Sunshine State Political Campaigns Heating Up
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
Tom DeLay, off the hook, at least on federal charges. In Detroit, Monica Conyers gets three years for bribery. And in Chicago, Rod Blagojevich celebrates when he's convicted of just one felony.
It's Wednesday and time for a hung jury 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 to review the week in politics. Yesterday, primary voters in Washington set up a Murray-Rossi run for the Senate. A mama grizzly falls just short in Wyoming.
A bit later, we'll look ahead to next week's primaries in Florida, where multi-millionaire outsiders pose real challenges in both parties, in Arizona, where John McCain spent $20 million to try to fend off J.D. Hayworth, and to Alaska. Plus, the politics of the ground zero mosque debate.
Later in the program, the New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson on the effective repression of the opposition Green Movement in Iran. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin back from vacation with us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question.
KEN RUDIN: Neal, was there a show last week? Because I wasn't here.
CONAN: I think we were here with somebody named Ron Elving.
RUDIN: Oh, there was a show.
RUDIN: Oh. Oh. Oh, well. OK. Trivia question.
CONAN: Great stuff, too.
RUDIN: Trivia question is: Illinois has already seen three of its governors -Otto Kerner, Dan Walker and George Ryan - go to prison. It's possible that Rod Blagojevich - only one conviction - could go to prison, too. That is a five-year prison sentence.
RUDIN: Maximum, right. OK. In the past 40 years, Illinois has had the most former governors go to prison. What state is in second place, a very honorable...
CONAN: Really a Hall of Shame. Yes.
CONAN: So if you think you know the state that in the past 40 years is in second place in number of governors sent to prison, give us a call, 800-989-8255, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. We've ordered another shipment of Political Junkie t-shirts, so those of you waiting will get yours. And you can win one if you know the answer to this. Again, it's 800-989-8255, email us: email@example.com.
In the meantime, Ken, oh, well, let's go right to the docket. Rod Blagojevich, as we mentioned, guilty of just one so far. The jury hung on 23 other counts. And the prosecutors immediately said they would go for a retrial.
RUDIN: Right. And as it turned out, it looks like that, of the entire jury, there may have been only one holdout of the whole jury and of the 23 to 24 counts that he was not - that they were stuck on. That they probably would have bring back.
Of course, Blagojevich, as we've heard all day on NPR, you know, that he's relieved that he's been exonerated. And, you know, it's been a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers money.
And, of course, a lot of the Democrats in Illinois have been breathing a sigh of relief, too. They want this over with. They want Blagojevich out of the headlines because they have a very endangered governor and a very endangered Senate seat that they're trying to defend in November.
But if the government does retry these cases - these charges against Blagojevich, and I guess they intend to do that, that could be more nightmares for the Democrats approaching the fall.
CONAN: In the meantime, Rod Blagojevich accused the federal prosecutor in Chicago there of persecuting him. And, indeed, that was the stance taken by his lead attorney, Sam Adam, who said that Mr. Fitzgerald - who we remember of course from the trial of Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney - that Mr. Fitzgerald was on a witch hunt.
Mr. SAM ADAMS (Attorney): This guy Fitzgerald is a master at indicting people for noncriminal behavior. And if you don't believe me, go ask Scooter Libby. Same thing happened with him. They couldn't get him on any substantive offense, so they got him on some bull cheese that wasn't even a crime. Ask Scooter Libby, this guy is going wild. This guy is nuts.
CONAN: Scooter Libby has since - eventually commuted by President Bush, though he was not pardoned.
RUDIN: And not anybody planning to commute Rod Blagojevich any time soon.
Everybody's trying to guess whether Blagojevich will join that very attractive group of former Illinois governors who've gone to prison. The jury's out. But my guess is that he still will spend some time in prison ultimately.
CONAN: And there is the other case, this going back to the Abramoff scandal. And this is Tom DeLay, a former major figure in the Republican leadership in Congress. The Justice Department announced it will not file charges against him.
