Rep. Bob Inglis On Republican 'Demagoguery'

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), represents South Carolina's fourth district
Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll

In June, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) lost his re-election bid to Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy. In recent interviews, the lame duck congressman has suggested Republican leaders are falling prey to a "demagoguery" that threatens their party's credibility.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

As the dog days arrive, polls show a dead heat for Pennsylvania Senate. The president's numbers cool while the NAACP and the Tea Party exchange fire. It's Wednesday and time for a who's-hot-and-who's-not edition of the Political Junkie.

Former 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?

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 Im the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk politics. This week, the White House worries that Democrats could lose the House in November then says, eh, no problem.

The NAACP and the Tea Party trade charges of racism. A Byrd successor to be named in West Virginia. Plagiarism in Colorado. Crist holds the edge in Florida, and the president's poll numbers, well, his dog likes him. And, you know what? Ken Rudin's numbers still hold strong - with his mom - and he's here with us in Studio 3A, and we begin with our weekly trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. This is actually the first this is a little historical note the first time we're doing a trivia question without George Steinbrenner as president - as owner of the Yankees, which is a very tragic thing.

Another tragic thing happened yesterday in the All-Star Game: The National League won. I think it was the most upsetting news for me since Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston said they were engaged again. That's another upsetting thing.

CONAN: Well, they're just trying to steal the headlines.

RUDIN: Exactly. Well, anyway, speaking of baseball, the National League won yesterday, the baseball All-Star Game, for the first time since 1996. That ends a streak of 13 straight years, when the National League failed to win, and since we're doing the Political Junkie segment...

CONAN: That's what I'm told anyway, yeah.

RUDIN: Exactly, and we're talking about winning streaks. What states have the longest Senate election winning streaks for Republicans and Democrats?

CONAN: So if you think you know the answer to the question, which states have the longest Senate election winning streaks for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. If you get them both, you win a T-shirt, the fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt, and again, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org.

In the meantime, Ken, actual votes cast yesterday in Alabama.

RUDIN: Yes, the Republicans now have a candidate for governor. It was actually the outsider who won. The outsider is a guy by the name of Robert Bentley. He's a state representative. He was not expected to even show up in the runoff.

He finished a bare second place in the June primary, and he defeated a guy by the name of Bradley Byrne, who is the former state chancellor of community colleges, and the entire Republican establishment backed Bradley Byrne.

Robert Bentley ran as an outsider - and also, Bradley Byrne was attacked by the Alabama Education Association - which is a very powerful teachers' lobbying group in Alabama, attacked him for being their candidate against teachers.

And so Bentley will now be the Republican nominee against Ron Sparks. He's the Democratic nominee who beat Artur Davis, a congressman, and ends up being in the November election.

Two other things to point out in the Alabama runoff. One, the Republicans got the candidate they wanted in the Second District. Martha Roby will be the nominee against Bobby Bright, who is a Democratic freshman. And in the Seventh District, where Artur Davis gave up the seat, Terri Sewell will be, by all accounts because it's tantamount to victory, it's a big Democratic seat.

CONAN: I love that word.

RUDIN: I know you love that. She'll be the first African-American woman sent to Congress from Alabama.

CONAN: In the meantime, let's go out a little further west to the state of Colorado, where the Republican - the leading Republican in the gubernatorial race there, they've not yet held their primary - but he now faces charges of plagiarism.

RUDIN: Right. Scott McInnis, a former congress, he left Congress I guess about six years ago, he is thought to be the frontrunner in the August 10 primary. He apparently wrote some essays that he passed off as his own. Basically, he took them from somebody else, who happened to be a Supreme Court justice in Colorado.

He blamed it he apologized. He said it was unacceptable but unintentional. He apologized. He blamed a research aide. But now the Denver Post and other organizations are saying that he should drop out of the race for governor.

CONAN: And indeed that he may have had other incidents of plagiarism, a column he wrote back in 1994.

RUDIN: Exactly. The Democrats are favored in that race, anyway. John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, is favored to win it. This is the race where Governor Bill Ritter is not running for re-election, a Democrat.

