Women Won Big In Tuesday Primaries

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Jon Ralston, columnist, Las Vegas Sun
Julie Rose, reporter, WFAE

In the biggest primary night of the year so far, Arkansas incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln beat challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And in California, first-time candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina both won, running for the Republican nominations for governor and Senate, respectively.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

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

Women won yesterday in California, Iowa, Nevada, Arkansas and South Carolina, and that anti-incumbent fever, it's down a touch. Voters aren't sure...

President BARACK OBAMA: ...whose ass to kick.

CONAN: It's Wednesday and time for a stern 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, and it's the biggest Day After of the primary campaign. Voters went to the polls in a dozen states yesterday, some surprises.

Bill Clinton's still got some swing in Arkansas, where the Man from Hope helped Blanche Lincoln stake a claim as the comeback kid. Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle roared in Nevada, which might be good news for Harry Reid. But no surprise in the Golden State, where Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman won handily.

We'll go in depth on Nevada and South Carolina a little later in the hour, and in corruption news, testimony begins in the Blago trial, and Jack Abramoff gets out of jail six months early.

Ken Rudin will not pass Go and will not collect $200. He's here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question, but, well, on a day when women are the stars in politics, we have a very special guest star with us today to read the trivia question: Ken's mom, Claire(ph). Nice to have you with us today.

Ms. CLAIRE RUDIN: Thank you. Blanche Lincoln almost, but not quite, lost her primary yesterday in Arkansas. This week's trivia question: Who was the last woman elected to the Senate who was later defeated in the primary for re-nomination?

CONAN: If you think you know the last woman to be elected to the Senate who was later defeated in her party primary for re-election, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Of course, the winner gets a fabulous no-prize T-shirt, and Claire, has Ken given you a fabulous no-prize T-shirt yet?

Ms. RUDIN: Not yet.

CONAN: We knew it. Claire, thanks so much for being with us today.

Ms. RUDIN: It was my pleasure.

CONAN: One thing: Could you tell us what Ken was like as a child, like earlier today?

KEN RUDIN: Mom, don't do it, don't do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RUDIN: I have to plead the Fifth.

CONAN: She knows. She knows. Claire, thanks very much. It's been a pleasure to have you with us today.

Ms. RUDIN: My pleasure, thank you so much.

RUDIN: Okay, mom, get out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Get out.

CONAN: Ken, I guess we have to begin in Arkansas, where everybody thought voters would be telling Blanche Lincoln to get out.

RUDIN: Well, if any state was going to be the test of anti-incumbency, we thought it would be Arkansas. Blanche Lincoln, who barely went ahead of Bill Halter in the May 18th Democratic primary, was forced into a runoff, and yet with a very important, crucial visit from Bill Clinton and also very hard-hitting ads where she attacked the Washington labor unions - you don't hear too many Democrats doing that.

CONAN: No.

RUDIN: But the labor unions and the net roots and the left, you know, the progressives spent up to $10 million to defeat her in the runoff, but she won pretty handily, by four points, considering most of us thought she would go down to defeat.

CONAN: And a big night for women elsewhere, beginning, I guess we have to say, in California.

RUDIN: Well, California was big. For the first time in history - for the first time in California history, Republicans have nominees for both the governorship and the Senate seat. The Senate seat, of course, is the one held by Barbara Boxer, and Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive at Hewlett-Packard, is the nominee there.

And for the governor's race against Jerry Brown, the former governor, will be Meg Whitman, who spent $80 million, $71 million of her own money, to win the nomination there.

CONAN: And no surprises on the Democratic side. As you said, the people we expected to be...

RUDIN: Brown and Boxer, right.

CONAN: ...to be nominated, were indeed nominated. We've also got a governor's race in Iowa, where the incumbent is - got re-nominated in his party.

RUDIN: Right, and that's Chet Culver, and he's facing a very stiff challenge from Terry Branstad, a former four-term governor. He's one of five former governors who, like Jerry Brown - who were trying to get his old job back.

And the Senate race is also worth pointing out that Roxanne Conlin will be running for the Senate against Chuck Grassley. And the reason I mentioned that is, one, Iowa has never sent a woman to the House or the Senate; and Roxanne Conlin, the last time we heard from her was in 1982, when she lost to Terry Branstad for governor. So...

