2010 Political Primaries Update In Missouri and Kansas primaries Tuesday, voters stuck with household names. And Tennesseans brace for a racially-charged primary on Thursday, where the Congressional Black Caucus -- and the President -- support a popular white congressman, democrat Steve Cohen.
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2010 Political Primaries Update

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2010 Political Primaries Update

2010 Political Primaries Update

2010 Political Primaries Update

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In Missouri and Kansas primaries Tuesday, voters stuck with household names. And Tennesseans brace for a racially-charged primary on Thursday, where the Congressional Black Caucus — and the President — support a popular white congressman, democrat Steve Cohen.


Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Steve Kraske, political reporter, Kansas City Star
Marcus Pohlmann, professor, Rhodes College

TONY COX, host:

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

Congresswoman Maxine Waters says bring it on to an ethics trial. Charlie Rangel looks to wrangle his way out of his own ethics mess. The GOP sends the president birthday wishes of a sort. And the summer primaries roll on across a blistering Midwest. It's Wednesday and time for another who-won, who-lost, no-I-didn't-do-it, ethically-challenged edition of the Political Junkie.

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)

COX: NPR's political editor Ken Rudin joins us each and every Wednesday to talk politics, and this week: Maxine Waters, Charlie Rangel and the ethics investigations that won't go away; tensions rising between the president of the Congressional Black Caucus; and voting in Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee, this week as primary season continues. That and all the rest of the political news worth hashing out.

And later, A-Rod smacks number 600 today, but many fans say he ain't no Babe Ruth.

All right, our first up today, political junkie Ken Rudin is here, as he is every week, as we said, with a trivia question. How are you, Ken?

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Tony, and I was going to lead with the A-Rod 600th homerun because now I can relax and do my job. I just was very...

COX: Couldn't wait for that.

RUDIN: Very tense about this. Okay, trivia question is, and I'll explain after we get the answer why we're doing this particular question. But what is the most recent case where two brothers at different times ran against the same senator?

COX: Give it to them one more time.

RUDIN: Okay, the most recent case where two brothers at different times were their party's nominees or their party's nominee against the same U.S. senator.

COX: All right, do you think you know the answer? Our number here in Washington is 1-800-989-8255. The email address, talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website. Just go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

So Ken Rudin, there is a great deal going on. Let's talk about the ethics investigations first of all with Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel. What are the charges against her?

RUDIN: Well, we don't know for sure because they won't announce the ethics committee won't even come first of all, the House has departed for the summer. They're not coming back until September, and we'll know the actual charges in September.

But we're led to understand that she, the allegation is that she used her office to intervene with a bank to receive some bailout money, a bank that her husband had substantial stock invested in. As a matter of fact, he was a former director of the bank. It's called OneUnited Bank.

Maxine Waters says this is nonsense. I was really helping minority businesses, as I've always done. But again, this is a spectacle that has put Nancy Pelosi in a very odd, uncomfortable situation.

Remember when she was running for when the Democrats were about to take over the House in 2006, she promised she would drain the swamp of the Republican corruption in Washington, and there was, you know, there was Tom DeLay, and there was Jack Abramoff, and there was Bob Ney, and there was Mark Foley, all these and Duke Cunningham, all these cases.

And now you have the specter, not Arlen Specter, but you have the specter of Charlie Rangel, a congressman from Harlem, and Maxine Waters, congresswoman from Los Angeles, on the dock, about to have this public ethics trial. And it's not a coincidence what makes this so uncomfortable for so many people is that both Rangel and Waters are key members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

COX: You know, one of the things about that, both Rangel and Maxine Waters have both said that they, you know, they welcomed the trial. Is this bluster, or is that the way to go if you're in a situation like this?

RUDIN: Well, if you know anything about Maxine Waters, that's exactly the way she's been. She's been in Congress for 20 years, and she's always been a very defiant, in-your-face kind of member of Congress.