CONAN: And there is, since we last convened, some news from West Virginia on a successor to the late Senator Robert Byrd.

RUDIN: It looks like it's going to happen by Friday at 5 PM. Joe Manchin, the governor, says he will not appoint himself, although he will by all accounts run for that seat. But he will name a candidate by 5 PM Friday, a lot of speculation. I think it's going to be Nick Casey, who is a former Democratic state chairman.

It's not only important for West Virginia, it's very important for the Democrats in the Senate. They desperately need an extra vote to pass unemployment extension - unemployment benefits extension - and they fell short by one vote following Robert Byrd's death. With that new senator in place, they should have the votes.

CONAN: And there's also well, that's not going to factor in the vote on, what is it, the financial reform - yes.

RUDIN: Financial regulation. They do have the votes for that because three Republicans have come over: Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the three Republicans. Only one Democrat is voting no on that, Russ Feingold, but they're going to probably have a cloture vote, Harry Reid says, by Thursday, perhaps Thursday morning.

They think they do have enough votes. Ben Nelson, who had been a holdout, a Democrat from Nebraska, said he will vote for it. So the Democrats should have the 60 votes. But they're again one vote short for the unemployment benefit extension, and that's why they desperately need another vote from West Virginia.

CONAN: And let's see if we can go now to the phones, where people think they have the answer to this week's trivia question, again winning streaks, the states that have the longest Senate election winning streaks for the Republicans and for the Democrats, got to get them both, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And let's start with Maria(ph), Maria on the line with us from Iowa City.

MARIA (Caller): Hi, yes, it's Iowa.

RUDIN: Well, no because let me explain. Maybe I didn't explain the question. But for example, right now, Iowa has...

CONAN: Iowa's north of the Rio Grande.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: They have Chuck Grassley, who is a Republican, and they have Tom Harkin, a Democrat. What states have gone the longest with only electing a Democrat to the Senate? What states have gone the longest with only electing a Republican to the Senate?

CONAN: So Maria, we apologize. We did not phrase the question apparently correct.

MARIA: Oh, I don't think it was clear at all.

RUDIN: Well, that's why I apologize, and I will not give you a T-shirt anyway, but I do apologize.

CONAN: Thanks very much for...

MARIA: You're not going to give me a T-shirt? Oh, that is rude.

RUDIN: She hates me already.

CONAN: She does. Well, she joins the many.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Maria, thank you so much. Let's see if we can go next to Andrew(ph), Andrew with us from Roanoke in Virginia.

ANDREW (Caller): Hey, for the Republicans, I think it's Kansas, and for the Democrats, I'm going to go with Maryland.

RUDIN: Well, let me tell you why it's not Maryland, although I will tell you Kansas is one of the two states we wanted. Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. That is I think 28 elections in a row for Republicans.

But the reason it is not Maryland, as recently as 1980, you had a Republican elected to the Senate. That was Mac Mathias. So Maryland is not the one we're looking for. But you did get Kansas. So no T-shirt, but...

CONAN: Maybe a sleeve.

RUDIN: A sleeve.

CONAN: Okay, thank you. Andrew, thanks very much. Let's go next to Rory(ph), and Rory's with us from Tallahassee.

RORY (Caller): Hey, I was going to say Massachusetts and South Carolina, but...

RUDIN: Well, Massachusetts, of course, no longer, because Scott Brown won on January 19. So that streak is over. And what was the other one you said?

RORY: South Carolina.

RUDIN: No, South Carolina because for the longest time, you had Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings. Fritz Hollings is a Democrat. So you've had to have had a Democrat recently in South Carolina.

CONAN: It's sometimes hard to tell on the basis of how he voted, but nevertheless, Rory, thanks very much.

Let's see if we can go to Suzanne(ph), Suzanne with us from St. Louis.

SUZANNE (Caller): Hello. Kansas for the Republicans and West Virginia for the Democrats?

RUDIN: That is correct.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

SUZANNE: And you told us this last week.

RUDIN: Well, not everybody pays attention, nor should they. But anyway no, we did mention that West Virginia was, not since 1956, but not everybody knew that was the record, and that is the record.

