The 2010 Primary Season, Coast-to-Coast

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Cathleen Decker, state politics reporter, Los Angeles Times

In Alabama, Rep. Parker Griffith (R) and Rep. Artur Davis (D) lost their bids for Congress and the governorship, respectively. On Tuesday, June 8, ten states, including California, Nevada and New Jersey will host primaries.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Former Rep. Rick Lazio gets the GOP nod for governor of New York, former Gov. Blagojevich goes on trial in Illinois, and for a former veep, a love story ends. It's Wednesday and time for a nothing-so-rare-as-a-day-in-June 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. Where's the beef?

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

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

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

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

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us for the latest in the world of politics, and every Wednesday, well, it just keeps getting better in primary season. Alabama Democrats crushed the gubernatorial hopes of Artur Davis while Republicans there rejected party-switcher Parker Griffith. Two women will vie for governor in New Mexico, plus the GOP gets more good news in Mississippi.

Blago's not the only circus in Illinois. Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk re-explains his explanation of his service record, Al and Tipper Gore call it quits, and Ken can barely stay in his seat with 10 primaries coming up next Tuesday, including California - much more on that in a bit.

Plus, later in the program, Kevin Eubanks joins us to talk about life after Leno. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here, as he does every Wednesday, and as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal, lots of stuff, lots of stuff, as you say. Okay, we're going to focus on - not only on yesterday's primaries but looking ahead to next week. And in next week's primaries, Meg Whitman is leading in her bid to become the Republican nominee for governor in California. And Carly Fiorina could win the Republican Senate nomination there, as well.

So I have two questions and maybe even two T-shirts.

CONAN: Oh my gosh.

RUDIN: I know, I know, or at least two sleeves. Okay, when was the last time and the first time - those are the two questions - when was the last time and the first time the Republican Party of the same state nominated women for governor and the U.S. Senate in the same year?

CONAN: So if you think you know the answer, the first time the Republican Party in one state nominated women for governor and Senate in the same year and the most recent time that's happened, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And, of course, the winners get fabulous no-prize T-shirts, two on offer this week.

In the meantime, let's plunge ahead here, Ken. And party switchers may have been welcomed with open arms as they declared their new allegiances, didn't do so well in the primaries yet again yesterday.

RUDIN: No, and that's what happened, of course, we saw that on May 18th in Pennsylvania with Arlen Specter, and now we saw this going the - the guy going the other way, going from Democrat to Republican. Parker Griffith, a freshman member of Congress from northern Alabama, a district, by the way, that has never elected a Republican to Congress.

Anyway, he switched to the Republican Party last December. He said that President Obama was too liberal for him, but he was rejected by his new party overwhelmingly, did not get into a runoff. And he - Parker Griffith is the second House member to be defeated for re-nomination this year after Alan Mollohan in West Virginia.

CONAN: In this meantime, Artur Davis, the Democratic incumbent congressman, hoped to become the first African-American governor of the state of Alabama. That's not going to happen.

RUDIN: Well, of course, many states are still waiting for their first African-American governor because there's only been I guess two, Doug Wilder and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.

But anyway, having said that, Artur Davis made a very interesting calculation that he would go after white support, conservative white -he basically sold himself as a centrist. He voted against the health care bill. He voted against - supported Don't Ask, Don't Tell, against gays in the military, against same-sex marriage.

He basically ran a pretty conservative campaign. As a matter of fact, he was the only black member of Congress to vote against the health care bill.

Jesse Jackson, when he said that you can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man. That's how serious and angry the African-American community was in response to Davis.

But Davis thought the way to get to the Democratic nomination was to go after white support. It failed miserably. He lost like from 62 to 36 percent to Ron Sparks, a state agricultural commissioner, who is white and who is backed by many black organizations.

CONAN: That was not easy to say.

RUDIN: No, no, it was not.

CONAN: Very good. In New Mexico, there will be, as we mentioned, two women facing off for the gubernatorial - for the statehouse. It'll be the county district attorney Susana Martinez against Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish.

RUDIN: Right. And it's only the third time in history two women are running against each other for the governorship in that Republican primary in New Mexico. Pete Domenici, Jr., who ironically is Pete Domenici - yes, who knew? - he finished a very poor fourth in that primary. But Martinez, the Republican candidate, is thought to be a good chance, give the Republicans a good shot at winning back the governorship that the Democrats have held for eight years under Bill Richardson, who is term-limited.

CONAN: And any surprises in Mississippi primary?