CONAN: What goes around comes around, exactly. In Maine, for governor, another woman will be running.

RUDIN: Elizabeth Mitchell, who again, she's been around a long time. She's the state Senate president. In 1984, she was the Democratic nominee against Senator Bill Cohen. Back then, 1984, was the year of the woman, with Geraldine Ferraro and all the women who ran for the Senate.

But most of the women that year lost, including, of course, the Mondale-Ferraro ticket. This year, of course, there are more chances, more opportunities for women and much stronger candidates, I think.

CONAN: And how do we assess the Tea Party influence, and indeed, the influence of I guess the Tea-Partier-in-chief, Sarah Palin?

RUDIN: Well, I mean, you know, if you look at a scorecard, you'll see wins, and you'll see losses, but Sarah Palin did back Carly Fiorina in California, and she won handily. She backed - the Tea Party backed Sharron Angle in Nevada to run against Harry Reid, and she won pretty big.

Nikki Haley, the state representative from South Carolina, was backed by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, and she won that nomination. Well, actually...

CONAN: More on that later.

RUDIN: Right, exactly. She's going to go into a runoff.

CONAN: And as we look at this idea, as you mentioned, this idea of the anti-incumbent fervor, we've seen, well, several incumbents already knocked out of their parties in primaries.

RUDIN: Yes, but the thing - if you look at those who have lost, I think there's specific reasons why they lost. If you look at Arlen Specter and Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, they switched parties, and the new party never warmed up to them.

Alan Mollohan in West Virginia, he had ethics problems. Bob Bennett - oh, Jim Gibbons, the governor of Nevada, lost yesterday in his primary, but he had a very ugly divorce. I don't know if any divorces are not ugly, but this was especially ugly, allegations of just, you know, everything personal, personal things wrong with Jim Gibbons. So he was...

CONAN: And he's under indictment on Mars.

RUDIN: Exactly. He went down to defeat. And Bob Bennett, you know, the reason he lost in Utah was a very strange system in Utah where - not strange, but for Utah, they have very - they have a state convention where conservatives dominate. Perhaps had he run in a primary, he would have won.

So we always keep talking about these anti-, this anti-incumbent feeling out there, but ultimately, I think these are individual cases. If there really was an anti-incumbency, I suspect Blanche Lincoln would have lost, Jane Harman in California, who was challenged by the left, might have lost.

Now, there is one congressman, Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who only finished with 28 percent in a multi-candidate primary. He's forced to a June 22nd runoff. He could lose that, as well.

CONAN: And there was, before we get to the phone calls and the trivia question, one actual vote for somebody who will actually go to Congress yesterday.

RUDIN: That's true - I had to think for a second. That's right. In Georgia's Ninth Congressional District, in the northern part of the state...

CONAN: Special election.

RUDIN: Right. Tom Graves, who is backed by the Tea Party, won the seat that Nathan Deal gave up when he was running for governor. It was between two Republicans. The Republicans were going to keep the seat either way. But again, if you're looking at the ledger for how the Tea Party did, Georgia 09 is one of the victories for the Tea Party.

CONAN: And we're going be focusing in on Nevada and South Carolina after the break, but right now, we've got some people who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and just to remind you that Blanche Lincoln almost lost her party primary yesterday.

If you think you know the answer to the question, which is the last elected woman senator to lose in her party primary, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's begin with Phil(ph). Phil's with us from Hollywood, Florida.

PHIL (Caller): Yes, hi, Neal and Ken. I'm going to guess Paula Hawkins from Florida in 1986, lost to Bob Graham.

RUDIN: Well, she did lose her election, but she didn't lose re-nomination. By that, I'm looking for somebody who was defeated in the primary. Of course, Paula Hawkins lost to Bob Graham, who's a Democrat. Paula Hawkins is a Republican.

CONAN: So somebody who lost - an elected senator who lost in the party primary, subsequent. So thanks, Phil, very much. Let's see if we can go next - this is Michael(ph), Michael with us from August, Georgia.

MICHAEL (Caller): Was it possibly Liddy Dole in North Carolina?