But the fact that both Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel are saying bring it on, let's have this trial, there are a lot of Democrats who are very, very nervous about this. They don't want this trial to be going on during the fall, when the Republicans are obviously going to talk about this so-called, now this Democratic culture of corruption that Nancy Pelosi talked about regarding the Republicans back in 2006.

COX: Let's talk about Obama for a minute because as we mentioned, the CBC and the president are sort of at odds over a lot of things, this being one of them. Here's the president on CBS News late last week, addressing the Rangel ethics charges.

President BARACK OBAMA: These allegations are very troubling. And, you know, he's somebody who is at the end of his career, 80 years old. I'm sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens.

COX: So what do you make of what did he mean by that?

RUDIN: Well, it sounds well, I'm not exactly sure. I heard that, and I watched it, and I came away very intrigued by that. It did sound like that he was hoping that a lot of Democrats are hoping, that maybe Charlie Rangel would say, look, I will admit to some of these charges. I won't just deny everything. I'll admit to some of it, and then it'll save the House and the Democrats from having to go through the spectacle of a public trial.

And it almost but again, there are a lot of members of the black caucus who said wait a second, remember what happened with Shirley Sherrod, that there was a rush to judgment. Now, of course, there's tremendous differences between Shirley Sherrod and a doctored video and ethics questions about Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, but still, some people, some people are making the case that you can't rush to judgment as you did with Shirley Sherrod, and the president and the administration should know better.

And the same thing is going on in Florida. Kendrick Meek, African-American member of Congress who for the longest time was the presumed Democratic nominee for that Senate seat there, the one that Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist are running for, they say that the Democrats and President Obama are backing away from Kendrick Meek, and they're going to sit out the primary because there's now this white multi-billionaire who's running in the August primary who might very well beat Kendrick Meek in the primary.

COX: You know what? Some people are calling in about the trivia question.

RUDIN: Oh my God.

COX: Do you want to take one?

RUDIN: Okay.

COX: All right, let's take this first one. This is Bob(ph) from Rochester, Minnesota. Hello, Bob. Do you think you know the answer?

BOB (Caller): I think I know the answer. I think it is the Kennedy brothers.

RUDIN: Well, which Kennedy brothers, and who did they run against?

BOB: It would be John Kennedy and then Edward Kennedy against Henry Cabot Lodge.

RUDIN: Well, you know, that's very close. I'll tell you why you're wrong. John F. Kennedy...

BOB: Oh, now now...

RUDIN: But it's a great answer. John Kennedy in 1952 unseated Henry Cabot Lodge. When Ted Kennedy first ran for the Senate in 1962, he beat Lodge's brother, George Cabot Lodge, but they did not beat the same senator. They did not run against the same senator. They ran against brothers, but actually it was brothers against brothers, but that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the two brothers who ran against the same senator.

COX: All right, thank you for that call. We'll keep trying. We'll keep trying, see if we can get the right answer.

RUDIN: But of course, if he did win the T-shirt, I guess he would win a size Lodge.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Ken Rudin, you're crazy. Let's talk about some of the primaries that have been happening. There have been several. There was Michigan. There was Missouri. There was Kansas.

RUDIN: And all three had interesting stories. The big one in Kansas, of course, is that this is a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. So obviously, all the attention was on the Republican primary. It was two members of Congress who ran against each other, Republicans.

Jerry Moran beat Todd Tiahrt, and the reason that's interesting, of course, is one, I mean, Moran will be the next senator because he's a Republican. But two, a lot of social conservatives were banking their money, as well as was Sarah Palin, on Tiahrt, who is more of a social conservative, more of an anti-abortion-activist type. So again, the Republicans will keep that seat, but the more moderate of the two Republicans won the primary yesterday in Kansas.

In Michigan, it was interesting. An outsider was elected, was nominated by the Republicans for the governorship there, Rick Snyder. He used to be the president of Gateway Computers.

His commercials called himself I think something like a one tough one tough nerd because he ran against a sitting member of Congress, the state attorney general, a local sheriff, and yet Snyder, the one with the least political experience, won the primary there. And he's going to be running against the Democratic mayor of Lansing, who is Virg Bernero, and so that's for the seat that Jennifer Granholm, the governor, is giving up because she's term-limited.