RUDIN: No, the Republicans got some good news. Travis Childers, who won a special House race in northern Mississippi, that's the House seat that Roger Wicker gave up when he was appointed to the Senate. Republicans say they got the candidate they wanted, and they feel very good about winning that seat back in November in a district that John McCain won with 63 percent in 2008.

CONAN: In the meantime, a lot made about the false service claims of Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general in Connecticut, who is hoping to become the U.S. senator there. Now, the same or a similar issue has come up in Illinois that involves the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate there. And this is Mark Kirk, and here's a Web video for his campaign. He's - pictures him sitting in a jet fighter. He's in the Navy Reserve, and well, it begins with the usual kinds of claims.

(Soundbite of Internet video)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: We've been let down too many times, betrayed by politicians, angered by their scandals, the abuse of power.

CONAN: The narrator then goes on to make a particularly great claim for Mr. Kirk.

(Soundbite of Internet video)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: The Navy named Mark intelligence officer of the year for his combat service in Kosovo.

CONAN: And that's nice. It turns out it's not quite true.

RUDIN: Well, not only not quite true - not true. And here's what's interesting about this is that shortly after the Blumenthal affair started in Connecticut, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah was talking about introducing a bill that would make it illegal to air misleading public statements about one's own military service, and here we have Mark Kirk doing similar things.

One, he said he was the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of course, he was in the Navy Reserves. He never left the U.S. And then, of course...

CONAN: He meant to say during.

RUDIN: During, exactly.

CONAN: Yeah, exactly.

RUDIN: And then, of course, the Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which he never received. This is very...

CONAN: It went to a unit he created, not to him personally.

RUDIN: That's correct. Now here's the things here. First of all, Alexi Giannoulias, who is the Democratic nominee in Illinois, feels that he and the Democrats have an issue. One, because Giannoulias has been on the defensive for the longest time over his family ownership of a bank, Broadway Bank, that also gave very questionable loans to mob figures. The Democrats didn't like that.

They also didn't like the fact that the Republicans were harping on the Richard Blumenthal thing in Connecticut but also the fact that, as you mentioned, Neal, that the Rod Blagojevich trial starts tomorrow. The jury selection starts tomorrow. The last thing the Democrats want to be reminded of in this very close Senate race in Illinois is Rod Blagojevich over and over again. So now they have something to put the Republicans on the defensive.

CONAN: A hair-raising prospect. Anyway, let's see if we can get some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. And let us remind you: the first time that the Republican Party in one state nominated women for Senate and governor in the same year, and the most recent time that's happened, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's start with Mark(ph), and Mark's with us from Cape May, New Jersey.

MARK (Caller): Hi, was it California in 1990: Barbara Boxer for Senate and Dianne Feinstein for governor?

RUDIN: Well, actually, first of all, Barbara Boxer did not run in 1990, although Dianne Feinstein did. But more importantly, we're looking for Republicans in the same year, and of course, Boxer and Feinstein did run for the Senate the same year, but...

CONAN: As Democrats, both of them. Anyway, thanks very much for the call, Mark. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Lynn(ph), Lynn with us from Terryville in Connecticut.

LYNN (Caller): Yeah, and you know what? I've got Democrats, too: Barbara Kennelly and Ella Grasso in Connecticut.

CONAN: Yeah, Ella Grasso was my first guess, too. Then I went, d'oh.

LYNN: D'oh, Republicans.

RUDIN: But that would not be the same thing anyway because Barbara Kennelly ran for governor well after Ella Grasso died. She was the first female governor of Connecticut who died shortly after leaving office.

LYNN: All right. Thanks, guys.

CONAN: All right, Lynn. Well, our foreheads will recover together. Let's go next to - this is Brad(ph), Brad with us from Soldotna in Alaska.

BRAD (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

BRAD: I wanted to say that it was Alaska with Lisa Murkowski and Sarah Palin.

RUDIN: And the problem with that is that, of course, they are both women, but they did not...

CONAN: And both Republicans.

RUDIN: And they're both Republicans, but they did not both run in the same year. Sarah Palin ran in 2006. Lisa Murkowski ran not in 2006.

CONAN: Four years ago because she's up this year. All right let's see -thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Meredith(ph), Meredith with us from Camden, New Jersey.

MEREDITH (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Go ahead.

