Romney campaign side, the fear was Rick Perry, that he was going to get to the right of Governor Romney, and coming from the largest Republican state in the country or red state in the country, that he would sweep through the primaries. That didn't prove to be true, but that pushed Romney to his right on immigration, and he paid for it a lot on Election Day.

RUDIN: And the second part about the women, about the Murdochs and the Akins, those weren't the only candidates who had those point of views.

WEBER: You know, these are - I'm just troubled by that, enormously. These are not new issues. I mean, the abortion issue has been around since Roe versus Wade in 1973. We've argued it on a lot of different campaigns. You kind of have to learn how to talk about your deepest felt convictions on these issues, without deeply offending everybody that disagrees with you. It seems to me that the party, my party has lost sight of that fact. I don't want to tell people who have deeply held convictions on either side of these issues that they should just abandon them for political reasons. But they do need to understand that people disagree passionately with them, and the way you talk about those kinds of issues is very, very important. And we lost that lesson. We are only talking to ourselves and only listening to ourselves.

CONAN: Going to take a short break. Vin Weber will be back with us. He is a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, former Republican representative from Minnesota and a former adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign. Anna Greenberg is with us as well, senior vice president and principal at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Democratic political campaign consultant. Of course, Political Junkie's Ken Rudin is with us as he is every Wednesday.

RUDIN: My birthday was yesterday.

CONAN: And his birthday was yesterday. He was just trying to mention. Go to his website, npr.org/junkie, where you can see the latest ScuttleButton puzzle and his column. We'll have more about that nonsense next week. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: NPR's Political Junkie columnist Ken Rudin is here with us as he is every Wednesday. We're also joined by political strategist Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman; and Anna Greenberg, Democratic pollster, senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. And, Ken, as you heard that speculation about Susan Rice that, yes, she is among considerations. Among the others under consideration, perhaps the Secretary of State, perhaps the Secretary of Defense, John Kerry, the now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

RUDIN: Right. We haven't had a senator leave the Senate to become Secretary of State since Hillary Clinton. But actually, that's the interesting part about the parlor game in Washington. Who will replace Hillary Clinton as - who has said that she will not be around for a second term? And that's the risk. Does President Obama want to have this big confirmation fight over Susan Rice? And even though the Republicans are in the minority, it looks like there would be a fight. And, of course, the alternative is John Kerry. If he were the Secretary of State, he'd open up a Senate seat in Massachusetts. And last time that happened, some guy named Scott Brown won that. So that's another thing to weigh.

CONAN: And, well, as we turn to Anna Greenberg, turns out Scott Brown is available if that seat comes open.

GREENBERG: Yeah, he's looking for work.

CONAN: Yup. The Democrats did very well, perhaps even better than they hoped, in those Senate races last Tuesday.

GREENBERG: That's right. Some of it, I think, had to do with the candidate - the caliber of the candidates, which, I think, was actually different on both sides of the aisle. I think that, you know, McCaskill is obviously a much better candidate than an Akin. Donnelly is a better candidate than a Murdoch, so I think some of it was about quality and the campaigns that they ran. I think some of it was about a larger conversation about women's issues and what that meant about these - not so much about the people who were overly - were panicked about Roe versus Wade but more what does it say about the folks who are running and the values of the party. And then I also think some of them were caught up on the wave. I mean, when the president does well, which he did, he takes people with him. You get a vote, you know, a point or two, you know? So I think that all those - for all those reasons, we did quite well in the Senate.

CONAN: And some luck, too, in Maine, and Susan Collins (unintelligible).

WEBER: You know, I also think the opposite side of that, unfortunately, was true for Republicans in that you look at North Dakota and Montana, for instance, where Republicans thought they were going to win. We thought - I thought we were going to win largely because I thought Mitt Romney would win large - by a large margin, which he did, but there weren't any coattails there. The president seemed to have coattails in those states like Virginia and Florida, Ohio maybe where Republicans thought they have a chance - had a chance. But where Romney won big, and we had competitive Senate races, it didn't help the Republicans. I saw this also in some returns I looked at in my home state of Minnesota for legislative races where Romney did really, really well but the Republican legislators lost.

