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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Not every race goes to every inning, extra innings. There's a winner in Illinois, but one recount continues in upstate New York. Another inches ahead in Minnesota. It's Wednesday and time for our weekly visit with the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

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

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

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (U.S. State Department): Lipstick.

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

Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Vermont): (Screaming)

CONAN: On Wednesdays, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk politics. A former Illinois governor indicted, a former Alaska senator cleared. Virginia Republicans dump their state chairman, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus take a trip to Cuba.

A bit later, we'll talk with the freshly elected replacement for Rahm Emanuel and get the latest details on the glacier that is the Minnesota recount.

Then in the spirit Mr. Smith, Murray Horowitz on the movies that celebrate the common man. You can nominate your favorite populist picture by email now. That's talk@npr.org. But as always, we begin with a trivia question. Political junkie Ken Rudin with us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Okay, well, as most of America knows, I ran on my Political Junkie blog a March Madness 2012 pool that would somehow arrive at the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

CONAN: The Republican nominee for 2012.

RUDIN: Yeah, why not do it through a March Madness thing? So we had 32 Republicans included, and the winner was Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas who ran for president in 2008. He may do so again.

So the question, the trivia question is: Who was the last sitting member of the House to be on the Republican national ticket?

CONAN: The last sitting member of the House of Representatives to be on the Republican national ticket as president or vice-presidential nominee.

RUDIN: That's correct.

CONAN: All right. If you think you know the answer, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And of course the winner gets a fabulous T-shirt as a no-prize, and we'll move on to that.

But first of all, let's get onto the real news, and that's recounts this week. We're going to focus a little bit later on the recount in Minnesota. So save our questions on that. But upstate New York, in the New York 20th Congressional District, it was a - well, just about a dead heat after the votes were counted last week.

RUDIN: Right, and they're still counting because they have until April 13th to count the overseas military absentee votes. But right now, Jim Tedisco, the Republican, the state assembly minority leader, has a 17-vote lead - boy, does every vote count - 17-vote lead over the Democrat, Scott Murphy, first-time candidate. This is for the seat that Kirsten Gillibrand gave up when she became senator from New York.

CONAN: And how long is this process going to take?

RUDIN: So again, we think April 13th is probably when we'll have a winner, which probably is sooner than we'll have a winner in Minnesota, but not as quickly as we got a winner yesterday in Illinois Five.

CONAN: Illinois Five, this is the seat vacated by now-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

RUDIN: That's correct, and previously held by some guy named Rod Blagojevich, and before that Dan Rostenkowski, who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful members of Congress until he went to prison.

CONAN: So go to jail, go directly to jail. Except maybe you go to the West Wing.

RUDIN: Or - exactly. Well, Mike Quigley is the Cook County commissioner who won that seat. He won it overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly Democratic district. It was only won by two Republicans in the past I guess 70, 80 years, and one of them was because Rostenkowski was under indictment. But big win for the Democrats.

CONAN: And speaking of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, he has been finally indicted.

RUDIN: He has. He was indicted last week, and of course he was - conveniently he was at Disney World when the indictment came down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Does that tradition work from there?

RUDIN: Why am I shocked? Well, the whole thing was Goofy - sorry, sorry.

CONAN: It was a Mickey Mouse indictment.

RUDIN: Exactly. So he will be indicted, he has been indicted, and he - his long career, his upcoming career as a regular talk-show host may not pan out.

CONAN: May not blossom for him, and you know, we wish all those other radio talk-show hosts exactly the same thing.

RUDIN: A long prison term, right.

CONAN: Exactly. Now, there is interesting news from the Republican Party in Virginia. This is, of course, a state that was a solidly red state for, well, it seemed like forever, since Lyndon Johnson carried the state back in 1964.

RUDIN: True. That was the last Democrat to take it until Barack Obama took it in 2008, but having said that, we should point out that Democrats have won the governorship there the last two times.

But still, having said that, you know, a Republican nationally, but in 2008 they lost John Warner's Senate seat. They lost three congressional seats, House seats, and they had a majority in the delegation for a bunch of years.

Now that the chairman, Jeffrey Frederick, was ousted this week by members of the Republican Party who felt that he was just too abrasive, too authoritarian…

CONAN: And some say too conservative.

RUDIN: Well, he is very conservative, but I think other people are saying that, you know, the things he has said, like for example, during the October presidential race, he did say that - he said that both Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden both had friends that bombed the Pentagon; statements like this got him in hot water.

