Freshman Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack Chip Cravaack is the first Republican elected by Minnesota's eighth district since World War II. Cravaack talks about how he'll represent the traditionally-blue district. Also, Lara Brown explains how recent political scandals will affect the parties.
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Freshman Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack

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Freshman Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack

Freshman Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack

Freshman Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack

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Chip Cravaack is the first Republican elected by Minnesota's eighth district since World War II. Cravaack talks about how he'll represent the traditionally-blue district. Also, Lara Brown explains how recent political scandals will affect the parties.


Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Chip Cravaack, incoming Republican congressman from Minnesota
Lara Brown, assistant professor, political science, Villanova University


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

Sarah Palin, because she can win; dancing daughter flips to third; and Ron's house may not be his home. It's Wednesday and time for an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods edition of 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. Wheres the beef?

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

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 about the week in politics, and on this Thanksgiving Eve, the GOP picks up more seats in Congress, Joe Miller continues his fight for proper penmanship, and there's actually a job opening for a Democrat in Washington, but nobody wants it.

In a bit, we'll be joined by Congressman-elect Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, the first Republican elected in his district since World War II. And with one ethics trial and another on deck, how does scandal affect the political parties? Political scientist and scandalista Lara Brown just us, plus Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health on the AIDS pill.

But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question, and Happy Thanksgiving.

KEN RUDIN: And to you, too, Neal. Thank you, and to your family. Okay, trivia question. One of the biggest upsets this year involved Chip Cravaack, who's going to be our special guest later in the show. He's a Minnesota Republican. He defeated Democrat Jim Oberstar, who had been in Congress for 36 years. The question: Who was the last member of the House with more than 30 years' seniority who was defeated for re-election.

CONAN: If you think you know the answer, the last representative with more than 30 years' seniority, defeated for re-election, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email Of course, the winner gets a fabulous no-prize T-shirt. And Ken, fast-breaking news from the state of California.

RUDIN: Well, you know, we talk about what a great Republican year this was, and apparently California didn't get the news, and they still haven't gotten the news. Steve Cooley, who is the I guess the district attorney for Los Angeles, was defeated in his bid for attorney general in California. That had been Jerry Brown's job. Now he's the governor-elect.

And Kamala Harris, the Democrat, who was the district attorney for San Francisco, was elected. It was a close race. Millions of votes were cast, but the Republican didn't have enough votes to make up, and so this is you know, we talk about again what a good Republican year it was, not in California, very good Democratic year.

CONAN: But a couple of other Republican pickups in the House of Representatives.

RUDIN: Yes. Staying in California for one second, Jim Costa, who is in the 20th District, around Fresno, I think, also won re-election. But again, he was elected in 2004, was unopposed in 2006, got 75 percent of the vote in 2008 and yet barely struggled to win re-election this year, but some more good news for the Democrats.

Okay, but the good news for the Republicans, two Democratic incumbents have conceded defeat: Dan Maffei, Upstate New York, around Syracuse, he con New York's 25th District, he conceded to Ann Marie Buerkle. And Solomon Ortiz, in Texas' 27th District, around Corpus Christi, is the only congressman that that district has ever known. He was first elected in 1982. He conceded defeat to Blake Farenthold.

So the Republican lead, net gain in the House is now up to 63 seats. As I said before, it's the biggest gain for any party since 1948.

CONAN: And we don't yet know quite what the result is in the state of Alaska for the Senate seat because Joe Miller, the Republican, has declined to concede.

RUDIN: Well, he asked to decline to concede. Not only that, he's also filed a lawsuit. He said that there are thousands of misspelled and of course, with Lisa Murkowski, it's easy to misspell but misspelled write-in votes. And he says the state of Alaska has no business determining voter intent, and many of those thousands of votes should be thrown out for the misspellings.

One, the lieutenant governor of Alaska, also a Republican, said that Joe Miller is just, you know, he's just disregarding voter intent there, and he's really making a mockery of democracy. But at the same time, even if you throw out all the misspelled and challenged ballots in Alaska, it seems like Murkowski still wins.

CONAN: So that's all but settled.

RUDIN: Also, the Minnesota governor's race is going to a recount on Monday.

CONAN: In Minnesota?

RUDIN: Yeah, it's the land of 10,000 recounts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: There'll be a recount. Mark Dayton holds an 8,700-vote lead over Tom Emmer, Mark Dayton the Democrat. That'll be about maybe two weeks in the running, we'll have an answer there.

