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Politics
12:10 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Texas Vote Boosts Romney Amid 'Birther' Revival

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 12:24 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Romney rings up the magic number, Barrett and Walker wind up in Wisconsin, and on CNN, the Donald brings up the birther business again. It's Wednesday and time for a...

DONALD TRUMP: Ridiculous...

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. We'll look ahead to the latest round of the drawn-out donnybrook in Wisconsin, head down to Texas where a Tea Party upstart forced a runoff for the GOP Senate nomination, move on to Michigan where a congressional candidate who can't get enough people to sign their own names will now hope that they'll write in his.

Later in the program, we'll head down a blue highway and pull off into a Walmart parking lot, me and my RV. But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi Neal. I see no pop quiz this week, thank you very much.

CONAN: Well, we're going to do that again next week.

RUDIN: My father would love a pop quiz. OK, well, yesterday, as you say, Mitt Romney in - by some counts won enough delegates on the Texas primary to put him over the top for the Republican presidential nomination. The question is: What non-incumbent president, what non-incumbent Republican wrapped up his party's nomination the earliest in party history?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the non-incumbent Republican to wrap up his party's nomination earliest in party history, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And of course the winner gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. And Ken, as we usually do when we have the opportunity, actual votes.

And yesterday's going to be remembered, I guess, as the day Mitt Romney went over the top, also that he allowed himself to get upstaged by Donald Trump in the process.

RUDIN: Well, let's start - for Mitt Romney, let's start with the good news. He does go over the top with - what's the matter, Neal?

CONAN: I'm - are we having audio problems because I'm having difficulties. No, it's just my headphones.

RUDIN: Thank you. For those who listen to the show on the radio, Neal's making strange faces. OK, well, Mitt Romney, by some accounts, won the nomination. He is, for historical purposes, the first Mormon, the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints to win his party's nomination, and that is historic.

But why - look, look, yes, he's not responsible for Donald Trump, and yes - but why on the day that he knows he's going over the top...

CONAN: Knows months ahead this is going to be the day.

RUDIN: Figures it's going to be Texas. Why attend a fundraiser with Donald Trump in Las Vegas while Donald Trump, who always shies away from publicity, as you know, but why - and, you know, Donald Trump spent the day talking about the birther conspiracy issues, and we don't know where President Obama was born.

CONAN: And he didn't know he was going to go all over cable news, but he knows Donald Trump is juggling hand grenades.

RUDIN: I mean, yes, is he responsible for Donald Trump, no. Does he have to agree with everything that every supporter of his backs? I mean, you could make the case that Bill Maher said something about the cult of Mormonism, and Barack Obama doesn't have to apologize for Bill Maher, even though Bill Maher gave a million dollars to a pro-Obama superPAC.

The point is why on this day, do it any other day, but why do it on the day he clinches the nomination. It stepped all over his message.

CONAN: In the meantime, there are some other interesting results in Texas. We'll go down-ticket a little bit later when we talk with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News. But in the meantime, you have to look at that Senate race.

RUDIN: Well, again, this - we've seen this pattern several times around the country and probably more to come. We see a conservative, a nominal conservative/establishment choice...

CONAN: The Rick Perry nominee.

RUDIN: Well, this was David Dewhurst, who was the lieutenant governor of Texas, and as you know in Texas, the lieutenant governor has far more power and influence than the governor, it's always been the case. But anyway, David Dewhurst, backed by Rick Perry, who still has some influence, did finish first as expected but less than the 50 percent he needed to advance without a runoff.

He only got 47 percent, and the guy who finished second with 32 percent is Ted Cruz, backed by the Tea Party, backed by Sarah Palin.

CONAN: And Jim DeMint.

RUDIN: And Jim DeMint. And we've seen the Palin/DeMint combination do...

CONAN: Club for Growth combination.

RUDIN: Well, it's successful, although I think the Club for Growth backed Dewhurst. But they've backed conservatives in the past. We saw it with Deb Fischer with Sarah Palin backing Deb Fischer in Nebraska. Anyway, Ted Cruz got 32 percent. The two of them move on to a July 31 runoff. Again, once again, not that David Dewhurst is a moderate, but it's seen as the establishment versus the Tea Party, and the Tea Party loves these kind of challenges.

