How Brown's Senate Win May Alter Health Care Bill Republican Scott Brown won the late Edward Kennedy's vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts Tuesday, causing Democrats to scramble to discern what it means for President Obama's health care bill. With Brown's win, Democrats lost their 60-vote super majority. Jubilant Republicans say it sends Washington a signal that health care overhaul is dead. NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudin and R&R Partners Chief Executive Billy Vassiliadis give their takes on possible outcomes.
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How Brown's Senate Win May Alter Health Care Bill

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How Brown's Senate Win May Alter Health Care Bill

How Brown's Senate Win May Alter Health Care Bill

How Brown's Senate Win May Alter Health Care Bill

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Republican Scott Brown won the late Edward Kennedy's vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts Tuesday, causing Democrats to scramble to discern what it means for President Obama's health care bill. With Brown's win, Democrats lost their 60-vote super majority. Jubilant Republicans say it sends Washington a signal that health care overhaul is dead. NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudin and R&R Partners Chief Executive Billy Vassiliadis give their takes on possible outcomes.


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

Republicans are rejoicing, Democrats are reeling, the GOP wins Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. It's Wednesday and time for a what-the-heck-happened edition of the Political Junkie.

Former President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Wheres 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 Im the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

ROBERTS: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk about politics, and what a day it is. Last night, a little-known Massachusetts Republican named Scott Brown won the Senate seat held for nearly 50 years by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

It was a decisive victory, 52 percent for Brown versus 47 percent for Democrat Martha Coakley, but the more important number is 41. That's how many Senate seats the Republicans now hold, eliminating the Democrats' filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

There are a few other things to talk about. The president gets ready to give his first official State of the Union Address next week, and one year after taking the oath of office, his approval ratings are down.

Later, we'll talk with a Democratic and Republican strategist about lessons learned from Massachusetts as the 2010 midterm election season kicks off with primaries next month in Illinois, and in March, in Texas.

But first, as usual we begin with a trivia question. Political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Rebecca. Well, lots to talk about, of course, and we'll lead with Massachusetts. The death of Ted Kennedy broke up one of the longest-serving, same-state tandems in the Senate. He and John Kerry had been together for a long time. So my question is: Name the two states currently where the two senators have served together longer than any other state. So there are two answers, the two states where the senators have served together the longest.

ROBERTS: And do people need to know what year they started serving together or just to guess at the longest?

RUDIN: It's just the current amount of length of service.

ROBERTS: Okay, so if you know both states, the two states where their senators have served together longer than any other state, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Or email us,

And while we wait for people to figure that one out, Ken.

RUDIN: Including me.

ROBERTS: Yes, well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: You're going to have to figure out who wins. Let's talk about Massachusetts.

RUDIN: What happened? Well, that's a good question. What happened is right, because for the longest time, nobody saw it coming. There were some Republicans who probably thought that Martha Coakley was vulnerable, that there was either a referendum or was a referendum on Martha Coakley or with Democratic arrogance or the health care bill or, you know, anything, anything that you want to anything you want to say happened, happened.

The point is that Republicans had a good candidate, exciting candidate. Whether he was qualified, whether he had the right solutions is one thing, but he campaigned in this pickup truck that really won the hearts and minds of independents, and we'll talk about that in a bit. Whereas Democrats basically, you know, went to sleep after the December 8th primary, Martha Coakley in a state that hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1982. She thought she had it in the bag. Democrats in Washington thought it was all over. Pollsters both in Washington and Massachusetts saw it not being competitive at all, and they just basically dozed.

ROBERTS: Well, that pollster question I think is key because, you know, frustration with Washington and the health care legislation, economic hard times, disenchantment with President Obama, that was all true two months ago, but Martha Coakley was up 25, 30 points in the polls two months ago.

So what made it turn around so dramatically in such a short amount of time?

RUDIN: Well, there's a combination of things. I think the fact is that, you know, his campaign style was better than hers. There was a thing the other day, a week or so ago, when we started to see that there was something really going on here, when Paul Kirk, who was the appointed, the interim senator, appointed after the death of Ted Kennedy, he said that even if Scott Brown wins this thing, I'm going to vote for health care.

And that I think was part of the arrogance that a lot of people felt about Washington, about Democrats, about entitlement - that wait a second, if there's a feeling in the state where we don't want this health care, where we don't like what's going on in Washington, and yet the Democrat in the Senate seat at the time says I don't care, I'm voting for it, it was a sign, I think, that some independents said wait a second, this is not the way to go.

