NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Concord, New Hampshire. But in Iowa, Romney ekes out an eyelash gold. Ron Paul settles for bronze, and a sweet silver for Santorum. It's Wednesday and time for a...
RICK SANTORUM: Game on.
CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?
SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.
GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)
CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. After a long night and early morning in Des Moines, we're in the studios at New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord. Eight, count them, eight votes separate the top two in Iowa.
Ron Paul remains in the top tier, Newt and Perry will soldier on, but Bachmann gets winnowed aside. We'll spend most of this hour looking ahead to next Tuesday and the primary here in New Hampshire, but first political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in frigid Concord, and we begin as always with a trivia question. Hey Ken.
KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal, welcome to New Hampshire, and thank you, New Hampshire Public Radio. Trivia question is: Who was the last sitting president to be defeated in the New Hampshire primary?
CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last sitting president to be...
RUDIN: He could have been reclining.
CONAN: To be defeated in the New Hampshire primary, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. And Ken, of course the winner gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt, but...
RUDIN: It would be good if it was long-sleeved.
CONAN: Here it would. But pop quiz, Ken: closest finish in an Iowa caucus?
RUDIN: This is it. This is exactly it, eight votes. Not only is this the closest finish in Iowa history, it's also the lowest vote anybody's gotten to win the caucuses. Bob Dole got 26 percent in 1996 when he won the caucuses and then lost a week later in New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney, 25 percent, Rick Santorum 25 percent, not only the closest but the lowest percentage for a winner in Iowa.
CONAN: And so Romney ekes out a win. He had been downplaying Iowa all along until, well, I guess about the last three, four weeks, when he invested heavily. He saw a chance to win, maybe a decisive win.
RUDIN: Right, I mean, the funny thing about Rick Santorum, and I guess there are two winners here. Obviously, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum was the only candidate of all of them who never was the frontrunner. You know, Michele Bachmann when she won...
CONAN: And isn't now.
RUDIN: No, exactly, but she won the Ames Straw Poll. She was a frontrunner. When Rick Perry came in and elbowed her out of the way, he was the frontrunner. Herman Cain with his 9-9-9, he was the frontrunner, Newt Gingrich the frontrunner.
And Rick Santorum was, you know, at the end, if you looked at the debate, he was on the far left or the far right, not ideologically but just on - when you looked at the candidates, and he was out visiting all 99 counties, doing the grunt work that we always said wins, but we never thought it would matter because everything was on the debates, how Gingrich looked, how Rick Perry looked, how Mitt Romney looked.
And so tremendous comeback win, although the polls show it at the end, tremendous comeback win for Rick Santorum. But at the same time, Mitt Romney, as you say, spent a lot of time away from Iowa, focusing a lot on New Hampshire, at the last second thought he had a shot of winning it, and I guess if he had eight more votes than Rick Santorum, he did win it.
CONAN: Well, he won it, but last time he was disappointed after investing heavily in New Hampshire - excuse me, in Iowa, and coming up second to Mike Huckabee. This time, he comes in at the end, invests heavily in Iowa and ekes out a small margin of victory but just about the same percentage as he had four years ago.
RUDIN: Exactly, and matter of fact, fewer votes. So, I mean, for all - for four years later, as the ostensible frontrunner for the nomination, and if you ask me, I will tell you I think Mitt Romney will be the nominee, and yet you didn't see it yesterday in Iowa.
CONAN: Because in part, those still surviving against him don't have the same kind of organization or the same kind of funding.
RUDIN: Right, and of course Iowa is also a different kind of bird because the electorate there, the Republican electorate there, is far more conservatives. Caucuses by definition get more conservative people out than primaries do. And so we saw, like, for example Mike Huckabee four years ago, when he won in Iowa, came to New Hampshire a week later and finished a weak third with 11 percent of the vote.
The constituency, the Republican constituency in Iowa, is far different than it is in New Hampshire.
CONAN: With one exception, one person who brought in new voters to the Iowa caucuses, younger, more moderate voters was Ron Paul.
RUDIN: That's correct. I don't know about - certainly moderate on issues of the war, for example, but Ron Paul very, very strong third-place finish. There's a lot of speculation about what he will do should he not win the Republican nomination, whether he'll run for Libertarian - run as a Libertarian as he did once before. But he says no, I'm in this to win.
And his strategy is very similar to what Barack Obama did in 2008: He will go after the caucuses, which he did very cleverly against Hillary Clinton. He kind of blindsided her by focusing on caucuses. There are a lot of delegates to be picked up there, and the name of the game is delegates in 2012.
CONAN: And quickly, we want to go through some of the also-rans. We have Michele Bachmann, once as we suggested the - the winner in the Ames Straw Poll last August and on the cover of Time magazine. The day she won that straw poll, Rick Perry came into the race and sort of eclipsed her. She never regained her footing, and today she bowed out.
RUDIN: Right, a weak sixth-place finish with five percent of the vote, and that was the end of Michele Bachmann. Now the question is whether she runs for a fourth term in Congress.
CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and again it is the last sitting, reclining, recumbent, however you'd like, president to lose the New Hampshire primary. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. And we'll start with Pete, and Pete's on the line from Inverness.
PETE: George H.W. Bush?
CONAN: George H.W. Bush.