When Robert Byrd won in 1958, the Democrats have come up with 19, I believe, 19 in a row, Democrats have won West Virginia Senate races.

CONAN: And so Suzanne, we're going to put you on hold and collect your particulars so we can send you a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in response for a promise to send us a digital picture of yourself to be posted on the wall of shame.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SUZANNE: Okay.

CONAN: All right. Stay on the line if you would, and I think I even hit the right button. In the meantime, Ken, there has been a political dustup in the past couple of days. The NAACP has called on the Tea Party to renounce what it describes as racist elements amid its midst; and the Tea Party, various spokesman have come back and said wait a minute, it's not us who are the racists here.

RUDIN: Well, first of all, the problem, the way I see it, there is no Tea Party. Tea Parties are a conglomeration of different organizations, of people who are just unhappy with the role of the government. But more importantly, what the NAACP is responding to is that there was an ugly spectacle of members, African-American members of Congress, who when they came out from voting on the health care reform several months ago, they heard epithets from people outside, so-called Tea Party protestors outside.

Emanuel Cleaver, a black congressman from Missouri, said he was spat upon. So they called they passed this resolution to, you know, to stop tolerating bigotry.

And the Tea Party said look, there are yes, there are fringe members, but there are fringe members of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There's always fringe members, and we have we the Tea Party have done what we can to root out these fringe members. But so...

CONAN: But, we stand for lower taxes and smaller government and not...

RUDIN: Not on race. As a matter of fact, Sarah Palin, on her Facebook page, said this was just really unacceptable, and it was just ridiculous to single out Tea Party members.

CONAN: Well, this is not likely to go away anytime soon.

RUDIN: No.

CONAN: In the meantime, something else coming up for November. On Sunday's "Meet the Press," talking with David Gregory, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, well, worried about what a lot of Democrats are worried about - the party may not carry House majority in November.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): I think there's no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There's no doubt about that. This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats, and again, I think we've got to take the issues to them.

CONAN: And while that might sound like he was saying, that's in play, it could happen, the Republicans could win control of the House, apparently after some discussions with Speaker Pelosi, he says, well, that's not what I said.

RUDIN: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is furious that the Democrats will talk about the possibility that the Democrats could lose control. But I suspect really what it was, it was a game by the White House, and I think it is a game by the White House, to try to raise expectations.

If first of all, the Republicans need 39 seats in the House, a net gain of 39 seats, to take control of the House and depose Nancy Pelosi as speaker. If they don't gain if they only gain 25 seats or 30 seats, we can say aha, the Republicans didn't do as well as everybody expected.

So a lot of people think that maybe he was trying to raise, play the expectation game. But Nancy Pelosi says the last thing my members want to hear is that we have a chance of losing control of the House, and that hurts fundraising, and things like that.

CONAN: Very quickly, and we're going to be focusing on polls in California in our new segment; but polls in the state of Pennsylvania show that the Democratic and Republican nominees appear to be in a dead heat. And there are also new polls that show in Florida, the current governor, Charlie Crist, in the lead for the Senate nomination, where of course he's the independent now.

RUDIN: That's the nomination for the general election.

CONAN: For the general election, exactly.

RUDIN: The oil spill seems to have helped him.

CONAN: We're talking with Ken Rudin, our political junkie. When we come back, Bob Inglis, the Republican congressman from South Carolina who recently lost the Republican primary and had some choice words for members of his own party. 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 Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin is with us as always. You can check out his blog and his Podcast and take your best shot at the ScuttleButton puzzle, all at npr.org/junkie.

In a few minutes, we're going to focus on California, where races are heating up for governor, the state house and the U.S. Senate. We want to hear from listeners in the Golden State. How are things playing out there? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

But first, Congressman Bob Inglis, a 12-year incumbent representing South Carolina's Fourth District, last month defeated in the Republican primary by Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy, and he's been pretty clear about how he feels about this result, and he joins us on the line today from his office here in Washington. Congressman, nice to have you with us today. Condolences on your loss.

Representative BOB INGLIS (Republican, South Carolina): Thanks, Neal. Good to be with you.

CONAN: And you've said you think Republican leaders are falling prey to, quote, demagoguery. What do you mean by that?

