The Meaning Of Multiple Congressional Exits
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
The next Congress may be short of Kennedys and Bayhs but could pick up a Quayle. Veeps unload on national security, and Mitt Romney flies the not-so-friendly skies. It's Wednesday and time for a pitchers and catchers report edition of the Political Junkie.
President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Wheres the beef?
Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: But Im the decider.
Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Vermont): (Screams)
CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk about politics. A Tea Party candidate rattles the governor's race in Texas. John McCain and his primary challenger start sniping. If that's the New York Times bombshell, Governor David Paterson can breathe easy. And Jack Murtha is laid to rest with military honors in his Pennsylvania hometown.
In just a bit, we'll focus on Indiana and the aftermath of the surprise Bayh bye, but first, as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Ken's back with us this week here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, you mentioned today starts pitchers and catchers reporting. I should also let you know that play ball is something you dont hear in Congress too much.
CONAN: No, that's a little..
RUDIN: Illusion there. Okay, trivia question is: Evan Bayh we'll be talking a lot about him he may or may not have survived a re-election campaign in November. I suspect he would have, but what is indisputable is that he is a son of former Senator Birch Bayh. So the question: Who were the last father and son senators to have both been defeated for re-election?
CONAN: So they had to have been elected to the Senate in the first place and then both defeated, father and son.
RUDIN: That's correct.
CONAN: All right. If you think you know the answer of the previous, the only set of fathers and sons defeated...
RUDIN: Not the only, the last.
CONAN: The last, all right, the last set of father and son defeated for re-election to the United States Senate. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner, of course, wins a fabulous no-prize T-shirt.
CONAN: How about that? Well, and we're going to focus on the Evan Bayh thing and Indiana a bit later. In the meantime, Patrick Kennedy announced that he's not going to be running for re-election.
RUDIN: You know, I'm tired of saying this was a surprise because this political season has been filled with surprises. Nobody saw Byron Dorgan leaving, nobody saw Evan Bayh leaving, and you know, the thing about Patrick Kennedy, he's gone through a tremendous amount of heartache in his personal life, driving in the middle�of the night on Ambien, crashed his car at the Capitol. He's suffering from depression, from addiction, and also he lost his father last summer, and I think that was the ultimate, the concluding chapter of Patrick Kennedy's time in Congress. I think he just said, you know, that's it, I've just done everything I can do.
And what's you know, you talk about what legacy Patrick Kennedy has, I'm not sure there's much of one. You know, he represents a congressional district in Rhode Island, but since 1946, when John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress, there's been a Kennedy in a major office ever since, and this seems to be ending the Kennedy dynasty, certainly in Congress.
CONAN: In the meantime, there might be another dynasty in the works. Ben Quayle, the son of Dan Quayle, is going to be running for Congress. How long is it going to be before somebody asks him to spell?
RUDIN: Potato, I've seen that, or even quail. He is running for Steve Shadegg's district, an open seat in Arizona, and Ben Quayle actually, Dan Quayle announced it on Fox News, and interestingly enough, when we talk about dynasties here, of course Evan Bayh part of a dynasty and Dan Quayle. So I was hoping that Ben Quayle could come back to Indiana and run against Evan Bayh to be his successor, Birch Bayh's successor, running against...
CONAN: Well, anyway, it's going to be Dan well, we'll talk about...
RUDIN: But Ben Quayle is running in Arizona for an open seat. Of course, he does have a primary battle.
CONAN: And there was also an interesting virtual debate on national security this past weekend on the Sunday morning talk shows where the current vice president and his immediate successor both were discussing national security, and it was Dick Cheney saying again that he thought the Obama administration was slow to pick up on the fact that 9/11 had fundamentally changed things.
(Soundbite of broadcast)
Vice President DICK CHENEY: It's the mindset that concerns me, John. I think it's very important to go back and keep in mind the distinction between handling these events as criminal acts, which was the way we did before 9/11, and then looking at 9/11 and saying this is not a criminal act, not when you destroy 16 acres of Manhattan, kill 3,000 Americans, blow a big hole in the Pentagon. That's an act of war.