RUDIN: Well, George H.W. Bush did - well, let's see. I mean, he was elected president in 1988. So when he ran for president, when he was...
CONAN: A sitting president.
RUDIN: A sitting president in 1992, he beat Pat Buchanan in the primary in 1992.
CONAN: Despite all those peasants with pitchforks.
RUDIN: Exactly, but anyway, but President Bush was - won the New Hampshire primary in '92.
PETE: Thank you.
CONAN: Very good guess. Let's go next to Pete in Hollywood, Florida.
RUDIN: Another Pete.
PHIL: Actually, it's Phil. And I'm going to go with Jimmy Carter in 1980 at the hands of Ted Kennedy.
CONAN: The challenge from Ted Kennedy within his own party.
RUDIN: Well, actually, what's interesting to note - Jimmy Carter is the wrong answer because he beat Ted Kennedy pretty handily, but I think Ted Kennedy is the only guy from Massachusetts, when you think of John Kerry and Paul Tsongas, the only guy from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, to lose a New Hampshire primary. Carter beat Kennedy pretty handily in 1980.
CONAN: It was New York and Connecticut where he was upset.
RUDIN: That's exactly right.
CONAN: Let's go to Don now - thanks very much for the call, Phil. And Don is on the line from St. Louis.
DON: I'm going to guess Estes Kefauver in 1952 against Harry Truman.
RUDIN: Well, so who was the incumbent president who lost?
DON: The incumbent president was Harry Truman.
RUDIN: That's correct.
CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.
RUDIN: I expected a lot of Lyndon Johnson answers.
CONAN: I thought President Kefauver had a hard time.
RUDIN: He did, but Harry Truman was not - did not announce his candidacy, lost to Estes Kefauver in '52. A few days later, he stunned the nation and said I am not going to run for president in '52, which is exactly what Lyndon Johnson did when he beat Gene McCarthy in '68.
CONAN: So in any case, that opened the door to President Adlai Stevenson. In any case, Don stay on the line, and we'll collect your particulars and send you a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing it that we can post on our Wall of Shame. Congratulations. I guess he's...
RUDIN: He's so excited.
CONAN: He's already on hold. In the meantime, some of the other campaigns in Iowa, we talked about Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry announced last night he was going back to Austin to reassess, very unusual for people to reassess and then decide to stay in.
RUDIN: Right, I mean, we saw Herman Cain suspend his campaign. Of course, we haven't heard from Herman Cain as a candidate since then. Rick Perry, when he announced yesterday he was reassessing, we all thought that was the end of the Rick Perry presidential campaign. But he did announce this morning that he will attend the two debates coming up in New Hampshire on Saturday and Sunday, and basically his focus will be the January 21st caucus - primary in South Carolina.
That's his firewall, not his firewall so much but his last chance to salvage his bid for the nomination.
CONAN: One of the best funded, other than Mitt Romney, still in the Republican field.
RUDIN: And what does the money mean? I mean, all the money he had he - he spent more money personally in Iowa than any other candidate, finished a weak fifth.
CONAN: But one person who did not have the organization, did not have the funding but came in fourth - a month ago, Newt Gingrich said I'm going to win this thing. I am the presumed candidate.
RUDIN: He was, and a lot of people probably thought so, and I think perhaps Mitt Romney thought so too, and that's why PACs aligned with - unofficially aligned with Mitt Romney, spent millions and millions of dollars hammering Gingrich for all his foibles and his problems and his baggage and which are - there's quite a few, but anyway, Gingrich got really his head handed to him, negative ads, negative ads.
And Gingrich, very interesting speech last night, he basically was not conciliatory at all. He says I'm going after Ron Paul. I'm going after Mitt Romney. You know, he's a liar, and I'm going to savage him in New Hampshire.
Look, New Hampshire all along was supposed to be Mitt Romney's firewall...
CONAN: To lose.
RUDIN: To lose, right, and the polls still show him with a huge lead, even Rick Santorum is way, way back in the pack, but let's see how much Mitt Romney gets beaten up in these primary debates coming up this weekend.
CONAN: And we're playing the battle of expectations again. Mitt Romney was expected to win at the end of the day in Iowa. Now how much of the margin - how much is the margin? If he gets under 50 percent, is that not so good as we expected? What's going to be the expectation come New Hampshire?
RUDIN: Yeah, I don't know if he was the expected winner in Iowa. He certainly is the winner in New Hampshire, and we've seen in New Hampshire in the past, when Bill Clinton finished second to Paul Tsongas in 1992, and yet he was the comeback kid. When Gene McCarthy finished second, George McGovern finished second in New Hampshire in '68 and '72 respectively, and yet they were seen as the winner because they exceeded expectations.
CONAN: So what is the expectation for Mitt Romney here in New Hampshire? Yes, he's going to win, but by how much?
RUDIN: Right, he's got to win, and he's got to win big. Right now, the polls show him anywhere between 43 and 47 percent of the vote, which is far more than he got last year, when he collapsed at the last second and lost to John McCain, who endorsed him today.
CONAN: All right, a bit of other political news. We've, as redistricting goes on, seen any number of seats, of people in the same party forced to run against each other. One of those situations today, one of the members of Congress, sitting member of Congress, decided to retire.