Rep. INGLIS: Well, I think we need to make sure to focus on real solutions, you know, and not focus so much on scapegoats. And whatever we do, make sure to present credible information because I think there's a real chance of Republicans taking control in November.

And if that's the case, we don't want to be the dog that catches the car, you know, and then what do you do with it. We want to be the folks who have solutions and are ready to go.

CONAN: And by being the dog that caught the car, you mean by electing well, tell us exactly, what do you mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. INGLIS: In other words, people that get elected and take control but have no real plans about what to do once taking control. Because what we're in is a very difficult situation in our country, where we have to deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to balance the budget.

And that's going to be a very difficult, difficult task. And it's going to require people of goodwill coming together to find a solution, Republicans and Democrats working together to find a way to get that done.

And, you know, I was here when Bill Clinton signed welfare reform. He signed it the third time. After we Republicans had passed it twice, he vetoed it - and then the third time around, he signed it. By the time he signed it, even a majority of welfare recipients were for it, said polling data. So it is an opportunity there to come together and get something done.

We've got to do that again in these circumstances: come together and figure out how to deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What does not help is passing around misinformation about where we are.

This is not a problem that was created by the Obama administration. It was not created by the Bush administration. This is decades building to this crescendo, where we are at risk of going the way of the country priests.

CONAN: And there were moments during the campaign, I think there was one town hall meeting where you were jeered when you suggested that we should not question the patriotism of the president of the United States nor his birth certificate.

Rep. INGLIS: Yeah, because I think that those kinds of discussions really aren't productive. They're not going to get us to what we want. And it's back to the dog-catching-the-car kind of thing.

If you run a campaign that's based on that, on whether the president has a birth certificate and those kind of topics, then when you win, just how do you go about convincing people to follow your lead as you deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

Of course, the good news is there are people here in the Republican Party who have ideas about how to deal with that. Paul Ryan, for example, who will become Budget Committee chairman, has a roadmap for America's future. Jeff Flake is a very credible conservative. Jack Kingston is the kind of guy you want leading.

Those are folks that have credible plans about what to do. Some of the folks with the hot microphones out there, though, get to talk -basically vilify the other side. That'll maybe get you through an election cycle, but it surely doesn't set up an opportunity to govern.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Congressman, just to let the audience know exactly why we have you here. When you were first elected to Congress in '92, I see this script in here, you were described by Congressional Quarterly as being as close to being a true revolutionary as anyone in the GOP House class of '92.

Then you left in '98 to run for the Senate and came back, and you suddenly were no longer a conservative. You were no longer Republican enough for these Republican voters. What happened to the Republican Party voters in the time you first were elected to Congress and when you came back, and what happened to Bob Inglis in that interim?

Rep. INGLIS: Well, I think that what happened to Bob Inglis, what happened to me, is that I became aware, really, that the first six years I was in Congress, I was out to get Bill Clinton.

And then I had six years out to look back and realize that really was a terrible motivation. You know, I mean, that's not a grand enough goal. And so if I had the opportunity to come back, and thankfully, I did get the opportunity to come back in 2004, I figured I'd focus on solutions more than scapegoats. And so that's what I set about doing in my second time in Congress.

And what happened to the electorate, I think, is there's a real emotional kind of reaction to the president, President Obama, and to the Democratic agenda and a great deal of fear that goes with that. Understandably, because we're $1.4 trillion in deficit, $13 trillion in debt, and that really worries people.

So but the point that I made, to my detriment, was that it's not Barack Obama's fault. We could blame it on him, but then if we do in fact catch the car, we're going to be the people that don't have a plan.

So what we have to do is help people understand why we're in this spot, why it is we've got to change Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

CONAN: I wonder, there was, two years, an election in the state of Maryland, where a Republican, Wayne Gilchrist, was defeated in his party primary and then was so taken aback by the tactics and the stances of his rival, that he endorsed the Democrat in the race. Is that the situation where you are there in South Carolina?