CONAN: And in the meantime, interesting poll out this week, Memorial Day weekend of course just a little bit ago, and this was on the popularity of the presidential candidates with veterans. Of course it showed a huge lead for the Republican, as usual, Mitt Romney, but inside the numbers, sort of an interesting analysis.

RUDIN: Well yes, it is interesting because if you take away - and this kind of surprised me, but we do know that veterans, as you say, do support Republican candidates, and we've also seen, for the most part, that white voters support Republican candidates, of course African-Americans overwhelmingly back President Obama, but if you take away the veteran equation from that poll, you'll find among white voters, male voters, pretty much a split between Romney and Obama. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out for November.

CONAN: In the meantime, the Romney campaign, despite the revival of the birther controversy, decided to try to stay on-message. Among the things it did was releasing a new ad. You remember the president's attacks on Bain Capital as sort of vulture capital or even vampire capital, this is basically saying the president was involved in public equity, giving money to his friends, it says, like Solyndra, the green energy company that went belly-up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Obama is giving taxpayer money to big donors and then watching them lose it. Good for them, bad for us.

CONAN: And this attack, this is going to be - let's get off the birther stuff. This is the central, the big ring of the campaign.

RUDIN: Well, some people see it as a distraction. The Romney people think what Romney did at Bain Capital, and he left there in 1999, is a distraction. The Obama camp decides - it says that Solyndra was just an isolated incident of a company that did get federal money and did go belly-up.

But again, it just shows - it kind of tears apart the two arguments, the respective arguments that the two candidates are making, that Obama - that Romney has great economic and business sense, and yet Bain has, of course, cut a lot of jobs. And Solyndra, for all of the money that - we're talking about economic stimulus and the Obama economic plan, Solyndra went belly-up, and Romney is trying to make the argument that this is indicative of the Obama economic - his record in the last four years.

CONAN: A new ad on the other side from moveon.org features women sarcastically congratulating Romney, saying he won the nomination by threatening to allow employers to take away contraceptive coverage, let insurance companies charge women more and eliminate Planned Parenthood. And, well, this is not going to go unnoticed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: So this November, we're going to remember...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: How you threw women under the bus just to get the nomination.

CONAN: And again, we mentioned veterans with a big bulge for Romney. Women, again, the big bulge for the Democrat, Barack Obama.

RUDIN: Absolutely. Polls sure indicate that, you know, that slogan, the Republican war on women, the Republicans of course say that's absolutely a falsehood and a ridiculous characterization. But the polls show it's working, and of course Democrats will keep pushing it if it works.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the non-incumbent Republican to wrap up his party's presidential nomination earliest in party history. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We'll start with Derek(ph) on the line with us from Oklahoma City.

DEREK: How are you?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

DEREK: OK. I wanted to say Lincoln, but (unintelligible) screener's answer.

CONAN: We're going to get the screener to stop tipping off the answers. Abraham Lincoln is the guess.

RUDIN: Yes, I think the screener said what are you, crazy? No, no, actually, no Abe Lincoln didn't win the nomination until the actual convention in 1860. So it wouldn't be Abe Lincoln. Abe Lincoln certainly was the first Republican - no actually the second Republican nominee.

CONAN: John Fremont.

RUDIN: Exactly, Fremont was 1856, Lincoln was 1860. But no, that was - he didn't win the nomination until the actual convention, and that was in June, I believe.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Derek. Let's go next to - this is David(ph), David with us from Carbondale in Colorado.

DAVID: Yeah, if I'm right, didn't they have to - I think they had to talk this guy into being a Republican first. My guess is Dwight David Eisenhower.

RUDIN: Well, Dwight David Eisenhower was - you know, he was the president of Columbia University, and he did beat Robert Taft in the 1952 primaries, but again Taft didn't win the nomination until the first ballot of the convention in 1952. So again, that's not until the summer. We're looking for the earliest clinching of the nomination.

DAVID: OK, thank you.

CONAN: Thanks for the call. Let's go to - this is Steve(ph), Steve with us from Cleveland.

STEVE: Good afternoon, gentlemen. My guess would be Richard Nixon.

