The Warren Omission Warren Mitofsky, who set the standard for national news polls, died last week. He was a friend of mine, even though he didn't hire me in 1982. He will be missed.
NPR logo The Warren Omission

The Warren Omission

Alaska's Murkowski is the first governor to lose in the primary since Missouri's Bob Holden in 2004. hide caption

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Gov. Smith finished fourth in the 1972 Texas Democratic primary. hide caption

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The Philadelphia congressman won renomination after his death. hide caption

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Thirty-nine years ago today, Illinois GOP leaders endorse Sen. Charles Percy as their "favorite son" candidate for president. hide caption

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It is late 1982. I'm walking out of my apartment, in Fort Lee, N.J., on the way to work, about to take the bus over the George Washington Bridge into New York City. I noticed that waiting for a taxi outside my building was CBS News' Charles Osgood.

"Mr. Osgood, " I say in my most sincere and urgent voice, "I live, eat and breathe politics, and I would love to work for CBS News in some capacity covering campaigns." He scribbles down a phone number and tells me to call Warren Mitofsky, who headed up CBS' polling unit.

I did, we met, the interview went great, but ultimately I didn't get the job. I went on to other things — ABC News (in New York and later Washington), then National Public Radio, then the Hotline, and then back to NPR, where I returned as political editor and where I write this column — while Warren, after he left CBS in 1990, created the Voter Research Service, backed by a consortium of news organizations designed to run a single exit-polling organization.

Warren and I always kept in touch. He became a big fan of this column (several of his questions have been included in these pages). About three weeks ago I got a nice note from him about one particular column, and I wrote back, as I always did, asking him in a mock-serious tone why didn't he hire me in 1982. He wrote back the same day, "One of the many big mistakes I made in my life."

And then he was gone. Last Friday, Warren Mitofsky died of an aneurysm of the aorta. He was 71 years old. Reflecting on his life, Andy Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center, said that Mitofsky "set the standard for national news polls." He did. He was also a friend. Even though he didn't hire me in 1982. I will miss him.

Now, on to the questions.

Q: With the defeat of Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), what other incumbent governors have suffered the indignity of not winning their party's nomination for another term? All I can think of is Missouri's Bob Holden, who lost the 2004 Democratic primary to Claire McCaskill. — Robert Yoon, Washington, D.C.

A: Holden was the last governor to lose his bid for renomination. Here's a list of others who met that same fate in the last 30 years:

1994: Bruce Sundlun (D-RI)/Walter Miller (R-SD)*

1991: Buddy Roemer (R-LA)**

1986: Bill Sheffield (D-AK)

1982: Ed King (D-MA)

1980: Tom Judge (D-MT)/Dixy Lee Ray (D-WA)

1978: Michael Dukakis (D-MA)/Dolph Briscoe (D-TX)

1976: Dan Walker (D-IL)

*Miller was never elected on his own, having succeeded to the governorship following the death of his predecessor.

**Roemer is a special case that I'm not sure fits here or in the question that follows. Elected in the state's unique open primary in 1987 as a Democrat, he sought re-election in 1991 as a Republican, but finished third. Since all candidates run on the same ballot in Louisiana, regardless of party, I'm not sure if this should be considered a defeat in the primary or in the general election.

Q: I was intrigued by the fact that Frank Murkowski finished third in the Alaska primary. Do you know if any other incumbent governor ever finished that low? — Jerry Skurnik, New York, N.Y.

A: Here's one who actually finished fourth: Preston Smith of Texas. Elected in 1968 and re-elected in 1970, he fell victim to the Sharpstown bank stock scandal and finished a distant fourth in the 1972 Democratic primary, which was won by businessman Dolph Briscoe.

Another Texas Democrat, Price Daniel, finished third in the 1962 primary won by former Navy Secretary John Connally. Daniel, an ex-senator who was first elected governor in 1956, was seeking an unprecedented fourth two-year term. Connally, an ally of Vice President Johnson, picked up the conservative vote, while the liberals went with Don Yarborough, leaving little for Daniel.

Still another governor who finished third in his bid for renomination was David Hall of Oklahoma. First elected in 1970, he was given good marks for his reform efforts. But many members of his administration were either indicted or got caught up in scandal, and Hall fell out of the running in the '74 primary.

See, also, Buddy Roemer of Louisiana, above.

Q: Your feature in the July 19 column about dead candidates winning re-election reminded me of the time when I was at Penn in 1976. My congressman, Bill Barrett, died shortly before the primary; he was running against a blind man. The Democratic machine encouraged people to vote for the dead man. In the end, the dead man beat the blind man by 3 to 1. Of course, the Democratic City Committee then selected Michael "Ozzie" Myers to replace Barrett, who was so honest that he was almost broke when he died. Myers, who was later expelled from Congress for his role in the Abscam scandal, was another story. — Rick Dunham, 'Business Week' magazine, Washington, D.C.

A: The 79-year-old Barrett, a longtime incumbent Democrat who represented south Philadelphia, died 15 days before the 1976 primary. As you indicated, he nonetheless won the primary overwhelmingly. And after he died, the party selected Myers, a state representative and ward leader, to succeed him as the Democratic nominee. And the rest was history.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Last week's column headlined the upcoming GOP Rhode Island Senate primary, where incumbent Lincoln Chafee faces a serious challenge from conservative Steve Laffey. While there's a lot going on in the nine states holding primaries on Sept. 12, here are three particularly worth watching:

Arizona 8th CD: Rep. Jim Kolbe (R), a moderate, is retiring after 11 terms. The favorite in the GOP primary is former state Rep. Randy Graf, who challenged Kolbe in the 2004 primary and got 43 percent of the vote. Graf is a strong anti-illegal immigration conservative who Kolbe insists cannot win in November; the incumbent is backing a former aide, state Rep. Steve Huffman, who is well-funded. A third Republican in the race, former state party chair Mike Hellon, could further split the moderate vote and help nominate Graf. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Gabrielle Giffords is favored over former TV broadcaster Patty Weiss and four others. This is a key race for both parties, and a prime example of how immigration policy is splitting the Republicans, in this case in a district that shares a 261-mile border with Mexico.