RUDIN: Well, not announced today, but yes, in the recent days, Steve Austria, who is a pretty new congressman from Ohio, the Republicans control the whole redistricting process there, but they had to merge one district, two Republicans running against each other, Steve Austria and Mike Turner.
Austria's district was really basically, you know, carved up. He announced he was not going to run against Turner, his friend, in the primary and will retire.
CONAN: In Utah Orrin Hatch, the long-serving Republican senator is getting a primary challenge from a young Tea Party candidate.
RUDIN: Exactly, I mean, of course those who were opposed to Orrin Hatch wanted Jason Chaffetz, the congressman, to run. The Tea Party is still not happy with Orrin Hatch, but he has a lot of money and still is expected to get re-nominated.
CONAN: And as if things could get worse between the president and the Republicans in Congress, President Obama today announced a recess appointment. This always infuriates whoever is out of power. Richard Cordray, in this case, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, nothing about him in particular, it's the recess appointment. Anyway, stay with us, we'll have more. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. We're broadcasting today from the studios of New Hampshire Public Radio. Even with a final trip to Iowa last week, political junkie Ken Rudin came out of last night's caucuses with absolutely no votes at all. He's here licking his wounds in New Hampshire.
In just under a week, the Granite State hosts the first-in-the-nation primary vote. Was there a ScuttleButton puzzle last week?
RUDIN: There was. There's a new one up this week. But the last one - I had a Tiny-Tim-for-president button. Actually, it said Tiny Tim for president and first lady. There was a Tea Party button, and there was also a stop BO, the Baltimore Orioles. So when you combine those, you have Tim Tea-BO, yes. And Michael Strawminger(ph) of Fargo, North Dakota, was the winner.
CONAN: All right, well, he gets a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt.
RUDIN: What luck.
CONAN: And there's a new column up.
RUDIN: New column, basically the history of Iowa and what it means for the candidates.
CONAN: In just under a week, the Granite State here hosts the first-in-the-nation primary. Before we get to that, Mitt Romney's long been the prohibitive favorite. He was governor right next door. He owns a home here. Last night's close call re-energized the supporters of Rick Santorum. And Jon Huntsman, who skipped Iowa, is hoping for a strong performance here.
Will the Iowa caucuses affect your vote? What's changed as a result of Iowa? We'd especially like to hear from voters in New Hampshire. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email is email@example.com. Joining us here in the studio at New Hampshire Public Radio, where he's a reporter, is Josh Rogers, and nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.
JOSH ROGERS: Nice to be here.
CONAN: Also with us from Dartmouth College is government professor Linda Fowler, welcome to you.
LINDA FOWLER: Well, hello.
CONAN: And Josh Rogers, I guess we have to start with Rick Santorum, a shoe-leather campaign, retail politics, well, proved to work again in Iowa. But what kind of an organization does he have here in New Hampshire?
ROGERS: Well, it's unclear what kind of organization. He does have a campaign manager, his national campaign manager Mike Biundo is from New Hampshire. He successfully steered Frank Guinta to Congress running a grassroots campaign. And prior to camping out in Iowa for some time, Santorum has done a lot of events here and in the traditional manner, not like some of the candidates, who do two events a day.
He does six events and works it. Presumably he'll get a boost. His folks seem to think that he can, you know, galvanize the remainders.
CONAN: He's been down in single digits.
ROGERS: He's been down in single digits, there's no doubt about that. I mean, no one would have imagined that he would be competitive here, and I guess we'll find out.
CONAN: Ron Paul is the other winner, he would say in a three-way tie, he would say, in Iowa, but he comes in with much sunnier prospects here in New Hampshire.
ROGERS: Well, his message resonates naturally with a good deal of the Republican electorate. Certainly there's a libertarian streak in New Hampshire, fiscal conservativism, small government is big. The wars weren't hugely popular here, and he's had a campaign that's been working it on the ground for months, phone-banking daily.
CONAN: Who's on the air?
ROGERS: Not - you know, remarkably not as many ads as one might have anticipated and certainly not the onslaught we've seen in Iowa. Ron Paul's been up. Romney's got some ads up, and sort of like in Iowa, although we would anticipate there will be some ads whacking Romney, you know, he's been able to skate through without the sort of sustained barrage that, you know, his Super PAC, run by folks that are officially not with him but, you know, unofficially strong supporters have been, you know, beating down people in Iowa with.
CONAN: A stealth candidate came out of nowhere to do very well in Iowa, Mr. Santorum. Would that be Jon Huntsman here in New Hampshire?
ROGERS: Hard to say. I mean, Huntsman has certainly, you know, staked it all on New Hampshire. He had his 150th event last night in Peterborough, where Romney will be tonight. You could argue that the results out of Iowa, the muddle may auger to his benefit, but, you know, he's going to have to pull votes directly from Romney is at least the conventional thinking on that.
I mean, he's reaching out to independents, but core Republicans have thus far been, you know, not too enthusiastic about him.
CONAN: And Linda Fowler, Josh just used an important word: independents. This is an open primary here in New Hampshire next week, which means independents can vote for a Republican if they'd like to.
FOWLER: Well, that's right. What you do is go into the voting place and say for the purposes of today I want to be a Republican or a Democrat. And then once you've voted, you change your registration back to independent. So, there's also same-day registration. The interesting thing is you're registered as a Democrat, you can't go in and say I want to be a Republican today.
