The Race Is On For Obama's Senate Seat

Illinois voters have chosen Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk to face off in November for the seat formerly held by Barack Obama. NPR's Political Editor Ken Rudin and Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune review the results of Tuesday's primary. Also, sportswriter Don Steinberg compares Superbowl games with presidential administrations.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Rebecca Roberts, in Washington.

President Obama spars with the Republican House Caucus, Admiral Mike Mullen calls for a repeal of don't ask, don't tell, the Senate gets to work on a jobs bill, and voters in Illinois try to banish the ghost of Rod Blagojevich. It's Wednesday, time for a Super Bowl 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: Wheres the beef?

Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Former Republican Senator, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Former Democrat Senator, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

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

Ms. SARAH PALIN (Former Republican Governor, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But Im the decider.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Former Chairman, Democratic National Convention): Aaaagh!

ROBERTS: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk about politics. In just a bit, we'll focus on the Illinois primary yesterday, but we'll also talk about the upcoming Tea Party convention in Nashville, Rahm Emanuel's latest apology for his latest rude comment, the president's new budget, and we'll compare presidential administrations to Super Bowls. Which was more impressive, the 21st Super Bowl or the 21st president? Who was, by the way, Chester Arthur.

Later in this hour, six-word memoirs. But first, as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Rebecca. The answer to that question is the 21st Super Bowl, because the Giants won that one. So it's not Chester Alan Arthur. Sorry.

Okay, trivia question: In yesterday's primary in Illinois - and we'll talk a lot about that. There's some exciting stuff there. The son of a -the son of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert lost the Republican primary for his father's old seat. When was the last time a relative of a House speaker ran for office, and who was it?

ROBERTS: Okay. So if you know the answer, the last time, the most recent time a relative of the House speaker ran for office and who it was, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Or send us email: talk@npr.org.

And while you all are figuring that out, we are going to talk first about President Obama going to Baltimore. And he got, well, an earful from Republican congressmen. How did that go?

RUDIN: Well, it was upon the invitation of the Republican congressmen to come and talk. This was a few days after the State of the Union address, where some people say he lectured the Republican Party, and the Republicans, every time there was a camera view of them, they sat stone-faced, you know, with their arms crossed or certainly not applauding.

And yet it was pretty interesting. There was a lot of give-and-take. I think if you looked, if you watched it on C-SPAN - as I did, because I'm very lonely.

ROBERTS: As you are the Political Junkie.

RUDIN: That's true - oh, that, too. Also, I thought the president did quite well. One, the camera was always on him. You never saw the Republicans speaking, but there was a fair give-and-take. Nobody backed down. The president was insistent. The Republicans were insistent and, you know, there are some people who thought the president may have gotten the better of the exchange. I am one of those. But I thought that both sides did themselves well, especially with all the talk of lack of bipartisanship and all the rancor that's around.

ROBERTS: Do you think that would have been a different meeting without the cameras there?

RUDIN: Well, that's a very good question, and I think, you know, I think that's a very interesting question. But the fact is that nobody saw the Republicans talking at all. It was always voices in the background. You didn't really hear them as clearly.

You saw - often, you would see the president's either bemused face or his - a quizzical look on his face or, like, rolling his eyes, you know, with respect and all that. So, again, without the cameras, it would be interesting how the perception would have been.

ROBERTS: Do you think that is something the president is more likely to continue to do? Any signal that this has some precedence for his communication with the GOP Caucus?

RUDIN: It looks like the president is sincere about it. It looks like he really wants to have a dialogue. I mean, of course, there's partisanship involved, and, you know, the president is as a political person as anybody else in Washington, and he probably plays the game as well as anybody. But I guess, you know, given the fact that there is a feeling in Washington that nothing at all is going to get done, and if anything could help the system, the process go forward, perhaps this can help.

ROBERTS: On the other hand, there's been some analysis that the tone that he took in New Hampshire was a little bit more aggressive towards the GOP.

RUDIN: Well, yeah. And that's the thing. I mean, there's, you know, giving with one hand and taking with the other. And also, there, another problem that the Republicans complain about is not so much President Obama, but the Democrats in Congress who, of course, control the House and Senate by pretty strong margins.

Everybody talks about the fact that the Democrats no longer have the magic 60 in the Senate, but 59 is still a lot of seats. It's the most since the late 1970s for any party, and so the Republicans can say look, you know, we can go head to - you know, toe-to-toe with the president all we want, but if the Democrats are not going to listen to anything we have to say, then nothing changes.