ROBERTS: And which goes a long way towards explaining why people wouldn't vote for Martha Coakley. Why would they vote for Scott Brown. What was appealing about his campaign?

RUDIN: Well, I mean, he was, you know, he was I don't like the word, use the word attractive because there's more important things to talk about in politics, but of course he did the famous 1982 posing in Cosmopolitan. He had a good-looking family and a very aw-shucks kind of way of campaigning.

You know, a lot of other Republicans were thinking about running, and perhaps they regret not running, but I think Scott Brown is probably the only Republican who could have won this seat.

There are other ones who were establishment figures, who had long records. Scott Brown was hardly known at all. His win in the December 8th Republican primary was so underreported, and basically for most of December, the media, including much of the Democratic establishment, just thought this election was not worth covering.

ROBERTS: And what issues did he go out for?

RUDIN: Well, he said, you know, is wasn't only health care. It was terror - the rights of terrorists, which he talked about over and over again. He didn't attack President Obama directly, but he talked about what was going on wrong in Washington, about the bailouts, about taxes, about terror, as I said, and of course about health care and the fact that Washington didn't care for us, you know.

It wasn't Ted Kennedy's seat, as he said over and over again. It was the people's seat. When Scott Brown made his victory statement last night, the big headline said the people's seat, and I think that was part of his appeal from the beginning.

ROBERTS: President Obama did show up to campaign for Martha Coakley. He did cut an ad for her. He's now 0 for three: New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. President Obama has not been able to deliver votes for a candidate, at least enough to win. How much of a referendum on the president, do you think?

RUDIN: Well, the White House insists it's not about Barack Obama, it's not about the president, it's about, you know, bad candidates. We heard that about in Virginia with Creigh Deeds. We heard that in New Jersey with Jon Corzine, and now we hear about Massachusetts, about Martha Coakley.

All these candidates did have something left to be desired. Clearly, they were not the greatest candidates, but we've seen bad candidates win if they have something to say. We've seen bad candidates defeat good candidates if they have something to say. And the question is: Could these Democrats have something to say if they were not getting a lead from Washington? And the fact is that the Democrats, not to say that they should have had health care passed by now because it's been taking a half a century so far to get health care passed -going back to Harry Truman - and yet they had 60 votes for at least eight months.

They still a lot of people didn't like the way with the horse-trading, with the dealing, with the cajoling, with the bribery, some people say, and they say that's not the Washington should work.

ROBERTS: And what about local Massachusetts issues? Was that part of this campaign to any large extent?

RUDIN: Well, in some sense, yes, because Massachusetts already has health care, and that was instituted by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, several years ago. And so maybe perhaps a lot of people felt that, well, you know, I don't want to subsidize this national health care bill because I like what I have here.

But also again, it was part of the, you know, the Democrats, both senators were Democrats, all 10 House members were Democrats. A lot of times in Massachusetts, you'll elect Republican governors because they're tired of one-party rule, and perhaps that was part of the result on last night, as well.

ROBERTS: We're going to be talking a little bit later about how this plays into 2010 elections and what sorts of lessons might be applicable from this Massachusetts race to races around the country, but just a couple quick logistical questions. When does Scott Born get sworn in?

RUDIN: Well, there was a debate. Before that, there was some talk about maybe the Democrats would like to keep him out as long as they can, and by state law, it could take you up to 15 days to swear somebody in, and in the meantime, perhaps there was going to be some kind of a way to keep Brown out for 15 days, and then somehow on some kind of an agreement on health care.

But Jim Webb, the senator, the Democratic senator from Virginia, said yesterday, look, no tomfoolery here. He won fair and square. There's no issue. There's no controversy over his swearing-in, over his election. I'll swear him in quickly. And Harry Reid basically said the same thing, there will be no delay.

ROBERTS: Okay, let's get some trivia answers here on the air. The question again was which two states had senators serving the longest together, longer than any other state.

RUDIN: Currently serving.

ROBERTS: Currently serving the longest together. Let's hear from Jason(ph) in Baltimore. Jason, what's your guess?

JASON (Caller): Hello.

ROBERTS: Hi Jason. Who do you think which two states do you think have the longest-serving senators together? Oop, we've lost Jason. Let's try Hugh(ph) in Oakland. Hugh, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

HUGH (Caller): Hi, West Virginia and Connecticut.