CONAN: Last night, Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol came in third on "Dancing with the Stars." Her mother, though, is still dancing around the question of whether she'll get a run for president. She told ABC's Barbara Walters, if she does, she can get first prize.

Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): I'm looking at the lay of the land now and trying to figure that out, if it's a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family - if it's a good thing.

Ms. BARBARA WALTERS (Journalist): If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?

Former Gov. PALIN: I believe so.

CONAN: And there's already talk of visits to Iowa.

RUDIN: Well, yes, and now she's been doing that a lot, of course. She also has a book coming out, has a new book out. And of course, coincidentally, Iowa is on that tour. Barbara Walters also interviewed President Obama, by the way, and he was asked whether what he thinks about a challenge, perhaps, from Sarah Palin.

And he says that he has not given it much consideration, that being a good president will make all the politics fall in line. But he did not fall into what Barbara Walters got out of Sarah Palin, she didn't get from President Obama.

CONAN: The deadline, as we heard earlier in the tape, to enter the mayoral race in Chicago passed on Monday. There are 20 candidates and some people still asking questions about the residency, the qualification residency, for Rahm Emanuel, who otherwise would be in the lead.

RUDIN: Right. The former, just recently resigned as White House chief of staff. You have to be a resident of Chicago for at least a year to run for mayor. And Rahm Emanuel, even though he lived in Washington, says he owned a house, he paid taxes on the house, voted in Chicago. But the resident who's been living in the house for years says you're not a resident at all.

Meanwhile, but there's also - I mean, he still goes in that's really the biggest story of the week. The other stories, of course, of all the candidates who are also running: former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Congressman Danny Davis. Other African-American candidates: Roland Burris, the outgoing...

CONAN: Very friendly.

RUDIN: Very outgoing guy.

CONAN: Ebullient.

RUDIN: He's run before. He got clobbered by Richard Daley back in 1995, but again, the African-American community would love to unite behind one candidate, but again, with Roland Burris, Carol Moseley Braun, Danny Davis, other than it looks like a split black field.

CONAN: The Illinois election law, by the way: No elector or spouse shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence in any precinct or election district in this state by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States or of this state. And of course, White House chief of staff, you'd think that would qualify.

RUDIN: Exactly, and that's the argument that Rahm Emanuel's likely to win on.

CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, again, the last member of the House of Representatives with more than 30 years' seniority to be defeated for re-election. Let's see if we can start with John(ph), John with us from Rochester Hills in Michigan.

JOHN (Caller): Hi.


JOHN: My answer is Tom Foley.

CONAN: From the state of Washington.

RUDIN: Tom Foley was let's see, Tom Foley is not the correct answer, but let me think for a second. Tom Foley was elected in 1964, and he was defeated in 1994. That is 30 years. So we need more the question was: Who has more than 30 years, which is exactly what the question was.

CONAN: Ooh, ooh, John.

RUDIN: I don't mean to be anti-semantic, but we said more than 30 years.

JOHN: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: That was a good one.

RUDIN: That was a good answer.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to this is Mark(ph), and Mark's with us from Kansas City.

MARK (Caller): Hello.


MARK: My answer is Ike Skelton.

CONAN: Ike Skelton just lost, of course now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

RUDIN: Right, and Ike Skelton was elected in 1976, and Ike Skelton was elected in 1976, and he was defeated and yes, you know something? Well, I was actually thinking of prior to Skelton and well, Skelton.

CONAN: Well, there's a Skelton in your closet here, Ken.

RUDIN: I know. I don't mean to make any bones about it, but Ike Skelton was 34 years.

CONAN: That's more than 30.

RUDIN: Yeah, I kind of meant before well, I guess he gets a T-shirt.

CONAN: But you didn't say, yeah.

RUDIN: Do we keep this contest open, or do we end this contest?

CONAN: Well, we have a winner. Ding, ding, ding, Mark, congratulations.

RUDIN: Well, they both lost at the same time. I was kind of liking going before this time.

CONAN: Well, but that's not what you said, Ken. All right. Mark, we're going to put you on hold, and you will be the proud recipient of a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise to take a digital picture of yourself, and we can post it on our Wall of Shame.

MARK: Well, thank you very much, Neal.

RUDIN: I think I belong on that Wall of Shame, as well.

CONAN: Wall of Shame, as well, yes, exactly. So too bad. In any case, you're permanently there, Ken.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Rand Paul, the senator-elect from the state of Kentucky, is going to be writing a book about the Tea Party. What's he going to say?