Vice President JOE BIDEN: I don't think the former Vice President Dick Cheney listens. The president of the United States said in the State of the Union we're at war with al-Qaida. He stated - and by the way, we're pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been seen before.
We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making we've sent them underground. They are, in fact, not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been.
CONAN: In the meantime, of course, today the White House finally confirmed that the Taliban's top military commander has been arrested in Pakistan and is being undergoing interrogation now. Of course, the big offensive, long-awaited offensive in Marjah is also underway in Afghanistan.
RUDIN: Part of it is the fact that Dick Cheney clearly is furious at the treatment the Bush administration, the Bush-Cheney administration, got during the 2008 campaign by the Democrats and Obama and Joe Biden. And part of it, I think, is perhaps maybe the Republicans think that this could still be a winning issue for 2010, that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism.
But of course, Biden, I think Democrats were so glad that Biden came out because for the longest time Dick Cheney has been criticizing Obama for this and that and this and that, and there's always been unnamed or Robert Gibbs kind of administration folks to come and respond to Dick Cheney. The fact that Joe Biden, the vice president, responded to him shows that the administration had enough of this.
CONAN: Let's we've got some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question; that is the last father and son to be defeated for re-election to the United States Senate, and if you think you know the answer, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. Jason is on the line from Needham, Massachusetts.
JASON (Caller): Yeah, my guess was going to be the Sununus from New Hampshire.
RUDIN: Well, actually, John Sununu, the younger one, was defeated for re-election to the Senate in 2006 by Jeanne Shaheen, but his father was governor of New Hampshire. His father was never senator.
JASON: Okay, thanks.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Let's go next to this is Brian, Brian with us from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania.
BRIAN (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Brian.
BRIAN: My guess is the Chafees from Rhode Island.
RUDIN: Lincoln Chafee was defeated for re-election to the Senate in 2006, but his father actually died in office. John Chafee died in 1999, was not defeated for re-election.
CONAN: Well, you could call that a defeat but not an electoral defeat.
RUDIN: Now, actually, John Chafee did run for the Senate his first time against Claiborne Pell and lost, but he did not was never defeated for re-election.
CONAN: All right. Brian, thanks for the call.
BRIAN: Thank you.
CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Andy, Andy with us from Tallahassee.
ANDY (Caller): Yes, how about the Lodges of Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge and then his father of League of Nations days?
RUDIN: Well, I'll have to think for a second. Of course, Henry Cabot Lodge did lose to John F. Kennedy in 1952. I believe his father died in office, was not defeated for re-election. In any event, I'm not going it's much more recent than that.
CONAN: Thanks, Andy. Let's go here's an email, by the way, that we have, this from Ramsey, who says Al Gore, Sr., and Al Gore, Jr.
RUDIN: Al Gore, Sr. was definitely defeated for re-election in 1970. Al Gore, Jr. slipped out of the Senate by being elected to something called the vice presidency.
CONAN: Let's go next to Bob, Bob with us from Rochester, Minnesota.
BOB (Caller): Yes, this is Bob Sixta(ph) in Rochester, Minnesota, and I believe that it was the Packwoods in Oregon.
RUDIN: Well, there was only one Packwood.
BOB: Oh, okay.
RUDIN: And believe me, that was some Packwood. Bob Packwood...
BOB: Or was it the Adams, John Quincy, that far back?
CONAN: Well, if the Cabot Lodges were not too recent, I think the Adams were even more not too recent.
RUDIN: And Bob Packwood was not defeated. He resigned from the Senate because of sexual allegations.
CONAN: Let's go next to Chasey(ph), Chasey with us from Cleveland.
CHASEY (Caller): Hey, let's try the Landrieus from Louisiana.
CONAN: The Landrieus of Louisiana.
RUDIN: There's only been one Senator Landrieu, in Mary Landrieu, and she's still a senator. Her father was the mayor of New Orleans, but he was not defeated.