RUDIN: Well, you've got one of the right answers, and I'll start off by telling you the wrong one. We'll give you West Virginia. Both Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller were elected in 1984 together. In Connecticut, it's Dodd and Lieberman but in 1988. So something more recent longer-standing that Connecticut. One for two.

ROBERTS: All right, so Hugh, since you got West Virginia, I've got to put you on hold, and we're going to try to see if somebody knows the other state. We've got email from Georgia in Cedar City, Utah, who says Utah and Virginia.

RUDIN: No, not correct, neither one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Okay, let's try Ken(ph) in Buxton, North Dakota. Ken, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

KEN (Caller): Glad to be here. West Virginia and North Dakota.

RUDIN: Well, North Dakota's not a bad guess. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan have served together since 1992. So they've been together for a while but not as long as one other state that we're missing.

ROBERTS: Okay, Ken, thanks for your guess. So we are looking for the state other than West Virginia here. Let's try Andy(ph) in Milwaukee. Andy, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

ANDY (Caller): I've got to guess Wisconsin.

RUDIN: Nope, not Wisconsin, either because Russ Feingold was first elected in 1992, and he's been serving with Herb Cole since then. But I need something longer than that.

ROBERTS: All right, Andy. Let's try Ken(ph) in Perrysburg, Ohio. Ken, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

ANDY (Caller): I was going to guess Indiana, but I'm thinking that's wrong.

RUDIN: That's wrong, too, because Evan Bayh was first elected to the Senate in 1998. He was governor before that but Senate in '98. So that's not that long.

ROBERTS: Thank you for your guess, Ken. All right. We have email from another Ken(ph). It's Ken Day here on TALK OF THE NATION.

RUDIN: As it should be.

ROBERTS: As it should be. This one is in Pittsburgh. He says Byrd and Rockefeller in West Virginia, Harkin and Grassley in Iowa.

RUDIN: That is the correct answer, both Harkin and Grassley elected in 1984.

ROBERTS: All right. So Ken, what does he win, Ken?

RUDIN: He wins, they both win well actually, they rip up one T-shirt, and they share a half a T-shirt, a Political Junkie T-shirt, which they'll be very proud of wearing, no doubt.

ROBERTS: No doubt. Ken Rudin, NPR political editor, is going to stay with us because it is Political Junkie Wednesday. Coming up, more on Massachusetts, where the battle for Ted Kennedy's seat has ended with an upset and what that means for strategy in the midterms.

We will be talking with Republican and Democratic strategists coming up next and taking your calls at 800-989-8255. You can send us email. The address is You can also join the conversation at our Web site. Go to and click on TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington. Conventional wisdom took a big hit last night when Republican candidate Scott Brown of Massachusetts won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, the one he'd held for nearly 50 years.

NPR political editor Ken Rudin is here with us. We've been talking about how it all came about, and we turn now to the future, what Scott Brown's election means for the 2010 midterm elections.

One-third of U.S. senators, all members of the House, face re-election this year, as do 36 governors. What could be the repercussions on those races after last night's upset victory in Massachusetts.

We want to hear from you. How do you think Scott Brown's victory will affect races for governor, senator or representative where you live? Be our reporters. The number is 800-989-8255. Email is, and you can join the conversation at our Web site. Go to, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Joining us are two veteran political strategists. Billy Vassiliadis is a longtime Democratic strategist in Nevada. He's the CEO of the ad agency R&R Partners. He joins us here in Studio 3A. Welcome.

Mr.�BILLY VASSILIADIS (Chief Executive Officer, R&R Partners): Thank you, Rebecca.

ROBERTS: And Dick Wadhams is chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. He's managed the campaigns of several Republican senators, including John Thune, who defeated then-Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle in 2004. He's with us from the studios of Colorado Public Radio in Denver. Welcome to you.

Mr.�DICK WADHAMS (Chairman, Colorado Republican Party): Nice to be here.

ROBERTS: Dick Wadhams, how big a victory is Scott Brown for Republicans, nationally?

Mr.�WADHAMS: It's a huge victory, and despite Democratic attempts to characterize this Brown victory as a local election based on local issues and the alleged weakness of the Democratic candidate, I think it has serious national implications because the issues were definitely national in scope.

The health care bill has been rejected across the nation by these unaffiliated voters that had swung so heavily towards Obama and Democrats in 2008, and they've rejected most of the Obama agenda, mainly the health care bill.

ROBERTS: Billy Vassiliadis, do you think this is a blow to Democrats on a national level?