RUDIN: Right. Not everybody's happy about that. There are a lot of ethics groups in Washington - good ethics groups in Washington say that this is a wrong decision. Tom DeLay, of course, is exonerated, at least on the federal charges regarding Jack Abramoff, the recently-released-from-prison former lobbyist.
CONAN: Now, pizza chef.
RUDIN: That's what he is now. Exactly. And, of course, the other members of Congress, Bob Ney, a former DeLay staffer, who did go to prison for this.
Now, Tom DeLay is still is not out of the woods. There is a money laundering indictment back from 2005 that's still in from Texas. But Tom DeLay says he will get past that, as well.
CONAN: And as we mentioned very briefly, Monica Conyers, former councilwoman from the city of Detroit and wife of John Conyers, the congressman, longtime congressman from Detroit, is going to jail for three years after she pleaded guilty, wanted to retract that plea agreement. Big scene in court yesterday. Anyway, she's going to be off for three years.
In the meantime, we did have actual votes yesterday in the primaries. And the big one appeared to be in the state of Washington, where that Senate race shapes up as a key one if Republicans want to get back control of the Senate.
RUDIN: And that's - first of all, the Republicans need 10 - a net gain of 10 seats in the Senate. That's a pretty tough number to reach. Of course, if there's a tsunami, as we saw in 1994, yes, it's certainly possible. But Patty Murray was never on the list. She was first elected in 1992. She was thought to be cruising to a fourth term.
Dino Rossi, who ran for governor twice, in 2004, he lost by, like, 157 votes. It was extremely close to Christine Gregoire. He lost again in 2008 by a much larger margin. Anyway, Rossi got in the race in May and now it looks like it's very close.
If you look at all the numbers in yesterday's Washington primary - in the Washington primary, all the candidates are on the same ballot. And the top two finishers, regardless of party, move on to - advance to the November general election.
So first was Patty Murray with 46 percent, Dino Rossi with 34 percent. But of the total number of votes, the Republicans got 49.8 percent...
CONAN: Ooh ooh.
RUDIN: ...which means that Patty Murray is not - certainly is not safe. She's not out of the woods. She will have a very tough competitive race in November.
CONAN: And we also had a primary in Wyoming. And the Republican side came down to - well, it got very close.
RUDIN: Very close. The winner - as a matter of fact, two of the candidates were related. A lot of it, we talk about families and relations. The reason I'm talking about this in Wyoming, Matt Mead, the former U.S. attorney there, he's the grandson of former Senator Cliff Hansen. He defeated, among others, the son of Alan Simpson, who - Colin Simpson, who's the speaker of the House. But Matt Mead barely defeated the state auditor there, Rita Meyer, who was backed by Sarah Palin.
CONAN: A mama grizzly.
RUDIN: A mama grizzly. We talk a lot about Sarah Palin endorsements. And at some point we're going to decide that this is not worth talking about. But there is a primary coming up next week in Alaska where Sarah Palin's influence is very interesting, because there's a revenge factor there.
CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go to the phones, where there's some people who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question.
To remind you, it is - we know that now Illinois has sent more governors to the slammer over the past 40 years than any other state - and perhaps we'll have a fourth - what is the state that is in second place. Again, most governors to the slammer in the last 40 years?
RUDIN: We're number two.
CONAN: We're number two.
CONAN: The Avis of corrupt governors.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Let's go to Sean(ph). Sean's with us from Kent Island in Maryland.
SEAN: Hey, are you on the air?
CONAN: Yeah, you are, too.
SEAN: Am I on the air?
CONAN: You are.
SEAN: Hey, I was thinking that it would be Marvin Mandel and Spiro Agnew, right here from the state of Maryland.
CONAN: Right in your own state of Maryland.
RUDIN: Well, Marvin Mandel, who succeeded Spiro Agnew as governor when Agnew was elected vice president, Marvin Mandel did go to prison, Spiro Agnew never did. He opened this Italian restaurant called (unintelligible).