RUDIN: Well, same thing. Liddy Dole, who is a Republican, lost to Kay Hagan, a Democrat, last time.

CONAN: In the general election, not...

RUDIN: In the general election, but not in the primary. I'm looking for somebody who was defeated - like Blanche Lincoln, had she lost yesterday in Arkansas, it would have been in the Democratic primary. I'm looking for the last elected female senator who was defeated in the primary for re-nomination.

CONAN: Thanks, Michael.

MICHAEL: Cool.

CONAN: All right. Let's go next to James(ph), James with us from Charlottesville.

JAMES (Caller): Was that Jean Carnahan?

RUDIN: Well, same thing. Jean Carnahan - actually, the difference here is that Jean Carnahan was never elected to the Senate. She was appointed to the Senate after her late husband was elected - after his death in a plane crash in 2000, but in 2002, she lost the race to a Republican. She was not beaten in the primary.

JAMES: All right.

CONAN: All right, James, thanks very much. Let's go to Troy(ph), and Troy is with us from Salt Lake City.

TROY (Caller): Hi. I'm going to say Carolyn Moseley Braun out of Illinois.

CONAN: Carol Moseley Braun, but...

RUDIN: Right. Same exact thing. She's a Democrat. She lost to Peter Fitzgerald six years after, you know, 1998.

CONAN: I think she lost to the Senate Ethics Committee.

RUDIN: Well, that didn't help, either. But again, she was not beaten - even though she came to the Senate by beating a Democrat in the primary, Alan Dixon, when she lost, she lost to a Republican.

CONAN: All right. Troy, thanks very much for the call. We'll see if we can get somebody else up with answers in just a minute.

RUDIN: You know, my mom knows the answer. You know, she could call in.

CONAN: Your mom could call in. That's how she could get that T-shirt. Of course, this could take a lot of scholarship, this particular answer.

Anyway, Ken, there were some interesting other races, a lot of proposition issues on the ballot in California, and an attorney, Orly Taitz, lost a race for the GOP nomination for the California secretary of state.

RUDIN: Well, everybody was watching that because Orly Taitz was one of the so-called birthers. She was the one who - you know, not the John Birth Society. But she was a very conservative - Neal's giving me a face - somebody who was one of the people who argued that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii, and matter of fact, he was born, wherever he was, he didn't have a birth certificate, he wasn't really born in this country, and...

CONAN: And therefore constitutionally ineligible.

RUDIN: Ineligible to be president. Well, so a lot of Republicans were afraid that they were going to be embarrassed and she was going to win the Republican nomination for secretary of state.

CONAN: And be on the statewide ballot.

RUDIN: Exactly. But she lost. She got like 22 percent against somebody, again somebody else whose name I don't remember. But the fact is we do know that she ran and lost.

CONAN: And we know where she was born, too. And let's get another caller on the line. Gary's(ph) with us from Marietta, Georgia.

GARY (Caller): Hey.

CONAN: Go ahead. Who do you think was the last elected woman senator to subsequently lose in her party's primary?

GARY: Hillary Clinton. Maybe you read about it.

RUDIN: Well, she didn't lose. She actually resigned her Senate seat.

GARY: She lost the primary.

CONAN: No, that was for president, not for Senate.

RUDIN: No, they're talking about...

GARY: You didn't say for Senate.

CONAN: He's right. We didn't say for Senate.

RUDIN: Lost her seat for the Senate. Re-nomination.

CONAN: Re-nomination, all right, okay. But Gary, good parsing. Do you happen to be an attorney, Gary?

GARY: I happen to be an attorney, and I need a T-shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Better luck next time, Gary.

RUDIN: You'll have to fight my mom for it.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get one more try in. This is Justin(ph), Justin with us from Mountain House in California.

JUSTIN (Caller): Yeah, who is Kathleen Blanco?

RUDIN: Kathleen Blanco was the governor of Louisiana, never ran for the Senate, never was elected to the Senate, and again, matter of fact, she didn't even run for re-election.

CONAN: But we like that you phrased your answer in the form of a question. Good luck on "Jeopardy!" next time, Justin.

So Ken, I think we're going to have to blurt out the answer, no T-shirt giveaway this week.