Rep. INGLIS: No, you know, Trey Gowdy, my anticipated replacement, is a fine fellow, and I think he'll do fine. I think eventually, the situation will calm down a little bit, and people will say that, you know, really, we are looking for solutions more than scapegoats. We really want people to offer credible plans about how to get out of this problem because it is a problem that we're all in.

We've got to get out of this habit of thinking that this is, you know, this is a partisan fight here. This is an American fight that we need to be about, and I hope that my party is the first one to go adult here, because the first party that goes adult and says really, we're here as solution agents, and we have got plans to fix this American problem it doesn't have to be exactly my way, but we do need to fix Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.

And of course, the challenge is that the conventional wisdom is you can't say those words Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without touching something like the third rail. Surely, in Social Security is the third rail - but the other ones are, as well.

And so but we've got to get over that. We've got to have the courage to touch them, and it has to be with the courage to fall on a political hill. You know, we have people in Afghanistan and Iraq falling on literal hills. Surely we can ask members of Congress to fall on a political hill, and maybe lose their careers, because they're doing the right thing for the country.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Congressman, quickly, if I were a conservative Republican, this is the argument I would make against Bob Inglis: You were one of 17 Republicans to vote against the Bush surge in Iraq. You were one of only seven Republicans who admonished Joe Wilson during the you lie, and Joe Wilson coming from your own state of South Carolina. Are there some votes you and of course, there was also the bank bailout vote in 2008.

Are there some votes you wish you could take back?

Rep. INGLIS: Certainly not those, because, you know, as the Joe Wilson matter, I think the rules are the rules. I've got this quaint notion they should apply fairly and evenly.

But, you know, I've got five kids, and I've always told them, you know, it's always the right time to do the right thing. So and I don't find an exception to that when your party needs you or something. So what we're looking for is the American interests, not a political party's interest.

And in the case of the surge, thankfully President Bush turned out to be right substantively, and I was wrong, which I'm very glad about. But based on the information at the time, it was a signal that I wanted to send that, you know, we're concerned about nation-building as a conservative, we're concerned about nation-building, and it's the concern that I think credible conservatives should have going forward, as well.

CONAN: You know, we've heard a lot about time limits. After your experience, congressman, maybe we should maybe both parties in the search for being adults should order all their representatives to have a time out like you did.

Rep. INGLIS: Well, yeah, it's very helpful because it gives you perspective because, you know, when you sit in the audience, and you see from the show from the audience's perspective for six years, you see it very differently.

And so that's why I came back with a different kind of approach, which worked fine until the economy turned down, and then people were very worried about their mortgages and their businesses, and that, unfortunately, sends people looking for someone to blame.

But good leaders figure out a way to persuade people - and obviously, I wasn't as good as I thought at persuading people - that really what you're looking for is a solution, not a scapegoat.

CONAN: Congressman, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Rep. INGLIS: Good to be with you.

CONAN: Bob Inglis, Republican of South Carolina, who lost his primary challenge to Trey Gowdy, substantially, by 42 points. So he will not be returning to Congress in January.

In the meantime, we want to switch subjects. And sorry the congressman was so interesting the - given Mark DiCamillo less time than we'd hope. But we'd like to hear from voters in California about the Senate and gubernatorial races there. Mark DiCamillo is the head of the Field Poll, which measures public opinion trends there, and joins us from his office in San Francisco. And Mark, nice to have you with us today.

Mr. MARK DiCAMILLO (Director, Field Poll): Thank you very much.

CONAN: And interesting development. Of course, this is no up for election. This has already been decided. Prop 14 requires that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the two top vote-getters meeting in a runoff. The idea is it might steer candidates to the political middle. Is that going to work?

Mr. DiCAMILLO: Well, it's been tried before in California and was ruled unconstitutional. So this new measure avoids the constitutional pitfalls. It will be interesting to see what the effects will be. I mean, the practical effects on voters is that when they go to the polls to vote in a primary, they will have one, long ballot which will include the candidates of all parties, and they will be asked to choose one candidate. And then the top two vote-getters will proceed to the general election.

Now, for some congressional districts, state Senate districts, assembly districts, the two top vote-getters, because of the nature of the district, is likely to be of the same party. And therefore, you could have two Democrats running against each other in the general election. I don't think that will happen that much in the top-of-the-ticket races. I would expect that a top Democrat and a top Republican will likely faceoff in most of the other races.