CONAN: Okay, so he is out, and so the Republican Party in Virginia trying to go more centrist, do we think?

RUDIN: Well, Bob McDonald, who is the former state attorney general, who he was a very strong conservative, has moderated his rhetoric, and he is trying to have a little more centrist approach while three Democrats, including Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chair, are beating each other up for the June 9th primary.

CONAN: We'll keep an eye on that. In any case, let's see if we can get some answers to our trivia question. The last sitting member of the House of Representatives to be on the Republican national ticket.

RUDIN: Didn't have to be sitting. He could've been, like, crouching.

CONAN: Oh, okay. 800-989-8255. E-mail talk@npr.org. And Ben is on with us from Roslindale in Massachusetts.

BEN (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

BEN: I'm going to go back a ways and say Abraham Lincoln.

CONAN: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and was a member of Congress.

RUDIN: He was, and he is not - but he is not the last Republican member of Congress to be on the national ticket.

CONAN: He was the first Republican member of Congress.

RUDIN: He probably was. As a matter of fact, he definitely was.

CONAN: All right, Ben. Nice try, thanks very much.

BEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to - this is Phil, Phil with us from Tacama(ph), is that right, in Nebraska?

PHIL (Caller): Tacama, Nebraska, yeah.

CONAN: Go ahead.

PHIL: I'm sorry. I misunderstood the question. I thought you said Democrat. So I was going with Lyndon Baines Johnson.

CONAN: No, also he was in the United States Senate at the time, and vice president when he became president.

RUDIN: But when he was on the ticket in 1960, he was the vice president and former senator. No, no, I'm sorry. He was senator…

CONAN: Running for vice-president.

RUDIN: A member of the House in the 1940s.

CONAN: Okay. Nice try, Phil. Bye-bye.

PHIL: Sorry.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now to - this is Ed, Ed with us from West Windsor in New Jersey.

ED (Caller): Yes. Hey, Ken and Neal, how are you?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

ED: From your home state of New Jersey.

RUDIN: Yup, love it.

ED: I'm going to say Jerry Ford.

CONAN: Gerald Ford, of course the minority leader of the House of Representatives and former all-American football player.

RUDIN: That's correct, but he is not the most recent. Well, let's see. Gerald Ford was on the…

CONAN: He wasn't sitting.

RUDIN: He wasn't…

CONAN: He was never on the ticket.

RUDIN: Well, he was named vice president, but when he became on the ticket in 1976, he was already the president.

CONAN: So he was not a sitting member of the House.

RUDIN: He is a former member of Congress who became vice president, but on the ticket during the campaign, he was already an incumbent president.

CONAN: So you just get the collar of the T-shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ED: I want you to know, I'm the one that answered the Phil McConky question.

CONAN: A-ha. Well, another Jerseyite.

ED: There you go.

CONAN: Okay.

ED: Take care, guys.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's see if we can go now to John, and John's with us from Oak Park, Illinois.

JOHN (Caller): Yes. Was it Jack Kemp?

CONAN: Jack Kemp, the Republican who threw passes to Cookie Gilchrist as a member of the Buffalo Bills.

JOHN: She was great. I love…

RUDIN: And of course, Jack Kemp was Bob Dole's running mate in 1996, but Jack Kemp gave up his House seat in 1988 to run for president. So he was a former congressman when he ran for vice president in '96.

JOHN: I should've gone with my second choice.

CONAN: Well, now, you only get one chance.

JOHN: I know, thank you.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much. And let's go to Tom, and Tom's calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

TOM (Caller): William E. Miller, 1964, with Barry Goldwater.

CONAN: William E. Miller, Barry Goldwater's running mate in 1964. Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: That sounds like a T-shirt to me.

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

RUDIN: Bill Miller was an upstate New York congressman who, as a matter of fact, was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Barry Goldwater picked him to run for vice president because, in Goldwater's words, he drove LBJ nuts. That's a good criteria.

CONAN: And he then went on, of course, to star in, what, American Express ads.

RUDIN: That's right, that's right.

CONAN: Tom, we're going to put you on hold, and our trusty aides will take down your information and mail you off a fabulous NPR Political Junkie no-prize.

JOHN: Well, I'm glad I waited until you had a real-prize no-prize.

CONAN: Good for you. Hang on. Let's see if I can push the right button here.

