NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Massachusetts races to seat a new senator, Sarah Palin sprints to finish her memoir, and David Paterson insists he's still in the running for governor. It's Wednesday and time for another breathless edition 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.
Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
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 for a round-up up all things political, and what a week. Justice Sonia Sotomayor throws out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder declines to endorse Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds, and Rick Santorum heads to Iowa, the first step on a president campaign trail?
In a few minutes, the long arm of the executive branch reaches all the way to Denver and the Democratic Senate primary, and California Republicans gather in Indian Wells for their annual convention. Later in the program, a round-up of opinion on the arrest of Roman Polanski 30 years after his conviction. Between the anger at either end of the spectrum, is there room for nuance in this debate? Email us now. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal.
CONAN: And as usual, we begin with a trivia question.
RUDIN: Well, you mentioned the California Republicans held their state convention this weekend in California, in the desert. There are two California Republican women who are running for higher offices here. It's Carly Fiorina, who's hoping to run for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer, and Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive, running for governor, hoping to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have two trivia questions here - that means two prizes.
RUDIN: When was the last time a party nominated women for governor and the U.S. Senate in the same year, and when was the first time?
CONAN: So if you think you know the first and most recent times a major party nominated female candidates for governor and Senate in the same year, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can get either or, a prize for each, but you've got tell us which one you're trying to answer, and again 800-989-8255.
So speaking of female governors, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, finished her memoir early.
RUDIN: Well, somebody finished it. I mean, obviously she is working with a collaborator, Lynn Vincent, who was an editor at the World magazine, an Evangelical Christian magazine. But obviously they wanted to get the book - the book was supposed to come out next spring and it's coming out November 17, coincidentally four days after my birthday.
RUDIN: Yeah, very strange.
CONAN: But there's no such thing as a coincidence in politics.
RUDIN: Right. But also coming out a month before Christmas, and they ordered a million-and-a-half copies, and they think it's going to be a real hot seller.
CONAN: And they think that Sarah Palin and former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Liz are going to be the new faces of the Republican Party.
RUDIN: Well, there is a lot of dissention about Sarah Palin. Of course, there was a big article about Liz Cheney on the front page of the New York Times, showing that she is in hot demand. She's, you know, the same kind of taunting of Barack Obama that Dick Cheney is very good at, and Liz Cheney is showing that, as well.
But Sarah Palin, again Republicans are mixed. There are people who just absolutely love her. They say she tells it like it is, she's just like us. And there are others who say look, she's part of the so-called know-nothing wing of the Republican Party and that she is not the kind of person who could lead the party to the nomination or at least to victory in 2012.
CONAN: Getting on to more upcoming elections, in Virginia, apparently the White House asked the former governor of Virginia, Doug Wilder, to, well, go out and endorse the Democratic nominee to succeed him, and Governor Wilder declined.
RUDIN: This is vintage Douglas Wilder. Douglas Wilder, in 1989, became the first African-American governor elected anywhere in the country by the voters.
CONAN: Since Reconstruction.
RUDIN: Since Reconstruction, and this was 1989 in Virginia, but since then, he's had a prickly relationship with his fellow Democrats. He has to be wooed, and he has to be wined and dined, and sometimes he endorses them, but more often than not, he does not.
Four years ago, when Creigh Deeds was running for state attorney general against the same Bob McDonnell who's running against him for governor, he refused to endorse him. So Doug Wilder was, there were pleas from Tim Kaine, who's the outgoing governor of Virginia and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and President Obama, but Wilder says I'm staying neutral in this one.
CONAN: Well, at least that's one where there's an accepted Democratic candidate and the White House gets involved. In New York state, as we talked about last week, David Paterson, the governor, apparently got a message from the White House: You can't win, you can't run. And he goes on TV and says I'm running.
RUDIN: Now, of course, a lot of it has to do with party politics in New York. There is a budget that needs to be passed in New York. If David Paterson was a lame duck governor, perhaps he wouldn't have the sway that he may or may not have now. I mean, he's not in any kind of enviable position.
CONAN: Not exactly a power broker, no.
RUDIN: But the White House did interfere in the New York Senate race with Kirsten Gillibrand and said look, I want everybody else to - I meaning the White House - wants all the other Democrats to stay out of it. Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel, members of Congress wanted to challenge Gillibrand for the nomination, Gillibrand appointed to have Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.
