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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

President Bush met in the Oval Office today with the incoming Senate majority leader, that is Democrat Harry Reid.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Senator Reid and I are both from the west. I'm from west Texas, he's from Nevada, and we tend to speak the same language, pretty plainspoken people, which should bode well for our relationship.

CHADWICK: Yesterday, he had lunch there with the woman who's going to assume the House leadership in all likelihood, Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Joining us now, NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams. Juan, things are changed a lot in Washington this week, a thumping on Election Day, the president said. Now we hear Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, may be leaving. How shocked are Republicans by what happened?

JUAN WILLIAMS: I think they're traumatized, Alex. What you see is if you look inside the poll numbers, and this is what Republicans are talking about, is that conservatives turned out. There was a good turnout, but they didn't necessarily vote for Republicans, and so that's a shock to them because they would've anticipated that if they got the turnout, the vaunted GOP election-day machine, that they were going to win.

But it turns out many of the people who are self-identified as conservatives voted for Democrats, and when you look at things like Independent voters, Independent voters were voting 57 percent to 39 percent for the Democrats, overwhelming. You look at what Evangelicals did, who have been the base for the right wing. Again, they turned against the party.

CHADWICK: This is fascinating. I hadn't seen these numbers. You're saying they did get their base out, but the base voted for the other guy.

WILLIAMS: Correct.

CHADWICK: That's amazing. Okay, the day after the election, Bush loyalist Rush Limbaugh, a man on another radio program, sounded almost relieved by the defeat, and here's what he said.

Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Talk Show Host): I feel liberated, and I'm just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.

CHADWICK: We're grateful, of course, that brother Rush feels better about circumstances.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: You've just been out in Ohio and Indiana talking with people out there. Do you think he is speaking for many Republicans?

WILLIAMS: I do. I think there's lots of upset and it's about interesting things. The culture of corruption, which was something that the party here had dismissed - oh, that's not going to work for the Democrats - apparently did work and did have impact. You go into a state like Indiana, and Republicans lost four seats. You know, and you see in Ohio, they lost a major seat again. And, of course, lost the governor seat in Ohio.

What you're hearing there is real discontent in the party and especially with the idea that so many were tied to Jack Abramoff. You know, you go - Bob Nay having to resign in disgrace. These things apparently hit hard with conservatives who felt that their elected official should be showing some principle and not be part of this larger sort of culture of Washington and K Street.

CHADWICK: I did see that number coming out of the exit polls, that people really cited corruption as a big factor; maybe even a bigger factor than the war - another surprise for me.

At his Wednesday press conference, the president took a jab at his own key political advisor Karl Rove. This was after a reporter had asked Mr. Bush about a competition that he and Karl Rove are having - and the president talked about this before - which of them can read more. Now, here's what Mr. Bush said.

President BUSH: I'm losing. I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: Karl Rove, famously the smartest brain in politics over the last six or seven years, but is he going to be another casualty of this election?

WILLIAMS: I don't think so. I think he is at Mr. Bush's hip for all time. They're tied together as a team. And the question would be, as you approach more intensely the '08 campaign, whether one of the Republican candidates is able to persuade Karl Rove to come onboard? But it's not a matter of throwing Rove overboard at this point.

You are going to see lots of fights, though right now the conversation among Republicans in Washington is over control of the Republican National Committee. Ken Mehlman, as you mentioned, is leaving. And then fights within the leadership, you know, Tom DeLay is gone, Denny Hastert is still around but he's not going to have the same power. So, exactly who is going to run the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, and even in the Senate? Fights there between the likes of Trent Lott and Lamar Alex - Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander for control there.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about the really sad news of this week for many of us, the passing of a colleague, Ed Bradley, famous 60 Minutes correspondent. When we described him yesterday on this show, as someone who had broken the color barrier in television for many others, I actually caught myself thinking is that right? Isn't Ed younger than that? Wasn't that a long time ago?

WILLIAMS: Answer: no. You know, and it's surprising because that's the way my mind works too. You think it would have been a different age, but no. You go back and, you know, Ed Bradley in the '60s, and of course the riots in Philadelphia, is making a break - you know, getting into radio - and really doesn't come on the scene until you're starting to see more black people show up on your TV set and in journalism in general - the big newspapers in the course of the 1970s. And that's Ed Bradley's era.

I wrote a book about the history of America's black colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and Ed Bradley did the introduction for me - he was very kind - and wrote about his experience at Cheyney State. And, you know, you understand what a limited horizon there was for young people of tremendous talent, like Ed Bradley, and how he had to really force his way into CBS in New York. When he showed up, he had no tape to play for them. And he asked them if he could have a tape recorder and just go capture some reporting.

CHADWICK: Yeah. NPR's Juan Williams remembering his friend Ed Bradley, and with us here again on Fridays, as he is so often.

Juan, thank you.

WILLIAMS: My pleasure, Alex.

CHADWICK: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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