So I don't know how to explain that phenomenon. Maybe Ken, just coming off of his birthday celebration, can tell us what that means.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: You know, that's (unintelligible) was the thing here, but exactly what Adam was talking about. If you look at North Dakota, I was convinced the Republicans would win that Senate seat.

WEBER: So was I. So was I.

RUDIN: And that Heidi Heitkamp was a much better candidate, and the Republican candidate, Rick Berg, was far less so.

CONAN: But, Anna, of course, Republicans did hold on to the games of the 2010 wave election in the House of Representatives, at least most of them. They have a comfortable majority.

GREENBERG: They did. But what's interesting about it is that if you look at the actual popular vote, the Democrats won the congressional vote. The problem is redistricting was done so effectively that even though there were Democratic hiccups, especially in California and Arizona...

RUDIN: And Illinois.

GREENBERG: ...and Illinois and New York, too, that it was not enough to overcome the impact of redistricting. I think that it's going to be hard to take back the House in the short term. I think it's going to be an iterative process leading into the next redistricting where I think, depending on who controls the state Houses, I think the demographic changes in this country already make it very difficult to continue gerrymander out Democratic districts or Democratic-leaning districts.

CONAN: Ken had pointed out there is some ruthless redistricting in Maryland and Illinois as well on the other side.

WEBER: But this is not all just smart or ruthless redistricting. The Republican vote is more dispersed across the country. The Democratic vote is more concentrated, particularly in urban centers. And it's really hard to draw a maps that don't reflect that.

GREENBERG: Right. But if you look at the Hispanic population, it's growing all over the place. And there have been, for instance, in Texas, lots of efforts to redistrict Democrats out of seats where you could have more Democratic seats. So it's not just about that.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. Al is on the line from Oakland.

AL: Hi. Thanks for taking my call. One thing I think we learned from the election is that the right seemed to be reluctant at best to recognize what most of the polls were saying, you know, very respected institutions like the Pew Center. And I'm wondering - maybe Mr. Weber could speak to this - what the reluctance was in recognizing those polls, now in retrospect, that were accurate? And if it was reflection of the methodology that the pollsters were using, and why the Republicans seemed so shocked as the election results rolled in.

WEBER: That's a question that's hard to answer. I mean, they made just a great big mistake. They projected their own values and philosophy on the electorate turnout model they were predicting. In other words, that they saw the country that they wanted to see, and so that who's going to vote. And they were just wrong about - but I really don't know the answer to the question because these are not just, you know, pundits. We had a lot of people with a lot of scientific background in polling, you know, and that have done it for years and years, highly respectable, and they came to the same conclusions. They were all wrong.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Al. Here's an email that we have from Neil(ph) in San Jose: Californians actually voted to raise taxes at the start of a national trend, he said.

So that was an interesting moment. And, Ken, there are still some outstanding seats, as far as I remember, in the California Legislature. But if they are resolved, Democrats are leading in those seats. Democrats will have super majorities in both the legislature in California and the state Senate.

RUDIN: That's correct. And, of course, there are some legislation - congressional races in California, two outstanding. But the Democrats had a very, very good day. Part of it was the independent redistricting thing that redrew the lines in such a way that may have made it fairer, but certainly not fairer for the Republicans. The Republicans took a beating in California, losing probably people like Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren, certainly Mary Bono Mack as well.

CONAN: Now, let's see if we get another caller in, and let's go to Gerald(ph). Gerald is with us from Raleigh.

GERALD: Hi. Thanks for this discussion. I appreciate. I think the problem the Republican Party had in 2012 is the same they had in 2008. We nominated a wonderful man, a terrific candidate locally, regionally, someone who did a terrific job at his own personal base, but who needed to be able to connect with a broader base, and that broader base is one for whom conservative speak is the natural language. And conservative speak for Mr. Romney as it was with Mr. McCain is almost a foreign language. He never really learned to speak it. He never connected well with his base. Add to that a failure to capitalize on the momentum coming out of the first debate and a very lousy run campaign, in all honestly.