CONAN: By the aforementioned governor.
RUDIN: Exactly, by David Paterson, and so the White House really got involved in that, too, and the other candidates have stayed out of that one.
CONAN: Interesting. And since we last spoke, what we expected to happen in Massachusetts did happen. Paul Kirk has been appointed to the seat to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He's already been sworn into the Senate, may cast his first vote on the floor of the Senate today. And as he told reporters after his appointment was made by Governor Duval Patrick, he's going to keep the pledge that he'd been asked to make.
Senator PAUL KIRK (Democrat, Massachusetts): Just so you hear it from me, consistent with Senator Kennedy's wishes and the expectations of the governor and the legislator, legislators, I shall not be a candidate in the special election for the United States Senate in December or January.
CONAN: In December, of course, is the Democratic, and for that matter, Republican primary. The final election is in January, and that clears the way for - well, who's going to run?
RUDIN: Well, we already know that the two Democrats - it seems to be two major Democratic on the December 8 primary: Michael Capuano, who's a congressman, and the state attorney general - yes, who's name just escapes me. She is…
CONAN: Mary? No - you're supposed to know this.
RUDIN: I know. The state attorney general - but in the primary, and she's the only woman in the race, and she's run statewide. But it's already become ugly because Capuano is saying that unlike his attorney general, who doesn't have a name, he is the true successor to…
CONAN: Could make name recognition very difficult.
RUDIN: I can't believe this happened - to Ted Kennedy. But you know, Paul Kirk is 71 years old, long-time ally and confidante of the Kennedy family, you know, a very good choice, the Kennedy family very excited about. Vicki Kennedy and Kennedy's two sons also approved it.
CONAN: And we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. Again…
RUDIN: The trivia question is what is the name of the attorney general of Massachusetts.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: Martha Coakley.
CONAN: Martha Coakley. There you go. You get a - hey, you're just angling for another shirt there, Ken. So the trivia question this week is the first and last times that a major political party nominated female candidates for governor and senator in the same election.
RUDIN: In the same state.
CONAN: In the same state - 800-989-8255. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Jake(ph) is on the line from Kalamazoo.
JAKE (Caller): Hey. I believe that the most recent time it happened was with Governor Jennifer Granholm and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
RUDIN: And that was in 2006, and that was not the most recent time. But that's on my list of one of the times it's happened and actually one of the few times when both candidates were elected. They were successful on both governor and senator but not the most recent.
CONAN: So Jake, nice try but no cigar or no T-shirt in this case. Thank you very much. Let's see if we go next to, this is Bill(ph), Bill with us from Bay Village in Ohio.
BILL (Caller): Oh, jeez, well, you know, that was actually going to be my guess, too, but I guess I've got to come up with something in 2008, don't I?
CONAN: It sounds like for the most recent.
BILL: Oh, okay, well let's see. What about in Delaware, was it Ruth Ann Minner running for re-election against - and in the Senate, I guess Joe Biden's opponent was - and I don't know who...
RUDIN: Well, stop immediately because Ruth Ann Minner, who was a Democrat, and Joe Biden is a Democrat. So it had to be the same party nominating women. So you do have Ruth Ann Minner but not a Democrat for the Senate in Delaware.
CONAN: Nice scramble, Bill. Good improvisation. Marthann Coakley(ph) would be proud of you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Cecil(ph), Cecil with us from Winston-Salem. Cecil, you've got to turn off the radio and listen on the phone.
CECIL (Caller): Yes, I'm on the phone.
CONAN: Go ahead.
CECIL: Okay, the two most - the most recent is in North Carolina with Governor Perdue and Hagan.
RUDIN: That is correct. In 2008, Kay Hagan was elected to the Senate, and Bev Perdue was elected to governor. That is the most recent time that two women, same state, same party, both Democrats, were nominated for office. Actually, they both were elected, as well. So that is correct. That's the one answer we were looking for, the most recent, and that's North Carolina 2008.
CONAN: So Cecil, you're the proud winner of a fabulous no-prize T-shirt. I'm going to put you on hold, and we'll get your information, and you have to promise to take a digital picture and email it to us so we can add it to our wall of shame.
CECIL: Okay, thanks.
CONAN: All right, hold on. And we have an email question response to the first time, and this from L.N. in Richmond, California. California in 1994 was the time that women were nominated for both U.S. senator and governor: Diane Feinstein for Senate and Kathleen Brown for governor.