RUDIN: The answer is Hattie Caraway. Now...

CONAN: Who?

RUDIN: Exactly. She was the first woman ever elected to the Senate, from Arkansas, no less.

CONAN: You planted that seed earlier.

RUDIN: No, but I mean, she was elected in 1932 and 1938 and then defeated in the 1944 Democratic primary by William Fulbright.

CONAN: Wow. All right. Ken Rudin, the political junkie, is with us - you bet he is. Up next, the surprise in Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's odds may have improved. And they're headed for a runoff in governor in South Carolina. We'll check in on both those states. Stay with us, 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. You can get an extra fix of Ken on his blog or at his podcast. Go to npr.org/junkie to find that and of course the ScuttleButton Puzzle.

And we have an update on the trivia question. We got a correct answer from Gregory Chance(ph), wrote in on email: Was it Hattie Caraway in 1949? That's from Jonesboro, Arkansas.

RUDIN: It was '44, but that's the right person, so that's all we care about.

CONAN: No, he wrote '44. I just read '49. So I'm wrong, he's right. He gets a T-shirt. We'll email him back to get his particulars in return for a promise of a digital photograph to post on our Wall of Shame.

We're recapping the biggest day of the primary season. In Nevada yesterday, a win for a Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle. The former Reno assemblywoman emerged from the Republican primary for Senate with a landslide victory over one-time frontrunner Sue Lowden. And Angle's victory means that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have gotten the race he was looking forward to.

If you are in the Silver State, call and tell us how the races shape up for the fall, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And soon, we'll be talking about South Carolina, so in that state, too, we want your political prognostications for the fall, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org.

Joining us now is Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun columnist and host of "Face to Face," a daily public affairs talk show. He joins us on the phone from his office. Jon, nice to have you with us today.

Mr. JON RALSTON (Columnist, Las Vegas Sun): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: And Harry Reid looks like a winner yesterday.

Mr. RALSTON: Well, he certainly avoided getting the candidate he didn't want to get, and that was Sue Lowden, who he had - essentially, his campaign, every day, thought of something new to send out about Sue Lowden to try to bloody her up.

She was the more establishment candidate, more able, I think, to come back to the middle after the primary. Sharron Angle couldn't find the middle on a map if you gave it to her.

CONAN: Sharron Angle, tell us a little bit more about her.

Mr. RALSTON: Well, Sharron Angle really wasn't that well-known a figure statewide. She's a former assemblywoman from a district in Reno, in northern Nevada. She has not been in office for some time, ran for Congress in 2006 and almost won a Republican primary after the Club for Growth, the anti-tax group, poured a million dollars in on her behalf.

That same Club for Growth, along with the Tea Party Express, essentially propelled her candidacy, which was languishing at about five percent two months ago, into frontrunner status as the Lowden effort collapsed, and that fueled her victory.

CONAN: And the Lowden effort collapsed at least in part to that chicken for checkups comment.

Mr. RALSTON: Yes, that started in a little town called Mesquite, and then she repeated those comments: Your grandparents used to barter for chickens, chickens for health care. As I've said many times now during this race, Neal, the problem for Sue Lowden is chickens are very funny.

And so when you're ridiculed in politics, as Ken and others will tell you, that's much worse than getting attacked because you won't be taken seriously, and that really started the downward spiral.

CONAN: In national politics, when Leno and Letterman start telling jokes about you, you're in big trouble.

Mr. RALSTON: That's exactly what happened. And they came up with very clever videos here, the Democrats did. And that is a story that could have been just taken off the table within a 24- or 48-hour period, and they just let it go and go and go.

CONAN: They let the chicken story simmer and simmer and simmer. We could go on and on like this, but who would want to get under the broiler. Ken?

RUDIN: Jon, I mean, I've heard before that, you know, Democrats always wish they had the right candidate, and they got the right candidate in Sharron Angle. And I do remember Democrats saying the same thing about Ronald Reagan in 1980: Boy, I would love to run against Ronald Reagan.

Both - actually Pat Brown said that for governor. So be careful what you wish for. But fill us in, Sharron Angle has said some controversial things about some topics.

Mr. RALSTON: That's an understatement, and we don't have enough time on this program, and they're already putting those out, and they started last night.