CONAN: Richard Millhouse Nixon. Well, which time?

RUDIN: Well, that's a good question, which time was that?

CONAN: '60 or '68.

STEVE: '60.

RUDIN: All right, well, anyway, both times, again, there were no - the difference back then is that there were not the kind of number of primaries there were today. It was really county caucuses and delegates at the convention. So both in 1960 and 1968, Richard Nixon officially went over the top at those respective conventions, not earlier.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much. Well, continue calling, 800-989-8255. In the...

RUDIN: And of course, 1968, one of his opponents was George Romney.

CONAN: Of course. In the meantime, we have this strange case in Michigan. This is an incumbent Republican congressman, Thaddeus Thad McCotter, who is trying to catch up the normal nominating petition to get on the Republican Party primary ballot, a little inconsistency shows up.

RUDIN: This is an amazing story, and all I can say is I'm so sorry. We're so sorry for Thad because here is a six-term, five-term member of Congress from Michigan. All he had to submit was 1,000 signatures to get on the August 7 primary ballot. He only submitted - well, he submitted like 1,800, but only 244 were legitimate.

I mean, a lot of them were copied, they were false, and so here's a - he's a sitting incumbent member of Congress. I'm just astonished by this because it is amazing.

CONAN: And he said look, I take full responsibility, but he told a local radio station...

REPRESENTATIVE THADEUS MCCOTTER: I do feel that someone I trusted lied to me. And that - you know, in my line of work, shocking.

CONAN: Duped by the duplicates.

RUDIN: Well, you know, that's unusual to hear any member of Congress being fooled by other people. But the point is that a member of Congress who should have had 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot, he's going to run in the primary as a write-in candidate, and while that sounds kind of easy, it's going to be a tough battle to get the 25,000 signatures he needs.

CONAN: One more caller on the junkie trivia question, Peter(ph) with us from Roseville in California.

PETER: Right, wild guess: George Bush the elder.

CONAN: George Bush the first.

RUDIN: No, George Bush didn't win it until the April 26 Pennsylvania primary. The answer is John McCain last - four years ago. He won it on Super Tuesday, on March 4, 2008.

CONAN: No Political Junkie no-prize winner this week. All right, stay with us, Ken. We're talking with the Political Junkie, as we do every Wednesday. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is most Wednesdays. Ken, ScuttleButton winner last week?

RUDIN: There is absolutely. The winner is Michael Wineman(ph) of San Francisco, California. And as there were three buttons, there was a Mim Daddario for governor, you remember him from Connecticut in 1970.

CONAN: Sure, yeah.

RUDIN: Of course, Mim Daddario for governor. There was a Baltimore Oriole button, and there was a Yogi Berra days. So when you get the Mim and the Oriole, you get Memorial Day.

CONAN: Memorial Day.

RUDIN: Yes, and I had to put a Yogi Berra button there because I had to have my Yankees because they're doing so well in...

CONAN: They're doing so impressively, yeah.

RUDIN: But anyway, Michael Wineman, San Francisco, wins the T-shirt.

CONAN: And he'll get a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt for that. But what's up? There's no column, there's no button puzzle this week.

RUDIN: I just, I didn't - it was a tough weekend for me. It was - you know, the pool was open, and, you know, just - I know, yeah, next week, though.

CONAN: Next week, all right. Now you get a little taste of what it's like to supervise Ken Rudin. In the meantime, next week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faces the Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a gubernatorial recall election. It's been a long, polarizing campaign. In a debate on Friday, Governor Walker said voters are ready for this to be over.

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: People want to go forward. They want to move on. They want to get past this. They don't want to rehash the same debate we had, which is what the mayor has talked about in the primary. They want to move on and move forward, and I'm the candidate to do that.

CONAN: Mayor Barrett, in that same debate, accused Governor Walker of making decisions that started a political civil war in the state.

MAYOR TOM BARRETT: A decision that tore apart this state and made it impossible, in some instances, for neighbors to talk to neighbors, for relatives to talk to relatives, for workers to talk to co-workers because it was too bitter a fight.

CONAN: Now, some describe Wisconsin as the most political divisive state in the nation. If you're in the Badger State, has the recall been divisive in your life? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Joining us now from the studios at Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, where he covers state politics, is Shawn Johnson, and nice to have you back with us.