(Soundbite of laughter)
SEAN: Yes, exactly. But he never went to prison. Marvin Mandel did, so Maryland is not one of those states.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the suggestion. Here's an email idea from David in Haslett, Michigan. And he says: second place in the hall of shame, New Jersey.
RUDIN: Well, you always think of corrupt politicians in New Jersey and there have been a lot of mayors and state - members of the state legislature who have gone...
CONAN: Hey, I covered the Abscam trial, half of them were there.
RUDIN: Harrison Williams, right? Harrison Pete Williams and two members of Congress, but - Frank Thompson was one of them - but there was no governor who went to prison. The only governor in kind of any kind of ethics problem - of course, there was Jim McGreevey who had the gay scandal and then he resigned, but of course there was no reason to go to prison for that.
And Bill Cahill, members of his administration in the 1970s did go to prison, including Nelson Gross. But William Cahill, of course, didn't go to prison. New Jersey is not one of those states.
CONAN: Well, let's see if we can go next to Jeremy(ph). Jeremy with us from Birmingham, Alabama.
JEREMY (Caller): Yes. I am guessing my home state of Alabama, Governor Hunt, Governor Siegelman. And in my law firm, we actually have a picture of George Wallace behind bars up on the wall. So, my guess is Alabama.
RUDIN: Well, of course, George Wallace did not go to prison for any reason. But actually...
CONAN: Except for a photo opportunity.
RUDIN: Right. But here's why it's not Alabama, because, yes, Don Siegelman did go to prison. He was convicted on a bribery charge, he spent nine months in prison. But Guy Hunt, who was the first Republican, since reconstruction -governor of Alabama - he was convicted but he never went to prison. He was pardoned, never went to prison. So Guy Hunt...
CONAN: Nice try, Jeremy.
CONAN: Thanks very much. Email, this is from Jason(ph), and he says: Oklahoma, the second in sending governors to jail but we're trying to catch up.
RUDIN: Well, the only governor I can think of from Oklahoma who went to prison was David Hall, who was, I think, got elected governor in '70 and didn't - was defeated and didn't run again in '74. But he's the only one I can think of. So it's not Oklahoma.
CONAN: Let's go next to Steven(ph). Steven with us from Newport in Rhode Island.
STEVEN (Caller): Yes, hi. I think it's West Virginia.
RUDIN: West Virginia. First of all, if anybody calling from Rhode Island, I thought he would say Rhode Island because Ed DiPrete, former governor of Rhode Island, did go to prison. But the correct answer is...
CONAN: And the mayor of the largest city went to prison.
RUDIN: Yes, Buddy Cianci, right. But West Virginia is the correct answer.
CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.
RUDIN: There were two governors, Arch Moore, a Republican; and Wally Barron, Democrat. So they are in second place, but hoping to move up.
CONAN: So, Steven, stay on the line. We will take down your particulars and promise to send you a political junkie no-prize T-shirt in response for your promise to take a digital picture of yourself so we can post it on our wall of shame.
CONAN: All right. I'm gonna see if I can find the right button and put you on hold there. In the meantime, Ken, let's see if we can get back to political news and, well, I'm not sure we have time for that whole discussion yet. We'll get back to the politics of the ground zero mosque in a bit.
RUDIN: Good story.
CONAN: It is. It's an interesting story and it's taken over a lot of the politics. In fact, why don't we just say that coming up, we're going to be taking a look at that story plus the primaries in the week ahead in Alaska, in Florida and in Arizona. We'd like callers from Florida and Arizona. How's the race playing out where you are? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. The political junkie is with us.
I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of song, "I Wanna to Grow Up and B a Politician")
Mr. ROGER MCGUINN (Singer, The Byrds): (Singing) And take over this beautiful land. And take over this beautiful land.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
We've dragged Ken Rudin back from his vacation. The political junkie is here with us in the studio, as he is almost every Wednesday. He's also made a triumph and returned to his blog, check that out at npr.org/junkie. You can also find his Podcast there and try your hand at solving the scuttle button puzzle.