And but the big news in Michigan, more important than the governor's race, is that a member of Congress was defeated in the primary, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who is the mother of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and basically, her whole campaign was about her son's transgressions. He's now in federal prison. He had to resign from the mayorship, mayoralty, and she lost her primary. She is the fourth member of Congress, fourth member of the House this year to lose in a primary.

COX: Well, it was kind of nasty because here is, during the race, Hansen Clarke drove home the transgressions of incumbent Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick's son. Here he is after his win last night.

State Senator HANSEN CLARKE (Democrat, Michigan; Democratic Candidate for Congress): That's why we experienced so much blight and job loss and deterioration in our region, because we had a political system that was arrogant, self-serving and many times was corrupt. But now, I'll help put an end to that political culture for good.

COX: I guess you could see that coming, perhaps, and I guess it's an example of, what, guilt by association?

RUDIN: Well, exactly, yeah, the sins of the son, not the sins of the father but the sins of the son. Two years ago, when Kilpatrick, the congresswoman, was running for re-nomination, she barely won re-nomination because there were two candidates running against her. This time, there was only one candidate, and she paid the price.

I mean, ethically, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, there's no charges against her at all. It's all about her son, and she paid the price.

COX: You know, can you give the question again? We didn't get the correct answer yet, and I want to throw it out there one more time before we go to the break.

RUDIN: I'm looking for the most recent case where two brothers at different times ran against the same United States senator.

COX: All right, you know what? Since let's be nice to the people. What do you say?

RUDIN: We don't have an answer.

COX: No, let's give them a hint, a little hint. Can we give them a teeny hint?

RUDIN: No, no we can't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Sorry, Tony, we are not giving a hint.

COX: I tried, folks. I tried to help you win this big prize that we have for you if you can get the answer to that particular question.

RUDIN: Okay, I'll give you a hint. It's fairly current, far more current than the Kennedy question, the Kennedy answer that was suggested a few minutes ago, much more current than that.

COX: All right, there's your hint. All right, we have a break coming up, but before we go to that, let's hit one more question about some of the things taking place this week inside the Beltway.

The vote for the new Supreme Court justice is to begin, when, tomorrow?

RUDIN: It looks like it's going to happen tomorrow because the Senate is leaving for its summer break, and Elena Kagan is basically assured of confirmation. There are five Republican senators now who will vote for her. Only one Democratic senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, will vote no. That gives her 63 votes.

Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said there's not going to be a filibuster. But here's what's interesting. The fact that Ben Nelson is voting no, he will be the first Democratic senator to vote against a Supreme Court nominee of a Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall in 1967, and 10 Democrats voted against that nomination.

COX: Oh, that's amazing. All right, let's squeeze one more quick question in here before the break comes on. All right, Keith(ph) from Madison, Connecticut, do you want to give us a quick shot at the answer?

KEITH (Caller): Yeah, I'll give you a quick shot at the answer. I think it's the Udall brothers against Barry Goldwater.

COX: Is that right?

RUDIN: No, neither Udall brother ran against Barry Goldwater.

COX: All right, sorry about that, and I think he was from Arkansas. Maybe I put him in the wrong state.

RUDIN: No, they were from Arizona.

COX: They were from Arizona. All right. Ken Rudin is with us. It's Political Junkie day, and up next, big primaries, as we said, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee. Stay with us, a lot more to talk about. I'm Tony Cox. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Tony Cox.

It's Wednesday, and political junkie Ken Rudin is here as always. You can check out his blog and take a shot at his ScuttleButton puzzle what a twister you've got there, Ken, at npr.org/junkie. The ScuttleButton puzzle, we want to make sure we get that out correctly.

We've got a lot more to talk about, including, as we said, the tough races in Kansas and Tennessee, especially in Tennessee, some very interesting things...

RUDIN: It's coming up on Thursday, right.

COX: And we want to hear from the voters in those states, Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri, to tell us how the primary season played out where you lived, 800-989-8255, that's the phone number. Email is talk@npr.org.