SHAWN JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, good to be here, thanks.

CONAN: Let's pose that question to you. Has this been divisive?

JOHNSON: It's an understatement, yeah. The last year and a half has been very divisive, and the closer you get to election, you know, whether it's a recall election or not, in a state as close as ours, you really feel it. You really sense it out there. And, you know, it's very evident throughout the state in terms of yard signs and just in terms of the way people interact with each other.

CONAN: And this has been an enormously expensive campaign, I think Walker's campaign announced that he raised more than $5 million in the last month.

JOHNSON: It has been very expensive, and it's been lopsided on the fundraising, too. I mean, you mentioned the governor's fundraising totals there in a very short period of time. His Democrat challenger Tom Barrett raised about three and a half million dollars over that period.

In normal circumstances, that would be a record-setting pace, but in our recall election, he's trailing Walker substantially. And if you look at what Governor Walker has raised since this race - well, since he took office, $31 million in the last year and a half, it's really unheard of in a state like ours, a state where normally you have $10,000 limits on what people can give to candidates.

Because of the recall election and the way that our laws work during a recall election, the governor has been able to get six-figure donations to his campaign, and it's worked well for him on the fundraising front.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Shawn, I've read a lot of reports that seem to indicate like a record turnout expected on Tuesday, like less than half of the folks in Wisconsin voted in 2010, but maybe 70 percent may show up on Tuesday. I've also seen the polls pretty narrow, even though Scott Walker has had the most money, spent the most money, and Democrats are - finally seem to be advertising on TV.

But once upon a time, they were talking about - you know, this is World War III, this was going to be the defining moment for 2012 politics. Democrats don't seem as confident as they used to.

JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, in terms of the fundraising numbers, it's not like what you saw last summer in our state Senate recalls, where there really was a pretty even divide in the fundraising gap between Democrats and union supporters, Republicans and business groups. And Democrats and unions even came out a little bit ahead last summer.

This year, I mean, Republicans just have the money on their side, you know, by any measure. And when you talk about turnout, I'm not sure anybody knows exactly what to expect. I mean, the turnout projection that you're talking about came from our state's election board, and even they conceded we haven't done this before, we don't really know what to measure this up against.

They're looking at turnout of 60 to 65 percent. That would put it closer to a presidential-election-level turnout. And presidential elections generally bode well for Democrats in this state. If that number were correct, it would blow past the previous record for a gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, which is around 52 percent, and yes, it would be more than we saw in November 2010, when Governor Walker was first elected.

CONAN: Are Democrats regretting the fact that they could not agree on a candidate a little earlier, that it was a divisive primary, as well, with the unions on one side, Governor - excuse me, Mayor Barrett's campaign on the other?

JOHNSON: They may be regretting it. If they are, you're not hearing those discussions. I think that if Governor Walker comes out on top on June 5th, that will be among the discussions you hear. But as I say, everybody's focused on - among Democrats - focused on Tom Barrett right now. You know, some of the people who worked for his main Democratic challenger in the primary, Kathleen Falk, have now shifted over to the Barrett campaign.

And so you're not hearing those discussions publicly, but, you know, certainly if this was a shortened campaign season, we had basically one month between the primary and the general election, very shortened. And in the month prior to that, you had union-funded groups spending a few million dollars on behalf of the candidate that lost the Democratic primary.

So, you know, those questions, depending on the outcome, will all be second-guessed, but as I mentioned, they're not being talked about right now.

CONAN: We want to hear from those of you in Wisconsin. How divisive has this been in your life? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Tina's(ph) on the line with us from Oconomowoc in Wisconsin.

TINA: That's Oconomowoc.

CONAN: All right, I tried.

TINA: Yeah, you did. It's a hard one.

CONAN: Go ahead.

TINA: Yeah, so my dad and I were having breakfast this morning and, of course, got in a battle. I'm Democratic, and he's Republican. And we know better than to talk about policy, but I just thought it was a fair question, if he thought all the contributions from out of state were fair, since Walker has over half of his campaign money coming from out of state; and Tom Barrett, who's only 30 percent or less, so...

CONAN: And how heated did this argument get?

TINA: We just have to stop talking after a while. We know that it's not going to get anywhere, so...

CONAN: And do you expect this to linger after election day?

TINA: There will be a little pride on whoever wins, kind of, I told you so. So I'm hoping for Barrett.

CONAN: I suspect. Ken?

RUDIN: You know that when you have fights at breakfast, it turns into cereal murders.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: I just thought I'd mention that. I'm sorry.

TINA: Good one.

CONAN: That's why we keep him around. Tina, thanks very much for the call.

TINA: Yeah, thank you.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Joe(ph), Joe's with us from Franklin, Wisconsin. There's a place I can pronounce.

JOE: Yes, easy to pronounce. I'm kind of echoing that - the last caller, that politics in my family was - at the family gatherings, you just didn't bring it up because, you know, everybody kind of knew where everybody was. But for the last year and a half, it's been - after the Packers, the number one subject.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

JOE: It comes up, and it gets kind of heated, but nobody's crazy. So it's going to be interesting. And the turnout, I didn't expect it - you know, they're talking, like you said, 65, 70 percent. I didn't really think it would be that great, but it's going to be interesting.

CONAN: Are you going to vote, Joe?

JOE: Oh certainly.

CONAN: All right...

JOE: Certainly, I'm a yellow-dog Democrat, and, you know, I'm - I've done some work for the campaign, sent them some money, and I will definitely go vote.

CONAN: What is there to argue about the Packers? You've got the greatest quarterback in football, maybe - right up there.

JOE: Well, the argument is: Why did we lose to the Giants?

CONAN: Again, again?

JOE: I know, I know, I know, but we'll be back.

CONAN: Thanks very much. All right, Joe, thanks very much. Let's see if we can get one more caller in on this, Dave(ph), Dave's with us from Marinette, Wisconsin.

DAVE: Nice show, gentlemen. My comment, very simply, is - I'm a teacher in Wisconsin. I'm a Democrat, and I found this exceptionally divisive. I personally support Scott Walker and what he's doing, and I have a real hard time doing that, obviously, in my place of employment. But I'm very much looking forward to this being over, and I think you're going to see probably 73 percent of the vote turnout.

CONAN: And when you say divisive, do you even mention your position with your other teachers at this point?

DAVE: Sometimes I can, but there is so much division, you know, I've never seen this to a point where people can't agree to disagree and still remain agreeable. And so I've just taken a hands-off attitude. As a teacher, I don't necessarily like the way he went about it, but I'm delighted that my dues aren't just being handed over to somebody, you know, that I had no control over.

CONAN: All right, Dave, thanks very much, appreciate it.

DAVE: Thank you.

CONAN: Shawn Johnson, we can't forget there are other races, other recalls on the ballot, as well, lieutenant governor and a bunch of state senators.

JOHNSON: Yeah, there's four state senators up for recall, including the Republican leader of the state Senate, Scott Fitzgerald, who really was in the, you know, unenviable task of being the face of the whole collective bargaining battle. In some ways, I mean, he was the guy who was basically muscling the governor's collective bargaining bill through the Senate, when all this was happening last year, when the protests were going on consistently at the capitol, pushed it through in a surprise conference committee vote that caused the capitol flooded with protests. So it's an interesting race. He is in a pretty Republican district, so it's not necessarily one that the Democratic Party has been focusing on, but definitely one that a number of people in the Democratic grassroots have been interested in.

A few other Senate races, and then, as you mentioned, the lieutenant governor is also on the ballot, and that's on a separate ballot than the governor in the recall race, as opposed to normal elections when they run together. So you could potentially have a governor from one party and a lieutenant governor from the other party, depending on what happens June 5th.

CONAN: And how many seats in the Senate would Democrats have to win to get control of that body?

JOHNSON: Democrats need to flip one seat to get control of the State Senate. If they won one of the four, they're in the majority. The caveat there is that there are other State Senate elections coming up in November, and, you know, you could see party control switch again potentially because there are a few seats that are fought over there.

CONAN: The never-ending campaign. That's why we call it just the latest round in the Wisconsin Donnybrook, because it'll be back in November. Shawn, thanks very much for your time today.