RUDIN: Well, he's going to say that the government should be following the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It's called "A Tea Party Comes to Washington." And if anybody is emblematic of the Tea Party's success, it's Rand Paul, who defeated not only his own Republican establishment in the state of Kentucky, and that being Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader there, but the Democratic nominee in November, even in a landslide. So Rand Paul has a lot to say.

CONAN: All right. The 2012 campaign taking shape. Again, we heard from Sarah Palin earlier. David Axelrod will leave the White House to start the campaign in Chicago. David Plouffe, though, will come to the West Wing. What does all this maneuvering mean?

RUDIN: Well, it means what everybody always thought, that Axelrod was always going to lead the campaign for 2012, and for all the talk about what primary challenges Barack Obama will face and what Republicans will face, again, you know, as we've said over and over again, 2008 was a lifetime before 2010. 2012 is a lifetime from now.

But this is really the time when, as long as the Republicans are started to prepare for Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina and all the mechanisms that you need, the White House has to be prepared, as well, and Axelrod will head up the campaign.

CONAN: And we've already seen a lot of putative polls, saying how would Barack Obama fare against this Republican or that Republican. Any surprises there? His popularity ratings aren't great.

RUDIN: No, and basically, they're about the same as Sarah Palin. So you can make the case that they're both in interesting straits going into 2012. But this time, you know, in, you know, four years ago, we were saying that Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney were the clear frontrunners for 2008, and of course, it was John McCain and Barack Obama. So we have a ways to go before 2012.

CONAN: The lame-duck session, meanwhile, is underway in Congress. Anything getting done?

RUDIN: No. Now, a lot of things that are on there. I mean, they'd like to extend unemployment insurance. They'd like to keep the government running, of course. But things like the new START treaty, don't ask, don't tell, the Bush tax cuts, that's interesting, too.

CONAN: Because that has to get done.

RUDIN: That has to get done, and of course, it decides which group, the people making over the $100,000, or do you want to extend that at all. So the question is whether that gets done in the lame-duck or is pushed over to 2012, 2011. But the White House desperately wants the new START treaty worked out this year because you need 67 votes, and right now, the Democrats have 59 votes. You need fewer Republicans than you would next year.

CONAN: All right. We'll also be talking about the ethics trial they did manage to get done and the ethics trial upcoming a little bit later in the program.

Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. So if you're going to stay with us, we're going to be talking with Chip Cravaack, the newly elected Republican from Minnesota. We want to hear from voters in Minnesota's Eighth District. How should he represent you? 800-989-8255. Email us, 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 from NPR News. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

It's a pre-Turkey Day edition of the Political Junkie. Ken Rudin is here, as he is every Wednesday, already preparing new ScuttleButton puzzles for his family Thanksgiving. If you're not invited, you can check out his blog and his podcast and that weekly ScuttleButton puzzle at

And we're hoping to talk with newly elected Chip Cravaack in just a moment, but in the meantime, Ken, there's an interesting blog you posted today on how you got all those House races so wrong.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal. Thank you very much.

CONAN: I (Unintelligible).

RUDIN: Well, the thing is, yes, I was way off on many of the predictions. I thought that Republicans would pick up 45 seats and lose four to Democrats, whereas - net gain of 41, yes a Republican Congress but nowhere near the 63 that the Republicans got.

CONAN: So far.

RUDIN: So far, right. There could be a fourth one, 64th on with Tim Bishop on Long Island. But a lot of people wrote into the blog, saying that it's part of my pro-Democratic bias, which is just I mean, you know, it's kind of hard to defend myself for making wrong predictions.

I will say in 2008, I only got 10 House seats wrong out of 435 and no Senate seats wrong except for Minnesota, which was the Franken-Coleman one that went on forever. And 2002, I only had four House seats wrong. So did I not have a bias in 2002 or in 2008, but I suddenly got one in 2010?

I did not see the depth of the anger. You know, I mean, there are some people like Jim Oberstar. If we get Chip Cravaack, you know, if we get that line working, I guess he's at the airport is my understanding, but the guy in Minnesota who beat Jim Oberstar, who predicted Jim Oberstar? Who predicted so many about these Republicans?

And what I did, I didn't throw out a number, like they will pick up 55, they'll pick up 50. I went through every House race and called a winner and loser in each one. And it's one thing to throw out a number. It's one thing to decide where those numbers, those changes are going to be and, you know, my numbers were not as good. And I'm not defending bad numbers, but certainly it had nothing to do with bias.