And joining us now to go over yesterday's winners and losers from Missouri and Kansas is Steve Kraske, political reporter for the Kansas City Star. He is also host of the program "Up To Date" on member station KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, and he's with us now from that station. Steve, nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. STEVE KRASKE (Political Reporter, Kansas City Star): Tony and Ken, it's nice to be with you.

COX: Before I ask you the first question, I've got to go back and give the audience one other crack at getting this. Do you want to give them one more hint, Ken?

RUDIN: Well, the answer is not Steve Kraske, I'll tell you that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Okay, but here's now here's an interesting coincidence. KUAF is our new member station that's picking up TALK OF THE NATION from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I think there's some people listening on KUAF who may know the answer to this trivia question. I'm just guessing.

COX: All right. Well, let's ask Steve a question.

RUDIN: Okay.

COX: And then let's come back and see if that person or some persons from the good old state of Arkansas, the Razorback folks, can get in and let us know what's going on.

All right, Steve, let's talk about Kansas at first. The Republican nomination for I guess it's, what, governor there?

Mr. KRASKE: Yes.

COX: No surprises, right?

Mr. KRASKE: No, no surprises at all. Two-term Senator Sam Brownback is running for governor. The Democrats, Tony, have only put up really token opposition, and Senator Brownback has been very quietly laying the groundwork for his administration now for a number of months. And I think it's pretty much a foregone conclusion out here that he's going to be the man.

RUDIN: You know, what's interesting, Steve, about this is that in 2002, 2006, there was a lot of splits in the Republican primary, the Republican Party in Kansas, one of the reasons why Kathleen Sebelius was elected twice for the governorship, and yet all this talk about perhaps Kansas turning somewhat purple or blue, that's gone out the window, hasn't it?

Mr. KRASKE: Oh, absolutely. I think it's just a matter, Ken, of this idea the Democrats are simply out of candidates. The Democratic bench out here is weak. A couple of statewide officeholders are running for re-election to their current seats.

Republicans are very, very strong. Witness the fact you had two of the state's four congressmen running for the open U.S. Senate seat that Brownback was vacating, and that begins to explain a whole lot here. Democrats simply don't have a whole lot of bullets in the gun right now.

RUDIN: And you have Dennis Moore, the Democratic congressman from Lawrence, Kansas, the only Democrat in the delegation, also calling it quits.

Mr. KRASKE: He's calling it quits, Ken, and as you know, his wife is running to succeed him, Stephanie Moore, interesting test because I think it'll be the first time in the country that we're seeing a living spouse of a living congressman run for the congressman's seat out here. And we're going to find out very quickly exactly what she wants to do in this campaign.

She's largely untested, hasn't held political office before, and it's going to be fun watching how she does in this race.

COX: Steve, Ken, we may have an answer.

RUDIN: Uh-oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: It comes from Little Rock, Arkansas. Tyler(ph), you're on TALK OF THE NATION. Do you think you have the answer?

TYLER (Caller): Yes.

COX: Okay.

TYLER: It's the Boozman brothers against Senator Blanche Lincoln.

RUDIN: That is correct. Boy, did we have to beg the answer out of these guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: We need a drum roll.

RUDIN: But Tyler is correct. John Boozman is the Republican nominee against Blanche Lincoln this year. In 1998, his brother Fay Boozman was the Republican nominee against Lincoln and lost that race.

COX: All right, thank you very much. Don't go away. I'm going to put you on hold...

RUDIN: Tyler wins the Lodge T-shirt.

COX: Absolutely. We have another caller. This is Marianne(ph) from Greenville, South Carolina. Marianne, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

MARIANNE (Caller): Hi, thanks. I'm actually in North Carolina. But my question is about the language that's being used to talk about the ethics issues in the House. And I don't want to minimize how significant the problems faced by Congressman Rangel and Congressman Waters are, but I'm interested in the fact that these are being described, and they've in fact been described several times in the past 23 minutes on TALK OF THE NATION, as trials.