RUDIN: That was the first time ever. That person is correct, June 7, 1994. And the only reason I mention June 7 because on June 14, 1994, in Maine, Susan Collins was nominated for governor, Olympia Snowe was nominated for the Senate. So California wins the record by one week.
CONAN: Then so we'll return by email to L.N. Dolbier(ph). We hope he or she will send us a digital picture to add to our wall of shame.
RUDIN: We'll mail them. We'll email them the T-shirt.
CONAN: And anyway, one other thing we should mention. In the Bronx last Saturday, New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada took Sonia Sotomayor by the elbow and escorted the new Supreme Court justice to the front of the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium.
(Soundbite of baseball crowd)
Dressed in a pin-striped uniform shirt, Sonia Sotomayor surprised many of her critics when she came set as a right-hander, waved to the crowd. And here's the pitch.
(Soundbite of applause)
CONAN: A big, breaking ball that dropped into the glove of Jose Molina on the fly, and the Bronx native's beloved Yankees, then went on to sweep all three games from the Boston Red Sox to clinch first place in the American League East.
RUDIN: Conservatives fear that that's the only thing she'll ever do righty, but that was a great moment.
CONAN: A great moment for Sonia Sotomayor, who grow up just blocks - in the shadows of Yankee Stadium.
RUDIN: I did, too, by the way.
CONAN: Did you?
RUDIN: And I was not nominated to the Supreme Court.
CONAN: Not yet.
RUDIN: Well, it's early.
CONAN: We're talking with Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie. Up next: the White House plays favorites in Colorado's Democratic Senate primary, and California Republicans eye 2010 for a comeback. Ken mentioned they were in the desert, metaphorically or physically? We'll find out. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. You can also get your fix online. Ken blogs at npr.org. You can also go to that same Web site, and conspiracy theorists, Ken collaborates with Ron Elving every week on a podcast called IT'S All POLITICS. So you're going to want to get that.
We're going to head out California in a moment, where Republicans see opportunity ahead in 2010, but first to Colorado. When President Obama appointed Ken Salazar to head the Department of the Interior, Colorado's governor named Michael Bennet, the head of Denver Public Schools, to replace Salazar in the Senate.
It was supposed to be a smooth transition, but the election for that seat is in 2010, and Michael Bennet is not a shoo-in. The Democratic Party is deeply divided, and now the White House has gotten involved. If you're a Democrat living in Colorado, whom do you plan to support and why? Should the White House be playing referee in this contest? 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com.
Lynn Bartels reports on politics for The Denver Post, and joins us not by phone from her office in Denver. Nice to have you with us on TALK OF THE NATION.
Ms. LYNN BARTELS (Reporter, The Denver Post): Oh, thanks so much for having me.
CONAN: And the Post reported there that the speaker of the Colorado House has announced he's going to run against Bennet in the Democratic Primary, despite job offers elsewhere.
Ms. BARTELS: Yes, including the White House.
CONAN: Yeah. So the White House offered him jobs in the hopes that he would not run against Senator Bennet?
Ms. BARTELS: That's the talk. That's what sources have told us, and more than one, that the White House very late - when they realized that Andrew Romanoff was serious about getting in the race - made some overtures. Andrew loves foreign policy, has been to Africa before, and offered him some jobs. And supposedly, he said no, I'm going to run, and he turned him down.
CONAN: And so that has raised some ire among Democrats in the state.
Ms. BARTELS: Well, it raised ire, obviously, among the Romanoff backers. I don't think it raised any ire among the Bennet supporters. I mean, the one thing you have to realize is that when you say the White House, you also have to say Barack Obama, here.
Michael Bennet was an early supporter of Barack Obama. We're talking 2007. I mean, he maxed out his donations to Barack Obama in March of 2007 when a number of other Coloradans here, including Romanoff, lined up behind Hillary Clinton or had not made a decision yet. So he was a key advisor to Barack Obama on education, and they have a personal relationship. So this isn't just the White House wanting Senator Bennet. I think it's Barack Obama wanting his friend, Michael Bennet.
RUDIN: Lynn, Andrew Romanoff obviously challenging Michael Bennet in the primary. What's the issues involved here, other than Romanoff's ambition?