CONAN: All right, you can check out that blog again. Go to, our website, and /politicaljunkie because a lot of people would like to slash the political junkie.

RUDIN: Slash (unintelligible).

As the newest members of Congress get ready to descend on Washington, some long-serving politicians find themselves dogged by scandal. Last week, the House Ethics Committee recommended censure for New York Democrat Charles Rangel, who claimed that his actions were careless rather than criminal.

Representative CHARLES RANGEL (Democrat, New York): Please make certain that my name, notwithstanding the imagination that some people may have that there's no way to stretch this, that I was a corrupted individual and that I would bring shame to my family, to my community, to this Congress and certainly to the country.

CONAN: Meanwhile, fellow Democrat Maxine Waters of California awaits her own ethics trial. Two politicians who once held a great deal of power, Mike Easley and Tom DeLay, face legal verdicts in North Carolina and Texas.

Joining us now is Lara Brown, an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University, an expert on political scandal. She's working on a book on that subject. She's with us from a studio in Philadelphia. Nice to have you with us today.

Professor LARA BROWN (Assistant Professor, Political Science, Villanova University): Great to be here. Thanks so much.

CONAN: And is it a coincidence that all these proceedings come to pass right after the midterm elections?

Prof. BROWN: Well, no. I think that both political parties are working to kind of cover themselves. They don't really want these things coming out immediately before the elections because they're afraid that it might influence voter sentiment and the like.

CONAN: And it seems the party in power seems to come under the microscope the most, even though these things can tend to affect both parties.

Prof. BROWN: Well, I think that's right. I think what you see with the party in power is that there are three actual relationships that happen. So the first one is that the people who are in power, there are more people who are, if you will, tempting them with opportunities for corruption or some type of scandal.

There are also more people looking for them to have scandals, which means that muckraking occurs a great deal more. And then the third aspect of scandal for those majority members is that they do tend to believe that they are much safer because they have the power.

CONAN: Lara Brown, we're going to ask you to put on hold, if you would. You're being very polite with us. We were actually planning to go to you a little bit later. But we've made a connection with Congressman-elect Cravaack, and he's on a tight schedule. So can you hold on with us for just a little bit?

Prof. BROWN: Oh, of course.

CONAN: OK, thank you very much.

The new Congress that convenes in January will include dozens of freshmen, including many Republicans elected in what had been blue districts, among them Chip Cravaack. He defeated Congress Jim Oberstar, who had represented Minnesota's 8th District for 36 years. In fact, Cravaack is the first Republican elected there since World War II.

Again, we want to hear from voters in the Minnesota 8th. How should Congressman Cravaack represent you? 800-989-8255. Email And he joins us now on the phone from the airport in Minneapolis-St. Paul. I'm glad you made it home, Congressman.

Representative-elect CHIP CRAVAACK (Republican, Minnesota): Well, thank you very much. I haven't quite made it to the airport yet. Unfortunately, we're in the middle of an ice storm.

CONAN: Oh, my gosh. Is everybody all right?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Oh, yeah, everybody's fine. It's just traffic is really slow getting to the airport. But we do live in Minnesota, so...

CONAN: I guess you're used to that.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: We're used to this.

CONAN: Yeah, ice storms and recounts. So two things...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Congratulations on your election. You're as we mentioned, that's a very blue congressional district. Do you think you're going to have to take a look every time to see if you're going to have to break with your Republican colleagues?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Well, you know what? I take each issue on its face, and I'll be representing the people of the 8th District. That's my job. And that's I'll be taking what the people of the 8th tell me and taking that to Washington, D.C.

CONAN: As you look around, one of the questions you're going to be asked is whether you're going to be joining the Tea Party Caucus, which is I guess one of the leaders of that is your neighbor, your congressional neighbor, Michele Baucus(ph).

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Michele Bachmann.

CONAN: Bachmann. Michele Bachmann.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: I haven't really decided whether to join the caucus or not. But the Tea Party has been their values are pretty much what my values are, too: limited government, limited spending, smaller government influence on states, you know, job promotion. That pretty much aligns with what I align with. And of course, caucuses are where you get to know your neighbors, the people that you're going to be working with. So I may very well join that caucus.

CONAN: And I wonder, I know you've established the repeal of health care as your top priority. Is that right?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: That's correct, yeah, repeal or defund and then replace with something that's much more viable for that's more patient-centered.