And I seem to remember a lot of House ethics (technical difficulties) in the past, including the one faced by Gingrich, being described as hearings. And so I'm wondering and, you know, these are proceedings based on House rules. They're not, you know, trials in a court of law. So why are they being called trials? Why is NPR calling them trials? Why is the media more generally calling them trials?

COX: Thanks for the call.

RUDIN: You know, I love that question, and I don't know the answer to this. And that's a very, it's a fair question because you're right. We've always had hearings. We had it with Barney Frank. We had it with Newt Gingrich. We always head hearings.

And now, I think the fact that this is a public, public in a sense that you could present evidence, you could present witnesses in public, sort of like what we saw with Jim Traficant of Ohio back in 2002, that was considered a public trial because everything was in public.

But I do notice the language difference, I don't know why it exactly changed, but it has changed.

COX: Now, I know we've been jumping around a little bit, but I know because you're Ken Rudin that this is no big deal to you, and you can go from one topic to another and spin on a dime.

Steve, I think you can do it, as well. So let's spin again, gentlemen, go back to Missouri, and let's talk about what's occurred there.

RUDIN: But I want to thank her for that call because, no seriously, because I just want to make sure because she's absolutely right. Why we have suddenly become a trial when we never used that term before. It's not just because it's Charlie Rangel because I think we used it for Traficant, too, but it does seem strange that we have changed the wording in this. But I appreciate that call.

COX: All right, thank you very much for the call. You're right.

Let's go back now and talk about Missouri for a minute, Steve, if we can, and the referendum on health care. This was the first vote, public vote, on health care so far. And it was turned down, or actually the support for health care was shot down significantly there, wasn't it?

Mr. KRASKE: Absolutely, Tony. It was crushed, as a matter of fact. Seventy-one percent of Missourians last night and yesterday saying absolutely not to President Obama's new health care law, and they were talking particularly, this measure was aimed at this idea that the new law requires individuals to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014. That's what this resolution that was put before the voters was aiming at, and in overwhelming numbers, they turned it down.

I should point out that, you know, as solid as a number is, and it was very solid, that there's no question that more Republicans than Democrats were voting yesterday in Missouri. In fact, about 65 percent of the votes cast in the U.S. Senate race yesterday were for Republicans.

So a heavier Republican turnout here, but no question about it, a very strong signal here being sent at a time when President Obama's job approval in Missouri, which I think remains one of the best presidential bellwethers in the country, continues to sink, just 34 percent of Missourians in a recent poll giving him a thumbs-up for his job performance so far in office.

RUDIN: But Steve, is it very possible that Proposition C, that passed in Missouri, I mean, could be more show than reality because ultimately, the courts will decide the constitutionality of it.

Mr. KRASKE: Well, no question about it, that's the case here. Some folks described this as a symbolic move last night, and, you know, the argument is that under our federal system, the federal government trumps what state law does.

But as we've seen in Virginia, though, recently, Ken, that question is still being at least discussed at the trial court level, and we'll see what happens in the courts moving forward here.

COX: Steve Kraske is a political reporter for the Kansas City Star, joining us today from member station KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri. Steve, thank you very much for dropping by and chatting with us.

Mr. KRASKE: Always glad to do it, guys.

COX: One more piece of business I want to do. Tyler from Little Rock, Arkansas, the winner, Ken, of our trivia contest today, we had a technical problem, and he went into cyberspace. And we want you to call us back so that we can get some information from you, all right?

RUDIN: And no fake Tyler. We don't want any fake Tylers calling. We want the real Tyler.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: We want the real Tyler. By the way, we're talking about primaries. Tennessee voters go to the polls tomorrow, Ken Rudin, and race has become an issue in the race, in a battle for a seat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Marcus Pohlmann is a professor of political science at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and author of "Where Have You Gone, Horatio Alger?: A Convergence of Race and Poverty in the Memphis City Schools." He joins us now by phone from Memphis to talk about the mood in Tennessee. Marcus, welcome to the show.