For the rest of our time, we're going to focus on upcoming primaries next week and there are some big ones on the way in Florida, in Arizona. If you live in either state, tell us how the races are shaping up where you live, 800-989-8255, email: email@example.com.
Before we get to all that, we need to make good on a no prize from a couple of weeks ago. Tyler in Little Rock, we lost the connection before we could get your vital information. Call us back and claim your prize before Ken walks off with it. Give us a call at 800-989-8255, and we'll send a political junkie T-shirt your way.
And we're going to start with the Sunshine State. Joining us now, Susan MacManus, an expert on Florida politics, a professor of public administration and political science at the University of South Florida in Tampa - with us by phone from Tampa, Florida. Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.
Professor SUSAN MACMANUS (Public Administration and Political Science, University of South Florida): Well, thank you.
CONAN: And in the Senate race, initially we thought the Republican primary was going to be a donnybrook and it's now a cake walk.
Prof. MACMANUS: Absolutely. Marco Rubio was running up against Governor Charlie Crist when they were both Republicans. And ultimately Rubio chased Crist out of the party, thrown as an independent. So now the real fight is on the Democratic side of the aisle, between a billionaire Jeff Greene and a seating Congress member Kendrick Meek.
CONAN: And it was President Obama down there. No, excuse me, it was Bill Clinton down there to campaign for Kendrick Meek.
Prof. MACMANUS: Right. And also Obama is there as well. He's raising money for the party, but Kendrick Meek is going to be right on the stage beside him as his gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. So lots of politics in Florida, as usual.
CONAN: Well, Meek was originally thought to be, again, almost assured of nomination. That's not so assured.
Prof. MACMANUS: Not so assured because Jeff Greene has run a very aggressive non-stop television campaign stressing his outsider role, casting Kendrick Meek as a corrupt Congress member and there you go.
CONAN: And speaking of outside multimillionaires in the race. The same thing is happening in the Republican primary for governor.
Prof. MACMANUS: Yes. We have Rick Scott, another very, very wealthy Floridian. A lot of scandal behind him in terms of having had a major health care organization that was, well, accused and convicted of crime in terms of Medicare fraud, not he per se but he was CEO and bailed out right before it happened. And so, people are wondering about that. But he is running as a businessman. His ads have been very effective, hard hitting, and hitting things that Floridians want to hear politicians talk about. The outsider role, totally.
Running up against Bill McCollum, a tried and true old-timer - attorney general, former Congress member. And it's kind of like a rabbit and a hare. For a long while Scott was way ahead, but McCollum very methodically has now polled even. And in some polls, ahead.
RUDIN: Susan, for the longest time the attention, as Neal said, on the Senate race was on the two Republicans or the once upon a time two Republicans. And now it's on Meek versus Greene. But most - every poll I've seen that no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, be it Congressman Meek or Jeff Greene, they finish third. Is that your understanding?
Prof. MACMANUS: Yes, it is so far. And I think you're going to see a little bit change. Once the nominee is selected, I think you'll see a number of Florida Democrats coming back home. Because right now, Governor Crist, who's running as an Independent, is getting more votes from Democrats than these two candidates. I think that will change a bit, even though he's counting on Governor Crist -counting on a strong Democratic support to win that three-person race.
CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. This is Bob. Bob calling us from Boca Raton.
BOB (Caller): Yeah, I wholeheartedly concur about what was told about Crist. Life-long Democrat, never voted for a Republican in my life, I'm going to vote for Crist. My dilemma is who do I vote for in the Democratic primary to make sure they lose against Crist.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Very tactical voters there in Florida. I can't imagine, Susan MacManus, where they get that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prof. MACMANUS: Well, let's just say we've had a number of election cycles of being in the spotlight and having lots of money and attention thrown our way.