So it's not a completely open primary, but it's close. And of course the verdict in New Hampshire is critical to validate Romney's claim that he's the person who can get elected in the general election because he can appeal to independent voters.
So if he doesn't do well in the state, that's problematic for sort of the basic premise of his campaign.
RUDIN: Well, I was just going to ask, you know, Mitt Romney seems to have all the endorsements. I don't know what endorsements mean, but he got John McCain today, he has Charlie Bass, Kelly Ayotte, the senator, former governor and senator Judd Gregg. But Newt Gingrich has the Manchester - the New Hampshire Union Leader, and they've been attacking Romney, I was going to say left and right, right and right, constantly.
What does that do to the field? What does that do to the primary electorate?
ROGERS: Well, one thing that was interesting is that Speaker Gingrich - former Speaker Gingrich essentially didn't, you know, return for several weeks in the wake of that endorsement, which certainly boosted his campaign and, you know, certainly made the Romney folks a little nervous.
They were - you know, they had got a barrage from the Union Leader last time around, and so they weren't expecting to be endorsed. But you could argue that Newt Gingrich didn't do - make the most of that.
And with the wind, you know, putatively sort of coming out of him a little bit in Iowa, you know, perhaps it won't be as big a factor, but it's a big cudgel, and they like to wield it.
CONAN: Linda Fowler, you were trying to get in there.
FOWLER: Well, I was going to say in the old days, not getting the Union Leader endorsement would have been the kiss of death for a Republican. Today a lot of voters in the state get their news from the Boston stations, and so the influence of the Union Leader is not quite as substantial as it used to be, but it still matters.
And it's a paper that takes the gloves off towards the people that it doesn't like. So Romney in the past has been able to skate sort of above the fray. Nobody's really challenged the claims that he makes that he's electable, that he can turn the country around and so forth. And the Union Leader is one of the places where that message is coming. And then we'll see whether the other candidates have ads to sort of reinforce it.
CONAN: If Newt Gingrich does, as we suspect, run a scorched-earth campaign against Newt Romney, the man he's been calling...
RUDIN: Newt Romney?
CONAN: Newt Romney, Mitt Romney, yeah, a liar these last couple of days. We'll have to see if the Union Leader takes up those cudgels, as well. But interesting, you said the Boston media, a lot of voters in the Republican Party get their cues from conservative media, including Fox News and various talk radio shows like Rush Limbaugh.
We were told that in some respects, the Iowa caucuses were going to be a measure of their influence, not pro-Romney. Mitt Romney did pretty well. How much of a factor, Linda Fowler, will conservative media play in New Hampshire?
FOWLER: Well, I don't think we have good numbers on that, but what the conservative media do is play into kind of an ornery feature of New Hampshire voters. They like to take down frontrunners. They've done it a number of times. And there's also, if you remember, Pat Buchanan won here in '96, John McCain won twice, and so I think that the national news media may fuel some of that sentiment of we're going to send a message, we're not going to have a coronation here.
RUDIN: You know, what fascinates me, too, is that while the Republican field still seems very muddled, maybe not in New Hampshire but nationally, yet it seems like the DNC, the White House, they were all convinced it's Mitt Romney. The Democrats have opened up a little shop in Iowa to talk - make their talking points.
And they're all - the word today is that Mitt Romney is the 25-percent man, the fact that he only can get 25 percent in Iowa, 25 percent nationally in the polls, and it just seems like while the Republicans don't know who the nominee will be, the Democrats and the White House are convinced it's Mitt Romney.
CONAN: Josh Rogers, we think Mitt Romney will do better than 25 percent here in New Hampshire. But at this point, he's got to be trying to manage expectations.
ROGERS: Well, I think that's right, and, you know, a win would be a win, but, you know, talking to a lot of Republican strategists, they think if he wins by anything less than 10 points then, you know, could easily be spun as lackluster, although, you know, he will walk away with the win.
CONAN: And Linda Fowler, one thing we also have to understand, we were talking about the importance of the evangelical vote, social causes in the state of Iowa, it's a little different here in New Hampshire.
FOWLER: Well, it is. The evangelical vote is no more than 15 to 20 percent of the primary electorate. Assuming that Rick Santorum picks up most of that, now that Bachmann isn't in the race, and Perry's not campaigning here, some will go to Ron Paul. He picked up some in Iowa.
So my - the person I'm watching is not Santorum but is Paul. And I've said since October that I think he will do better here than people expect, and I still think that.
CONAN: We want to hear from those of you, especially in New Hampshire, how does Iowa change things? As we just heard from Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College, Michele Bachmann out of the race. It looks like Rick Perry is effectively skipping the race here in New Hampshire, going on to the primary in South Carolina. How does this dynamic shift, as you have Ron Paul a strong third, Rick Santorum the new man in the race against Mitt Romney? And, Ken Rudin, it's interesting that you have a meeting scheduled for this coming weekend in Texas of movement conservatives - those would be toward the right wing - people meeting to see: Can we settle on one person to run against Mitt Romney?
RUDIN: Well, it's clear from the beginning that the conservative wing in the Republican Party - which is not a small wing. I mean, basically that is the Republican Party - not happy with the prospect of Mitt Romney as the nominee, who has had, shall we say, somewhat-liberal positions in the past when he was running for office in Massachusetts. They would love for the conservative vote not to be split. They would love to unite around one candidate.