Mr. MARCUS POHLMANN (Professor of Political Science, Rhodes College; Author, "Where Have You Gone, Horatio Alger?: A Convergence of Race and Poverty in the Memphis City Schools"): Hello, Ken and Tony, good to be with you.

COX: So this is a blatant case of race, it's like vote for me because I'm a black person, is that right? Is that what one of the candidates is saying?

Mr. POHLMANN: That pretty much sums it up. Former Mayor Herenton's campaign theme is we need just one, and he holds up the Tennessee delegation, which is all white, and suggests that they need an African-American in that delegation. So I think that pretty much summarizes his campaign, in this regard anyway.

RUDIN: Marcus, just to set up exactly what we're talking about, this is the 9th Congressional District in Tennessee, 2006, Harold Ford, Jr., gave it up to run for the Senate, and Steve Cohen, against, like, 13 or 14 black candidates, Steve Cohen was the lone white candidate in the primary, won it because the black vote was split among all those other candidates.

Steve Cohen won the seat, was re-elected in 2008, and now Willie Herenton is saying wait a second, this is a black-majority district. They should be represented by a black congressman.

Mr. POHLMANN: Yeah, that is all correct. That is the way it has developed, and, you know, it's also interesting to note that of the 27 black-majority districts around the country, only two are not represented by an African-American: Cohen and an Asian man in Louisiana. So it is a fairly unusual situation that both elected Steve Cohen in the first place, but, you know, continues in terms of his representation of that district.

COX: So the - I don't know if you mentioned this is or not, and I apologize if you did, and I don't think I heard it. President Obama has infused himself into the race in the support of the other guy.

Prof. POHLMANN: Oh, yes. Yeah. President Obama has essentially endorsed Steve Cohen, so has - you know, for all practical purposes - the Congressional Black Caucus. And one of the most prominent civil rights leaders in the Memphis area, a longtime head of the NAACP, Maxine Smith, has come out for Steve Cohen. So it is a very unusual election, to be sure.

COX: You know, one of the things that Cohen said - Ken, I want to share this quote with you and get both of you to talk about it. He says: "I predict on Thursday night that I will be able to show that the opponents have a lack of understanding or appreciation of African-American voters and the fact that they look at the quality of representation and vote on the issues." Which is not something that has always been said about an ethnic community and their voting patterns, is it?

Prof. POHLMANN: Certainly not, and that's certainly what Cohen hopes to occur. He has reason to believe it may, because it happened in the last - in his first reelection effort, which he was running against an African-American woman. And although there were some other issues involved in that campaign, he did, in fact, attract considerable African-American support.

What's interesting about Memphis, I think, is that over time, because of gerrymandering and certain electoral rules, it was very hard for African-American candidates to be viable, therefore there was a long history of African-Americans voting for white candidates.

What's more uncommon in Memphis is whites voting for African-American candidates, but in Willie Herenton's case in two of his reelections, he actually was able to cross racial lines and draw a fair amount of white support. So I think gradually race is diminishing - I certainly won't say disappearing - but diminishing as a major factor in Memphis electoral politics.

RUDIN: Well, yeah, talking about giving - I'll give you a Steve Cohen, quote, here's another one for the Memphis commercial appeal. Here's what Steve Cohen said. He says: "I encourage everybody for Steve Cohen, whether they are white, black, red, yellow, from Mars or Zambodia or the planet Earth, to get out and vote." Now, Marcus, you know a lot about politics. People from Mars can't vote in Tennessee's 9th Congressional District, correct?

Prof. POHLMANN: They don't, but we do have a candidate that claims he's from Zambodia...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. POHLMANN: ...who has run several different times. So that's where that little dig comes from. We do apparently have an alien in our midst.

COX: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

I know that we're talking about Tennessee at the moment. But is it possible to take a call who comes from another state, Ken?

RUDIN: I think that's possible.

COX: All right, let's do that. This is from Michigan, if I'm not mistaken. I believe it's Fred Johnson from Holland, Michigan. Fred, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Professor FRED JOHNSON (Caller): Good evening - good afternoon, how are you doing?