BOB: If I could say one other thing, too. Also, Florida, traditionally, has one Republican and one Democratic senator. So it's not going to change the mix. It will always be that way.
CONAN: Well, maybe not always, but continue to be that way. Bob, thanks very much for the phone call. Ken?
RUDIN: Susan, for the longest time also, on the Republican side at least, the attention was always on Marco Rubio and much less on Charlie Crist. Since Crist left the party and since the oil spill in the Gulf, it seems like all the attention is now on Crist and not on Rubio. Rubio seems to be completely ignored by any kind of media coverage.
Prof. MACMANUS: Well, actually that changed within the last couple of weeks. And after the oil spill kind of went off the front page, the governor hasn't been getting nearly as much attention. And there was a poll released last week that shows that Floridians, or maybe it was this week, Floridians once again kind of mixed on the oil thing.
So as the oil issue has kind of faded a bit, and Florida wasn't as devastated as initially it looked like it was going to be, then all of a sudden there's more talk of Rubio because several polls have shown Rubio ahead in a three-person race. And that's been within the last week.
CONAN: Well, let's get James on the line. James with us from Green Coast in Florida.
JAMES (Caller): Hello there.
CONAN: Hi, James. You're on the air.
JAMES: Hi, I got one thing to say. I've been (unintelligible) Florida politics for about 30 years and I'm a moderate individual. In other words, it could be Democrat or Republican. But my problem with this Mr. Rick Scott is, saying that he didn't understand or know anything about this billion dollar embezzlement scheme that was going on when he was in charge of that medical company. To slander, Mr. McCollum, like he's done, I just have a problem with that Mr. McCollum - I met the gentleman three years ago and he's everything the whole party was being that he was in the military as a JAG officer. And I'll go with what I know and that's military officers, most of them, are just decorated and honorable. And that's what I'm going to go with.
CONAN: James, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
JAMES: Oh, thanks.
CONAN: And as you've said, Susan MacManus, McCollum, well, pulling ahead in the last couple of weeks.
Prof. MACMANUS: Yes. And a lot of it is coming from male voters. So this is very consistent with what the polls are showing.
RUDIN: You know, Susan, I mean we all see - in Washington, we seem to focus on the reason all the time. But obviously with redistricting coming up, who ever wins the Florida gubernatorial race is extremely important for both parties.
Prof. MACMANUS: And you can bet, Ken, that there has been a lot made of that both parties in talking about the governor's race have continually pointed that out. And actually, initially, for months on end, the Senate race dominated everything. But I have to say, within the last three or four weeks, the governor's race is right even. So we have two, you know, barn burners in our state right now in terms of political races.
CONAN: We're going to get one more call in from Florida. Arizona, we want to hear from you, 800-989-8255. Jeffrey is on the line from Fort Lauderdale.
JEFFREY (Caller): Hi, guys.
CONAN: Hi, Jeffrey. Go ahead please.
JEFFREY: I just wanted to make a comment about the race with Mr. Greene and Mr. Scott. I mean, both the so-called outsiders who are basically, in my opinion, buying their way into politics and using some of the same tactics that are really scurrilous, in my opinion, that, you know, they're calling themselves outsiders but they're using really, you know, demeaning attacks that are really not based in fact. At the same time, Jeff Greene, having made all of his money off of foreclosures and Florida being the foreclosure capital of the United States...
CONAN: Nevada would argue with that.
JEFFREY: Right. It's just horrendous to me. And, you know, for either one of these two to be, you know, talking about themselves as people who can deal with, you know, the real political machine of Washington, you know, throw the bombs out, in my opinion.
CONAN: All right, Jeffrey, I think the proponents of those candidates might say hard hitting as opposed skirl. But as Susan MacManus has said, they've certainly been hard hitting.