ROBERTS: In terms of Republican strategy, the Tea Party convention in Nashville is coming up this week. How is that playing into electoral process?

RUDIN: Well, there are two Tea Parties. There is the grass-roots tea party, and I guess not-capital-letters tea party, where - which, you know, saw - helped elect Scott Brown in Massachusetts last month, that is behind much of the anger against what the administration is doing around the country, but also anger at politics as usual, because there's anger with the Republicans, as well.

But then there's also a capital Tea Party, and one branch of that Tea Party is holding a state convention in Nashville over the weekend. And what a lot of conservatives are very queasy about is that, well, for one, for a so-called grass-roots operation, they're charging $550 a ticket. They're paying Sarah Palin $100,000 fee to attend. And a lot of people are saying that this one group is hijacking the Tea Party movement.

So we've seen dissention in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and perhaps we're seeing some kind of dissention in the Tea Party movement, as well.

The thing is, there is no one tea party. There's no one organization. It's just this feeling that's out there, the anger, the outrage, the frustration that's out there, and it falls very well according to what tea party supporters want. But to have an organized Tea Party, that seems to be very difficult.

ROBERTS: What do you expect from Sarah Palin's keynote?

RUDIN: Well, I don't know. You know, she has - she's kind of interesting. A lot of things she's doing, she's certainly playing a very strong political role. A lot of people dismiss her, but she did announce this week that she's going to campaign for John McCain, who's up against some conservative primary opponents in his Arizona primary later this year.

She's also going to campaign for Ron Paul's son in the Kentucky Senate race against the party establishment choice. She's also campaigning for Rick Perry in Texas - I think this weekend, or on February 7th - against Kay Bailey Hutchison.

She is playing a major role. The question is how far she wants to keep that role and what it means. But right now, the only thing I hear of her is on a Facebook page or on Fox News. It's really kind of hard to see what the Sarah Palin game plan is.

ROBERTS: And a couple of quick electoral things coming up, since we had our first 2010 primary yesterday in Illinois, which we'll talk more about later, but there are a bunch of other races here keeping an eye on. You want to just run through them for us?

RUDIN: Well, some news of the last couple of days, the announcement that Dan Coats, the former senator from Indiana, is very seriously going to consider and probably will announce against Evan Bayh in the next couple of weeks.

Dan Coats was appointed to the Senate after Dan Quayle was elected vice president. He was elected twice, and then he dropped out of the 1998 race because he was afraid of Evan Bayh. But the strength of Evan Bayh in Indiana back in '98 and 2010 may be very different.

The mood is certainly better for the Republicans in 2010. This could be a - if not a pick-up, at least not a waltz that a lot of people expected for Evan Bayh.

Another - more good news for the Republican Party. This weekend, it looks like John Boozman, the Republican congressman from Arkansas, is going to announce his Senate candidacy against Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln. She is just one of the most vulnerable Democrats of either party in the Senate.

A poll came out this week that showed Boozman, who is not really known that well statewide, with a 20-point lead over Lincoln. She may - she and Harry Reid may be the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 cycle.

Also, some news yesterday that also came out of Florida's 19th District - which is around Palm Beach and Broward County. Ted Deutch is a state senator. He won the Democratic primary there for the seat that Bob Wexler gave up to join a Mideast think-tank. Ted Deutch will be the next congressman from Florida 19. The general election is April 13th.

ROBERTS: And Scott Brown gets sworn in tomorrow.

RUDIN: It looks like that. It looks like they're going to certify the results tomorrow. The secretary of state, Massachusetts Secretary of State Thomas Galvin said by law, he needed 10 days after the election. The election was January 19th. So he got his 10 days. All the votes are in, and it'll be certified tomorrow. And he very well may be sworn in tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Well, let's get some answers to your trivia question. Again, we are looking for the last time a relative of a House speaker ran for office. This is in honor of yesterday's primary in Illinois, where the son of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert lost a Republican primary for his father's old seat.

Let's hear what some of these answers are. This is Tom in Sioux City, Iowa. Tom, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

TOM (Caller): Yeah, I would say it's Carl Albert from Oklahoma back in the '70s. It just seems to ring a bell that one of his kids ran for something, but I'm probably wrong.

RUDIN: No, I don't know if you're thinking about Fat Albert, but I can't think of anybody in Carl Albert's family who ran. But he was speaker in the '70s, but none of his relatives ever ran for office.