CONAN: But whether she remains senator after November, that's another issue.
RUDIN: No, no, she's not up this year.
CONAN: Oh, she's not up this year. All right (unintelligible) anyway, let's see if we can go next to this is Gordon, Gordon with us from Anchorage.
GORDON (Caller): Yes, I'm thinking of Millard Tydings of Maryland.
RUDIN: Well, that's a very good guess, but it's not the correct answer. Millard Tydings was defeated in 1950. His adopted son, Joe Tydings, was defeated in 1970 in Maryland, and that's the next-to-the-most-recent answer I'm looking for but not the most recent.
CONAN: Very, very close. You get a sleeve of a T-shirt, Gordon.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GORDON: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's in the meantime go on. We've been hanging fire on a New York Times story that is supposed to blow the governor of the state of New York out of the water. Well, they finally published a story today, not about the governor but about one of his aides.
RUDIN: True, and everybody says, well, it's a sigh of relief. Of course, the tabloids, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, have been running about the rumors on front pages for days. The New York Times said, look, you know, we're not saying anything about this. As it turns out, the story was somebody, a top aide to Governor David Paterson, who had been arrested for selling, allegedly selling crack cocaine to an undercover policeman in Harlem, sexual assault charges against three separate women.
But the point is: One, it's not about David Paterson; and two, it's not good news for David Paterson, who still looks like he's going to lose out on his bid for the Democratic nomination.
CONAN: But we'll have to see if another story has yet to emerge. In any case, in the state of Arizona, former Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain turns out to have a challenger, a substantial challengers in the Republican primary. This is former Congressman JD Hayworth.
Representative�JD HAYWORTH (Republican, Arizona): You could say there are two John McCains: the one who campaigns like a conservative and the one who legislates like a liberal.
(Soundbite of applause)
Rep. HAYWORTH: In fact, when it comes time to debate, I'm going to ask for a third chair in case both John McCains show up.
CONAN: And that's the challenger, and here's the incumbent, responding back.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): I know for nearly a year on his radio show, Mr.�Hayworth used to attack me in the most disrespectful fashion. So I would imagine over time that we might see a repetition of that. But the fact is, I'm confident of victory.
CONAN: And are the people of Arizona confident of a McCain victory?
RUDIN: Well, not everybody is. You'd think that somebody who's been around as long as John McCain should have the loyalty of the party, but he has not been the most popular Republican.
You know, when he ran for president in 2000 for the first time, the Republican governor of Arizona supported George W. Bush. There are a lot of Republicans who do feel that he's much cozier with the national media than he is with conservatives. The problem is, JD Hayworth is seen by many people if not a blowhard, but he's just, you know, a bombastic kind of guy.
He lost his own seat for re-election in 2006 to Harry Mitchell. So a lot of egos at stake in this Republican primary in Arizona.
CONAN: We've got time for one more attempt at getting the trivia question right. Let's go to Judy(ph), Judy with us from Dayton, Ohio.
JUDY (Caller): Hi. Could it have been the Stevensons of Illinois?
RUDIN: There was only one Senator Stevenson. The other two were governors, and Adlai Stevenson did not lose his bid for re-election; he retired.
CONAN: Thanks for the try, Judy. So we'll have to wait for the answer or give it right now.
RUDIN: Glen Bell(ph) of Maryland, senior and junior. Senior lost in '64, and junior lost in '76.
CONAN: All right. No trivia award winner this week. All right, Ken Rudin is going to be back with us as we focus on the state of Indiana with the big bombshell of Evan Bayh's resignation on Monday. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington. It's Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin's with us, as he is every Wednesday. He's NPR's political editor and blogger extraordinaire. Go to npr.org/junkie. You can also download his podcast on the NPR site.
And we turn now to the latest retirement from Washington, D.C., the surprise announcement this week in Indianapolis from Democratic Senator Evan Bayh that he's not going to run for re-election, basically, he says, because Congress has become too partisan.
Senator EVAN BAYH (Democrat, Indiana): My decision should not be interpreted for more than it is: a very difficult, deeply personal one. I am an executive at heart. I value my independence. I am not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology. These traits may be useful in many walks of life, but unfortunately they are not highly valued in Congress.
CONAN: If you live in Indiana, where does all of this leave the Democrats and the Republicans? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
RUDIN: Neal, could you say he's Bayh-partisan?
CONAN: Oh, he is bye-Bayh-partisan is what the answer is. But joining us now from Indianapolis is political analyst Brian Howey. He publishes the independent newsletter Howey Politics Indiana at howeypolitics.com, and he's in the studios of member station WFYI. Nice to have you with us on the program today.
Mr.�BRIAN HOWEY (Political Analyst): Well, thank you for having me.
CONAN: And the filing deadline was noon today. So who's in the race?
Mr.�HOWEY: Well, we've got a field of five Republicans, and I've been trying to reach Dan Parker, the Democratic chairman, to find out what's going on, and his mailbox is full.
CONAN: I can't imagine why, yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr.�HOWEY: It's my understanding that there's been a - maybe not a smoke-filled room but a smoke-filled cyber, fiber-optic, you know, conversation here, and it looks like they may be looking at the Blue Dogs in the Indiana congressional delegation.
We've got Brad Ellsworth from the 8th Congressional District; Baron Hill, who actually is in Afghanistan, I believe, right now, and is kind of out of pocket, his staff is even having trouble reaching him; and Joe Donnelly from the South Bend area.
And I think it's probably going to be one of those, although we've got a couple of other names floating around. The key thing is the absolute deadline for filing is noon on Friday, and I suspect that what's going on is if they recruit one of these members of Congress, they've got to fill that congressional seat pretty quickly, and they're probably looking at various mayors and legislators. So it's a lot of intrigue going on here in Indiana right now.
CONAN: Some people suggest that Congressman Hill might stand a better chance of winning in the Senate than winning re-election in his congressional seat.
Mr.�HOWEY: Well, you know, he ran a very credible race in 1990 against Dan Coats. The problem there is holding on to his congressional district. There's a lot of Democrats that fear that if Baron runs for this seat, they may lose the 9th Congressional District. There's a school of thought that he's the only one that can hold that.
CONAN: In the meantime, this was just out of the blue as far as anybody in Washington, D.C. is concerned. Was it just as big a surprise in Indiana?
Mr.�HOWEY: Absolutely. You know, after 2008, everything that happened that year, I didn't think anything could top that year, but you know, the '10 cycle is really shaping up.
You know, we've had Congressman Steve Buyer leave his seat in the 4th Congressional District. Now the Bayh. We have Dan Coats, who's coming back from Washington to try to reclaim his seat. You know, we were denied...
CONAN: Coming back from K Street to try to reclaim his seat.
Mr.�HOWEY: Yes. We were denied the Bayh-Coats race in 1998, and so I thought, okay, here we go, this is going to be a donnybrook. And the other one drops out. So you know, I'm not sure what to expect next.
RUDIN: Brian, when Evan Bayh dropped out right before the deadline, a lot of the Democrats complained that he really left them in the lurch, but basically, if the Democrats pick their nominee without a primary, without having to spend all this money, in a smoke-filled whatever, it's almost like it's the Republicans who have to pay the price because they'll have a heated May primary, and the Democrats won't have to go through that.
Mr.�HOWEY: Well, I think this is all about control, and when Evan Bayh says he, you know, there may be two or three candidates that show up, and he's not going to anoint anybody, you know, sell me a bridge in Arizona.
You know, I think his people are going to have a major say on who gets this nomination. They waited until the 11th hour so that they didn't get a bunch of people that could, you know, gather the signatures and get on the ballot.
They have aversion to contested primaries, and they tried to avoid one in 2008 for the governor's race, when you had an Indianapolis architect and the former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson, who went at it. The establishment backed Jim Schellinger, the architect, and Jill Long Thompson won that race and was kind of estranged from the Democratic establishment.
And I really think that, you know, when you mine, you know, down the road what really happened here, it is about control, and it is about avoiding a messy primary.
You know, I tend to think that if you have a vigorous primary, it's good for the party. The winner builds the name idea up. Sure, they may mow through some of their war chest, but as we know in these wave years, the spigot can open, and the money can flow if you've got a good candidate.
But the Bayh folks, they just don't think that way.
RUDIN: You know, given how as popular as Evan Bayh is in Indiana, there are a lot of progressive Democrats in Washington, in the Senate even, who just don't like him. They feel he's his own man, he's too much of a centrist.
CONAN: They don't like him even more this week.
RUDIN: Exactly. But if Brad Ellsworth, or even Baron Hill, but if Brad Ellsworth, who's pro-gun and, you know, a pro-life Democrat, if he's the Democratic nominee, I think the progressives will be even more unhappy, no?
Mr.�HOWEY: Well, maybe, and you know, if I had to put a bet on this, I think Brad Ellsworth is probably the guy that may get it. The party recruited him originally for a legislative seat in 2006, and then they ended up slotting him in the 8th Congressional District, where he challenged John Hostettler.
Hostettler kind of gave up on that campaign, and I think his seat, the 9th or 8th Congressional District down in southwestern Indiana, I think it's probably, of the three Blue Dogs, that's probably going to be the easiest seat to defend. They've got a fairly deep bench of mayors and state legislators who might be able to come in and pick up that seat, and you know, Ellsworth's very telegenic. He's got a great family, a good story, a former two-term sheriff. So if I'm putting money on this thing, I think he's the guy that they're probably looking at.
CONAN: In the meantime, though, you talk about control and about how Bayh wants to see if he can designate his successor. Nevertheless, doesn't he get credit for reviving the Democratic Party in the state of Indiana? It was a reliably red state before he came along, and, well, last presidential election, it went to the Democrats.
Mr.�HOWEY: Absolutely, you know, after his father was defeated by Dan Quayle in 1980, the party went through a pretty brutal stretch, and Evan Bayh surfaced in 1986, won the secretary of state race, and then kicked off what was, you know, 16 years of Democratic gubernatorial rule. Anytime he's on the ballot, they picked up seats in the Indiana General Assembly, and then, of course, he reclaimed his father's seat. So he's been a real powerhouse here.
When he was running, even when Dan Coats surfaced and was going to try to redo that challenge in '98, you know, I kept telling people, you know, don't bet against the Bayh machine because they're a prodigious political organization.
CONAN: We're hoping to get calls, particularly from the state of Indiana, but if you have questions about all this round of retirements, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. Jay is with us from Orlando in Florida. No, that's the southern district of Indiana.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JAY (Caller): Good afternoon. I think with this latest announcement regarding Evan Bayh, this ought to be the latest wake-up call to the Democratic Party, really. I mean, with the upcoming elections in Nevada, where, I mean, where Harry Reid's going to be engaged in a very contested election, as well as the loss of Chris Dodd and then really with the seat in Massachusetts going into the hands of a Republican, I mean, I think at this point the Democrats really need to look at: How do we get the reconciliation of all these progressive and these different ideas?
Because when the election time comes around, the Republican Party, regardless of what different ideologies they may have, they will come together. They will form a cohesive effort, and the Democrats need to do the same thing because we don't need history to repeat itself in the sense that the Democrats don't share as much of time in Congress and the White House, for that matter. So I think...
CONAN: Well, Ken, cohesion and Democrats, those two words are never used in the same sentence together.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: And you know, for all the popularity that President Obama had initially, at least certainly last spring, he has ceded much of that authority to Democratic leaders: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And I think the caller makes a very good point. It's almost like they're begging, they're wishing that President Obama would take a stronger stand and fight for the things that he believes in and fight for these things, rather than just giving a good speech every now and then and leaving it for Pelosi and Reid.
CONAN: Thanks very much. Go ahead.
Mr.�HOWEY: If I could talk to Ken from Orlando, Indiana, here, you know, the Republicans need to get some ideas. You know, every poll I look, there's a real throw the bums mentality out, and it's not just Democrats. It's Republicans.
We've got a very interesting primary in the 5th Congressman District, Dan Burton's seat. We've got four challengers there. I think that may be one of the first looks we get at whether this is a real credible anti-incumbency wave coming.
CONAN: CNN running a poll today that shows two-thirds of Americans think members of Congress, all of them, should be voted out. Anyway, let's go to Matt, and Matt's with us from Mishawaka in Indiana.
MATT (Caller): Hi, I'm in Joe Donnelly's district, and I have to say that when Ken mentioned Joe Donnelly as a potential successor, it was the first we'd heard about it. I was wondering if he knew whether Donnelly had commented about that or, you know, what's going on there.
RUDIN: Actually, Brian mentioned Donnelly but Donnelly mentioned, I believe, two days ago, that he was taking himself out of it. It seems like it's just between Ellsworth and Baron Hill. I think Donnelly took the same (unintelligible).
CONAN: And I read that in your newsletter, Brian.
Mr. HOWEY: Donnelly has told both the Kokomo Tribune and the Michigan City News Dispatch that he's not interested. However, I've got some party leaders who are telling me that he's still on the table. He has been saying - he's been cautioning it by saying, you know, I want to serve the people of the 2nd Congressional District. I'm going to go work for them. You know, that's not like a Shermanesque(ph) statement. And I suppose if the Indiana Democratic Committee came to him and said, Joe, we need you. You know, he might reconsider. I always try to take politician at their word...
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Come to Washington.
Mr. HOWEY: ...and he has said, you know, he's interested. But, you know, I'm not sure what to think as far as what could happen here in the next 48 to 72 hours.
CONAN: Matt, thanks for - go ahead, Matt. I'm sorry.
MATT: The reason I was curious was is that he mentioned that another congressman's district was the safest. The 2nd District of Indiana is pretty safely Democratic. The recent Chocola experiment was more of a blip than anything else.
CONAN: We love to mispronounce his name though.
MATT: I'm sorry?
CONAN: We love to mispronounce his name.
MATT: Well, yes, we do.
Mr. HOWEY: Well, I'll disagree with you. I worked at the Elkhart Truth for a number of years and covered a lot of the John Hiler-Tom Ward races. That's a very competitive district. It's one of the closest 50/50 districts we've got under the current maps. And I think Joe Donnelly, if he were to get the nomination, I think he would translate very well to the rest of the state. He's not very well-known south of, say, Kokomo.
CONAN: In the meantime, that $13 million war chest that Evan Bayh had assembled, who gets that?
Mr. HOWEY: Well, I'm sure the Democratic Senatorial Committee would like to have a chunk of it. I'm sure the Democratic Party here in Indiana and the National DNC would like to have it. I understand that their formula is that they can only disperse so much. I think the state party can only spend about $900,000 on a candidate. The national parties can use it as independent expenditures. They can't coordinate with the campaigns. And that's a real good question. I'm not sure if Evan is going to dole that out to people or maybe form a foundation with it, or a pact or something like that.
CONAN: We're talking with Brian Howey, publisher of the independent newsletter Howey Politics Indiana at howeypolitics.com. And, of course, political junkie Ken Rudin is with us. Youre listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And here's an email question from Vicky(ph). There has been a brouhaha over the number of Dems who are retiring. What's the number of Republicans retiring and isn't that actually quite a bit more than the Dems?
RUDIN: Well, yeah. There are six Republican senators compared to five Democratic senators. But the difference is, many of the Democratic seats - the open seats like in North Dakota, in Indiana now, in Delaware, for example, I think could very well be taken over by the Republicans. Whereas the Republican open seats, there is none - there are no Democrats leading in those seats yet. Many of them are toss-ups or likely Republican retention. There are more Republican retirements but more endangered seats among the Democrats.