It's interesting you mentioned the Reagan analogy, Ken, because when she got up last night to give her victory speech, she said exactly what you just said: They said Ronald Reagan was too conservative, too.

Sharron Angle is not Ronald Reagan. Sharron Angle has made a bunch of controversial comments, being against fluoridation of water, trying to - she's very pro-life, saying that abortion could be tied to breast cancer.

She had supported this program that came out during the campaign that would've - was tied to the Church of Scientology, that would have given prisoners massages and saunas as therapy in prison.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more that's going to come out, and you can be sure that the Reid campaign is ready to do so. In fact, even before the final returns were in last night, two websites went up, including one not coincidentally called The Wrong Angle, with a lot of these old, very controversial statements and pieces of legislation she's proposed.

RUDIN: You know, Jon, Neal and I have said on this show many times that even though polls always showed Harry Reid losing to any Republican, once you focus on a Republican, things are obviously different.

Mr. RALSTON: Yeah, and it's going to be very different. The last poll that was taken shows this race within the margin of error. I think that you're going to see the Reid campaign now just try to stop Sharron Angle dead in her tracks right away, to try to dissuade all the national money they thought was going to be coming in to help Sue Lowden from coming in to help Sharron Angle.

You know the Republican Party nationally and in Nevada is absolutely committed to taking out Harry Reid. They want to do what they did to Tom Daschle six years ago, take out the leader of the Democratic Party. So I still think there's a lot of money that's going to come in. But once Sharron Angle's record is exposed, it's going to be very, very difficult because 15 percent of the electorate here are independent voters.

Right now, they're against Harry Reid, but as you say, Ken, when they start to focus on who Sharron Angle really is, it's going to be a very difficult proposition for the Republicans.

CONAN: We want to hear from voters in Nevada. In a few minutes, we'll be focusing on South Carolina. So those of you in the Palmetto State can call in, too, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Dave(ph) is on the line, calling from Reno.

DAVE (Caller): Hey, how are you doing today?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

DAVE: Hey, listen. Sharron Angle was my assemblywoman, and I've got to tell you, she's a dogged campaigner. She hits the ground, goes door to door. She beat an incumbent assemblyman, I think Greg Brower, and she works real hard.

She has a heck of a following out in the rural counties, and - but the question really is, I mean, I've talked to a bunch of Republican friends of mine, and they said about the only thing that could make them vote for Harry Reid would be if Sharron Angle was the nominee.

CONAN: And so again, they may have gotten what they feared.

DAVE: Well, yeah. I think the Republicans are worried about that. But I think the other aspect of that is how this affects the gubernatorial race.

CONAN: And that's what I wanted to ask you about next, Jon Ralston. It could be a Reid legacy here.

Mr. RALSTON: Well, that's the interesting wildcard in the race, Neal, which is that there are going to be two Reids at the top of the ballot. Rory Reid, Harry Reid's son, is the chairman of the Clark County Commission, which is the most powerful local government body in the state here in southern Nevada.

He is trailing in the polls to a former federal judge, Brian Sandoval, who absolutely crushed the incumbent governor yesterday, Jim Gibbons, the first governor ever to lose in a primary in Nevada.

Sandoval has a big lead over Rory Reid. And the real question you have to ask yourself is - even as that caller points out - even if he can get some Republicans and independents to vote for Harry Reid, say we don't like or him, or we'd rather not have Sharron Angle, will they get down to - tick down to the next race on the ballot and say, well, one Reid, maybe, two Reids, I don't think so.

CONAN: What about Dave's point? Is Sharron Angle, does she has some respect for her work as a legislator as opposed to some of her more eccentric policy positions?

Mr. RALSTON: She has very little legislative record. She has very few successes. In fact, she was on the wrong end of a very, very bad 41-to-one vote. In fact, the joke in Carson City was the vote was 41 to Angle.

But what the caller said is true. She's an amazing campaigner. She thrives on it. And unlike Harry Reid, not to put too fine a point on it, she's very likable. She's a genuine human being. Even if you don't agree with a lot of the things she says, she comes across very well on the campaign trail.