ROBERTS: Let's try Amanda in Sacramento. Amanda, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

AMANDA (Caller): I think it's Doris Matsui, running for Robert, her husband, late husband.

RUDIN: Yes, Doris Matsui did win the seat that Bob Matsui served in the Congress, but I'm looking for a House speaker, a relative of a House speaker who also ran for office. Of course, Bob Matsui was never a speaker of the House.

ROBERTS: Let's try Pam in Kansas City, Missouri.

PAM (Caller): Hi, love the show, such informative information -informative information, yes.

RUDIN: And useless information, as well.

PAM: The governor of Missouri - Roy Blunt was governor of Missouri. Then he went for the House. His son became governor of Missouri, and now Roy Blunt is running again for governor of Missouri as he leaves the House.

RUDIN: Well, actually, Roy Blunt is running for the Senate seat that Kit Bond is giving up, but Roy Blunt was - even though he was House majority whip, he was never speaker of the House. The answer's not Roy Blunt.

ROBERTS: So we are still looking for a relative of a speaker of the House who ran most recently. Let's hear from Bob in Rochester, Minnesota. Bob, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

BOB (Caller): Hi, this is Bob Sixta(ph) from Rochester, Minnesota. And I believe the answer is Thomas O'Neill, Jr., who ran - was Tip O'Neill's son in Massachusetts.

RUDIN: And that is the correct answer. He ran for lieutenant governor, was elected under Michael Dukakis in 1974, elected under Ed King in 1978, and then tried to run for governor himself in 1982. That is the last answer.

I expected other people, they thought maybe Nancy Pelosi's father, who had been - was mayor of Baltimore, but nobody answered that one. And I thought that Ed McCormack, who was...

ROBERTS: We had an email guess about Ed McCormack.

RUDIN: ...yeah, who ran against Teddy Kennedy. His father - his uncle, of course, was John McCormack. But the correct answer is Tom O'Neill, son of Tip.

BOB: All right!

ROBERTS: All right, Bob from Rochester, I'm going to put you on hold, and you can collect your fabulous prize. Ken Rudin, NPR's political editor, is going to stay with us. Up next to Illinois and yesterday's primary to fill the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama and the governor's mansion once home to Rod Blagojevich. Stay with us. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: It's TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's a chilly, snowy afternoon here in Washington, but there's plenty of hot air here in Studio 3A because it's Political Junkie day.

Ken Rudin, NPR's political editor, is with us, and when he's not busy coming up with political trivia for us, you can find him on his blog or download his podcast. Go to npr.org and click on Political Junkie.

In a few minutes, not even the political junkie can escape the Super Bowl hype. We are going to speak with Don Steinberg. He has a new Web site called americabowl.net, and he's comparing every presidency with its corresponding Super Bowl.

For instance, Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, versus Super Bowl XXXIX, Patriots and Eagles. Which was better? What do you think was the best Super Bowl, and how does the administration with the same number match up? Give us a call, 800-989-8255, or email us, talk@npr.org.

Now, let's talk about the first primary of the 2010 election season. Yes, we have already had a primary in Illinois. Joining us now from his desk at the Chicago Tribune is the Tribune's political correspondent, Rick Pearson. It's good to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr.�RICK PEARSON (Political Correspondent, Chicago Tribune): Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: So the big race that at least was capturing national attention was to see who would fill the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. Let's start with the Democrats.

Mr.�PEARSON: Well, that's - and also the seat that was - the vacancy that was filled by disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich with Roland Burris. The Democrat nominee is Alexi Giannoulias. He's 32 years old, a first-term Illinois state treasurer. He had been kind of favored all the way along but actually ran into a very close contest with David Hoffman, a former federal assistant, federal prosecutor. And the issues basically revolved around whether there were too many ties to Giannoulias and the Blagojevich days and whether Giannoulias, whose family owns a bank, whether there were some associations there that wouldn't play well for a general-election audience.

ROBERTS: Well, so is that a preview, or are we likely to hear everything we possibly want to know about the Giannoulias family bank from now until November?

Mr.�PEARSON: Mark Kirk, the Republican nominee, already started that today.

ROBERTS: Well, what can you tell us about Mark Kirk?

Mr.�PEARSON: Mark Kirk is a five-term U.S. congressman from the more-moderate-to-liberal North Shore suburbs of Chicago, has been able to withstand - for his congressional district, able to withstand several challenges put up by the Democrats because of his socially moderate stances.

