Political Junkie: GOP Nervous After 3rd House Loss

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

There's trouble in River City. After the third straight loss of what was considered a safe seat — in illinois, Lousianna, Illinois and last night in Mississippi — the Republican Party is extremely worried about the fall campaign. Tuesday night, Democrat Travis Childers defeated Republican Greg Davis by eight points in the latest special election. The seat had long been considered safe GOP .(As far as a comparison of just how big a loss this was, Marc Ambinder of theAtlantic.com compared it to the Republicans winning in Los Angeles County.)

In an e-mail to party members earlier today, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Cole wrote, "Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for. This is something we can do in cooperation with our Presidential nominee, but time is short."

Our own political junkie, Ken Rudin, look at how special elections in the past have often been harbingers of the results of the general election. Ken writes that "the mind drifts back to 1974 early 1974." In early February, 41-year-old Democratic state legislator John Murtha eked out a 230-vote victory in a special election to replace Republican Rep. John Saylor, who had died the previous October. The Democrats went on to win three more "safe" GOP seats in special elections.

For many of us who followed politics in that fascinating year, those special elections still stand out. Watching one after another longtime GOP seat fall, we knew the Democratic Party was on the precipice of a significant election blowout in the fall. The Democrats picked up an additional 43 seats that November.

In today's segment, Ken will also talk about last night's Democratic primary results in West Virginia, a look forward to the next primaries in Kentucky and Oregon , and the rapid political tumble of Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, who was first arrested on a DUI and then admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock.

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Please stop using the words "a black." A black what? A caller used the phrase,then Ken Rudin repeated it. I've never heard a white person referred to as "a white" on NPR. Please correct your callers and your guests. Thank you.

Sent by Peggy | 2:26 PM | 5-14-2008

Ron Paul is wrong about when we first became involved in Viet Nam.

But the main thing I find amusing about him is his claim that he wants to withdraw our troops from foreign soil so we can take care of our people when his entire political position is that anyone who proposes doing anything to take care of our people is a socialist.

Sent by Jim Satterfield | 2:36 PM | 5-14-2008

I am so sick and tired of Republican fear mongering. Ron Paul just warned dumb Republican America to fear Chinese investment in the USA...Hello but what about European over investment in the USA? In general, if the investers are white Europeans, it is okay...if they are Middle Eastern or Asian..it is red flagged and dangerous. I am so sick of this...here are my findings on Google: Despite the notoriety of Japanese investors, the British have the largest U.S. direct investment holding--with the Dutch not far behind--as has been the case since colonial times. In 1990 the United Kingdom held about 27 percent of foreign direct investment in the United States, significantly greater than Japan's 21 percent. The European Economic Community (EC) collectively holds about 57 percent. Moreover, according to research by Eric Rosengren, between 1978 and 1987, Japanese investors acquired only 94 U.S. companies, putting them fifth behind the British (640), Canadians (435), Germans (150), and French (113).

Sent by Helen | 2:36 PM | 5-14-2008

I started a blog that no one reads in part because of people like Ron Paul and others who believe in a government like he does. We live in a nation of over 300,000,000 people with an infrastructure that is a major contributor to the health of our economy. Yet some go on and on about how we must return to the "principles" of the past and government must be very, very small.

My blog addressed to these concepts adapts a quote commonly ascribed to James Carville. It's title is "It's the 21st Century, Stupid!".

Sent by Jim Satterfield | 2:43 PM | 5-14-2008

Tom,
Glad to see (and read you) on politics again! I miss my morning laughs, now that NPR News Blog is gone.

As for the GOP. They did it to themselves!
Social Conservatives infilltrated the GOP. To replace "Big Money", (Traded one rottenm apple for another?)

The thing I wish everyone would ask is this:
Does YOUR Congressional Rep. (Dem or GOP) do the job they were elected to do?
Or, are they too busy shouting at each other?
This "deadlock" in Congress is to blame for your gasoline costing $4+/gal.
The same SOBs sat on their hands while banks busily wrote loans to people that could not pay them back. (But, houses were selling! Are they STILL sold?)

Even if WE voted-out ALL incumbents where would we be? A Republican House (maybe back to budget surpluses like the 90's.)
But, still a Senate divided approx. 50/50. This would still be an impotent Legislative Branch.

The next President (whomever that is), is already screwed, because OUR Congress is NOT doing their job!

Sent by Harold | 2:46 PM | 5-14-2008

RE: Neil's interview with Ron Paul:
Once again you showed your inability to go behind political positions and issues and to think of them as potential public policies, or to understand that how issues are framed is the true test of a politician's positions. You never got beneath the surface laundry list of issues and positions with Ron Paul, and you never challenged him to explain how they would be workable as public policies.
1) National sovereignty: There is nothing in the US Constitution, which he claimed to have a "theory" about, about "national sovereignty". Why didn't you challenge him on this?
2)Abortion: you let him turn it into a murder issue (the religious position), comparing it with "other" murder laws, and consequent "civil liberty" restrictions on a "woman's right to her own body." But it's not--it's a healthcare issue. On his web site, Ron Paul states that "people" should have the right to make decisions about their own healthcare. Why does he exempt women, more than half of the population, from the category of "people" who are agents of their own healthcare? You could have also framed it as a religious freedom issue:other people have the power to impose their religious beliefs ("abortion is murder") on other people who happen to be women and who may not subscribe to their religious tenets. You allowed him to get away with his policy "analysis" of "maybe they do and maybe they don't". Is this the low level of discourse that you try to reach in your interviews, especially when attempting to draw out potential Presidential candidates?
3)You should have challenged him with the basic unworkability of "libertarianism" in a democracy, especially one that strives for egalitarianism. You could have asked him how he would design a policy for the following "libertarian" conundrum: Companies should have the right to hire whomever they want to; and workers should have the right to work where they want to.
4) You could have asked him about his membership in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a right-wing organization (including Phyllis Schlafly and her son) that tries to get physicians to opt out of treating Medicare patients and that fights against evidence-based medicine, or medicine based on science, as "interfering" with the doctor's "right" to treat his/her patient as he/she sees fit. http://www.aapsonline.org/

Without an ability to analyze how political positions are framed for propaganda purposes, and to interview politicians on that level, your interviews are no more enlightening than Rush Limbaugh's.

Sent by Anne Carroll | 3:50 PM | 5-14-2008

I was appauled, then sickened, then saddened with the associated press report of the West Virginia voter's bias according to race and gender. In my opinion this nation is long overdue to rise above the stuplified shallowness of bigotry. Why is Senator Obama known as the son of a black father and not the son of a white mother. Why is he not known simply as the son of a single parent who rose above all the obsticles that face a child of a single parent to become something better. To be able to place himself in a position to help his community, his country and the world. He has gone much further than the vast majority of us and still this is not good enough.
If Senator Obama were to be say of 1/4 African heiritege would that be good enough? How about 1/8? If my skin is lighter than any of the canidates, would I be more qualified ?
This country will never become the place we so often brag about until move beyond our simplistic ideals of who we really are. It is time we ask what we expect in the qualities of a canidate and not what they look like.

Sent by Tim Watkins | 10:29 PM | 5-15-2008