Ms. BARTELS: That's what people say. I don't see what the difference is between them. They've both pretty much Denver, you know - neither of them actually is a liberal-liberal. That's what's kind of interesting. In the - when Romanoff led the legislature, he stood up to the union, sometimes to their chagrin. So did Michael Bennet at Denver Public Schools. So they're a lot the same.
In fact, Democrats will say, what's the difference between them? But Romanoff lobbied very hard to be named senator. He thought he should have gotten the job. And, of course, he's - for seven, six months, whatever, people said you should have been appointed. And I think he finally believed it and said why not give the people a choice?
CONAN: Why not run against the governor who didn't appoint him?
Ms. BARTELS: That's what - he actually had made calls on that. That's what's interesting. Romanoff had called various Democrats and said I'm thinking of running against the governor.
Now, one rumor has it that he saw a poll and thought Bennet was easier to beat. Other rumors have it that he sat down and said yeah, but the job I really wanted was senator, not governor. So I'm going to go back and go after the job that really appealed to me in the first place.
CONAN: Let's get some listeners in the conversation: 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll start with Will, Will calling us from Denver.
WILL (Caller): Yes, thank you for taking my call.
WILL: I voted for President Obama, and I respect the man, but I also respect the people here in Denver, in Colorado, having the right to pick who they want to choose. I don't think Senator Bennet is qualified to be a senator. I think he's very good in education, but I think that the White House should stay out of it and just let the people of Colorado decide.
CONAN: Would you prefer Mr. Romanoff?
WILL: You know, really, as your speaker said, there's not a whole lot of difference between the two of them as far as being a Democrat. Mr. Romanoff has proven himself working in the state legislature, and again, Mr. Bennet's expertise, other than being a friend of the president, is in education. So I suppose on that level, I probably would vote for Mr. Romanoff.
CONAN: All right. Well, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
WILL: Thank you.
CONAN: Was part of the calculation, Lynn Bartels, that Mr. Bennet would be - have an easier run to election if he did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary?
Ms. BARTELS: Well, sure. In fact, nobody thought he - nobody dreamed that the Democrat would be primaried. How often do you primary an incumbent? Not that often.
The irony in this case is that the Republicans, in their primary, are kind of having the same war. Jane Norton, the former lieutenant governor, is perceived to be the Washington favorite. John McCain's made calls on her behalf. The national Republican senatorial group registered domain names on her behalf, and the party activists went nuts, saying let us run our own elections and keep the White - keep Washington out of it. The bad word here is always Washington.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Why is that? Ken and I both work in this town.
Ms. BARTELS: Well, because it's the West, and Washington is kind of perceived as the place that tells you what to do but doesn't really know how it - what's going on out here, makes rules about water or minerals, but doesn't understand a thing about them.
CONAN: The same kind of resentment exists just beyond the Beltway, in Maryland and Virginia, as well. So it's not peculiar - those issues peculiar to Colorado and other parts of the West. But the contempt for Washington, D.C., is, I think, universal.
Let's get another caller on the line. This is Chris, another caller from Denver.
CHRIS (Caller): Thank you so much for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead.
CHRIS: Well, I'm just a voter in Denver, and I am an educator, but I'm not very impressed with Bennet at all. I feel like that he just hasn't done very much to court my vote and hasn't really been around, whereas I've seen Romanoff speak and I'm very impressed with him. I think he's a young and charismatic leader. He's done an excellent job passing issues that are important to me at the state legislature, not the least of which is selling alcohol on Sunday, which is not a big deal, but he's been a really great - he's been a great leader, and I just - I really hope that Romanoff is able to pull it out, and even as an educator, I really would prefer Romanoff in my Senate seat than Bennet.
CONAN: And so the issue, as far as you see it, is leadership.
CHRIS: It's leadership, and it's also, you know, charisma and electability, visibility. I mean, Romanoff is just an incredible speaker. He reminds me of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton in his ability to inspire people and his ability to really lead.
CONAN: Lynn Bartels, is there a difference between these two Democrats?
Ms. BARTELS: Well, I thought it was interesting because he said young, and Bennet and Romanoff are practically the same age. I think it's 43 and 44. But I will say this. I mean, you know, I remember, you know, I was at Andrew's speeches, and I've covered Andrew in the legislature. And people would come up to me, and they always go oh, Bartels. Do you believe what a good speaker - I mean, speaker in the lowercase there. That is a huge difference, and that caller touched on that.