He ran into a lot of complaints among the more conservative Republicans in the state who did not feel that he was - met their ideological purity test. But Kirk, having been around Congress for a while, a very prolific fundraiser, he won with 57 percent of the vote and was never seriously challenged with a field of five opponents.

ROBERTS: Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: Rick, given the fact that Democrats obviously are under the taint of Rod Blagojevich and would love to run away from Blagojevich's influence, and I believe - I guess he has influence in both the governor's race and the Senate race, why did the Democrats seem to latch on to Giannoulias early on?

It looked like Dick Durbin backed him from the beginning even though there were questions about the bank, the ties to Tony Rezko, things like that. Why didn't they look for a cleaner Democrat, given all the stink about Blagojevich?

Mr.�PEARSON: You know, I think there was just an uncertainty about who was likely to make the race. Giannoulias was actually, I believe, the first real Democrat in the race, had formed an exploratory committee shortly after Obama's election.

It was very uncertain who of a legitimate candidate would be fielded by Democrats. Also, too, you have the factor of Giannoulias comes from family wealth, and you know how national parties always prefer a candidate that can help self-fund.

ROBERTS: So when we look at this general, Giannoulias versus Kirk, you know, Kirk is already calling himself the next Scott Brown, someone who can turn a traditionally blue state red. What are the prospects there?

Mr.�PEARSON: Well, I think they're very good for a couple of reasons, and one is the Democrats in Illinois are not coming from a position of strength. Democrats have been very strong in this state for the past eight years and on a statewide level basically control all aspects of Illinois government. But you do have the issue of a year ago basically the Blagojevich scandal kind of blowing up. You have the fact that Illinois fiscally, even though it's more of a state issue than a federal issue, Illinois fiscally is on very shaky ground. It's got a $5 billion backlog in unpaid bills, a state deficit of $12 million and an unfunded pension liability of $80 billion. And even though those are, again, state subjects, Kirk touched on all those today to talk about what the evils were of having one-party rule.

RUDIN: Rick, you also have the specter of a Blagojevich trial, starts on June 3, what - and you also have a governor who barely survived, if Pat Quinn survived at all in the primary. What does the Blagojevich trial hanging over the election do for the Democrats?

Mr.�PEARSON: Oh, I think that just puts, you know, that Blagojevich name in a headline every day. And certainly, you know, as everybody has seen from around the nation, the former governor is not shy about trying to make news about himself, and I think it just, it tends to really put Democrats on a very big defensive.

Giannoulias, for example, among the loans that his family's bank made were loans that went to a top Blagojevich fundraiser and top advisor who was later convicted as part of the probe, Tony Rezko. But one thing that might negate that just a little bit is the fact that Giannoulias never took any campaign money from Rezko. Mark Kirk did and gave it back.

ROBERTS: Let's talk about that governor's race for a second. Is there a winner in either primary yet?

Mr.�PEARSON: Well, my understanding is that the president called Pat Quinn to offer him congratulations on the victory. What our last numbers are showing, with still very few precincts out, is that Quinn appears to have won over State Comptroller Dan Hynes by about 7,100 votes.

RUDIN: And what about - but there are still absentee ballots, and that's why Hynes is banking on, correct?

Mr.�PEARSON: Yeah, there's still absentee ballots. There's also some ballots that Hynes says are also out that come from his South Side area of Chicago, that he believes, but it's - there's still a belief that overcoming that 7,000 deficit is going to be very difficult.

When we look at recount issues in Illinois, we tend to look more at the 5,000 level on the infrequent occasions when they do occur.

ROBERTS: And what about on the Republican primary?

Mr.�PEARSON: Republican side, much closer, 750 votes is the distance between State Senator Bill Brady. He is from Central Illinois, the lone down-stater that ran in a field of six candidates. And he's leading over State Senator Kirk Dillard. He's from the Republican-oriented suburbs west of Chicago.

ROBERTS: Rick Pearson, before I let you go, I was hoping you could answer an email from Scott(ph) in Oxford, Ohio, who says: Is it true the Republican winner in Illinois 12 doesn't live in the district? Isn't that a requirement in Illinois?

Mr.�PEARSON: Actually, it's not a requirement that you live in the district when you are running as a candidate for Congress.

ROBERTS: Rick Pearson is a political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He joined us today from his desk in the newsroom there. Thanks so much, Rick.