Prof. MACMANUS: And nonstop. It's been the most fiercely fought, longest television ad campaign in my memory as a political analyst. And one of the things that is happening that we see some of the movement in the polls towards the Kendrick Meek and McCollum, the more known politicians, is simply that there is concern in a state that has a higher than average unemployment rate and foreclosure rate, to a lot of people that looks like these guys are just trying to buy an office.
And earlier this year, leadership (unintelligible) at a poll, and the number one quality that people wanted this year, in their elected candidate is integrity.
CONAN: Susan MacManus, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.
Prof. MACMANUS: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
CONAN: Susan MacManus, an expert on Florida politics, professor of public administration and political science at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Now let's go across to the other side of the country, Arizona's primary is next Tuesday as well. Immigration is going to be the hot button topic there. Who could have guessed?
Joining us now for a look at the races in Arizona is NPR correspondent Ted Robbins who covers the Southwest. And he's at NPR's bureau in Tucson. As always, Ted, nice to have you with us.
TED ROBBINS: Likewise.
CONAN: And in the - I guess the big contests everybody has been reading about is the Republican primary for Senate.
ROBBINS: First, I want to know, should we get the pun out of the way?
CONAN: Go ahead.
ROBBINS: Okay. Well, don't we have to say that I have a sense of Yuma?
ROBBINS: Okay, this is - I beat you to it Ken.
RUDIN: I hate bad jokes like that.
ROBBINS: Yeah, I know you do.
CONAN: Okay, let's move it out of the way. I beat you to it.
RUDIN: Actually, I'm losing my Tempe just sitting here.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: I was going to talk about Truth and Consequences, but that's New Mexico. But anyway...
CONAN: Ted, let's get back to the Republican...
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: ...Senate primary.
ROBBINS: Right, the Senate primary is between John McCain and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth.
CONAN: And this one has not been very temperate either. I think the kindest word that Senator McCain has had for J.D. Hayworth is huckster.
ROBBINS: Yeah, right, huckster, I guess it's kinder than crook, but it doesn't seem to be having much effect. I mean, early on, there was the polling, as well as most of the sentiment, seemed that McCain might be vulnerable but as time has gone on, and as Senator McCain has spent more and more money on advertising, the polls, they now show him with about a 20 percent lead over Hayworth.
CONAN: Pretty comfortable, a 20 percent lead and $20 million that he's spent getting it.
ROBBINS: Yeah, right.
CONAN: And is the fact that - just speculatively - Senator McCain's former running mate has gone to Arizona to endorse her former running mate and not the Tea Party candidate, J.D. Hayworth.
ROBBINS: Yeah, right. And, you know, I've heard people say that this proves that Palin is too moderate. So I'm not sure that that's - I think it's going to come down to - it's clearly - McCain's attacks are working. I think that's -they're working better than Hayworth's. That's about the bottom line. And I think people are also thinking about who can win in November.
RUDIN: Ted, we keep talking about the fact that John McCain has moved further to the right and his basically - that has protected him against J.D. Hayworth. But at what cost to John McCain's legacy has this transformation - what cost has been to McCain's legacy?
ROBBINS: Boy, you know, Ken, my take on that is that his legacy comes next term if he's elected again. I mean, that's when he starts thinking about his legacy. I can't - I don't know - it's a mystery. He, of course, maintains that he has been fairly been consistent. Though interestingly enough, that's his opponent's catchphrase, the consistent conservative. But it's clear by a record that he switched - he has switched positions. So his legacy - I've heard on one side -you know, some people say that it was gone in 2008 because that's really when he started to switch his positions to the right by picking Palin and those moves.
And now, I don't see that there's really much more, you know, calling himself a maverick and then not calling himself a maverick. To directly answer your question, I think we have to wait, and once - if he's elected - I think then he starts working on how he's going to be remembered.
CONAN: Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, also NPR correspondent Ted Robbins. We're talking about the primary coming up next week in Arizona on the Political Junkie segment. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And whoever wins the Republican primary will presumably have an opponent. We've heard very little from the Democrats.