I think Romanoff is incredibly charismatic. He's also almost like drop-dead laughing funny when he wants to be. And so he was - you know, so he's - I think in some ways, he's much more charismatic than Michael Bennet, but once you get to know Michael Bennet, he's very personable. He's all that, but I think on that surface of just meeting people - the other things is - excuse me - Romanoff has been - has - is everywhere in part because Romanoff's not really had - he's taught some this year, but in the entire time I've known him, the legislature's been his full-time job.
I mean, Bennet was a school superintendent. Then he worked for the city. Right now, Bennet's trying to balance being in the Senate while, on the weekends, campaigning and going out everywhere. Romanoff's available 24/7. You want him to come speak to your 4-H group, there he is.
CONAN: I'm just amazed that Ken has not used the word dynasty yet. Chris, thanks very much for the phone call. Let's get one more caller in on this. This is Steve, Steve with us from Boulder.
STEVE (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.
STEVE: I was - I'm a reporter. I'm from Boulder, and I was reporting on a story for ColoradoBiz magazine, and I interviewed Michael Bennet and found him to be intelligent and personable and extremely qualified. And you know, and his position in the Senate, if you can get along at the Denver schools, you're going to do fine, I think, in Washington because it's extremely political.
CONAN: So you think Bennet is the better of the two.
STEVE: Well, to be honest, I don't know Andrew Romanoff, but I have met Michael Bennet, and I thought he was excellent.
CONAN: All right, Steve. Thanks very much for the call. Ken?
RUDIN: I think one - perhaps the bigger issue here is the fact that whether the White House has the right to interfere in primaries - and, of course, they do. Just as Karl Rove did it with the Bush administration, the Democrats, the White House needs to find out who will be the stronger candidates, the better candidates, to keep their seats in 2010. And that's why they get involved in states like Colorado and New York and Pennsylvania.
CONAN: And we'll have to see how it works out. Lynn Bartels, we may be checking back in with you.
Ms. BARTELS: All right, thank you.
CONAN: Lynn Bartels, a reporter for The Denver Post, with us by phone from her office in Denver.
Last weekend, the California Republican Party had its annual convention in Indian Wells. Republican voters heard from Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner and - who are running for their party's nomination for governor.
Scott Shafer is host of the CALIFORNIA REPORT, a show on KQED, our member station in San Francisco. He was in Indian Wells for the California Republican convention. He joins us now from the studios at KQED. Good to have you with us today.
SCOTT SHAFER: Good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: And we want to hear from Republicans in California, how is 2010 shaping up for your party? 800-989-8255. Email: email@example.com.
And why don't we start with the race for governor? And the Republicans appeared there, and, well, I guess Meg Whitman came in as the frontrunner.
SHAFER: Well, she did. She is the former eBay CEO and has a lot of money. She is very wealthy. She's already spent $19 million on her campaign and said she'll spend whatever it takes to win. But she has a problem that really highlighted itself during the course of the convention this past weekend. She had said in the past that she'd missed voting in a few elections.
And there was a Sacramento Bee article, an investigative story that came out just as the convention was opening saying that she didn't just missed a few elections. She had failed to register to vote for 28 years, and that hadn't - she hadn't registered until 2002 and had skipped some elections after that. So Steve Poizner…
SHAFER: Yeah, oops. So the - immediately, her opponent, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, one of the other Republicans running, pounced on that, called on her to drop out of the race and was up on TV with a commercial attacking her for that. So it remains to be seen whether that'll be a problem within the Republican primary for her. But as voters are just getting to know her, it's a piece of information that may get some attention.
I don't want to forget the third leading candidate here, Tom Campbell, former congressman, former state senator, budget director under Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's also running and running fairly well in the polls, one or two in most polls. So, I can't forget about him.
CONAN: Well, getting back to Meg Whitman for just a moment, there was an awkward moment at a news conference where she held - which she held, where reporters pressed her on, well, yeah. You've said you didn't vote and that it was a bad thing and you regret it. They kept pressing her on why.
Ms. MEG WHITMAN (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, California): What I have said is it was not the right thing to do.
Unidentified Man: But why?
Ms. WHITMAN: It just wasn't the right thing to do.
Unidentified Man: That doesn't answer the question.
Ms. WHITMAN: I should have, and I didn't.
CONAN: And she kept coming back to that same answer.