Mr.�PEARSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And Ken Rudin is still with us as we move now to Philadelphia-based writer Don Steinberg. He's come up with a way of comparing presidential administrations with Super Bowls because there have been 44 presidents and 44 Super Bowls. And in Steinberg's words: Finally, they battle head to head.

He's compared George Washington's administration to Super Bowl I between the Packers and the Chiefs - by the way, George Washington wins that head to head - Millard Fillmore's tenure to the 13th Super Bowl between the Steelers and the Cowboys - Super Bowl wins that one, hard to really compete when Millard Fillmore's the presidential candidate.

Send us an email with your favorite Super Bowl. We'll see how it stacks up to the corresponding presidential administration. The email is talk@npr.org, or you can give us a call, 800-989-8255. You can also find a link to the America Bowl, see all the way the first 39 that Don Steinberg has done, at npr.org.

Joining us now from a studio in Philadelphia is Don Steinberg. It's good to have you with us.

Mr.�DON STEINBERG: It's great to be here, Rebecca, thanks.

ROBERTS: Let's start with that first match-up, Washington versus Super Bowl I.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Was that a tough one to come down on?

Mr.�STEINBERG: That was a tough one because it sort of set the tone for the whole thing, right? How are we going to judge this whole thing? And they were both sort of new ideas. The Super Bowl came because the AFL and the NFL had been sort of at war, and they ended the war and started negotiations. So it wasn't that different from how America got started.

So I had to sort of say, you know, George Washington versus the first Super Bowl, and they both sort of blazed the trail for those that would come later. But it was - it's hard to go against George Washington.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I think there's a law, actually. Let's take a call from Matt(ph) in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Matt, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

MATT (Caller): Hi. I think number three is a draw because that was the first Super Bowl won by the upstart AFC and the third president was the first one won by the upstart Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson, although back then, it was known as the Democratic-Republican Party.

ROBERTS: So you're calling it a draw? You're not going to go out on a limb here, Matt, and choose Jefferson versus the Jets?

MATT: Well, no I'd have to choose Jefferson. He's my favorite president, anyway.

RUDIN: And Joe Namath is not on Mount Rushmore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MATT: Right. There's one other parallel, is that the Democratic Party, really, was originally an alliance between New York City and the South, and Joe Namath and New York, again, the same thing.

ROBERTS: Hey, Matt. Thanks for your call. Don Steinberg, where'd you come down on the third?

Mr. STEINBERG: Well, you know, it was really tough. It was the first kind of really tough battle of America Bowl. You know, Jefferson, you know, is great and he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEINBERG: But, you know, he didn't promise - he didn't guarantee a victory like Namath did. So - but, you know, they were kind of parallel characters, you know, in the development of their thing. Ultimately, I had to go with Jefferson. I wrote that he wanted it more. I don't know if that's a good historical explanation.

ROBERTS: Well, I also think, Don Steinberg, that you kind of have a soft spot for the founders, because of the first eight contests, you gave seven of them to the presidents. The only one you give to the Super Bowl is number four, where the Chiefs-Vikings Super Bowl IV beats out James Madison.

Mr. STEINBERG: That's right. Well, you know, I don't - I try to - you know, they say no cheering in the press box, so I try to keep all my allegiances, political and sports, out of it and just kind of call it like I saw it. So, you know, the early Super Bowls were really a let down in some ways. They weren't very competitive. The NFL was much better than the AFL. They were low scoring. They were a little bit dull. And, you know, maybe there's a little bit of the - you know, the early -the founders, the Mount Rushmore guys, they're our mythological heroes of - you know, they're all we have when we were kids. You know, they're the ones that you hear all the good tales about.

ROBERTS: Okay. Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: You know, this is so much fun. I mean, you know, you think of great Super Bowls and great Super Bowls in history, and we're going to see a lot of the footage over the weekend. And then, you know, you hear, of course, like the Joe Montana having that last-second pass against the Cincinnati Bengals. But, of course, that was Super Bowl XVI, and we know the 16th president was. So it's tougher if you're a Super Bowl fan.

Mr. STEINBERG: There were some very tough, weird coincidences. You know, it was Super Bowl XVI against Abraham Lincoln. It was Super Bowl III against Jefferson. Eisenhower got a tough draw against the amazing Super Bowl XXXIV, where the Titans got down to the one-yard line and the last play of the game and had a chance to tie the score. Clinton is going to be in a tough one later this week against your Giants upset of the Patriots.