MEREDITH: Hi, there, Maine: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

RUDIN: That is correct. That is the first time the Republican Party put up two women, 1994. Olympia Snowe was elected to the Senate. Susan Collins ran and lost for governor. Of course, now she's a senator. So that is - I hear a T-shirt right there.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, yes, indeed. So Meredith, you are the lucky recipient of a fabulous no-prize T-shirt in return for the promise to take a digital picture of yourself. Email it, so we can post it on our wall of shame.

MEREDITH: All right.

CONAN: All right, we'll put you on hold and collect your particulars. We still have one T-shirt still on offer. That's the most recent time Republicans in the same year nominated women for the U.S. Senate and the statehouse.

RUDIN: In the same state.

CONAN: In the same state. In the meantime, let's go on to some other issues, and we're going to get on to California in a minute, but there's a bunch of other primaries coming up next week, including one runoff in Arkansas.

RUDIN: There is, and you know, if we thought it was nasty before - and we had both candidates on TALK OF THE NATION a few weeks ago, Senator Blanche Lincoln and her challenger, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. They don't like each other, and it's continuing with negative ads and a lot of outside ads. But basically, it looks like Bill Halter is out-raising - out-fundraising Senator Lincoln in the runoff. Bill Clinton was out campaigning - I think he was campaigning for either - he was campaigning for...

CONAN: I guarantee you he wasn't campaigning for Joe Sestak.

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly it. I don't know if he wanted to get her to jump out - get out of the race as he did with Joe Sestak, but Bill Clinton was there in Arkansas campaigning for Blanche Lincoln. It's going to be very, very close. And we're talking about all these incumbents who are going down to defeat, two senators so far, Specter and Bob Bennett of Utah. Blanche Lincoln could find herself in big trouble on Tuesday.

CONAN: The SEIU has a new ad out for Halter in Arkansas. But interesting, they had a big campaign also in North Carolina that doesn't seem to be catching fire at all.

RUDIN: Well, also on the TALK OF THE NATION Political Junkie segment a few weeks ago, we had Andy Stern, who was then the president of the SEIU, who wanted to have a third party in states like North Carolina to punish Democrats who voted against the health care bill. Larry Kissell, who is a freshman member of Congress, they wanted to put a third party on the ballot, but they failed to get enough signatures.

CONAN: Let's get one more caller in on the trivia question, Alan(ph) calling from Kansas City.

ALAN (Caller): Yes, I wanted to guess that it was Texas.

CONAN: With?

ALAN: Texas.

CONAN: Yes, the nominees would be?

ALAN: Oh, the - it was - I can't remember the gubernatorial candidate's name, but it was Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

CONAN: Kay Bailey Hutchison.

RUDIN: Well, and the only woman who ran for governor was Ann Richards, in Texas, who was a Democrat. So Texas does not work.

CONAN: Alan, thanks for the call. So I guess we're only giving away one T-shirt this week. The right answer is?

RUDIN: Do I get the other T-shirt? 1998 in Hawaii: Linda Lingle for governor, Crystal Young for senator.

CONAN: This is NPR News.

(soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. NPR political editor Ken Rudin is with us, as always. If you - this isn't enough for you, you can go to npr.org, read his blog, download his podcast and solve his ScuttleButton puzzle.

Next week, of course, among the 10 primaries, maybe the juiciest is California, where there's a hot race for the Republican bid for governor, as well as the fight to take on Democrat Barbara Boxer for Senate in the general election.

We've invited Cathleen Decker, who covers state politics for the Los Angeles Times, to give us the lowdown on the races, which have gotten pretty interesting. She joins us on the line today from her office. Nice to have you with us.

Ms. CATHLEEN DECKER (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Thank you.

CONAN: And we'd like to hear from voters in California. Republicans and independents - independents there can vote in the Republican primary -how are the primaries battles shaping up where you are? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And Cathy Decker, Meg Whitman, in her run for governor against her Republican opponent Steve Poizner, seems to have morphed into a slightly different candidate.

Ms. DECKER: Yes, indeed, she has. She started the race with a very moderate profile compared to what's going on elsewhere in the country. And Poizner has challenged her in recent weeks, specifically on immigration and on a host of other issues, as well, and she's pulled right to combat that, which is not exactly where her campaign wanted her positioning to be, going into the general election. But that's - you know, you've got to win the primary first. So that's essentially what she's done.

She appears at this point to have beaten back his challenge, at least if the most recent polls are accurate. Going into the race, she's got an easy double-digit lead at this point.

CONAN: Is the Republican electorate in California especially conservative?