But, you know, U.S. Senate races are not generally won by retail politicking. They're won by 30-second TV ads, and Harry Reid has $9 million he's about to start spending on 30-second TV ads.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Dave. We'll get one more caller in from Nevada, and this is Curtis(ph), Curtis with us from Gardnerville in Nevada.

CURTIS (Caller): Yes, hi. And I'll tell you, I've never voted in my life for a Republican, and living here in Nevada and working as an educator with the conservative element, I just could not rule Angle out. I just go day to day listening to birthers and such who have death panels, and I just scratch my head.

CONAN: Nevada has traditionally been, well, Harry Reid excepted, well, it's been going more Democratic in recent years, but Curtis is right. It's got a history as a Republican state.

Mr. RALSTON: Yeah, it certainly does, until Barack Obama won the state in a landslide in 2008. But things have turned around to some extent. The Democrats still have a 60,000-vote lead statewide. It was 100,000 at the election in 2008.

But Sharron Angle is going to get all those rural Nevada votes, as both the callers suggested. But Harry Reid is absolutely reviled in rural Nevada. They'd never vote for him anyway. The real question again is not whether the Republicans are going to want to vote against Harry Reid. They will. It's how do you get the moderates, the 15 percent that are registered non-partisans, to vote for you. And Harry Reid now is not looking good in that demographic.

But once the focus gets on Sharron Angle, I think he thinks he can pull some of those away.

CONAN: All right...

CURTIS: I'll throw one more into there. With Sandoval running for governor, it might hurt the base of the Hispanic vote that's always been Democratic.

CONAN: All right, Curtis, thank you very much for the observation. We appreciate it. And Jon Ralston, thanks very much for your time today.

Mr. RALSTON: My pleasure.

CONAN: Jon Ralston, a columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and host of "Face to Face," a daily public affairs program.

We're also focusing this - today on South Carolina, where another Tea Party darling fell just short of winning outright in the Republican primary for governor. Nikki Haley will face a runoff. Haley ran as the self-described anti-establishment candidate.

(Soundbite of speech)

State Representative NIKKI HALEY (Republican, South Carolina): And the thing that I knew was wrong was that South Carolina was settling. We were settling for a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican governor. I won't stop until we get a conservative House, a conservative...

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

CONAN: And in other South Carolina news, Alvin Greene, the surprise Democratic nominee, the winner in the primary yesterday to challenge Jim DeMint for U.S. Senate is facing a felony charge.

Now, we want to hear from those of you in South Carolina. Call and tell us how the race has shaped up for the fall. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Here to talk with us, Julie Rose, a reporter for our member station WFAE in Charlotte. She joins us from a studio there. Nice to have you with us today.

JULIE ROSE: Hello, Neal. Thanks.

CONAN: And not a lot of people thought Jim DeMint faced much of a problem come November. I think his odds just went up.

ROSE: Yes. Alvin Greene really - it's so funny. I spoke to this man. He's a Democrat, 32 year old from a small town in South Carolina. I just spoke to him just a few minutes ago. He said his phone has been ringing off the hook. I mean, until yesterday, nobody knew who he was. He hadn't raised any money, no signs, no campaign website. So, needless to say, a big surprise that he toppled a Democratic Party insider with a lot of money, a well-known guy from Charleston. So, definitely a surprise there.

CONAN: And we'll have to see how - he's yet to be indicted or charged in this felony case as yet. But in any case, we'll have to see how that works out. In any case, the Republican news - well, there was some scandal in the Republican Party as well. The outgoing governor has been on the trail to Argentina back and forth some time. Nevertheless, the party to - the primary to replace him as the GOP nominee, well, turned very, very interesting.

ROSE: It did. And Nikki Haley was Governor Sanford's chosen heir heading into this Republican primary a year or so ago. And she was the only woman in the race with three other very credible candidates. She was also the only one of the four that has not won statewide office. She's a state representative. And she was running against the lieutenant governor, the attorney general and a sitting congressman. She will go into a runoff against Congressman Gresham Barrett.

Just two weeks before her - before the primary, one of her long-time supporters, a former staffer, now a political blogger said he'd had an affair with her. And then about five days later, a political lobbyist said, I had a one-night stand with Nikki Haley. And to both allegations, Nikki Haley said, no, I've been 100 percent faithful to my husband of 13 years. And in fact, the allegations so far unproven, seem only to have solidified her voter base. And she really brought out a lot of people to yesterday's - almost a record number of voters in this Republican primary yesterday.