ROBERTS: Well, you're going to get a fight back there from Ken Rudin. In fact, we have a clip of tape from the 42nd Super Bowl, which we got off Ken's iPod.

(Soundbite of Super Bowl broadcast)

Unidentified Man: Thirty-nine seconds left. Manning lost it. Boy, it's a long touchdown, New York.

RUDIN: I have chills. I have chills. That's so much better than I did not have sex with that woman. I vote for the Giants Super Bowl over the Clinton presidency on that one.

Mr. STEINBERG: Right.

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

So we won't hear about the 42nd until a day after - no. So there three more days, right? You're going in order, leading up to Sunday, Don?

Mr. STEINBERG: That's right. You know, I guess that one would come out on Saturday. And then on Sunday, we'll do game 43 of the Super Bowl XLIII, and then do the summary of Obama versus Sunday's Super Bowl will run on Monday.

ROBERTS: And today, with Carter losing to the Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl XXXIX, the Super Bowls have pulled ahead for the first time.

Mr. STEINBERG: For the first time, yeah. It's definitely establishing a trend.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: We have a couple of emails. Donna in Denver votes for Super Bowl XXXII, Denver versus Green Bay. That would be over FDR, however. Don?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEINBERG: Yeah. Again, another really, really crazy matchup, a very, very good game. And, you know, John Elway, you know, what can you say? That was his first Super Bowl. He had lost three straight Super Bowls, and he finally got one, right? You got to think about giving it to that game. But FDR, you know, he was probably...

RUDIN: He won four straight.

Mr. STEINBERG: He did. He won four straight.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: We also have - talk about tough matchups. I didn't realized how often this happened. Arly(ph) in North Carolina votes for the Ice Bowl. It's what football was meant to be, but that was 35th. It goes up against JFK.

Mr. STEINBERG: Yeah. Well, the - yeah. That was the Ravens (unintelligible)?

ROBERTS: Yeah. I think so.

Mr. STEINBERG: Hmm.

ROBERTS: Am I wrong?

RUDIN: Hmm. The famous Ice Bowl was Green Bay beating Dallas in the NFL championship prior to the Super Bowl, right?

Mr. STEINBERG: Oh, right. Right. That must have been a playoff game.

RUDIN: And I would definitely vote for Kennedy over the Ravens beating the Giants. Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Well, I also - for instance, in that 16th game against Abraham Lincoln, this is my - actually, my favorite part of your blog, Don, when you said: Joe Montana led the 49ers to an impressive 26-21 win over the Bengals, passing for one touchdown and running for one, but he didn't free the slaves.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: In some cases, it's just not a fair fight.

Mr. STEINBERG: Yeah. You know, occasionally, I pulled rank on things like that. The criterion are sort of a - have been a moving target.

ROBERTS: So you've gone all the way up to 39. You've got Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and the current president remaining. And how's it looking for Super Bowls versus presidents?

Mr. STEINBERG: Well, you know, it's interesting. You noted - you commented that early on, the founding fathers and the presidents were dominating early, which was really - you know, in 44 games, there are four quarters. It breaks down easily. So in that first quarter of 11 matchups, the presidents crushed the Super Bowls. But it's sort of the opposite trend developing in the fourth quarter. And I don't know what it says about the presidents. I know it - what it says about the Super Bowl and that the NFL has really made consciously, year by year, changed the rules to make the games higher scoring, more competitive.

And I think they've responded to the pervasive, like, media that - world that they're in, having to get people's attention. I don't know if the presidents have done that well in that climate.

ROBERTS: Freelance writer Don Steinberg, the brains behind the America Bowl project, joined us today from the studios of Audio Post in Philadelphia. You can find a link to the America Bowl at npr.org.

Thanks very much, Don.

Mr. STEINBERG: Thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: And NPR's political editor Ken Rudin, our Political Junkie. He joins us every Wednesday. But Ken, before we let you off the hook, coming up, we're talking to the editors of the Six-Word Memoir series. I have a nominee for my own: I survived another show with Ken.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: What about yours?

RUDIN: Six words summing up my life?

ROBERTS: A Six-Word Memoir.

RUDIN: I apologize for what I said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Yeah. I think that's an epitaph. If you think you could top Ken, give us a call: 800-989-8255. The email address is talk@npr.org.

Stay with us. We're going to talk about more Six-Word Memoirs coming up. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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