Maryland Senate: Ten-term Rep. Ben Cardin and ex-Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who later served as president of the NAACP, lead a 17-candidate field in the Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D). The issue of race is paramount here: Cardin is white and Mfume is black, and the split is raising tensions in the Democratic Party. The winner faces Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who, if he wins in November, will be the first African-American Republican in the Senate since Edward Brooke of Massachusetts in the 1960s and '70s.

New York Senate: Sen. Hillary Clinton is considered a "front-runner" for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and nothing that happens in New York this year is likely to change that. Still, the anti-war left wing of the party would love to see a strong showing for Jonathan Tasini, who is challenging Clinton in the primary. Tasini insists he can duplicate what Ned Lamont pulled off in Connecticut. But there are major differences between Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Clinton, though both voted in 2002 for the resolution to go to war in Iraq … not to mention that Lamont had several million dollars of his own money at his disposal. Against Clinton's $44 million war chest, Tasini has carfare, and not much more. Republicans will decide between former Pentagon official K.T. McFarland and ex-Yonkers Mayor John Spencer to see who will be the sacrificial lamb against Clinton.

Sept. 5 Primary Results, Florida

Rep. Katherine Harris won the Republican Senate primary with 49 percent of the vote against three no-name opponents, and goes into the November general election as a prohibitive underdog to Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state in 2000 was a pivotal figure in the Bush-Gore presidential recount, has been plagued from the beginning by heavy staff turnover, weak poll numbers, fundraising woes, ethical questions and outright hostility from party officials from Gov. Jeb Bush on down. But no other big name Republican stepped forward to challenge her for the nomination.

In the GOP race for the governorship, which the term-limited Jeb Bush (R) is giving up, state Attorney General Charlie Crist easily defeated Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer. When Gallagher last ran for governor, in the 1994 primary against Bush, he was pro-choice. This time Gallagher ran as a strong pro-life candidate; the apparent flip-flop didn't help his cause this year. Crist has come a long way since he got clobbered by then-Sen. Bob Graham (D) in 1998. The Democrats nominated Rep. Jim Davis, who beat back a feisty challenge from state Sen. Rod Smith.

In the race to succeed Crist as attorney general, state Sen. Skip Campbell (D) faces ex-Rep. Bill McCollum (R).

Florida House Primaries of Note

9th CD: The Republican nominee to succeed retiring 12-term Rep. Mike Bilirakis is his son, state Rep. Gus Bilirakis. Democrats counter with former county commissioner Phyllis Busansky. The GOP is favored to hold onto the seat but the race is expected to be competitive.

11th CD: Democrats are all but certain to keep the seat being vacated by gubernatorial nominee Davis. Their nominee is Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor, whose mother, Betty, was the unsuccessful Dem Senate nominee two years ago against Mel Martinez (R).

13th CD: The Republican primary to replace Katherine Harris, which got unusually personal and ugly, went to car dealer Vern Buchanan, the head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Democrats, who see an opening in the GOP-majority district, nominated banker Christine Jennings.

Meet the Challengers: This week, we have Diana Irey, who is challenging Rep. John Murtha (D) in PA 12, and Larry Grant, the Democrat who is running in the open ID 01.



says she decided to take on Murtha following his strong comments against the war in Iraq. A local county commissioner first elected 11 years ago, Irey argues that Murtha is out of step with the voters in the rural southwestern Pennsylvania district, and her campaign has become a cause embraced by veterans around the country. But the truth is that Murtha's views on the war are more the topic of Washington, D.C., than Johnstown, Pa. Back home, it's pork, and Murtha has delivered since he came to Congress in the special Watergate-related election of February 1974.


GRANT is seeking the seat being vacated by Butch Otter, the Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidate who has had no trouble winning in a very conservative district. What gives Democrats hope about Grant, a former VP of a Boise technology firm, is the controversy that hovers around state Rep. Bill Sali, the GOP nominee who won the six-candidate May primary with just 26 percent of the vote. Sali, who ideologically fits the district, has feuded with top Republicans for years. But unless Sali implodes or the anti-Republican tide reaches western Idaho, the GOP should keep the seat. Still, this one is worth watching.


To get your candidate in the "Meet the Challengers" section, all you need do is send his or her 2006 campaign button to Political Junkie, 635 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. If nothing else, it will make Ken Rudin's collection very happy.

No Junkie on Talk of the Nation Today: We're being preempted by President Bush's speech on terror suspects; see you next week.


Also … check out NPR's interactive election map, highlighting every Senate, gubernatorial and key House race in the country, with early projections.


Two Peas in a Podcast: Let the record show that CBS News' Katie Couric is the just the latest television network anchor who has yet to download an episode of NPR's political podcast, "It's All Politics," on her personal iPod. That doesn't mean you shouldn't. Don't forget, a new edition of the podcast goes up every Thursday at noon.


Please … If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, don't forget to include your city and state.


This Day in Campaign History: More than two dozen key Illinois Republican leaders announce their support for Sen. Charles Percy as the state's favorite son GOP presidential candidate for 1968 (Sept. 6, 1967).


Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: