Political Junkie: Sotomayor, Burris NPR's Political Junkie blogger, Ken Rudin, talks about the week in political news, including the political theatrics of Judge Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Sen. Roland Burris' decision not to seek a full term, this week's trivia question, and politics in Nevada.
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Political Junkie: Sotomayor, Burris

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Political Junkie: Sotomayor, Burris

Political Junkie: Sotomayor, Burris

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Partisan debate on Sonia Sotomayor, the circular firing squad declares an armistice in Albany, Senator Ensign's parents pay off his paramour. It's Wednesday, and time for another round with 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. Where's the beef?

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to discuss the buzz in politics. Today, the politics of the Supreme Court nomination, Governor Sanford plans another vacation, Roland Burris bows out in Illinois, health care edges off the starting line in Congress, the president throws down his first veto threat and tosses out the first pitch at the All-Star game in St. Louis.

A bit later, political dysfunction in the battle-born state of Nevada, but first, Ken's got a trivia question he's ready to throw here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Nice to have you back.

RUDIN: Not every Wednesday. Last week was Aspen Public Radio. They are big fans of your show, especially on Wednesdays, I should say.

CONAN: Well, that's shockingly poor judgment, but anyway, go ahead.

RUDIN: Okay, well, the American League, as you know, won yesterday's baseball All-Star game, the 13th consecutive game the National League has failed to win. Okay, so let's switch to Senate races.

CONAN: Okay, that's my immediate switch.

RUDIN: Yes. There are four states where one party currently has a winning streak of at least 13 consecutive Senate races. Name the four states.

CONAN: So if you think you know the four states where one party has won at least 13 consecutive U.S. Senate races, give us a call. You have to get all four of them.

RUDIN: All four.

CONAN: 800-989-8255, or zap us an email, talk@npr.org.

In the meantime, Ken, there was, well, a very interesting moment yesterday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis where a thin left-hander came out on the mound.

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Unidentified Man #1: The 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, throwing to Albert Pujols…

CONAN: …who made a diving stab to his left.

RUDIN: I think the actual - the verdict should be he should stick to bowling because I think Barack Obama is far better - no, look. You know, he's a basketball player, not a baseball player. We've seen basketball players try baseball before - like another Chicagoan, Michael Jordan.

CONAN: Absolutely.

RUDIN: But look: It was a great game, and it was - you know, the fact that he came out with his White Sox jacket on, it was just - you know, it shows he's a true baseball fan.

CONAN: My favorite quote was, somebody asked him, you're a left-hander. You got a curveball? And he said, if I had a curveball, I wouldn't have run for president.

Anyway, moving on to politics - and before we get on to everything else, there were actual votes cast in a real election yesterday.

RUDIN: There were. Not a surprise, but in California's 32nd Congressional District around Los Angeles, this is the district that Hilda Solis vacated when she became Secretary of Labor, and Judy Chu is a Democrat, won overwhelmingly in an overwhelming Democratic district.

What's interesting is that it's a overwhelmingly Hispanic district, but Judy Chu was the Democratic nominee in a hard-fought primary, and she beat another woman named Chu, Betty Tom Chu, a distant relative through marriage. But anyway, so that keeps the seat in Democratic hands, and now there's only one vacancy right now. That's Ellen Tauscher's seat, also in California, and soon to be another one in upstate New York, when John McHugh becomes secretary of the Navy.

CONAN: Moving right along, Sarah Palin, who has of course announced her plans to resign as governor of Alaska, wrote an op-ed that many took it as a challenge to President Obama, and it turns out that SarahPAC has raised a lot of money.

RUDIN: She - it has. Since January 1, SarahPAC, which is her political action committee, has raised over $733,000, plus an additional $200,000 since her July 3 announcement that she would be resigning as governor. She resigns on July 26. Of course, she also has a half-a-million dollars in legal bills from a whole assortment of things, so that money does come in handy.

CONAN: And let's also talk about a resolution of a state where dysfunction has ruled for a very long time. This is the junior senator from the state of Illinois, announcing that he does not plan to run for election.

Senator ROLAND BURRIS (Democrat, Illinois): Reality of being in the United States Senate today requires not only a significant time commitment to performing the job, but almost equal commitment to raising funds to run competitively for the office.

CONAN: And it turned out nobody had decided to give any money to Roland Burris.

RUDIN: No, that's not true. That's not true. In the first quarter of 2009, Roland Burris - now of course you need about $10-, $20 million dollars to run successfully. He has raised $845.

CONAN: Well, okay.

RUDIN: Yeah, that's it. So look, it's not a surprise he bowed out, but of course, as he said from the beginning, he wanted to have something on his mausoleum that said he is…

CONAN: A United States senator.

RUDIN: …a United States senator, and he did that. And look, for the longest time, people like Dick Durbin and Governor Pat Quinn said he should resign. He did not resign. It looks like he will fill out…

CONAN: Fill out the remainder of his term. Michael Steele gave a speech to the NAACP on its 100th anniversary, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee who, a couple years ago, was saying the NAACP was very close to being an arm of the Democratic Party.

RUDIN: Well, and it probably is. But of course, every Republican national chairman in memory has always said they always go to the NAACP, if they go to the NAACP, and they say that the Republican Party promises and pledges to do more to attract more black and Latino voters. Of course, Michael Steele being the first African-American chairman in the Republican Party's history makes it more interesting.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers on the line. We have some people who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and they're, of course, angling to get a great Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. The question this week: In which four states - you've got to get all four of them - which four states has one political party won at least 13 consecutive U.S. Senate races.

RUDIN: Current streak, current streak.

CONAN: Current streak, and let's go to Bill(ph), Bill calling from Chicago.

BILL (Caller): Good afternoon. My guess is Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware and Florida.

RUDIN: Maryland, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Florida, and you are wrong on all four, but Maryland, we had - Maryland has had not a Republican senator since Chuck Mac Mathias in 1980, but of course, we've had a lot of Republicans and Democrats in - as a matter of fact, none of those states. Massachusetts comes closest. It has won - Democrats have won 12 in a row, going back to - the last Republican was Ed Brooke in 1971, but has not broken the 13 threshold.

CONAN: Just tell him he got one wrong because we want to leave people open to make mistakes here, but Bill, thank you very much for the call, appreciate it.

Let's see if we can go next to - this is Shane(ph), Shane with us from Portland, Oregon.

SHANE (Caller): Hey. How is everyone doing today?

CONAN: Okay.

SHANE: I think West Virginia, Wyoming, Montana and Wisconsin.

RUDIN: Well, you're wrong about Montana. I'll tell you that you're wrong about Montana because Conrad Burns was a Republican who was elected as recently as 2000.

SHANE: That's true.

CONAN: Nice try, Shane.

SHANE: Thanks for having me on. You guys do a great job.

CONAN: Thank you, bye-bye. Let's go next to Chris(ph), Chris with us from Yellow Springs in Ohio.

CHRIS (Caller): Yeah, hi. Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming and Nebraska.

RUDIN: Mississippi, Alabama…

CONAN: Isn't there a sitting Democrat in Nebraska?

RUDIN: There's actually, there's a Republican in Nebraska, and there's a Democratic in Nebraska. So that rules out Nebraska immediately. You have Mike Johanns in Nebraska, who is a Republican, and Ben Nelson.

CONAN: You might say Dyno(ph) but nevertheless a D. Thanks very much for the call, Chris.

CHRIS: Thanks.

CONAN: Let's go next to Bob(ph). Bob's calling from Aberdeen, South Dakota.

BOB (Caller): Hello. It's New York, West Virginia, Wyoming and Louisiana.

RUDIN: Well, as a matter of fact no because in Louisiana, you have David Vitter. And David Vitter is a Republican who was the first Republican and only Republican ever elected from Louisiana.

CONAN: And a Democrat, of course, Mary Landrieu.

RUDIN: Mary Landrieu, but they elected one Republican, and that's current. So obviously, that breaks that streak.

CONAN: Bob, thanks.

BOB: Okay.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Mark(ph), Mark calling from Cleveland, Ohio.

MARK (Caller): Yes. I was going to say Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

RUDIN: Well again, Montana is not - we already said Montana can't be right because Conrad Burns was elected in 2000. So there has been a Republican recently, even though there have been - Democrat Max Baucus back to 1978, but regarding the previous caller, I should say regarding Louisiana, Louisiana once had a streak of 34 consecutive Democratic victories until David Vitter won in 2006.

CONAN: Let's go next to Roosevelt(ph), Roosevelt with us from Myrtle Beach. Roosevelt, you there?

ROOSEVELT (Caller): Yes, yes, yes.

CONAN: You're on the air. Go ahead, please. What are your four states?

ROOSEVELT: Yes, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Nevada.

RUDIN: Well no. I mean, right now you have Harry Reid and that guy John Ensign from Nevada.

CONAN: More about him in a moment.

RUDIN: So that knocks out Nevada, and of course, South Carolina for years had Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings. So they had a Republican and Democrat in that state, too. So both of those states are eliminated.

CONAN: Nice try. We may have to surrender on this one.

RUDIN: I may have to wear the T-shirt myself.

CONAN: Oh, well, nobody wants to see you modeling a T-shirt, Ken, but let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Jenny(ph), Jenny with us from Denver.

JENNY (Caller): Hi. I think Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico.

RUDIN: Well, you got some correct, but New Mexico, of course, you had Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat, Pete Domenici a Republican, for many, many years. So New Mexico is out of it.

I will tell you, since we are running out of a lot of callers, Wyoming is one of them because Wyoming has elected 14 in a row, going back to 1972. So Wyoming is definitely one of the four.

CONAN: Nice try, Jenny.

JENNY: Thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Well, we're running out of time here.

RUDIN: Well, I could give the answer, or we could get more calls, or…

CONAN: I don't know. I think we have to give - well - what's going on here? We've never had people not get the answer before.

RUDIN: It's a tough question, but of course, you know, it's an important question because, like for example, I will tell you another state. Should I tell you another state?

CONAN: Okay.

RUDIN: Well, Kansas has elected 28 straight Republicans to the Senate, 28 straight Republican victories going back to 1936. There has not been a Democrat elected to Kansas since 1932.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go to Jackson(ph), Jackson calling us from Greaten(ph) in Florida. You've been given two answers, two of the correct four answers, Jackson. Can you get the other two?

JACKSON (Caller): I've got Hawaii, Wyoming, Arizona and Mississippi.

RUDIN: Well…

CONAN: We've explained why Arizona is not the answer.

RUDIN: And it's not Mississippi, either, because we had, of course, even though we have two Republicans now, we had John Stennis as recently as 1982, so that's…

CONAN: He's now an aircraft carrier.

RUDIN: Yes, the late John Stennis, but of course, that keeps Mississippi from winning 13 in a row.

CONAN: Jackson, thanks very much for the call. So what are the right answers, Ken?

RUDIN: The answers are Kansas, 28 straight Republican victories going back to 1936, West Virginia, which has been mentioned, 19 straight Democratic, going back to 1958, Wyoming and Hawaii - no Republican has been elected since Hiram Fong in 1970. Thirteen straight in Hawaii for the Democrats.

CONAN: Stay with us. When we come back, we're going to be talking about the newest state to enter the lexicon of the political dysfunctional, and that's Nevada. I'm Neal Conan. Ken Rudin, the political junkie, is with us. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2 (Singer): (Singing) And take over this beautiful land.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We stumped them. It's another scandal that seems to have it all: sex, money, power. Senator John Ensign, a Republican from Nevada, says he will not resign over news of his affair and the $96,000 his parents reportedly gave to the woman's family. He plans to run for re-election in 2012. Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons also plans to run again, rather sooner. He was kicked out of the governor's mansion by his wife, who accused him of cheating on any number of occasions. To top it off, the state was just named the second-most dysfunctional in the country. If you live in Nevada, does any of this affect how you'll vote? What's the reaction where you live? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ken Rudin is with us, NPR's political editor, our political junkie here every Wednesday. You can read his blog at npr.org, that's when he's not cobbling together trivia questions that nobody can answer. And let's see if we can go to our next guest. The next guest is Joe Ralston, who joins us now from his home in Las Vegas - excuse me, Jon Ralston from his home in Las Vegas. He's a columnist with the Las Vegas Sun and host of the TV show "Face to Face." Nice to have you back on the program, Jon.

Mr. JOHN RALSTON (Columnist, Las Vegas Sun; Host, "Face to Face"): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: And how are people in Nevada reacting to this latest bit of news from the Ensigns?

Mr. RALSTON: Oh, we're just thrilled to be, may I say, Neal, the talk of the nation once again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RALSTON: Listen. I think people are very polarized about this. Some people say it's a personal matter. They think it's unseemly. They've got his former chief of staff talking about this, and it was his wife Ensign had the affair with. And then you get the really unseemly, again, news that the former casino-boss dad paid off the mistress's family.

Now, of course they're saying it was just a pattern of generosity from the Ensign family, and you guys might think we out here in Nevada are rubes, but I don't think most people buy that one.

CONAN: And it's one thing to have a sex scandal. When it becomes a sex and money scandal, that kind of changes things.

Mr. RALSTON: I think it does, and I think that's why people are more interested in it, because of the money aspect. And it's not just the payoff from the parents to the family, it's exactly what did happen when they left. John Ensign put out a statement through his lawyer about that payment only after Doug Hampton, the former chief of staff, had come out publicly and said his wife was paid more than $25,000 in severance, which would trigger all kinds of disclosure and potential criminal-penalty issues for Ensign, which is why he immediately put out that statement.

But I have to tell you, Neal, the real question here is that how do we know that we should believe anything that is being said here? No one's willing to come forward and prove that it was only $96,000, that they actually can then prove that these were, quote-unquote, "gifts to the kids and the family." What about John Ensign and the payments of severance? Is that different than the gifts. I think that's why there are these swirling questions, and as you probably know, John Ensign has just flat-out refused to answer any questions about it.

CONAN: He's not the only senator not talking about it. There are reports, Ken, here in Washington, D.C., that he was being counseled by a fellow member of the United States Senate, Tom Coburn, who reportedly said you should pay to let the family move back to Nevada, but Senator Coburn replied to questions about that because he's citing doctor-patient relationship.

RUDIN: Well yes. Tom Coburn is an obstetrician, and of course, that explains that explains the doctor-patient privilege. But of course, Tom Coburn does deny authorizing the payment. He did say to John Ensign that he should end the affair but not about the payment.

But Jon Ralston, I have a question to you. You said that nobody cares about the sex so much, but they care about the money, but let's be honest here. Every political sex scandal we seem to be driven to, whether it's Eliot Spitzer, whether it's John Edwards, whether it's Mark Sanford, so it's not really about money. It is really about sex, and we pretend that it's the money that makes us more interested.

Mr. RALSTON: Well, I didn't mean to suggest, Ken, that nobody cares about the sex part of it. Of course, that's what makes it a sexy story, but what I'm suggesting is that either blindly loyal supporters of John Ensign will present the argument: everybody does it. Don't get into his business. He made a mistake. He apologized. Let him go on with it.

But, as Neal pointed out, it's the financial aspect of this, and the kind of, you know, peeling of the onion. First it was just an affair. Then it was that he might have paid what might be unethical or even illegal severance, and then there was the casino boss, former casino-boss daddy coming in to pay off the family. I think that aspect of it makes it more than just a guy who went out and might have hiked the Appalachian Trail.

RUDIN: And it makes his future, obviously it makes Ensign's future more difficult, as well.

CONAN: You interviewed Doug Hampton, Jon, the husband of the woman Senator Ensign had the affair with. Now, these families were, at one time, very close.

Mr. RALSTON: Very, very close. In fact, apparently the Ensigns induced the Hamptons to move here from Orange County. Darlene Ensign, John Ensign's wife, and Cindy Hampton were close friends from high school. Doug Hampton was a very close friend of John Ensign. John Ensign brought him in to be his co-chief of staff. They were very, very close, and then that just, of course, adds yet another element to this story.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org - want to hear from Nevada today. Erin(ph) is calling from Boise, which is, I guess, in northern Nevada.

ERIN (Caller): No, I'm from Nevada, Neal, and I just wanted to say I saw you speak in Boise, and thank you so much. I'm a big fan.

CONAN: Well, thanks very much.

ERIN: My parents still reside in Nevada, and my folks say that word on the street is that everybody's kicking themselves for not voting for Gibbons' running mate. She was a UNLV professor from Vegas, and I think everybody is just regretting their vote. And it's, like you said, it's disgusting because there seem to be just more and more layers to this corrupt onion. It's disgusting. To involve one's parents to pay someone off is just - I mean, my gosh, that's disgusting.

CONAN: And you said Gibbons. I think you meant Ensign. We'll get to Gibbons in a minute.

ERIN: No, I did - I meant Gibbons because his running mate was from Vegas, but Ensign, as well - and now I jump to Ensign. Also, Daniel Schorr made a comment a couple weekends about the next new reality show should be the lives of Republican politicians. Oh my gosh, these guys are just dirty. It's terrible.

CONAN: All right, well thanks very much for the call, Erin. And she raises the point: What's happened to John Ensign's popularity ratings there in Nevada? He was, well, doing very well until all this happened.

Mr. RALSTON: He was the most popular elected official in the state probably, Neal. I've heard some reports of some polling out there, his numbers are plunging. They're not quite at Gibbons-like levels. We can talk about that if you'd like, but there are some people in the Republican Party who are staying loyal to him, who have sent emails, who have spoken out and saying that, you know, we're still behind him. And you know, I guess they go by the old adage: Listen, we don't care what he does. He votes right.

CONAN: Let's go next to Ward(ph), and Ward's with us from Reno.

WARD (Caller): Hello. I am here in Reno, Nevada, where sex and money goes hand in hand. I'm actually a fan of John Ensign, but I also have a healthy mistrust of all politicians. And I think if the guy's own wife can't trust him, how can we?

And I also have to disagree with your mentioning Nevada being a new entrant into the states of political dysfunction. I think the Republican Party here has proven time and again that they are well among the ranks of the dysfunctional.

CONAN: So I'm just - have been selling them short. I apologize for that, Ward. The question: What is the Republican Party like there in Nevada, Jon Ralston? Is it a socially conservative movement? Is it more libertarian?

Mr. RALSTON: Well, I'd say it's more libertarian. You certainly do have the religious-right elements here, and they are very active, as both of you know, in party politics. It's interesting. People don't believe this about Nevada with Sin City, et cetera. We do have the - at least we used to, I'm not sure if this still exist, most churches per capita. There is a very active LDS Mormon population here.

But I guess we should just - one quick thing about, though, we haven't mentioned: One other aspect of this issue with Ensign is that he has been very sanctimonious and moralizing in his public life about the failings of others, whether it's Bill Clinton or Larry Craig, and I think the issue of hypocrisy really is the one that's really disturbing people here. One Republican said to me, people can forgive a guy who has an affair. People can - in politics, we can forgive a liar, but a hypocrite, no way.

CONAN: Ward, thanks very much for the phone call. And let's go on now to - this of course in the state where the Republican governor has enjoyed - well, maybe enjoyed is the wrong verb here - but has been in hot water for quite some time.

Mr. RALSTON: Well, I have to tell you. The person who summed it up best was Ken Rudin, who a couple of weeks ago did a list of the 22 governors who - Republican governors who might become president and their chances, and he listed Gibbons last, even below Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's not even eligible. I don't think anybody in this state - and I bow to Ken's use of that. I thought that was brilliant, and I got a lot of play out of using that - with attribution, Ken, I should tell you - in this state.

RUDIN: Thank you very much.

Mr. RALSTON: Listen, Jim Gibbons is widely considered a joke. There's no other way to put it. There was one poll that came out recently that showed he only has a 10-percent approval rating. I'm not sure that's true, but I really - everything that he could have done wrong, Neal, he has done wrong. It's as if they have a meeting every week and said - and say, what can we screw up this week? And they're very successful at it.

CONAN: Go ahead, Ken.

RUDIN: Jon, one thing, you know - once upon a time, Harry Reid was thought to be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. But given Gibbon's problems and Ensign's problems, I mean, Reid doesn't have any Republican opponent, let alone poll difficulties.

Mr. RALSTON: Yeah. I'm not sure how much this has affected that, except for one thing, Ken. Dean Heller, who is the Republican congressman from Nevada - widely considered the strongest candidate against Harry Reid - I think is seriously thinking about getting into the race against Reid, and might even be a slight favorite, considering Harry Reid's problems.

I think this is making him stop and look at some other things. What if John Ensign were to resign? What if John Ensign decides not to run? Maybe that's easier path to the U.S. Senate than to get into essentially, what would be a very close race against the Senate majority leader who, by the way, reported yesterday, officially, that he has $7 million or so on hand, has raised $11 million in all and on his way to $25 million.

But certainly, the Republican Party here is in disarray. John Ensign wasn't going to be much help anyhow because Reid and he have the strange symbiotic relationship where they never say anything bad about each other, at least publicly.

RUDIN: Even though they ran against each other.

CONAN: At one point, yes.

RUDIN: Well.

Mr. RALSTON: Ran against each other one of the closest races in Nevada history…

RUDIN: Right.

Mr. RALSTON: …in 1998. Which, by the way - I'll show you how incestuous our state is. Dean Heller, who I just mentioned, at that time was the secretary of State, and essentially cut off the recount and Harry Reid has been forever indebted to him for that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's go to Paula. Paula calling us from Las Vegas.

PAULA (Caller): Hi. I just wanted to throw another fact into the mix here. There is talk that our mayor, Oscar Goodman, might be running for the governorship. And, of course, this is a guy who travels around with four showgirls. So I don't know if we're getting any better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, he's at least got a sense of humor. He's a pretty funny guy.

PAULA: He's a funny guy, and those of us who live here in Las Vegas think he's done an extraordinary job - showgirls or not.

CONAN: Is Oscar Goodman a live candidate?

Mr. RALSTON: I don't think so. Oscar Goodman likes one thing above all else, and that's attention. And so, he will say almost anything knowing that the media here will eat it up. People do - people in the city of Las Vegas do like the guy because, as you mentioned, he's a funny guy. He's charismatic. Whether or not he's done an extraordinary job as mayor, I don't know.

But I've often said that he would not run for governor, mostly because the difference between governor and mayor, is governor's a real job. I don't think that Oscar Goodman wants a real job. And now, he's talking about running as an independent, which is an absolute nonstarter. He'd be lucky to get 15 percent of the vote.

And remember, people outside of Las Vegas and rural Nevada and in Reno - folks in Reno don't like Las Vegas because they think we're trying to take over the state, forget that they're right. They don't like us. And so, I'm not sure that Oscar Goodman is a viable candidate. I don't think he'll run.

CONAN: We're here with the Political Junkie. And thanks very much for the call, Paula.

PAULA: Thank you.

CONAN: We're here with the Political Junkie, Ken Rudin. And with Jon Ralston, the columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the TV show "Face to Face."

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

RUDIN: And, Jon, also, Harry Reid's son, Rory Reid, is also talking about running for the governor as well, right?