CONAN: We're talking with Julie Rose, a reporter for our member station WFAE in Charlotte. You're listening to the Political Junkie segment on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Julie, I heard a lot of Republican officials, first of all, very excited about Nikki Haley's showing yesterday. She got 49 percent of the vote. She barely missed winning the nomination outright. And they basically talked about her as if she was the nominee. How much pressure is there on Congressman Barrett to drop out of the runoff?

ROSE: There's a quite a bit of pressure, although, so far - I mean, in the last 24 hours, he has given no indication that he plans to drop out. He did only get 22 percent of the vote to Haley's 49 percent. And in South Carolina, it's also important to remember that only people who voted in the first primary can vote in the second primary, the runoff. So Haley - Nikki Haley definitely has the deck stacked, if you will, coming into this June 22nd primary.

CONAN: And let's get Denise(ph) on the line, Denise with us from Columbia, South Carolina.

DENISE (Caller): Yes, Neal. I just wanted to say that don't crown Nikki Haley the governor yet because the minority faction of South Carolina has not spoken yet. And we plan to galvanize our support for our candidate. I think, overall, the state is tired of the Republicans, regardless of whether it's Nikki Haley or Barrett or anybody. But we need to move forward in a totally different direction, and I think we got a real shot at it.

CONAN: Julie Rose, do the polls support that?

ROSE: She makes a good point, your caller does. The Democrat running for - that will face whoever comes out of this runoff between Haley and Barrett is Vincent Sheheen. And he has run a very solid campaign, overcoming a state - as a state superintendent of public schools, actually, a statewide officeholder there. And he is unknown. He has less baggage, less connections to the establishment. And so, there definitely is a sentiment according to the polls in the South Carolina that people are tired, first of all, of having their lawmakers' sex lives dragged through late night jokes and...

DENISE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ROSE: Yeah. And they're eager to see a change and to kind of - and one thing that Vincent Sheheen, the Democrat, has been talking about is, you know, look, we've seen what we've been through with Governor Sanford in office for the last year. Do we want another Republican who also potentially has sex scandals attached him or her? Let's move on. I'm your guy, so...

CONAN: Denise, thanks for the call. Appreciate it.

DENISE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Ken?

RUDIN: And Julie, plus the fact that - basically, the Sanford political machine seems to have united behind Haley. And Mark Sanford, I think, vouched for her integrity. It's like, you know, Ken Rudin vouching for Neal Conan's integrity, you know, wears it as a badge of honor.

CONAN: With friends like that, yeah.

ROSE: There was a lot of concern early on. I mean, Governor Sanford endorsed Nikki Haley as his chosen heir just right before, I think, the whole Argentinean affair, hike down the Appalachian Trail thing happened last summer. And so a lot of people thought, oh, you know, Nikki Haley is done for because she's got the Sanford stamp, it's going to, you know, ruin any chance that she has of success. And that certainly has not been the case.

CONAN: We'll be checking back in with you. Julie Rose, thanks very much for your time.

ROSE: You're welcome. Thank you.

CONAN: Julie Rose, a reporter for member station WFAE in Charlotte. Ken, this email question: What do the overall results of the primaries to date suggest about the outcome of the November elections? Will the Democrats retain control of the House and Senate?

RUDIN: Well, I think everybody feels yes. The question is how much, how close the Republicans will get. They need 10 seats in the Senate to take control, and that probably includes Joe Lieberman switching and all that stuff. But, no, they will - Republicans - Democrats will maintain control. Republicans still look like they will gain in the House and Senate.

CONAN: All right. That email - I forgot to mention - from Charles(ph) in Birmingham, Alabama. Ken Rudin, as always, we thank you very much for your time.

RUDIN: And thanks, mom, for coming in.

CONAN: And thanks to her - his mom, Claire, for reading the trivia question for us this week. Coming up, some critics complain that President Obama isn't mad enough about the oil spill. Are we seeing a tougher-talking president? Do you want a tougher-talking president?

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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