And while Iowa voters did help narrow the field a little bit with Michele Bachmann's leaving, you still have Ron Paul. You still have Newt Gingrich. You still have Rick Santorum, and you still have Newt Gingrich. So you will still have four conservatives still splitting the vote, and that's the thing they don't want to see, because that can only help Mitt Romney.
CONAN: They've tried to do this before.
CONAN: I'm sorry, Linda Fowler. Go ahead.
FOWLER: Well, of course, the story that came out of Iowa looks very different today because the vote was split. If there'd been one person, it would have been a Mike Huckabee kind of person. The storyline would have been completely different.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get a caller in on the conversation. Troy is with us from Iowa City.
TROY: I think the big story is that the support for - Obama supporters in Iowa have dropped significantly. But I think if Iowa caucuses were at the original date, I think Santorum would have beat Romney.
CONAN: Because they were moved up earlier, because Florida moved up - it's a long, complicated story.
TROY: Exactly. But I think the big story is Obama support has dropped significantly in Iowa.
CONAN: Barack Obama carried Iowa handily in the 2008...
TROY: But his turnout votes dropped significantly.
CONAN: I understand. I was just - let me say something, Troy. Barack Obama carried the state handily back in 2008. But, Linda Fowler, how much do we read into, as Troy suggests, yes, there were a turnout for Barack Obama yesterday in Iowa, sort of a pro forma thing to boost his support...
CONAN: ...but clearly not the energy that comes out in a caucus.
FOWLER: Well, you'd - I don't take that very seriously. And one might also point that the turnout in the Republican caucuses was less than it was in 2008. But the other point that was made by one of your callers about...
CONAN: Just a small correction, it was just a little bit more, but just about the same number as 2008.
FOWLER: Oh, in the end, that - oh, OK. Thanks for letting me know. When I went to bed last night, it looked less.
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CONAN: Well, we - some of us got some sleep, unlike Ken. We're talking about what's changed since Iowa. Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie, is with us, also Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College, and Josh Rogers, a reporter here in New Hampshire Public Radio. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Ken?
RUDIN: Can I say one more thing about the turnout? Four years ago, the Republican Party was really in a funk. They were - you had an unpopular president, President George W. Bush, an unpopular war in Iraq. You had a faltering economy. And so you had 120,000 Republicans turning out in Iowa not very excited. A similar number, maybe a little bit more, but a similar number turned out in 2012, when you would think the enthusiasm would be up, the anger against Obama would be up. And I'm surprised there wasn't a bigger Republican turnout than there was.
CONAN: And what is...
FOWLER: Amen to that.
CONAN: ...enthusiasm like here, Josh, in New Hampshire? Do we expect to get a big turnout come Tuesday?
ROGERS: I think we're expecting a reasonably large turnout. Participation is always pretty high. And if you go to the events, you know, the blood of activists is definitely up. You know, it's, you know, and the independents, they represent 40 percent of the electorate. How many of them choose to vote in the Republican primary is a tough thing to answer at this point. And so that will be a big part of the turnout. But certainly, the enthusiasm of activists, well, for me - I just came from the event where Mitt Romney was endorsed by John McCain.
And I guess I was a little surprised that there weren't more people there. There were, you know, a couple of hundred people, you know, half again as many media types. But it was not enough to fill a full high-school gymnasium. They had curtained off half of it. So, you know, I don't know precisely what to make of that. But we should know - I mean, Gingrich drew a pretty big crowd into a pretty small room this morning. Santorum is arriving tonight, and it'll be interesting to see what sort of crowd he can pull.
CONAN: There is also a Democratic primary next Tuesday. Will that be significant? I know there's at least one candidate running against Barack Obama.
ROGERS: I forget precisely how many candidates. I mean, there are many fringe candidates running. And some people, you know, one person who's running is Randall Terry, the sort of, you know, anti-abortion activist. He's on the Democratic ticket. He's actually the first guy on the Democratic ballot this year. We'll see. The Democrats are doing kind of a dry run, let's be organized and see if we can run our get-out-the-vote operation. But I - the turnout's not going to be high.
CONAN: And, Linda Fowler, let me turn to you. In 2006, 2008, the Republican Party was virtually obliterated - not just in this state, but across New England, this entire corner of the country. How has that shifted in the last couple of years? Is that going to continue?
FOWLER: Well, in 2010, the state legislature, both chambers, were elected with veto-proof majorities of Republicans. But their agenda of expanding where people can take guns, trying to introduce bills about evolution and so forth - I think people who just voiced their disgust at the Democrats may be taking a harder look at Republicans this time around. And I'm not sure that having this highly visible, very extreme legislature is helpful to the party in the general election.
CONAN: And there are a number of interesting congressional races in New Hampshire, as well, Josh Rogers.
ROGERS: There are. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from our 1st District, is trying to reclaim her seat against Frank Guinta, who won - former mayor of Manchester, won with a lot of support from the Tea Party and from, you know, conservative voters. Should - there's a primary there, but she's expected to win. And on the Democratic side, it looks, at this point, like it'll be a rematch between Charlie Bass of the 2nd District versus Ann McLane Kuster, who ran a pretty strong campaign.