Mr. RALSTON: Oh, he's definitely running. And just this morning, there were some news that one of the big casino companies on The Strip, MGM Mirage, has decided to support him exclusively. And there are a lot of reasons that they might be doing that. The county commission, which he chairs, has dominion over The Strip. Harry Reid is always looming large here. But I think this whole issue is very interesting, Ken, in the sense that there's a lot of talk out there, but what is going to be the effect of having two Reids on the ballot?

Now, Rory Reid is going to run. The question is whether he'll have a primary. And there's already a crowded field in the Republican side, and you have an incumbent Republican governor.

Some people think, and I happen to believe this, too, that having two Reids on the ballot is not going to help either Reid.

CONAN: That would be the oboe slate, wouldn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. RALSTON: There you go.

CONAN: Let's talk with Teresa(ph). Teresa with us from Las Vegas.

THERESE (Caller): Hi. It's Therese(ph).

CONAN: Therese, excuse me.

THERESE: Hi, guys. It's really a pleasure to talk to you. And, Jon, I read your columns every day. And, Neal, I listen to your show every day. And, Ken, I always tune in for, you know, the Political Junkie.

I just wanted to say I live in Las Vegas. One thing that I love, and that is really highlighted by your show, is that our politicians here are very colorful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

THERESE: They're interesting. And they get in the national news a lot. And I think that's kind of exciting because I've been here three years, and it's always kind of entertainment to hear about our politicians.

CONAN: Well, Therese, do you think that any of them can survive their current difficulties?

THERESE: Well, you know, with - I really did like Ensign. I'm a Democrat. But I mean, I thought that he was okay and, you know, he and Harry get along good. Ilove Harry.

But the whole - I'm not really so much worried about what he does in his, you know, personal family life. But the thing that's come out - for instance, on the state of the Nevada this morning, they had a broadcast about his involvement with a family and that whole kind of illuminati cult, almost, you know? That really makes me nervous.

CONAN: Ken, you know something about that?

RUDIN: Well, that's part of the hypocrisy that Jon Ralston was talking about, that John Ensign was always very vocal about the sanctity of the family. And, of course, the leading Democratic candidate for governor of California, Gavin Newsom, also had an affair with his chief of staff's wife.

CONAN: Yeah. Chief of staff. So…

RUDIN: But I guess there was no hypocrisy alleged there.

CONAN: Therese…

Mr. RALSTON: But the family - Neal, if I might. The family she's referring to was a specific family that lives in the so-called C Street House, which is how Tom Coburn got involved in this. And there's been a lot of work now done. A man wrote a book about this. He took a piece that he wrote for Harper's and then did some research. He was on a local radio program here on, KNPR this morning, is what she's referring to, talking about - a Rachel Maddow on her program has done a lot of investigating into this Christian fellowship. That is where this confrontation took place, that Tom Coburn is now trying to distance himself, from where Doug Hampton says that there was an effort there to make John Ensign repent. That he wrote this letter, essentially a very remorseful, handwritten letter to Cindy Hampton and then immediately began pursuing her again. And that there was advice given at that meeting. According to Doug Hampton that Tom Coburn participated in saying they should essentially give the Hamptons some money and send them on their way.

There is now a lot of investigating going on, I think, into this kind of shadowy Christian fellowship. Other former congressmen who have been in there -Steve Largent has commented on it now and he talked about being at that confrontation. And I think Congressman Wamp has done a lot of commenting on it, too.

So this is going to get more and more scrutiny, I think, because of what Doug Hampton says happened there.

CONAN: Well, Jon Ralston, that'll give us another opportunity to have you back on the program. Thank you very much for your time today.

Mr. RALSTON: My pleasure.

CONAN: And, Terese, thank you very much for the phone call. We appreciate that, too. And our thanks as always to Ken Rudin, our Political Junkie and NPR's political editor, who joins us here every Wednesday.

Up next, the man who buried Batman. Neil Gaiman brought together some of Gotham's best and worst for the funeral.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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