CONAN: Here's an email from Jim(ph) in Fort Wayne. I'm an Indiana centrist Democrat. I understand Bayh's frustration. I don't understand the anger by the left Democrats. The last time a Democrat, Clinton, compromise with the Republicans we had positive results for the people. Compromise is not necessarily a bad thing.
And, well, that's been the hallmark of the Bayh legacy in Indiana. Isn't that right, Brian?
Mr. HOWEY: Absolutely. He has been very centrist. He's a deficit hawk, very much of the Blue Dog profile. You know, he managed his father's last senatorial race in 1980 - lost to Dan Quayle. And, you know, Birch Bayh was an unabashed liberal. And when Evan Bayh surfaced six years later, he was a fiscal conservative. And I think he learned a big lesson from that 1980 race and decided that he was not going to go down in defeat like his father did. And I've seen some quotes from people who are very close with him saying that that was the one thing he didn't want to do. He didn't want to lose a race. He's undefeated as a politician.
CONAN: Let's go quickly to Mark(ph). And Mark is with us from South Bend.
MARK (Caller): Hi. I love the program. Thanks everybody. What's - even though Evan is a very, very, very young man still what does this do to his presidential - long held presidential ambitions?
RUDIN: Well, I think one of the reasons I think he's leaving is, of course, he doesn't like the partisanship and he doesn't like the way he's been treated by many in his party's leadership because he votes differently on economic things and things like that. But I think it was clear from the beginning that Evan Bayh wanted to be, at least, on the ticket, or if not, run for president. He whispered - as was whispered in 2008.
But I think with either him moving to the far right of the party or, in his view, the party moving to the far left of him, there was not going to be a scenario where he'd be a nationwide presidential candidate.
CONAN: But a chance to come back, run for governor maybe in a few years and try again?
RUDIN: There are a lefty blogs out that are saying that his - Bayh's real plan is to challenge President Obama for the nomination in 2012. I think that's a little bit out there.
Mr. HOWEY: That's not going to happen. He answered the governor question here in Indiana by saying, I'm not thinking about that today.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HOWEY: And also - and, you know, as far the presidential thing, if you're tired of partisan politics, why would you want to be president of the United States? I understand there's going to be a vacancy at the University of Maryland that he might be interested in.
CONAN: Well, we might try for that, you never know. Brian Howey...
Mr. HOWEY: That's a leisure presidency.
CONAN: Brian Howey, thanks very much for the - for being with us today. Thank you for the time.
Mr. HOWEY: Thank you.
CONAN: Brian Howey, publisher of the independent newsletter Howey Politics Indiana at howeypolitics.com. And just a little time left, hardly enough, but early voting has already started, Ken, in the Texas primary.
RUDIN: It's the next primary up. The actual primary date is March 2nd. It's for governor. Governor Rick Perry, who's been governor longer than anybody else in Texas history, being challenged by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. senator. But there's also another candidate in the race, Deborah Medina, who is a party activist backed by the Tea Party folks. And she was gaining every - anywhere between 20 and 25 percent of the polls in recent polls, which is pretty strong for somebody who has no recognition. The Tea Party movement is strong in Texas but she may have been tripped up with a recent interview by Glenn Beck on Fox News.
He asked her about whether she believed that whether the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 and she said, well, let's we haven't seen all the evidence, or it's a very good question. She didn't answer that sufficiently. And there a lot of people are saying that this may be not that she was ever going to win, but this could be the beginning or the end of her possible good showing.
CONAN: Tainted as a truther(ph) yeah.
CONAN: And did she ask him about the president's birth certificate?
RUDIN: No. She's not part of the John Birth Society, no.
CONAN: All right. Ken Rudin, with us here every Wednesday on the Political Junkie on TALK OF THE NATION. Again, you can read his blog and get his ScuttleButton Puzzles at npr.org. Ken, as always, thanks very much.
RUDIN: Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: Coming up: a rare glimpse inside polygamy in the United States. National Geographic photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair documented one family with five wives, dozens of kids and hundreds of grandchildren. She joins us next to talk about what she saw. Stay with us.
I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.