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ALISON STEWART, host:

From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Alison Stewart. Liane Hansen is away. The only thing we know for sure is that the next president will be a U.S. senator, the first since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Senator Barack Obama campaigned in Reno, Nevada yesterday.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): We've tried it George Bush's way. We've given more and more to those with the most in hope that prosperity trickled down on everybody else. And guess what? It didn't work.

STEWART: While Senator John McCain spoke at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee): America didn't become the greatest nation on earth by giving our money to the government to spread the wealth around in this country. We believe in spreading opportunity for those who need jobs and those who create them, and that's exactly what I'll do.

STEWART: No matter who wins, Obama or McCain, somebody will have to fill his Senate seat, and maybe Joe Biden's, and Alaska could get a new governor. And as fate would have it, we have NPR political editor Ken Rudin here to explain what happens next. Ken, can we start with the Democrats because it's a two-fer?

KEN RUDIN: Well, let's start with Illinois. The governor there is Rod Blagojevich. He's a Democrat, and he could name whomever he wants if Barack Obama's elected president. But he's a very unpopular Democrat. There's federal investigation to his administration. They're talking about corruption charges. They're talking about the possibility of impeachment. So Blagojevich goes into this process very, very unpopular.

But he also has another thing that's going on here, that Barack Obama is the only African-American in the Senate, and he's leaving, and so you've got to appoint his successor. Do you name a black, which would, of course, excite the African-American base, or do you go somewhere else, which might infuriate the African-American base? So he does have some things to decide.

STEWART: Now, to his running mate, Joe Biden, who also happens to be running for Senate, the seat that he's held for over 30 years. What's the plan if he - if the Democratic ticket wins?

RUDIN: Well, Joe Biden's son is Bo Biden, the state attorney general. He was always expected to be the successor to Joe Biden whenever he left the Senate. But he's now - he's in Iraq. He's a member of the Delaware National Guard. He's not going to be back until next October, so the likelihood is they may name a caretaker to fill Joe Biden's seat. There's the Democratic governor there, Ruth Ann Minner. They'll probably name a Democrat there. The question is whether this Democrat will be willing to give up the seat in 2010 when Bo Biden presumably comes back from Iraq.

STEWART: Now, a new poll came out today from Reuters and C-Span that has John McCain closing to within five points of Barack Obama. So this is very much still a race. Now, if he wins, the governor of Arizona appoints his replacement, and she's a Democrat. So how would that shade her choice?

RUDIN: Well, there's a but because state law in Arizona says that whomever she picks has to be of the same party of the departing senator. So, even though she's a Democrat, she has to name a Republican. Here's what's interesting. The Governor, Janet Napolitano, is term-limited in 2010. She wants to run for the Senate, so she may well name a Democrat - name a Republican who she'd be running against in 2010, and that may help her decide one way or the other.

STEWART: Oh, the plot thickens. And...

RUDIN: The plot thickens.

STEWART: There could be a new governor of Alaska. Anybody that we've heard of or any potential party star like Governor Palin turned out to be after the convention?

RUDIN: Well, there's not many Sarah Palins in the Republican party, but her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, would automatically become governor should she leave and should become vice president. But she could be coming to Washington anyway because Ted Stevens has a possibility - the senator, Ted Stevens, has a possibility of winning. He could be convicted, and he could resign from the Senate, and then she could be appointed to fill his Senate seat. So either way, it's a possibility that Sarah Palin comes to Washington.

STEWART: Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. You can read his weekly Political Junkie column at npr.org/politicaljunkie. Ken, thanks a lot for walking through that.

RUDIN: Thanks, Alison.

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