In the meantime, speaking of people in office who thought to be running for, well, higher office, it depends on how you calculate it, Governor Sarah Palin widely rumored by some to be running for the Senate seat currently held by Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Republican.

RUDIN: Well, actually, widely rumored by the press because Sarah Palin never indicated that she would run against Lisa Murkowski. Of course, when Sarah Palin was elected governor in 2006, she beat Frank Murkowski, Lisa's father, who appointed her to the Senate, if you can follow all that.

But Sarah Palin announced this week that she, in fact, will be raising money for Lisa Murkowski's re-election campaign next year. We don't know for sure if Sarah Palin will seek re-election as governor, but she's not running against - for the Senate against Murkowski.

CONAN: And speaking about senators who might or might not run for the Senate, Charlie Crist in Florida.

RUDIN: Right. It looks like that Charlie Crist is going to opt out of running for governor, for re-election, and will run for the Senate seat that Mel Martinez gave up.

A lot of Republicans who, like Connie Mack, the congressman, Connie Mack, have said that they're going to step out of the race, and they've all contacted Charlie Crist, saying I'm not running for the Senate. So apparently, they're leaving the door wide open for Charlie Crist to run.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you a bit about Senate procedural maneuvering. The Obama Justice Department had planned to release four more of those so-called torture memos. These are the legal opinions drawn up during the Bush administration that said the enhanced interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and other places were legal because - they planned to release them, and not maybe they're not.

RUDIN: Well, Republicans are saying that if you are going to do that, then maybe we'll retaliate by filibustering some of your judicial nominees or something like that. So the Republican Party is playing hardball with that, although that seems kind of backfiring way of contract negotiations. But it seemed kind of odd to me.

CONAN: They can do that? One senator can say, hey, you can't do this, I can hold up this nominee?

RUDIN: One senator could always hold up a nominee, and of course until they have some kind of an answer in Minnesota, which would give Democrats 59 seats, assuming Al Franken is seated, they still can't push through a nominee until they get 60.

CONAN: And of course the glaciers may return before Al Franken ever gets seated. We're going to focus on that question in a little bit, when we come back from a short break.

So if you have questions about the process, if you can call it that, of the recount in Minnesota, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

We're also going to talk with Mike Quigley, the victor yesterday in the 5th District in Illinois, where he will replace Rahm Emanuel as a Democrat and as a member of the House of Representatives. So we'll hear from him too.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. Ken Rudin is with us every Wednesday as the Political Junkie. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's Wednesday. That means Ken Rudin, our political junkie, is with us. Tell us what political news has you buzzing, or in the case of long recounts, fuming. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our Web site, where you can see Ken Rudin's blog as well. That's at npr.org. To get in on our conversation here, just click on TALK OF THE NATION.

There was a special election in Chicago yesterday for the seat vacated by President Obama's now-chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois congressional district; Mike Quigley, a Cook County commissioner, won it with almost 70 percent of the vote, and he joins us now by phone from Chicago.

Congressman-elect Mike Quigley, nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION, and congratulations.

Representative-elect MIKE QUIGLEY (Democrat, Illinois): Great. It's great to be on.

CONAN: And given our recent history of, you know, cliff-dwellers, as (unintelligible) once said, this is quite a triumph.

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: You know, I'm so pleased the voters gave me their trust. I've got to tell you, in Illinois, getting the voters' trust is not an easy thing to do. We have a long way to go to re-establish that, but that's part of our trip to D.C.

CONAN: Do you feel like this district is a little snake-bit? Your predecessors include Governor Blagojevich and Dan Rostenkowski.

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: Yeah, well it's unfortunately not just at the congressional level. The voters in Chicago, Cook and Illinois have had to read about the scandal de jour for some time now.

So unfortunately it's not just at this level. It unfortunately permeates. I think the best line I heard is that hunting for corruption in Illinois is like hunting for cows. They come up to you and moo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: So you know, we recognize what the issues are that people want to address. Clearly, economy is number one, but you have to be missing something here if you don't recognize that the issue I've been fighting for for 10 years at Cook County was transparency, accountability, ethics and reform.

CONAN: Given all that, what do you make of the situation of the junior senator from Illinois?

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: Well, it was unfortunately an unwise decision to make an appointment. I favor special elections in almost all of these situations. It was a mistake to accept the nomination, and unfortunately we're stuck in a situation where it's going to go for some time.