But what that might do is that, in the general election - since two candidates of the same party will be squaring off against one another -that might moderate the winner. It will - because the other party's rank-and-file will be weighing in on the preference between the two Democrats or the two Republicans. So it could have an effect in changing who would win in the general election. And that the advocates are saying that that would mean that the more moderate candidate, more palatable candidate to the other party, would have the advantage in those races.

CONAN: Well, in a strictly Republican primary, there's a smaller, more activist group, same thing on - in the Democratic side. And the idea is you can outflank somebody to the right in the Republican primary, and to the left in the Democratic primary. And this would ameliorate that.

Mr. DiCAMILLO: That's correct. That's the theory, and we'll have to wait and see how that actually plays out, and then how many different races it would impact. I don't think it would have actually have that great of an impact in this past election for Congress and across the congressional districts this year. Some - there was an analysis of the vote and who would have advanced, just given the partisan primaries that we had. But it would have affected a number of assembly and state Senate races in terms of who would have gone to the general election final.

CONAN: We're talking with Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Field Poll in California. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as always. Ken?

RUDIN: Mark, hi. Thanks for being here. I guess this proposition would also mean that a third-party candidate could never win in the general election, unless he or she finished in the top two in the primary. So, example, like a Jesse Ventura winning as a third-party candidate in Minnesota. A third candidate, that couldn't - there would be no third candidate in November.

Mr. DiCAMILLO: Well, that's probably true, although, you know, somebody like an Arnold Schwarzenegger could appear on the scene, and even if he wasn't a Democrat or a Republican, might do quite well in that kind of open primary situation. But, you know, California right now, only 5 percent of voters are registered with another party other than the Democratic or Republican Party. So the other third parties that you're thinking of - whether it be the Green Party, Peace and Freedom, Libertarian or so on - are very, very small. Very few voters are registered with those formal third parties. I don't think, though, that it would prevent a well-known personality from coming into the race without party affiliation and not having a chance. I think somebody like a Schwarzenegger could have.

CONAN: Let's see if we get a caller in. Rick is on the line, calling from San Francisco. Rick, go ahead. Rick's call seemed to have dropped away. Let's go instead to Laura, Laura with us from Sacramento.

LAURA (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi. Go ahead, please.

LAURA: Mark, good to talk to you. I'm troubled with regards to Prop 14 because it means that we might not even have a two-party election. It troubles me that a candidate wouldn't necessary have to define their political viewpoints, that you could have stealth candidates, and then we could end up with two candidates of the same party and not know very much about them. I think that it's a terrible proposition. I think it's going to deny voters an opportunity to support the party that most closely aligns with their political ideology.

Mr. DiCAMILLO: Well, that's really an issue that's going to be up to voters, whether they will actually educate themselves to vote for people who they know, you know, where the candidate stands on various issues. I tend to have more confidence in voters in how they make decisions than, perhaps, you do. Maybe that's misplaced, but I tend to think voters usually sort things out for themselves by the time they go to the polls to vote and that, you know, they probably will have enough information to make a decision on which candidate they would choose. And, you know, the fact that a voter may be duped into voting for someone who - whose decisions they don't really understand, I'm not as worried.

CONAN: Laura, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it. And, again, we apologize for leaving so little time.

Mark, we're going to have to catch up with you another time to talk about the races for the state House and for the Senate. But quickly, in 20 seconds, can you tell us what's happening on Proposition 19, the proposition to legalize marijuana?

Mr. DiCAMILLO: Well, we took an initial reading on that proposition in our current measure. And right now, we're showing that 48 percent of voters are on the no side, 44 percent on the yes side. So it's starting out slightly behind, although it's quite close.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much. Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which measures public opinion trends in California, with us today on the line from his office in San Francisco.

Our thanks, as well, to NPR's political editor, Ken Rudin, who joins us every Wednesday as our Political Junkie. Ken, thanks.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Up next, Fidel Castro makes his first TV appearance in years as the Cuban government lets the first of 52 political prisoners go. To what end?

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

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