Bass ended up nosing her out to reclaim the seat he'd previously lost to Democrat Paul Hodes, who ran for Senate last time, and he lost to newly elected Kelly Ayotte.
RUDIN: What was the question again?
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CONAN: Ken, you're the one (unintelligible)...
RUDIN: So I was actually following it, I really was.
CONAN: So - but as we look ahead, Ken, how much - we saw what Iowa has done. Will New Hampshire winnow, as well?
RUDIN: Well, I think if - one person to watch certainly is Jon Huntsman. He ignored Iowa. He's basing everything on New Hampshire. If he doesn't have a significant number here, he's finished.
CONAN: Linda Fowler, thanks very much for your time today.
FOWLER: My pleasure.
CONAN: Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. Well, a mega-sized edition of The Political Junkie this week because of Iowa. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.
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CONAN: Today, we're in the Granite State, looking ahead to next week's first-in-the-nation primary with Political Junkie Ken Rudin at the studios of New Hampshire Public Radio. Iowa proved the campaign for the Republican nomination is nowhere near finished. Next Tuesday, voters in New Hampshire weigh in. Expectations are high for Mitt Romney, in particular. And we're going to be talking with two experts here in New Hampshire on various aspects of New Hampshire politics.
Joining us on the phone is Representative Charlie Bass, a Republican who represents the 2nd District of New Hampshire in Congress and has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Nice to have you with us today.
REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE BASS: Good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: And nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION. And also with us here in the studios at NHPR is State Senator Andy Sanborn, co-chair of Ron Paul's campaign in New Hampshire. Nice of you to be with us.
STATE SENATOR ANDY SANBORN: Neal, thanks so much. I appreciate it. And Congressman Bass, who's my congressman, good afternoon.
BASS: Good afternoon, Senator Sanborn. How are you?
SANBORN: Fine. Thank you.
CONAN: Well, let's start with Congressman Bass, because you're endorsing the person, well, widely regarded as the frontrunner here in New Hampshire. What does an eyelash victory in Iowa do for Mitt Romney?
BASS: I think that Governor Romney had set his sights at second or possibly even third place. I think it was perceived around here, at least, that Iowa was not necessarily going to be his strongest state. Until recently, as we - as you heard - we've all heard, Governor Romney hadn't put much of an effort into Iowa, but did near the end. And I think his showing is really quite extraordinary, given the level of effort. Now, it shifts to New Hampshire. And I've been in the business of being involved in this process since 1979, when I endorsed Howard Baker for president. And things can change very quickly.
So my advice to Governor Romney has been: run like you're three votes behind, and don't expect anything to be the same next Tuesday as it is today. I think Rick Santorum's good showing in Iowa and the fact that he has worked hard in this state now for almost two years now - as has Jon Huntsman - means that, you know, Mitt Romney, who's also worked hard here, will have to match him, you know, step for step during the next five days, because a lot of people will make up their minds between now and next Tuesday.
CONAN: And Senator Sanborn, the person - Ron Paul came in, well, maybe a slight disappointment there in Iowa, but expected to do very well here in New Hampshire, as well.
SANBORN: Yeah, Neal. I mean, clearly, the fact that the Iowa results said, you know, one very obvious point, and that's, you know, there's three - we're essentially down to three different candidates in this race. As you note, Ron Paul has been truly the consistent, stable voice, something people can truly believe that, you know, he's - when he says what he says, he means what he says, he has a phenomenal group of people working here in the state of New Hampshire. He's been here for some time, as you know. He has, you know, very dedicated, loyal support.
You know, one of the things I find that's so exciting about Dr. Paul is, obviously, when we talk - start talking about how some candidates have come up and come down, and there's been this real gyration within the Republican Party, that Dr. Paul's numbers have continued just to migrate north, that he hasn't had to back up at any level whatsoever. And, you know, people are really ready to pick a president or a presidential candidate that actually, you know, says they're going to cut the size of government, going to push back on the scope and the regulation.
And this is the type of state for that. As Congressman Bass knows, we're a people that really believe in personal freedoms, who really embrace personal responsibility. And that's what Congressman Paul brings to this, and so we're very, very excited for Tuesday. We're working really hard, and we expect to see some great things coming out of it.
CONAN: As he left Iowa last night, Congressman Paul talked to his supporters as results came in. And this was a little bit of his message.
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REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL: We will go on. We will raise the money. I have no doubt about the volunteers. They're going to be there.
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CONAN: And, Senator Sanborn, yes, volunteers were a huge part of the effort for Ron Paul in Iowa. What does the organization look like here in New Hampshire?
SANBORN: I actually think it's bigger and stronger in New Hampshire than it even was in Iowa. You know, we're very happy that our brothers and sisters out there did such a great job of bringing out the message and bringing people into the caucus and bringing a great result - again, you know, solidifying the fact that we're truly down to three great candidates. In New Hampshire, I believe that our organization's bigger. I believe that our ground force is stronger, our message is - our messaging is fantastic. And we're really showing it with real numbers, as you know.
CONAN: Well, let's not forget Rick Santorum, who had that late surge in Iowa and came in eight votes behind. Boy, a great showing for him, but a little bit frustrating too. But anyway, as he talked to his supporters early this morning in Des Moines, former Senator Santorum said he's moving on, as well.