I do think what has come to light here in Chicago is a call for reforms and such things, more special elections and perhaps an easier way to hold elections without so much cost and time taking place.

CONAN: And here to ask a question is somebody, I have to admit in all honesty, has already been bribed with Quigley campaign buttons, Ken Rudin.

RUDIN: You're on my Web site. Congratulations, congressman-elect. I have a question. The real race, obviously, was the March 3rd primary, the Democratic primary, and you won 22 percent of the vote there against, I guess, 12,000 other candidates.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: The question is, do you have any fence-mending to make, you know, back home?

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: No, you know what? The folks that were in the primary with me have all been great. We've all had talks. They've all come on to my fundraising committees, and you know, we're all talking again.

People like Fritchey already held an event for me. So you know, unfortunately Democrats in primaries, we like to hold firing squads in a circle. But once they're over, we move forward together, usually.

CONAN: And now you're going to be going to Congress, and have you been studying up on the issues that you're going to have to be voting on there?

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: You know, we have. There's some institutional memory that we need to learn about. Congressman Foster told me - you know, he was in a similar situation. You get elected and you go to D.C.

Most congressmen have almost two months of training and orientation that leadership puts on for you. So we have to hit the ground running. So I think the task here is to hire a really good staff and to work like crazy to beef up on the issues, specific legislation that's coming down the pike, but that's our job, and we look forward to it.

CONAN: And another position, if you will, and that is on the question that a lot of people are talking about these last couple of years anyway - earmarks, so-called pork. Are you going to be proposing special dispensations for your district?

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: Well, the way I look at it, the president has started to talk about earmark reform and a centralized bank and limitations and a review process. You know, I think there's other reforms that should be put in place.

I think this should be a more open and transparent process for choosing earmarks, having community meetings and community groups engage in that, and also letting folks know way ahead of time what those options are.

But I'll tell you, if you're the only congressman in the world, in the United States, saying I don't want earmarks - there are 434 other congressman who will say, fine, I'll take it at this point in time.

So I think the process needs pretty dramatic reform, but you know, fighting for your district isn't the worst thing in the world to do. Every district has its specific issues. We've had some horrible flooding here along some of our rivers. You know, we've had real damage and problems to our transit system and just so many others that have to be addressed.

You know, I can't be the freshman 434th-ranked congressman saying to my district, In these bad economic times I'm not going to fight for you on any of these issues.

CONAN: Well, congressman-elect, we wish you the best of luck.

Rep.-elect QUIGLEY: Thank you.

CONAN: Mike Quigley came out in favor of special elections, because he just won on yesterday. He is now the freshman Democrat from Illinois and will be coming to Washington to be sworn in to the House of Representatives. He will not need a recount to settle his race. He won overwhelmingly; tantamount to victory there is victory in the Democratic primary.

There are, of course, a couple of races that have yet to be resolved: the special election for now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's seat in upstate New York, for one, no winner there as yet; and Minnesota, which has just one sitting senator.

Joining us now to talk about that race is Rachel Stassen-Berger, a political reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, with us by phone from her office in St. Paul. Nice to have you on the phone today.

Ms. RACHEL STASSEN-BERGER (St. Paul Pioneer Press): Wonderful to be invited.

CONAN: And what is the latest?

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: Well, we actually have a big change in Minnesota. Al Franken now leads by a grand total of 312 votes out of almost three million cast.

CONAN: And that is an improvement of, what, about 85 votes.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: What's that?

CONAN: That's about 85 votes ahead of where he used to be.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: Exactly. Yesterday they did what should be the final counting of ballots into the race. He picked up 87 votes in that process. It happened in open court. They were rejected absentee ballots, and so it looks like for the moment Franken has padded his victory to a huge more-than-300-vote lead.

CONAN: And so this is just the appellate division, though, of the Minnesota court. As I understand it, there's more layers of court yet.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: That's right. We're not even quite at the appeal process. This is what we call an election contest in Minnesota. We had, as you probably know, a two-month hand recount of all the 2.9 million, three million votes in the race. After that, Republican Norm Coleman filed a lawsuit saying, you know what, he should be the winner, not Al Franken, and for the last two months we've been watching that play out.

That should end - this stage of the process should end in the next week or so, and then Norm Coleman has said that he will file an appeal to our state supreme court. So we're waiting a little while longer.