Mr.�VASSILIADIS: I think it's probably more of a wake-up call. I think that I know a lot of Democrats early this year, or late last year, saw a real concern out there, and I think it has much less to do with health care or even the president.

By the way, the president in Massachusetts has very good numbers. I think it has much more to do about the economy, about people's concerns. There's a lot of anxiety out there, a lot of fear and a lot of anger. And so I think, consequently, you're going to see a lot of Democrat candidates this year prepare sooner, work harder, and have a much stronger economic message.

ROBERTS: I want to talk in a minute about how that messaging might be shaped by this wake-up call, as you call it, but in the short term, there's this health care legislation to get through. Ken Rudin, without a 60-vote majority, what are the Democrats' options for getting it through, and what are the political tradeoffs they might have to make with those options.

RUDIN: Well, what's so remarkable here is that so the Democrats will now have 59 seats. There are so many times where a Senate majority party would love to have 59 seats. I think the Bush Republicans had 53, 54 at most, during the eight years of the Bush administration, and yet they got accomplished.

But of course, these are different times. This is a united Republican opposition. There is a lot of back and forth on whether who's willing to compromise or not.

The easy way, of course, for the Democrats would be, and this is probably President Obama's fondest hope, is for the House Democrats to just go along with the Senate bill, pass it and boom, it gets it done.

But the House Democrats have serious reservations about a lot of things in the Senate bill, mostly the lack of public option, the higher taxes. There's - the pro-choice Democrats in the House don't like the Stupak Amendment, and they say they will not vote for it if it is included. The pro-life House Democrats say if you strip the Stupak Amendment out of the House version, they won't vote for that.

So it's one thing to talk about Republican obstructionism, and of course, the Republicans are, as well have said over and over again, they are completely united against this bill as it currently stands, but the Democrats are not on the same page, either.

Not only the House and Senate Democrats are on different pages, but many House Democrats are not together. So it would be nice to have you know, it would have been nice to have gotten something done before this Scott Brown upset, and this is perhaps one of the biggest upsets in history, as far as I'm concerned. It's just a remarkable upset. But they couldn't get it done, and now they're paying the price.

ROBERTS: Well, if some of the reason for the upset is frustration with Washington over, you know, the $300 billion the deals to Nebraska and Louisiana and the unions not having to pay the taxes on the Cadillac plans and just the sort of feeling of back-room deals from a president who campaigned as saying he was going to publicize the whole thing on C-SPAN. Does making deals to get health care through now look like a bad idea, politically? Does it look like something that's going to come back to bite them?

RUDIN: Well, the Democrats are still fighting over that, too. A lot of them are saying now there are some who are saying that now is the time to be confrontational. Now is a time to stop compromising with the Liebermans, the Ben Nelsons, with the Blanche Lincolns of the world, and just get what core Democratic beliefs believe in, and that would be the public option and things like that.

But there are others, like Evan Bayh, who said look, this party is going too far left. We're making a big mistake by not dealing or compromising or working with Republicans the way Bill Clinton did after the 1994 Democratic debacle, and we should be going that way. So the Democrats still can't decide which way to go: left or to the right.

ROBERTS: And Dick Wadhams, do you think this now gives some fire to the Republican argument that they have got the voters' voice on health care and that they don't need to pass this legislation?

Mr.�WADHAMS: There's no doubt about it. The polls across the nation are showing that the voters are rejecting this health care bill. I would personally be delighted if the Democrats ram through the Senate version of the health care bill through the House of Representatives. There would be one more act of arrogance coming on top of the bribery of senators to buy their votes, coming on top of the buyoff of labor bosses with the exemption on the tax on Cadillac health care plans.

That would be adding insult to injury in the eyes of the voters if they rammed through that Senate bill through the House of Representative.

ROBERTS: And Billy Vassiliadis, do you think this also imperils some of the rest of President Obama's agenda?

Mr.�VASSILIADIS: No, I don't. I mean, I think the one that - Mr.�Wadhams referred to the national polls. One of the polls that we're not seeing is that Democrats are flocking to the Republican Party or even independents.

Folks are moving to a more-independent position, to a nonpartisan position. Again, there's angry there's anger. I don't think that this jeopardizes the rest of the president's agenda because I hope one of the things that came out of yesterday is that it's time that the Democrats get more confrontational because bipartisanship, an attempt at bipartisanship, didn't work.

The Republicans sat out just to say no, just to stop any form of health care reform, and I think it's time that we point that out and that we show that the voters of American of 14 months ago voted for change, and the agents of no to change has been the Republican Party in a wholesale way.