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SANTORUM: Because the message I shared with you tonight is not an Iowa message, or an Iowa and South Carolina message. It is a message that will resonate across this land. It's a resonate - it will resonate, I know, in New Hampshire.
CONAN: And, Congressman Bass, difficult to ask you to handicap the opposition, but Rick Santorum, what kind of a challenge does he present to the front-runner, your man Mitt Romney?
BASS: Well, as I said a minute ago, Rick Santorum is articulate. He's attractive. He's young. He's energetic. He's hardworking. He's been here in New Hampshire for almost two years. I knew him when he was in the state Senate. He was elected to the state Senate the same year I was elected to Congress. We've worked well together. But I think that the scope of - the portfolio, if you will, that Rick Santorum brings to the table is attractive to a relatively narrow group of voters that have been looking for somebody other than Mitt Romney now for about a year. And the question is: Does that group of voters translate into a majority in November? And I think that Rick Santorum, who has significant experience in Washington - he obviously, you know, understands politics.
But my candidate, Mitt Romney, has been in the business community now for 25 years. As we all know, he turned the Olympics around, and he's a remarkably diverse individual in terms of his background experience. And, obviously, he has the shoulders, as he puts it, to bear what is going to be a very, very nasty campaign for president. If he has to run against an incumbent that has a billion dollars in the bank, I think Republicans can legitimately say to themselves: Who do we want to have represent us after the convention? And who is most likely to win this election in November? Because after all, that's what these primaries are ultimately all about.
CONAN: I think, Congressman Bass, you misspoke slightly when you said Rick Santorum elected to the state Senate. You meant the United States Senate. He went to Washington the same year you did.
BASS: I meant he - I've got Andy Sanborn on the mind.
CONAN: Oh, I see. Well, who wouldn't?
SANBORN: Thank you, Congressman.
CONAN: Ken Rudin.
RUDIN: Quickly, Congressman Bass, first of all, condolences of the passing of your father. We talked about him the last time you were on the show. He was quite a guy, and I'm sorry about your loss.
BASS: Thank you.
RUDIN: What we saw with Mitt Romney is obviously his - he needs to reconnect with conservatives. And he's still stuck at 25 percent nationally in the polls, 25 percent in Iowa. Does the John McCain endorsement - while McCain is very popular here in New Hampshire, what does McCain say to the conservatives out there who want to get some kind of a message, a signal from Mitt Romney?
BASS: Well, I think McCain is a little different now than he was a decade ago. He's been through a really tough campaign. He took on J.D. Hayworth in the primary last - or, a year and a half ago now. And, obviously, you know, he is a winner, because he won the nomination. He was the - you know, the delegates of the convention nominated him, despite the fact that he has somewhat different credentials from a person like Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, possibly.
I think John McCain is the kind of person that will play in New Hampshire, and where he's needed in other states. Most know, you know, I'm not a political junkie myself, but in states where he did well and where he has a good base, I think he'll be a huge asset. And you combine him with Governor Christie of New Jersey - who's immensely popular, not only here, but probably all across the nation, along with others - I think Governor Romney has a nice sort of portfolio of individuals with different backgrounds, different philosophies, all of them supporting him because they believe that he has the temperament, you know, somewhat akin to, you know, how do you review somebody that you're thinking about proving for the U.S. Supreme Court? It's not about every specific issue. It's about how successful you are in resolving problems.
One other item: Mitt Romney knows how to work with the Democrats. Good Lord. The minorities that he had - or majorities, Democrat majorities that he had to work with in Massachusetts certainly showed that he can - that he might be able to end the gridlock, if you will, or he certainly knows how to get things done in an environment where you have mixed-party representation. So we'll just see how John McCain works. I mean, he'll be helpful to Mitt in some places, and I'm sure the governor will use him to the greatest extent possible.
CONAN: Andy Sanborn?
SANBORN: Congressman, thanks. You know, part of the support of John McCain in - you know, he has a great, established history. He's done wonderful things in defending our country and being a senator. But, again, it clearly shows that the Romney campaign - and one of the things I truly love about Congressman Bass and most of us here in New Hampshire is we always prefer to talk about what's great about our candidate versus getting in the weeds and making it dirty. And I truly appreciate that.
And for Congressman Paul, compared to Governor Romney, you know, all these endorsements that the governor picks up continue to be very similar to where he is. And I personally think it's a challenge for him to have McCain come in, just like with Christie. And I appreciate them both. But it perpetrates the conversation that he can only seem to find moderate Republicans who have been, you know, not quite as strict on cutting, not quite as strict on pushing back on regulation or taxation. So he hasn't had that ability to truly cross all the borders between conservative, moderate and maybe liberal Republicans.
RUDIN: Although he did get Nikki Haley in South Carolina.
SANBORN: He did - absolutely. I stand corrected on that. It's - again, we go back to Congressman Paul, where his support, I mean, truly exceeds all levels of the political spectrum. And he's so strong with independents. He's actually good with some Democrats. So I actually see his support being broader, although still keeping that, you know, no holds barred, I make no exception, I'm a conservative. And that's what he says every day.
CONAN: We're talking with Senator - State Senator Andy Sanborn, co-chair of Ron Paul's New Hampshire presidential campaign, and with Congressman Charlie Bass, who's endorsed Mitt Romney. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.