CONAN: And in the event that he loses there, he could, of course, then appeal that to the federal courts.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: He could indeed. I've heard some mixed opinions as to whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court would take up our Minnesota case. So we'll have to see, but we're waiting for the next stage.

RUDIN: Rachel, hi. It's Ken Rudin. Two questions. One, the Coleman people are arguing that there are at least several thousand voters who have been disenfranchised, and that's why he's not giving up the fight. But at the same time, what are you hearing back home about whether he should continue that fight?

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: You know, I think it's - you obviously hear from Republican partisans that he should continue as long as he is able. You still hear, despite the fact that this was a really very transparent and, frankly, long process, that Al Franken may have stolen the election. There is no evidence of that whatsoever. But there are some legal questions that the Coleman campaign say that the current court, which will finish up in the next week or so, hasn't been able to answer, and he's got some support for continuing to fight on.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And Nathan's on the line with us from New York City.

NATHAN (Caller): Hi, Rachel, I had a question. If we assume all the legal challenges have been exhausted, does Pawlenty have the right to not certify the election?

I remember when Chicago - with Illinois, rather, with Ronald Burris, there was some talk that the secretary of state might not certify. Is that a real option for Pawlenty?

CONAN: Pawlenty being Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota. Go ahead, Rachel.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: That's right. In Minnesota, we have a state law that the state supreme court actually did weigh on within this process, that says during a contested election an election certificate cannot be issued.

So that's why no one is seated right now. The Coleman campaign says, you know what, it's not clear whether any appeals after the state supreme court appeal, which obviously we haven't even gotten to yet, would stop an election certificate from being issued.

Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says, well, his reading says that after a state supreme court appeal, then the winner gets an election certificate. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, has said, you know, it's a little less clear than that because a federal court could stay the issuance of an election certificate. But that's a fight that we'll probably see next month. We're waiting till May for that one.

CONAN: Oh well, that's later in the season, when both the weather warms up and the legal arms can really get loose up there in Minnesota.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: There you go.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call, Nathan.

NATHAN: Thank you so much, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to - this is Oren(ph), Oren with us from Jamison, Pennsylvania.

OREN (Caller): Oh, hi, Ken. It's nice to talk to you. Nobody has commented on the mathematics of this. It's statistically impossible to ever know who really won. You know, you can come out with a vote number, but because the margin of the vote - the vote margin is much smaller than the margin of probable error caused by the voting methods and the counting methods, there is no way to know who really won.

CONAN: We've had somebody on to make that point. Nevertheless, that's not the way the process works, is it, Rachel?

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: No, it's not. And actually, Republicans have made that point. Coleman Attorney Ben Ginsberg yesterday said, when you get an election this close, you can't tell who won. And what the Franken folks and the state of Minnesota would say is, you know what, on election night, you couldn't tell who won, but we have seen every single one of these ballots. They have been recounted by hand, they have been looked at by justices from the State Supreme Court on down, and when the process is finally over, we will have a clear winner.

But so, that's - I think that's one of the things that people are going to be debating about for years and one of the things, frankly, that comes up when we have elections that are this close.

OREN: I don't think there's any such thing as a clear winner here. You can have a number and that can be accepted, but it's not going to be a clear winner.

CONAN: One person is going to take a seat in the Senate in Washington, DC…

OREN: Right.

CONAN: …that person is the clear winner. Thanks very much, Oren.

OREN: Yeah, thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to Joe(ph). And Joe is with us from Great Bear Lake in Minnesota.

JOE (Caller): Yeah. The question is regarding Norm Coleman. If he pursues this over and over and over again through the next couple of stages, how does he come off looking if he ends up losing? Kind of pathetic, and is that sort of the end of the line for him, or is he going to continue to run for this or that, you know, what - how does he ultimately come off looking if he ends up losing?

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: I think Joe has a really good point there about the political calculation, which is - you know what, right now, the Coleman fight, you know, A) he thinks he has won and he is right to continue fighting, and Republicans in D.C. are offering him support, and Republicans across the country are offering him cash. This has been a very expensive proceeding. But there are people who are very frustrated that we don't have our full complement of senators here in Minnesota. We think we're good enough to have two, but it's been lacking.

And so, certainly, Democrats and some regular Minnesotans has started to say, you know what, it's time for Coleman to leave the fight so that we can finally have two, just like every other little state.