ROBBINS: Yeah, indeed. There's no clear frontrunner. There are four candidates, and there seems to be no clear frontrunner. There's certainly somebody who's spending and raising more money than anybody else. That is Rodney Glassman, a former Tucson city councilman but - and then there's also a former journalist, John Dougherty; a former state legislator, Cathy Eden; and Randy Parraz, a former political organizer - or current political organizer, I should say, who is Hispanic and would probably be the most interesting opponent for John McCain.
For obvious reasons, having a fairly liberal Democrat Hispanic running against John McCain would - that's the race that I would think would be more - most interesting for political junkies. There is absolutely no clear frontrunner in this. So with, you know, toss a coin.
CONAN: Here's an email that we have from Jim(ph) in Flagstaff, who talks about the Arizona governor's race. He says we didn't elect Jan Brewer the first time, and I'm confident that we won't again.
ROBBINS: Good point, I mean in the sense that she wasn't elected. I mean she ascended to the governorship when Janet Napolitano accepted the Department of Homeland Security job. And Jan Brewer is from the other party. Napolitano was a Democrat because Arizona has no lieutenant governor, so there's no ticket. And this isn't the first time this has happened. And so Jan Brewer has not been elected governor, but interestingly enough that since she signed the immigration law, SB 1070 as it's known, one by one, her opponents have dropped out and leaving a clear path. So she got a huge bump.
RUDIN: Her Republican opponents have dropped out.
ROBBINS: Absolutely. She only - there's one Democrat running, Terry Goddard, who is the attorney general, and he's got it locked up because he's the only one running. He's been pretty aggressive as an attorney general, and he's the son of a former governor, Sam Goddard. So this race is going to be, I think, really interesting because it's going to appeal to the moderates.
This is, you know, Arizona for whatever its reputation currently, the votes stack up as - the Republicans have about 37 percent. The Democrats have about 32 percent. Independents or others have about 31 percent. So it is no sure thing. It's the independents who are going to decide this race in November, and I think it could be a close race.
CONAN: Ted Robbins, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.
ROBBINS: My pleasure.
CONAN: Ted Robbins, NPR correspondent based in Tucson, Arizona, and covers the Southwest, joined us from our bureau in Tucson.
And, Ken, we promised we would get back to the politics of the ground zero mosque, which, of course, is not at ground zero - would not be, it's proposed, and isn't going to be a mosque. It would be an Islamic community center. Nevertheless, this has been a white-hot issue.
RUDIN: Before we get to that, just quickly, I know that Neal is making a face, but there's an Alaska primary next week. Lisa Murkowski is facing a Tea Party candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin. The Islamic mosque thing, while all the Republicans are getting, you know, very excited about this, Harry Reid, as well, has been saying that, well, maybe it's not a good idea to build it there. So for all the Republicans who are complaining about it, Democrats are very skittish about this as well.
CONAN: It has shown up though in a political ad, I think for the first time, this - well, we remember that race in Florida. This is an ad by one of those outsiders, Republican Rick Scott.
(Soundbite of TV political ad)
Mr. RICK SCOTT (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, Florida): Barack Obama says building a mosque at ground zero is about tolerance. He's wrong. Its about truth. The truth: Muslim fanatics murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11, just yards from the proposed mosque. The truth: The leader of the ground zero mosque refuses to admit that Muslim extremists use terror tactics. The truth: The fight against terrorism isn't over. Mr. President, ground zero is the wrong place for a mosque.
CONAN: And it's interesting, the Associated Press ran a story today that 80 feet away from where the plane crashed into the Pentagon, a chapel opened several years ago used for services by Christians, Jews and Muslims who pray there every week at regular services. No controversy there.
Ken, as always, thanks very much.
RUDIN: Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: We did get this email from Tony(ph) in D.C. Thank goodness Ken is back. As the old adage says, a day without Ken's wit is like a day without punshine. Oy. He can join and hear it again next Wednesday when he rejoins us. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.
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