And, Senator Sanborn, you talked about an upbeat campaign. In the air war in Iowa, both Ron Paul's campaign and the Mitt Romney campaign, through its super PAC, you could say there's plausibility - plausible deniability there. You could say there's not. That's an argument. But any case, both leveled very harsh advertising at Newt Gingrich, who came in fourth and complained bitterly about the negative ads that were run against him. Do those guns get turned around and aimed at Mitt Romney now in Massachusetts?
SANBORN: You know, that's a great question, whether or not they get aimed at Mitt Romney, whether or not they get aimed at Rick Santorum. And like Congressman Bass, I know Rick Santorum, great guy, truly understands what he believes in. And he had a great showing out in Iowa. You know, when it comes to the negative ad thing, in New Hampshire, I don't believe it plays as well as, maybe, other states. We have a much lower tolerance to negative ads, and...
CONAN: That's what they said in Iowa, too. It seemed to work, though.
SANBORN: It did seem to work against Newt. And, you know, it shows that they work. As much as you don't want to hear them, it does show that there's some plausibility to that. But, you know, for us on the Paul campaign, there's a positive message about those traditional New Hampshire Yankee values and American values of cutting, of pushing back and finding someone who really is consistent and believable.
CONAN: As opposed to those serial hypocrites on the other side.
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CONAN: But, Charlie Bass, same question to you. That super PAC, Mitt Romney says, hey, I don't have any control of this. If I told them what to do, I'd go to prison. He can say cut it out, though.
BASS: Sad to say, without getting into the constitutional issues, the Supreme Court has greatly broadened the definition of the First Amendment so that these super PACs can sort of operate outside of the political structure. And it's bizarre that we have a campaign, campaign committees, party committees, every penny has to be accounted for and reported every 10 days and so forth, and yet there's this whole other political advocacy world that's completely unregulated. And I don't support that, but it's there.
And I'm sure that there will be plenty of advocacy, if you will, on the other side against Mitt Romney. I guess the saving grace, if you will, for Governor Romney is is that he's been under that gun now for years and years, when he was governor of Massachusetts, when he ran for the U.S. Senate, when he ran - the negative ads have been running here in New Hampshire for months against Mitt Romney.
And they - basically, there's nothing new. Now, with Rick Santorum - and as we obviously know with Newt Gingrich - they were relatively unknown by the average voter. And so when these ads came out, it was - frankly, whether it was truthful or not is one thing, but it was new information. I don't know what they can do to Mitt Romney that they haven't already done. There's nothing that I can see that Barack Obama can say about Mitt Romney that somebody else hasn't already said. And he's been able to shake it off and keep his eyes on the horizon and keep moving forward. And I think that really defines - at least partially defines electability in November.
CONAN: Well, Rick Santorum ran hardly any ads in Iowa, and Newt Gingrich's ads - his broadcast ads, were all very upbeat and focused on himself. So, Mitt Romney, a lot of people say, has gotten pretty much of a pass on some of the ads thus far, except for those run by Ron Paul. But, Ken Rudin.
RUDIN: Senator Sanborn, I want to ask you this question. You're talking about true conservatives, and who the conservatives back for president. Rick Santorum - I think it was Rick Santorum, the other day, who said that Congressman Paul's foreign policy is to the left of Dennis Kucinich. Now, he may - he said this. And so, obviously, Ron Paul does appeal to many conservatives, but he also is a strong anti-war - has a strong anti-war record. What do you make of that left-of-Dennis-Kucinich comment?
SANBORN: Well, the left of Dennis Kucinich is - I mean, you always love great copy, right? Because it makes even me laugh when I say it here. But you know I laugh at a lot. Neal, the - I believe the American people believe in what Congressman Paul says every day. You know, clean up your sandbox before you go out and play, and that's a big, global concept.
We have issues at home. So if we're going to be focusing on defense - and you know he's a - Dr. Paul's incredibly strong on defense. But it's defense, not offense. If we're going to be building schools, or if we're going to be building bridges and roads, you know, there's plenty of roads, schools and bridges we can build right here in America. If we're looking to get people employed and have them spend their money in our economy to help our economy work, let's pull some out of Germany or out of Japan or Korea, bring those people home, secure our borders and let them spend their money in America. You know, it's that American-first and restore-the-American-values things that I really think is making his message so incredibly broad.
CONAN: Do you worry that voters here in New Hampshire might be concerned about those pamphlets that Ron Paul published 15 and 20 years ago, when he was out of office, that had some very unfortunate things in them?
SANBORN: You know, I think that people from New Hampshire and the people in America understand the dark side of politics. And he has disavowed those letters since the first time. You remember, they came up last time he ran for office, and was very clear and consistent: disavowed them, doesn't agree with them, and, you know, again, maintaining the same type of stance on that.
CONAN: Senator Sanborn, thanks very much for your time.
SANBORN: Thanks so much for having me.
CONAN: And, Congressman Bass, thanks for talking with us.
BASS: Anytime. (unintelligible).
CONAN: Political Junkie Ken Rudin will be back with us next week, when we have results from New Hampshire. Stay - and Jennifer Ludden hosts tomorrow. So I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from New Hampshire Public Radio and NPR News.
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