Ms. DECKER: It is. It's not necessarily as conservative as the Republican electorate would be elsewhere. It has tended to, at times in the past, embrace more moderate candidates or at least candidates with exceptions to party orthodoxy on some issues. It is not particularly liberal when it comes to things like taxes and, this year, immigration. But she has managed to, as I said, push back against that.

The complication here is that there's no true conservative as it, you know, would traditionally be defined in this race. Both Poizner and Whitman have had large moderate streaks running through their politics in the past. So it's not a clear comparison, as you've had elsewhere in other primaries in other states.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Cathy, also - two things. First of all, obviously neither one is looking for an endorsement from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ms. DECKER: Correct.

RUDIN: I think most Republicans are running away from him. But earlier in this year, Meg Whitman seemed to have a pretty - I don't know about sizable but at least a lead against the obvious Democratic candidate, Jerry Brown. Has the Poizner challenge, by moving Meg Whitman to the right, has that hurt her numbers against Jerry Brown?

Ms. DECKER: Yes, it has, absolutely. We did a poll in March that had her up against Brown by five to six points. At that point, she had a 40-point lead over Poizner. He narrowed it to single digits in some other polls earlier this month and - or earlier in May, excuse me. And as a result of her going right, our most recent poll, which was released on Sunday, shows her now trailing Brown by six points.

So there has been a definite falloff in her support, specifically among women and among decline-to-state voters in California - that's what the sort of nonpartisan independent voter is called. And those two groups are key for any Republican who wants to win in November. If they don't corral a significant chunk of those voters or a majority of those voters, there's no chance, given the numbers, of them succeeding. She had them in March. She does not have them now.

She also has plenty of money to spend on this race. So there's no, you know, there's no telling ultimately what'll happen, but right now, that that has been the most extreme fallout from her, from the requirement that she go right to combat Poizner.

CONAN: We're talking with Cathy Decker, who covers state politics for the Los Angeles Times, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We want to hear from those decline-to-state voters and from Republicans who are, of course, eligible in their own primary. Join us and tell us how the race, the primaries are playing out where you are. Terry's(ph) on the line from Modesto.

TERRY (Caller): Thank you. I'm going to support Poizner, I believe. I like his stance on immigration, much more in line with Arizona. I believe that that's the right position for Californians. Meg seems a little bit, a little bit too well-polished, doesn't really address questions. I think Poizner's probably a stronger candidate, but I think Meg has a bigger machine.

CONAN: That's interesting. Terry, thanks very much for the call. But Cathy, has the immigration issue come down to pro or anti-Arizona?

Ms. DECKER: Not exactly. There is a sharp delineation between the two. Poizner is very supportive of the Arizona law and Whitman opposes it. But Whitman is still pulling in voters who differ from her on that subject. So it's one of those issues that is important to a small group of people, but to the larger, broader electorate, is not being determinative at this point.

CONAN: Well, let's also talk about the Senate race, where of course the incumbent is the Democrat, Barbara Boxer. Carly Fiorina is the frontrunner in the Republican primary, claiming, according to this television ad, that there is absolutely no difference between the Democrat, Boxer, and her opponent, Tom Campbell.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Announcer: Thinking of voting Tom Campbell, even though he refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and for 20 years pushed higher gas, sale and income taxes? Carly did sign the pledge. Sarah Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina instead. She called Campbell a liberal who seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer. Vote Carly instead.

Ms. CARLY FIORINA (Republican Senatorial Candidate, California): I'm Carly Fiorina, and I approve this message.

CONAN: And then Tom Campbell responded with a claim of his own, saying he was infinitely more electable come the general election.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Mr. TOM CAMPBELL (Republican Senatorial Candidate, California): I'm Tom Campbell, and I don't have millions of dollars of personal wealth to use in my U.S. Senate campaign, but I do have something that neither of my opponents can offer. I will beat Senator Barbara Boxer and put Republicans back in control in the U.S. Senate.

If we can't win California, we can't take back the U.S. Senate. This weekend, the Los Angeles Times announced a poll that shows me beating Senator Barbara Boxer by seven points. Never before has a poll shown a Republican beating Senator Barbara Boxer. Carly Fiorina loses to Barbara Boxer by six points.

CONAN: And that from the Tom Campbell - and indeed, that's not from an ad because, well, he's down to dozens of dollars, at least as I look at his bank account, Cathy Decker.

Ms. DECKER: Yes, he's presently not on television, which is a huge liability and is the single issue, single thing that has really lofted Fiorina above him at this point in time. She has got millions to spend, a lot of it her own millions, on television, and that's still the route to California's voters.

Campbell is not on television as of now. He may ultimately go back, or he may not go back on television, but to not have that presence is really hurting him at this point.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Cathy, that's a shame that we won't be hearing from that demon sheep on the TV anymore. But here's another thing that concerns me. At least - or the question I have is that Republicans have had antipathy for Barbara Boxer from day one, and the polls show that Tom Campbell might be stronger in November, and yet he is pro-choice, pro-gay rights. What will drive Republicans to the poll, the desire to beat Barbara Boxer or to get a more ideologically pure nominee?

Ms. DECKER: At this point, it looks like the latter. Certainly, that's been Campbell's pitch all along is that he is the most sellable candidate in November. But it hasn't worked a whole lot because there is antipathy toward him within the Republican Party, and he's not been able to sell them on the argument that he would be stronger.

I mean, in some ways we see a little bit of the national overlay in this race, that he is not ideologically in tune with most of the Republican Party base. She is, although she doesn't have a long public record to call back on.

So there's been something of a, you know, pushback from him on the notion that he is more electable. But he has a hard time raising money. He hasn't raised a ton of money this time out, and so a lot of the Republican Party base in particular, and decline-to-state voters as well, are siding with her.

CONAN: And we should mention there is a third candidate in that race, Chuck DeVore. What kind of a factor might he be?

Ms. DECKER: He is the most natural ally in this race of the Tea Party activists, but he's not been able to translate that at this point into something meaningful.

He's at roughly 16 points in our poll, compared to 38 for Fiorina and 23 for Campbell. So in theory, he does - he could make the difference, but it looks at this point as though he and Fiorina are competing for that activist element of the party, whereas Campbell is just sort of grabbing on to the moderates.

So I'm not sure that - you know, as long as - if the race tightens, and Fiorina is just narrowly ahead of Campbell, then DeVore actually is playing a spoiler role, but at this point, he's not.

CONAN: Well, let's get another caller in. Let's go to Frank(ph), and Frank's with us from Mountain View in California.

FRANK (Caller): Yes. My comment is I'm - I'm a Republican. I'm disgusted with both Whitman and Poizner because I think they've been intellectually dishonest in talking about how they're going to deal with California's real deficit problems. I mean, they're running on their millions of dollars of personal investment, but they really haven't stated how they're going to address and fix our fundamental physical problems.

CONAN: Has anybody stated a clear idea of how to fix California's considerable budget deficit?

Ms. DECKER: No, and that's a fine tradition in California, hardly anybody ever does. We have a $20 billion deficit for the fiscal year that starts in July. That is going to require either taxes, which in this case, the Republican Party candidates are not going to back; or severe cuts. They've talked about very moderate cuts in services, but I don't think anyone feels that it's in their political interest at this point in time to paint the drastic picture that would need to be painted to accommodate a $20 billion deficit without any tax hikes.

On the Democratic side, Jerry Brown has no opposition, and so he hasn't been forced by the confluence of the campaign to actually say what he would do either. He's said less, in fact, than the - than either of the Republican candidates have in terms of what he would do to combat the deficit.

CONAN: Another question. Obviously, it's competitive for the gubernatorial - for the statehouse. Is it likely, however, as you look at the races, that the Democrats are going to remain in control of the Senate and legislature?

Ms. DECKER: Yes. It's hard to imagine, given the way the lines are drawn, that there would be any change. The question in California always is whether Democrats are going to have the two-thirds that they need to be able to pass budgets and pass taxes on their own without any Republican help. They're always within one or two votes of that in recent years. But there's no - there's virtually no chance that Republicans are going to take over. People are looking ahead to redistricting and the redrawing of lines next time out to see if that dynamic changes. But right now, they have an overwhelming lead in both houses.

CONAN: Frank, thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it.

Here's an email from Andrea(ph). I'm an independent voter in California - or decline-to-state voter - and I prefer Brown to the two conservative candidates, Poizner and Whitman. I am voting in the Republican primary, however, to - for Poizner, because I believe it would be easier for Brown to beat him in the general election than it would be for Brown to beat Whitman. So another tactical voter. We get some of those every year and, indeed, it's always interesting in primaries particularly.