I think it's time we confront that and the American people see clearly who doesn't want to pass any kind of reform or move forward in any way or accept or adopt any kind of change.

ROBERTS: Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: But Billy, but when you have 60 votes in the Senate, which hasn't happened in three decades, what's the you know, we can blame the Republicans all we want, but how do we not get things how do we, the Democrats in the Senate, not pass what we want to with that much of a majority?

Mr.�VASSILIADIS: Ken, I'll tell you, I think one of the what's made it very, very difficult, one is probably we need more of a common enemy. Democrats like to fight, and we've got to find somebody to fight, and if we can't fight anybody, we'll fight ourselves.

But I think the other part of it is simply this, is that this is a this hasn't happened, as you very astutely pointed out, in what, 50, 60 years. We've not been able to reform health care.

There's a lot of provincial interest. There's a lot of topical interest, a lot of special interests that have been involved in this, Senators concerned about some part of their constituency.

Again, my hope is that last night was a wake-up call to a lot of different senators that have opposed not just health care but other parts of Obama's agenda and, to some extent, some of Reid's leadership for very provincial interests, and clearly last night says we've got to move on, and we really have to confront the real enemy, and that's the just-say-no Republican Party.

ROBERTS: Before we completely leave last night, I just want to read because White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is apparently speaking right now. So I want to read part of a statement from him.

He says a number of parties, quote, bear responsibility for some aspects of what happened in Massachusetts. The president didn't expect - I would certainly put myself in that category - not expecting to lose that Senate race. There's no doubt that we're frustrated by that. So I think everybody bears some responsibility, certainly, including the White House.

So Dick Wadhams, that puts (unintelligible) a little bit to your point that the White House is trying to blame circumstances on the ground in Massachusetts.

Mr.�WADHAMS: Yeah, the finger-pointing started yesterday. Even before polls closed, the White House sources were trashing Martha Coakley and her campaign, which I found incredible because I think that the hand that was dealt to her in terms of a health care monstrosity that the people of America were rejecting but it goes deeper than that.

It goes back to the failed stimulus bill that was signed right here in Denver, Colorado, this past February, which has not had any appreciable impact on the economy. In fact, the unemployment rate has hit 10 percent. It's the cap and trade legislation, which even the the White House is now indicating they're backing off of after that was another issue that Scott Brown put front and center in the campaign.

The fact of the matter is the Obama Democratic agenda has failed, and the people of the United States are rejecting it. And so I look forward to what Billy is laying out, that the Democrats are going to be even more confrontational. They're going to continue to try to ram this agenda down people's throats because the results in November will reflect continued opposition to that.

ROBERTS: And let's get some callers in here. Let's here from Jennifer(ph) in Hubbardston, Massachusetts. Jennifer, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

JENNIFER (Caller): Thank you.

ROBERTS: Yeah, welcome to the show.

JENNIFER: And I'm a big fan.

ROBERTS: Glad to hear it. Did you vote yesterday, Jennifer?

JENNIFER: I did. I voted for Martha Coakley.


JENNIFER: Disappointed but not surprised. I don't feel that it's a referendum on Obama, though. I mean, Obama is well liked in this state by many people, not just Democrats. And I think it really had to be a referendum on her. She wasn't really - first of all, she didnt put herself out there. She kind of snoozed through Christmas, didn't really campaign at all. And then, when she did campaign, she campaigned in Eastern Massachusetts. And people in Central and Western Massachusetts have been ignored by many politicians in this state. And it didn't help her any by not campaigning too much out here as well.

ROBERTS: So Jennifer, if you weren't surprised, but we keep talking about what a huge surprise this was, and the president is talking about what a huge surprise this was, what did you and Massachusetts know that we, nationally, didnt?

JENNIFER: Well, I guess, what I mean by not a huge surprise is that - because of the way the campaign went. Like I said, she kind of just sat back over the holidays, really didnt say much at all. And the fact is is not a lot of people are big fans of Martha Coakley. So I was surprised that it got as heated - or at the end - as it did. And I never imagined that Ted Kennedy's seat or a Democratic seat would actually go to a Republican. I'm disappointed in that greatly because he did so much for this state for so long. And I can't see Scott Brown doing anything other than causing more trouble.

ROBERTS: Jennifer, thanks for your call. Of course, ultimately, all these elections are local. I want to talk a little bit about some state races. Billy Vassiliadis, there's a tight race in your state, Nevada, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tough - facing a tough reelection. What's going on there?