CONAN: That's going to take a while and pretty much likely to be done in pieces.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Yes, it probably will. There's going of course, we may have the House, but the Senate is still, is going to be the place where this is going to play out. So we'll see what happens there.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go to some callers. Let's go to Cathy(ph), and Cathy's calling from Duluth. Cathy, are you there?

CATHY (Caller): Yup, I'm here. I'm actually driving from Duluth to Bemidji.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Oh, boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CATHY: Very exciting. But my question for my newly-elected representative has to do with what your position is going to be on protecting the environment and specifically reauthorization of the Clean Water Act.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: The Clean Water Restoration Act, in my opinion - the Clean Water Act itself of 1974 is in place. If you're talking about the new legislation of the ACWA Bill, the America's Commitment to Clean Water Act, I cannot support that.

I think that the state of Minnesota has plenty of safeguards intact that protects our waters. There's nobody that's going to protect local waters more than us locally. So we live here. This is our home. And we're going to protect it much more than any federal government mandates or laws could ever protect it. And I have the faith in Minnesota that it will do just that.

CATHY: All right. Thanks so much for that. Clearly, I don't agree with that, nor do a lot of people in your district. But you won the election. So thank you so much.

CONAN: Cathy, thanks for the call.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Looking forward to serving the people of the 8th, thank you.

CONAN: And drive carefully, Cathy. Let's see if we can go next this is Elizabeth(ph) and Elizabeth with us from North Branch in Minnesota.

ELIZABETH (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, go ahead, please.

ELIZABETH: Hi. This is Elizabeth Scott(ph) from North Branch, and I would just like to hear the reason behind (technical difficulty)-elect Cravaack's reasoning for putting a halt on the NLX Railway, which we, the state, has already given so much money for, the impact study and whatnot. And I'm wondering, it's going to create so many jobs and economic development in the 8th District, why he would halt something like that.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Well, the main reason is because we can't afford it right now. That is one of the main reasons that we can't if we can't afford something, if it cannot sustain itself, and we're already seeing other rails within Minnesota, ridership is down, it cannot sustain itself and only creates further debt.

And anything that creates further debt at this time we just cannot tolerate in our budgets.

ELIZABETH: Thank you for the answer. I also disagree with your comment. I think that it would bring a lot of more ridership because of the casino, as well as because of going from Minneapolis to Duluth. Thank you.

CONAN: OK, Elizabeth, thank you.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: OK, thank you, appreciate your input.

CONAN: And let's see if we go to Matt(ph), and Matt's with us from Finland in Minnesota.

MATT (Caller): Yeah, hello.

CONAN: Hi there, go ahead, you're on the air.

MATT: Yeah, well, I'm interested to see what your exact counterproposal for health care is because I know a lot of people up here, small-business people, that can't afford private insurance. And I don't think what the Democrats passed isn't terribly great in terms of the mandate that we all purchase, because a lot of it might still be too expensive. But the thing is, something is better than nothing. And, you know, like we have sort of a state health program, but that may or may not get the ax soon here. And I know a lot of people are really worried about that, so what's your specific proposal?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Well, for the state of Minnesota, we have one of the best health care systems in the country. Actually, the federal program actually dummies down our state program. So we have a great safety net for the people in Minnesota. On the federal level, if you want to - competition has always been the key in bringing down and driving down costs.

And I use Lasik surgery as an example. Lasik surgery has never been covered under any kind of health care insurance. And what has happened is through the years - even though it was very costly at one time - because of competition -we've talked about accessibility, availability and quality of care - through the years the accessibilities increased dramatically because more doctors have gotten into the practice. The quality of the care has actually increased significantly because of the different types of techniques that have been developed through the years. And affordability has dramatically decreased for Lasik surgery.

Competition is the key. Allowing us to purchase health care insurance across state lines is another key factor. So again, the model of competition is the best thing that we can do to drive down not only health care costs but also health care insurance costs.

MATT: But Chip...

CONAN: That's Congressman-elect Chip to you.

MATT: I mean, in Minnesota, we have a different set of regulations and so forth. I mean, I think

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: You as an individual, why should you have to purchase -only have a pick of five different products? You know, why can't you go across state lines and be able to pick a product that is even more particular to your needs?