We're talking with Ken Rudin, of course, our Political Junkie, as we do every Wednesday. Also, with Cathy Decker who covers state politics for the Los Angeles Times. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Cathy, with a $20 billion budget deficit and 12.6 percent unemployment, here's a question. Why would anybody want to be governor of California?

Ms. DECKER: Frequently, the candidates are asked that. I don't know. A quest for the impossible dream. I have no idea.

CONAN: Is there a windmill in front of the State House there...

Ms. DECKER: Exactly.

CONAN: ...in Sacramento?

Ms. DECKER: The men and women of La Mancha.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's get Kenny(ph) on the line, Kenny from San Rafael.

KENNY (Caller): Hi, Neal. I'm a longtime listener, first time caller.

CONAN: Well, thank you for that.

KENNY: Yes. I'm a decline-to-state voter and I was originally planning on voting for Meg Whitman. I appreciated some of her views on things like education. But you're right, I think she has moved too far to the right. And so I'm thinking now voting for maybe Jerry Brown after all.

CONAN: Well, that raises the question - and thanks very much for the call, Kenny, and for listening all those years. But Cathy Decker, after the primary, whoever wins, are they going to have to move to the center if they have any hope of winning in California?

Ms. DECKER: If tradition holds, yes. That's - as with other places, that's typically what happens. The question, I think, that is unanswerable until November is whether having spent $80 million to portray yourself one way, you can move effectively and not raise questions of where you actually are.

We haven't had a race where so much money has been spent. Whitman has spent tens of millions of dollars moving to the right, and that makes it, I think, a little tougher. It's not as though, you know, these changes of - or these positions have slipped under the radar. They are well known to Californians. You know, easily two thirds of Californians, in our poll, have seen her advertisements. And a fair number of them, judging by the most recent poll, have the same views as the caller -that they're concerned about what they've seen recently. And so the question is whether you can move back. You generally have to in California, unless there is some huge dynamic that isn't present at the time - right now - in terms of what the voter turnout is going to be, then they're going to have to swing a little bit to the center.

CONAN: Cathy Decker, thanks very much for your time today. We'll be most interested to see those results on Tuesday.

Ms. DECKER: Thank you.

CONAN: Very much. Cathy Decker covers state politics for the Los Angeles Times and joined us from her office.

And Ken, there's a few other primaries that we need to look ahead to next week. For governor - Republican nomination for governor in South Carolina.

RUDIN: Well, that had been kind of a quiet affair. And I hate to use the word affair, because I actually didn't plan to use that joke. But it has become the word in South Carolina politics. We saw it with Mark Sanford, and now we're seeing with Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race, four Republicans running, who has been accused by a blogger of having an inappropriate relationship with Nikki Haley. Now, Haley has been backed by Jenny Sanford. And just the other day, Mark Sanford says that it's not true. I'm coming to Nikki Haley's defense. And it's like Ken Rudin coming to somebody's defense...

CONAN: That's right. The last thing you might want.

RUDIN: ...character witness. But anyway, it's a really interesting race. And, of course, the Republicans are favored to win in November. But Nikki Haley had a lead, and she may be losing it with these accusations.

CONAN: Also, there are three Republicans vying to take on Harry Reid in the Senate race in Nevada.

RUDIN: Well, actually there are 14 Republicans but there are three in - the big ones, of course are: Sharron Angle who's been backed by the Tea Party; Sue Lowden, a former state party chair; and Danny Tarkanian, the famous UNLV coach. I think it's his son, I believe.

CONAN: I believe, yes.

RUDIN: But, anyway - but, you know, we talked about how vulnerable Harry Reid is to these Republicans - to generic Republicans. But when you have to nominate somebody, both Angle and Lowden are facing some questions about their viability and you cannot count Harry Reid out yet.

CONAN: And finally, a runoff in Georgia for a congressional seat.

RUDIN: Right. This is the seat that Nathan Deal gave up to run for governor. It's between two Republicans, so it will not change the control of that seat. It's a Republican - overwhelmingly Republican seat.

CONAN: Well, be sure to join us next Wednesday for a chock-full edition of the POLITICAL JUNKIE. We have 10 primaries in all to report on next week, and Ken will be here with bells on, and I can't wait to hear them ring.

RUDIN: Unless somebody offers me a job to not run.

CONAN: Ken Rudin with us here in Studio 3A, as he is every week on the POLITICAL JUNKIE segment. Stay with us, though.

When we come back, we'll talk with Kevin Eubanks, fresh off his 15-year run as leader of The Tonight Show Band. Life after Leno. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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