Mr. VASSILIADIS: I - well I think - again, I think the senator has a - as the leader of the partisan opposition to George W. Bush for seven years of his term has - got some scars and some welts coming out of those battles like every warrior does. But we're very confident the campaign has been moving in the right direction, that the polling is going to eventually catch up with the momentum that we've been seeing. There is not a Senator-elect Brown in the field in Nevada. It's a pretty weak field of candidates. And the senator has anticipated a tough race for a long time, and that's why his campaign started a year ago.

RUDIN: Could I just say add something to that? I think - but you - I think people would have said the same thing about Scott Brown at this point in the campaign, that there is no strong Republican candidate out there. And, yet, in a field against anonymous Republicans, Harry Reid's numbers are poor. And you could always make the case similar to what Chris Dodd went through in Connecticut before he was forced out.

Mr. VASSILIADIS: Yeah, Ken, but again, I mean - you know, I don't know Scott Brown but as I've observed the campaign, he has a lot of charisma and worked hard and was a very, very unique candidate and a very good candidate, obviously. The field that is running against Senator Reid in Nevada is a little better known. Theyve been in politics for awhile.

One of the candidates has run has had two failed campaigns in the last two cycles. The other one is a former Republican Party chairman who had quite a bit of controversy inside the Republican Party with the Ron Paul people and a couple of contested conventions. You've got another candidate who's very, very extreme right who I dont think would be able to get pass 35 percent.

So right now, you've got a - some of these polls are almost like referendums on Reid, and an indication of the fights that he's been through for six or seven years. Once we get to an election and the states picking between the United States Senate majority leader who's done a tremendous amount for the state of Nevada and how important that is for a small state versus a field of not-successful candidates who are - or not been successful in previous parts of those careers. I think this campaign will prove out to be right for us.

ROBERTS: Youre listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: Billy, one quick thing: What are the problems of Republican Governor Jim Gibbons and the widely reported problems of John Ensign? What are those Republican problems do to the Republican chances of beating Reid?

Mr. VASSILIADIS: Well, I think they've set the effort back a bit because the party there has had to regroup. We're taking no comfort in that and nothing for granted. I'm sure the Republicans are going to field good candidates for governor. And so, we're - again, Reid has been preparing for a tough race for over a year. We've been on the ground now for six months, working in that state and I think that - like I said, I think by spring the polling will catch up with the momentum.

ROBERTS: And Dick Wadhams, in Colorado, you've got an interesting gubernatorial race shaping up. What's the story there?

Mr. WADHAMS: Well, our incumbent Democratic governor decided not to pursue reelection because his numbers were very bad. He was the weakest incumbent governor we've seen in, literally, five decades in Colorado. He withdrew and Mayor John Hickenlooper is now the presumed Democratic nominee for governor.

His problem is is that he went trotting off to Copenhagen a few weeks ago with Barack Obama to the climate conference. He stood by Barack Obama and signed the failed stimulus bill here in Denver. He has risen he has raised taxes in Denver repeatedly. There's really not a lot of difference between John Hickenritter(ph) as I like to call him - and Governor Bill Ritter and Barack Obama. And then, there's an appointed senator, Michael Bennett, who - he was reappointed to replace Senator Ken Salazar. And Michael Bennett is trailing likely Republican opponents across the board.

So this health care monstrosity which Bennett voted for with which John Hickenlooper supports as well, there will be a lot of national issues playing in both the Senate and governors' races in 2010 in Colorado.

ROBERTS: It sounds like tying John Hickenlooper to the president is one of your strategies.

Mr. WADHAMS: Well, the brutal truth is he went off to Copenhagen with him. He stood beside President Obama when he signed the failed stimulus bill here in downtown Denver. His record of raising taxes is consistent with Bill Ritter and Barack Obama. And so there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two of them.

ROBERTS: That's Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. He joined us from the studios of Colorado Public Radio in Denver. Thanks so much. We were also joined by Billy Vassiliadis, veteran Democratic strategist and CEO of R&R Partners, an ad agency in Las Vegas. He was here in Studio 3A. Thanks to you. And thanks, as always, to Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie, NPR's political editor. Thank you, Ken.

RUDIN: Thanks, Rebecca.

ROBERTS: Coming up in Haiti, aid groups say that tens of thousands of children may have been orphaned by the quake. More on Haiti's orphans, coming up next.

I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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