CONAN: Joe, thanks very much.

JOE: Thank you.

CONAN: And Ken, this goes to the point, Senate Republicans are all in favor of Coleman dragging this out for as long as possible, that keeps Democrats at 58 seats.

RUDIN: Well, exactly. I mean, John Cornyn, who's the chairman of the NRSC, the Republican Senatorial Committee, has said, you know, let's go to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to, because obviously, they don't want the Democrats to get closer to 60.

Rachel, one question also I want to ask you is that there must be tremendous pressure on Governor Pawlenty - what to do - because he is also eligible to run for a third term in 2010. And he has White House ambitions for 2012.

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: That's right. I mean, he also has a political calculation to make. You know, it's not really clear. He has not drawn any lines in the sand saying, I will not sign this election certificate. He is allowed some wiggle room in that regard, which certainly helps with some of the partisans. But I'm not 100 percent sure we're not just going to be, you know, smoothing that out as we go down the road. But sure - I mean, if Pawlenty refuses to sign the election certificate, that may help Republicans in their fight to keep Franken from the Senate if he ends up being the winner. But I'm not sure that he will pick up a gun and say, I will not sign.

CONAN: Rachel, we'll continue to get updates from you and your grandchildren, eventually. Thanks very much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STASSEN-BERGER: Right. Thanks a lot.

CONAN: Rachel Stassen-Berger, the political reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, joining us on the phone from her office in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This is the Political Junkie on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Ted(ph), Ted with us from Sundance in Wyoming.

TED (Caller): Yeah. My question, Neal - first off, I'd just like to say thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead.

TED: And my question would be, would this race have been impacted by the now discredited prosecution of Ted Stevens?

CONAN: Oh, the senatorial election in Alaska last November, where he was narrowly, very narrowly beaten by Begich?

TED: But also the Senate race in Minnesota. If you look at - I think I listened to your show for quite a few years, and especially over this election cycle, and how any times was the credibility of Republican candidates drawn into question due to this prosecution?

CONAN: The Stevens prosecution?

TED: Yes.

CONAN: Ken, is this - there were other corruption cases against Republicans, but the Stevens one obviously prominent right in the middle of the campaign.

RUDIN: Well, when you think of it…

TED: (unintelligible) right at the end.

RUDIN: Exactly. And Ted Stevens was campaigning under indictment. He was convicted right before the election, and he only lost by 1,000 or 2,000 votes. So, obviously, there was tremendous reservoir of feelings for Ted Stevens. And had the prosecution - the question, really, to me, is not so much did - was Ted Stevens guilty or not, as well as the prosecution botched the case. And apparently, when you don't share information with the defense, that's - I mean, and the - the judge there was just livid. He said never in 25 years has he ever seen such a miscarriage of justice.

CONAN: But I think Ted's question is, if that had been the case, if this case has been thrown out of court back in - last September before the conviction, might that have swayed 312 or whatever it is votes in Minnesota…

TED: Absolutely. To me, it seems like that would make…

CONAN: …because of the stain of corruption against the Republican Party in general?

RUDIN: Well, there is that argument. But of course, you know, I mean, there are a lot of people who just didn't like both Norm Coleman and Al Franken, perhaps, it could have affected - certainly would have kept Ted Stevens in the Senate. I'm not sure how much of an effect it would have had in Minnesota.

And of course, you had Dean Barkley, the third party candidate in Minnesota that got 12 percent of the votes. So, they were - there was an anybody-but-Norm-or-Al candidate in Dean Barkley.

CONAN: And that would have affected this if it had gone to a runoff or some sort of special election because where would that 12 percent's support gone?

RUDIN: Which they don't have.

CONAN: Which they don't have. There's no provision for that. Ted, thanks very much for the call.

TED: Thank you.

CONAN: And Ken Rudin, as always, thanks very much.

RUDIN: Thanks.

CONAN: And you can read Ken Rudin's Political Junkie blog at NPR - it's a blog now?

RUDIN: It is.

CONAN: It's the Political Junkie blog at npr.org. He joins us every Wednesday on TALK OF THE NATION.

And coming up, Murray Horwitz joins us to talk about our favorite populist movies, films in praise of the common man, woman, or in the case of "Ratatouille," rodent.

(Soundbite of movie, "Ratatouille")

Unidentified Man (Actor): What do I always say? Anyone can cook.

CONAN: Movies with Murray next. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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