COX: We're fine, thank you. Did I understand that you were a victor in your race?

Prof. JOHNSON: Yes, I was a Democratic nominee in yesterday's primary for the 2nd Congressional District. It's a seat that Congressman Pete Hoeskstra gave up to run for governor. I'm the Democratic nominee.

RUDIN: You're Fred Johnson, the college professor?

Prof. JOHNSON: Yes, I am.

RUDIN: Okay, now, this is a pretty much a solid Republican district. What's the mood among - for Democrats? You've got a pro-choice Democrat running for governor. You have unemployment and the economy not doing so well. A lot of people are blaming Jennifer Granholm. Democrats seem to be running on the defensive in Michigan.

Prof. JOHNSON: I think that what's really happening in Michigan though is that that Democrats and everybody, you know, I talk to Republicans and moderates, and quite frankly, a lot of moderates are available to earn their votes. And people just want the economy fixed. They understand - many people understand that the policies of the previous administration drove us over the cliff - or almost, anyway. And I'm finding that people are looking not so much at party affiliation, but ideas and candidates to see who's going to offer the best likelihood of getting the job done. And that's how we're running out here in West Michigan.

COX: I have a question for you. A number - you're a Democrat, correct?

Prof. JOHNSON: I am.

COX: A number of Democrats have been trying to put distance between themselves and President Barack Obama. Were you one of those?

Prof. JOHNSON: No, I'm not. In fact, the president was out here just about maybe a couple of weeks ago for the groundbreaking of the LG Chem plant, and I applaud what the president did. You know, I'm very supportive of the public-private partnerships that brought jobs to the state or brought jobs to this district. And the people out here in West Michigan have been - you know, look, they are concerned for jobs. And when a job shows up, it's always a good thing for us.

COX: Thank you for the call. We appreciate it.

Prof. JOHNSON: Sure.

COX: It's been kind of a busy week for folks, of running, certainly in the Midwest. I don't know if you were able to tell, Ken Rudin, or even you, Marcus Pohlmann, whether or not - and we're going to bring our conversation to a close with this. I don't know if you can tell whether or not a trend is establishing in terms of how the voters are likely to react the rest of the way going into the midterms in the fall.

RUDIN: Well, let me ask that question to Marcus, because, of course, in addition to the congressional primary on Thursday, you have a race for governor - Phil Bredesen is term limited there, and the Republicans feel like they have momentum taking back the governorship. Do you see a GOP surge in Tennessee?

Prof. POHLMANN: I definitely do see a GOP surge in Tennessee. It's been building for awhile. If you look at John McCain's vote total in the state, very, very impressive, one of the largest in the country. There's a good chance that the GOP is going to take away John Tanner's seat, which is now vacant in the 8th Congressional District, as well.

So there's a likelihood of some Republican gain in the state of Tennessee, but in terms of the 9th Congressional District, I think that's still pretty safely Democratic, and the winner of that primary is very, very likely to be the - to retain that seat.

COX: One last thing with regard to the race that we initially were talking about with Herenton. What would you - what do you expect is going to happen, really quickly?

Prof. POHLMANN: It looks as if Cohen will win fairly handily. There was a lot of expectation that Herenton would run a very, very competitive race. He hasn't been able to raise much money. For example, Cohen has raised nearly a million dollars, and Herenton, only about 20,000. Herenton doesn't seem to have the organization on the ground that he's had in the past. And, you know, if current trends hold up, it looks like a pretty marked victory for the incumbent, Steve Cohen.

COX: Mark Pohlmann is professor of political science at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and author of "Where Have You Gone, Horatio Alger?: A Convergence of Race and Poverty in the Memphis City Schools," joining us today by phone from Memphis. Mark, thank you very much.

And, Ken Rudin, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. Of course, Ken is NPR's political editor and TALK OF THE NATION Political Junkie. See you next week.

RUDIN: Thanks, Tony.

COX: All righty. Coming up, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez finally hits his 600th home run. Do you care? Give us a call: 800-989-8255.


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