As a male, you don't need maternity insurance. Now, maybe you're married, you may need it. But the thing is, what you could do is skew the - find the best program that is right for you and being able to purchase that insurance at a lower (technical difficulties) also we should allow people to come together and create buying pools. And having buying pools, you also create buying power...

MATT: Yeah, we've been doing (unintelligible) in the state for years. It's called co-ops. So I'm not really...

CONAN: Matt, thanks very much for the call. I'm not sure we can - have the time for a long debate on the health care system in the state of Minnesota. But we thank you for your call. Ken?

RUDIN: Mr. Cravaack, a quick question. You're a former airlines pilot at Northwest?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Yes, sir.

RUDIN: You were union steward. You joined the picket line.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Yup.

RUDIN: How do you go from a union steward to a conservative member of Congress - Republican member of Congress?

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Well, you know what? There's a fallacy out there that union members are not conservative. There's a lot of union members that are conservative. And I think what goes beyond party at this point is taking a look at the deficit, taking a look at the debt that is being incurred by our country and being passed on to the next generation - our children.

What really was a catalyst for me actually getting involved in this, I was very happily retired. I'm a retired Navy captain. I'm a retired Northwest Airlines pilot. Now, what got me involved in this is seeing the massive amount of debt that's being transferred to the next generation - our children. My children are six and nine years old. And I could not sit idly by and watch this debt being dumped upon them. Pardon for the background noise. We're picking a ticket up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: We have a parking meter here.

CONAN: Well, you don't get to go through the pilots' line anymore, so good luck with that.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: I'm sure we'll get the pat down, so there you go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Congressman-elect, thank you very much, and again, congratulations for your victory.

Rep.-elect CRAVAACK: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time today and all the best and Happy Thanksgiving.

CONAN: Okay. You too. Chip Cravaack is the incoming member of the House of Representatives, who defeated Jim Oberstar in the Minnesota 8th District. Ken Rudin, our Political Junkie, is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Lara Brown has been very patient, waiting there in Philadelphia. We apologize. Thanks very much for hanging in. She's assistant professor of political science at Villanova University.

Well, when last we spoke in our exciting previous episode, we were talking about the political scandals that affect both parties. Of course the microscope goes more on the party in power. How much do people - what is the consequence of this? How much - when Nancy Pelosi said she would drain the swamp, how much was that held against her and the Democrats this last time around, do you think?

Ms. BROWN: Well, I think that the hard part about scandals is that it tends to only really draw the public's attention when sort of other issues are not top of mind. So in other words, you know, this last election, as your Representative Cravaack just explained, you know, the issues that many people were focusing on were the debt, the deficit, government spending, whether or not health care was important. And as a result, some of these scandals, including the ones with Representative Rangel and Representative Waters, essentially went into the background. And now we've actually seen, you know, some of these things coming about, and they will be revived as new Congress sort of starts in session and new issues move to the fore.


RUDIN: Lara, but you could also make the case in 2006, you had the aftermath of the bungled rescue of Hurricane Katrina, the unpopular war, the rising food prices, and yet you still had the focus on Republican scandals, the Tom DeLays, the Jack Abramoffs. And so that was still a big issue in 2006.

Ms. BROWN: Oh, I think it was a very large issue in 2006, but I think it also played into the sort of media discussion that was already happening, the message of that year, which was whether or not there was corruption and governmental incompetence, whether it was Katrina or Abu Ghraib or some of the other really serious issues that people were questioning in that cycle. There were sort of other questions that came about because of DeLay, because of Bob Ney, because of Abramoff. And then, of course, once Mark Foley hit, there was no turning back on scandal as being a major influence in the elections.

CONAN: We just have a few seconds left, but I wanted to ask you about the incumbents. Charlie Rangel, of course, has already lost his chairmanship. He won reelection, but, well, when people are involved in a scandal like that, how long do they survive typically?

Ms. BROWN: Well, typically they survive. I mean, in fact, my research, which dates back from 1966 up to 2002, suggests that about 67 percent of those incumbents who have engaged in scandalous behavior and who do run actually win. So it's quite an issue for all of us in this country.

CONAN: Lara Brown, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate your bifurcating your presentation. Thanks very much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROWN: No problem.

CONAN: Lara Brown, assistant professor of political science at Villanova, currently working on a book about political scandal. She joined us from a studio in Philadelphia. Ken Rudin will be here next week. I'm not. I'm on vacation next week. Have a good time, Ken. Again, Happy Thanksgiving.

RUDIN: Thank you, Neal. You too.

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