I mean, look at the comparison on some of the positives of the Obama campaign. Mr. Romney's failure to counterpunch when he had the chance, his failure to define himself versus allowing the other side to define him and so forth was just - it was pretty easy to predict the outcome from the day he was nominated.

CONAN: Vin Weber, there has been nothing but compliments for the Obama ground game, that's one aspect of it. And looking at the exit polls, Republicans appeared to show plenty of enthusiasm or at least happy-to-vote Republicans.

WEBER: Yeah. I mean, the Obama campaign was, maybe, one of the best ever in presidential history. I don't think that the Romney campaign was quite as bad as the caller indicated. But clearly, it was not at the level of Obama. And the ground game never quite came together. There's been a lot written about that. Republicans thought they had something that would turn out the vote of election, and it just never quite worked.

Having said all of this, let's put this in perspective. It was about a 50 to 48 election. It was a very close national popular vote, significantly closer than it was four years ago. So, you know, Republicans did some things well. I think the real challenge is the ones we talked about before. What are we doing with the growing sectors of the electorate like Hispanics where we got 27, 28 percent, or with the Asians were collapsing in ways that shouldn't be? Those are real issues. But the overall vote was actually fairly close.

CONAN: Anna?

GREENBERG: Well, I think that's not totally relevant because what really matters was the Electoral College. And so the difference in the quality of the campaigns was really evident, for example, in places like, you know, Ohio, like Florida, where - so the overall popular doesn't reflect kind of the relative strengths of the campaign.

WEBER: But it's what's matters to this question of does the president have a mandate? And we certainly heard from Democrats when George Bush lost the popular vote.

GREENBERG: But to go back to the field program, I was somewhere where the RNC chair was. I overheard him talking about the field program, and he started talking about, we've got PDAs where we can collect data from the field. We have data on voter files. This is stuff that Democrats were doing as far back as 2004. You cannot create a field program overnight.

Karl Rove knew that. When they, you know, lost the popular vote in 2000, they spent two years building a program they rolled out in 2002. And then they rolled it out even bigger in 2004, and then it collapsed, and McCain had nothing. And I think the Romney folks were overconfident about how much they could build in the space of time that was available to them.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Then speaking - well, speaking of Karl Rove, he brought all that money that the Crossroads superPAC and the $130 million. It seemed like the Democrats seemed to be more about organizing on the ground, and the Republicans seemed to be more about organizing - getting on the air. Of all the questions about money in 2012, what do you think - what difference did money make?

WEBER: Not much. I mean, the two campaigns were fairly, evenly matched moneywise if you count inside money and outside money. And at the end of the day, the Democrats won I don't think as hugely as some people think they did. But, you know, it's hard to look at the money that was spent by somebody else, that group, and saying it had made a major impact. It probably did not.

CONAN: Vin Weber and Anna Greenberg is with us, along with Political Junkie Ken Rudin. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let me put this in a broader demographic context. It's famous that Lyndon Johnson said as he signed the voting rights acts of 1965, we have lost the South for the next two generations. Of course, it was Richard Nixon who first tried the Southern strategy. And Republicans benefitted greatly over the next two generations from the - from that strategy as the South turned from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.

But now some suggest that has come around to bite the Republicans because African-Americans are now a solid Democratic base. The Latinos are a solid Democratic base. These are the parts of the population that are growing. And, in fact, the young people, as Anna Greenberg was talking about, have turned out is the coalition that Barack Obama assembled in 2008 and reassembled last Tuesday. Is that a durable coalition?

WEBER: I think less than you might think. I mean, it could become durable. He can claim it, and Republicans can continue to lose it. But it wasn't too many years ago, like two years ago, the Republicans won a sweeping mid-term victory, the largest victory since the 1930s, really, in terms of the House races.