SHAFER: She did. And I was sitting in the front row, just a few feet from her. And she - you know, I think this could be the case of a CEO who has been in charge and has been busy giving orders and delegating things. And suddenly, she's got to not only answer questions, but she has to explain herself. And she wasn't really very eager to do that.
CONAN: We're talking with Scott Shafer, host of the CALIFORNIA REPORT at KQED about the Republican convention this past week in California. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION and the Political Junkie from NPR News.
And Scott, the other part of it was apparently her speech at the convention was, well, less than Reagan-esque.
SHAFER: It - there were no Reagan-esque speeches, including the one from the current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was long. It was sort of a recitation of ideas, a lot of which had been heard before. And so I think she may have been thinking ahead to the next hour when she gave that speech because she knew she was going to give a press conference and that she was going to get grilled over her voting record. But she did seem a little distracted. It was sort of low key. People - you know, people like her. They think she has a good chance to win in 2010 if she gets the nomination. But there were no, you know, sort of standing ovations and pumping of fists and that sort of thing.
RUDIN: Scott, with the economy being, obviously, the big issue in California, some Republicans felt that by picking Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for the Senate, business-oriented Republican candidates are the way to go. But there is - after all of these years of Schwarzenegger and the budget deficit, there is pent-up anger among conservatives. And they don't feel that Whitman or Fiorina are one of them.
SHAFER: They don't, and they certainly don't feel Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of them. One of the most striking things about the weekend was just how much - almost a sense of betrayal and anger there is at Schwarzenegger, even though he is one of the few Republicans who's won statewide office in the past 20 years. And so there is a concern - I think there's kind of a - almost a grand compromise, Ken, that they're going to set aside some of these more divisive cultural issues like abortion and gay rights and gun owner rights for now and try to unite around things like lower taxes, smaller government, things that the Republicans can agree on. But at the same time, as you say, there is some real doubt that Fiorina, Whitman, and for that matter, Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell are really one of them when it comes to these core principles.
And I should point out, this is a really unusual set of candidates, because not only they're Republicans but all the Democrats all come from the San Francisco Bay area. And there's no serious major party candidate from Los Angeles. And there isn't like to be, either, and that's - it's very unusual.
CONAN: We talked about the governor's side. As mentioned, Carly Fiorina is given, I guess, the nod in the Senate race. Does she face opposition?
SHAFER: She does. She's facing opposition from Chuck DeVore, who is a Republican state senator. Carly Fiorina wasn't there this weekend. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and her staff told me she was not there because she was undergoing some final rounds of chemotherapy. So no one was criticizing her for not being there. She also has some problems. You may recall she was fired from Hewlett-Packard. She was also fired from the McCain campaign, more or less, as a volunteer adviser when she said that John McCain wasn't qualified to be a corporate CEO. That was the last time we heard from her in 2008.
So - but nonetheless, it would be appealing, they say, to have a woman running against Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democrat who's often seen as being somewhat weak, although she continually knocks off the Republicans that she faces in the general election. But, yes, Chuck DeVore, a well-regarded Republican leader in the legislature is running in that primary, as well.
CONAN: And as you mentioned, at least the Democrats are united on their Senate candidate. We have just a minute left, but a little chaos still on the gubernatorial side of the Democrats.
SHAFER: Well, yeah. Jerry Brown has been assumed to be a candidate. This week, he finally took out papers to form an exploratory committee. He'll be joining Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, who is very much running. Jerry Brown leads in all the polls. He leads Gavin Newsom by a healthy amount on the Democratic side. And the poll out this week from Rasmussen shows that he leads all the Republicans, as well, in a match-up. But as Ken well knows, these polls mean very little this far out.
CONAN: This far out. And indeed, and still far out from the primaries, much less the general. Scott Shafer, thanks very much for your time today.
SHAFER: Good to be with you.
CONAN: Scott Shafer joined us from the studios of KQED, our member station in San Francisco, where he hosts the CALIFORNIA REPORT.
Coming up, the - well, first, I think, we have to say thank you to Political Junkie Ken Rudin, who joins us here every Wednesday on TALK OF THE NATION. Ken, always appreciate your time.
RUDIN: Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: Coming up, the arrest of Roman Polanski. Many argue that 30 years later, this is petty and vindictive. To others, this is justice delayed. Between the anger at either end of the spectrum, is there room for nuance in this debate? Give us call: 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.