I - the African-American vote is solid in the Democratic Party. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that that's going to slip. I'm not ready to say the same thing about the Hispanic vote. I think Republicans have to do a lot of work there. But I think that there's flexibility, they can and must show some progress there, as well as with the Asian community. And young voters are kind of notoriously fluid partially because the people who are young voters the next election are going to be different than the people who are young voters this election. So Republicans have a lot of work to do, but this is not yet a solidified coalition against the Republican Party.

CONAN: Anna?

GREENBERG: I think the Democrats do have to be a little bit careful when thinking about the Hispanic vote. First of all, Hispanic voters care a lot - about a lot more than immigration. In fact, if you ask many of them what's the most important issue to you, it's the economy. The immigration issue plays out because - particularly the way the Republicans talked about it, it was a signal that Hispanic voters - that they were intolerant, you know, of big races or whatever word you want to use. So that was the problem with, I think, the immigration issue politically.

And it also the case that while I think, right now, Hispanics voted overwhelmingly Democratic, they're not attached to the party the way African-Americans are, the party's legacy of being the champion of civil rights. And so I think that's there's going to be great pressure on the president, but also, I think, on progressives and on labor, who's, you know, labor unions are very focused on Hispanic workers to really speak to this community in a broader way and not just assume that this is for life, you know, they're going to be attached to the Democratic Party.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: The - talking about progressive, do you see any - now that the fact the - as President Obama said today, I've run my last campaign, do you see the - any frustrations in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party stuff that was not fulfilled in the first term? Do you see that frustration coming out in the second term?

GREENBERG: Well, I think where you're going to see frustration is how far he's going to go on Medicare. If you look at the Senate and House races, about half of the ads were ran on Medicare, back and forth between, you know, the parties. At the end of the day, Democrats won it not by the margin they should have, but when you ask who would do a better job on Medicare, you know, the president wins it but not by a huge margin. And I think it played less of an issue in the presidential, though, certainly, Paul Ryan is kind of the standard bearer of the economic vision for Romney, Medicare was obviously critical to that. I think we are going to see unbelievable backlash with House Democrats, with labor, other progressive donors and important people in the community if there's a big compromise on guaranteeing benefits on Medicare.

WEBER: And the Medicare issue will affect the tax issue, the other big part of this fiscal problem we're talking about. Republicans have shown a little willingness to move on the issue of revenues. We don't know how far they're willing to move. But I can guarantee you, when we get to the point of actually making decisions, part of the formula Republicans are going to look at when they ask themselves what should I support in the revenue side is going to be how much have we managed to reduce the growth in Medicare spending?

And I think Anna is probably right. That's going to complicate it because Democrats are going to be very resistant of that. And Republicans are going to look at that and say, well, why should we give up on what we care about, which is taxes, as the Democrats aren't going to give on what they care about?

GREENBERG: But what's ironic, by the way, is that what the Republicans ran on was attacks on Democrats for cutting Medicare because they took Obamacare and said, you know, there are $700 billion in cuts to Medicare. So it's sort of ironic but...

CONAN: And finally, Vin, does this point towards a more moderating influence on the right wing of the Republican Party?

WEBER: Well, I think - the way I would put it, I think there are going to be discussions about some issues. Immigration is going to be the most notable one. You know, a lot of people like me who consider ourselves conservative Republicans have always been in favor of what people might think of as a, quote, "liberal position," on immigration. That's going to come out now.

And I think that there are some issues. You know, marginal tax rates matter a lot more to many Republicans than the issue of no new taxes at all. But the Republicans aren't going to abandon their core beliefs on a lot of issues because of this election, and they shouldn't.

CONAN: Vin Weber and Anna Greenberg, thank you so much for all of your advice throughout this campaign. We appreciate it.

GREENBERG: Thank you.

WEBER: Happy birthday, Ken.

(LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Oh, did anyone say that? No, no. It's been over two minutes.

CONAN: And Ken Rudin will be back with us next week on Political Junkie. Ken, as always, thanks very much.

Tomorrow, we'll turn to Syria. NPR's Deb Amos will join us with the latest on the violence, the refugee and President Obama's options. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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