JOHNSON: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: Shawn Johnson, state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio, with us from the studios of Wisconsin Public Radio there in Madison. Joining us now from member station KUT in Austin, Texas is Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the Dallas Morning News. And Wayne Slater, thanks as always for being with us.

WAYNE SLATER: Absolutely, Neal. Great to be with you.

CONAN: And we mentioned earlier, the biggest story - Romney wrapping up the nomination. Of course, Governor Perry thought he might be celebrating tonight, once upon a time, and he was with the person who finished first in the Senate primary but, I gather, rather a subdued celebration.

SLATER: Yeah. I mean, David Dewhurst, lieutenant governor, longtime, decade-long lieutenant governor, who finds himself the establishment figure in a year in which establishment figures aren't particularly popular, especially in a state like Texas, in a primary that's Republican, had - did everything he could last night to put the good face on the fact that they're going to a runoff against a lesser known Tea Party activist who has the support of an awful lot of people, including some Beltwear - Beltway free-marketeers.

CONAN: I think we've got to go with Beltwear. I think I like that better.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Some interesting other races as well on the congressional side. Of course, Texas getting four new seats because of population gains.

SLATER: Yeah. And basically what happened yesterday, very few changes. One Democrat lost in El Paso, but pretty much everyone did OK, even Ralph Hall, who I think is 112 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: In the shade.

SLATER: And so - but that's basically what happened. The four seats, four brand-new seats, are really at the heart of the reason - the redistricting effort, elongated redistricting effort - that our primary was moved from March to May and therefore was largely unimportant.

CONAN: We're talking with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News. Also with us, of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin, as he is every Wednesday. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. The redistricting effort also seemed to target one Democrat in particular - the new 35th District.

SLATER: Yeah. You're talking about Lloyd Doggett...

CONAN: I am.

SLATER: ...the Doggett seat. He is an amazing guy, a classy example, one of the only two white Anglo Democrats still in Congress. He has every year - beginning several years ago, when Tom DeLay as House speaker engineered a kind of insurgency to redraw the district lines between the 10-year periods. But every election, Lloyd Doggett finds a way to (unintelligible) - to win. He's based in Austin. The district was largely Hispanic. He had an Hispanic Democratic opponent, who wasn't widely known but had an Hispanic surname, but Lloyd worked like crazy, and he won fairly easily.

CONAN: Ken?

Wayne, just going back to the Senate race for a second. What was the conservatives' argument against David Dewhurst? We keep hearing he was the establishment, the establishment, but he's pretty much a conservative guy, no?

SLATER: No - yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SLATER: Look, this isn't Massachusetts. This isn't Vermont. This is Texas. And everybody, especially on the Republican side, is a conservative. It got so bad that during the primary, Ted Cruz, the - again, the Tea Party favorite, former solicitor general of Texas, Ted Cruz attacked Dewhurst in a savage television attack in which he called Dewhurst a moderate.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SLATER: Now, that - you know, you can call somebody a community organizer, but if you call someone a moderate, it's - that's fighting words in Texas. So Dewhurst is conservative. The real problem for Dewhurst is that he's been around for a while. And so fundamentally you see Tea Party activists who aren't happy with everything that's happened in the Texas Senate. Dewhurst as lieutenant governor is presiding officer in the Texas Senate. There were some things the Tea Party types wanted with respect to sanctuary cities, immigration and some other legislation that didn't happen. But by and large, you're right. He's a very conservative lieutenant governor, and with a very, very conservative record.

CONAN: Wayne Slater, thanks very much.

SLATER: Great to be with you.

CONAN: Wayne Slater, senior writer for the Dallas Morning News, with us from member station KUT in Austin. And I mentioned that Texas Senate race. You could see something of a rerun of that - some of the same issues in the next week's primary in New Mexico.

RUDIN: Right. You do have a moderate Republican, Heather Wilson, former member of Congress who gave up her seat in 2008 to run for the Senate. But she seems to be - even though she's challenged by Tea Party conservatives, she seems like she will be the Republican nominee for the Senate, for the - this is the seat that Jeff Bingaman is giving up. And the question is whether the Tea Party conservatives stay home in November because - and polling shows - seems to show that she could win the seat for the Republican Party but not if conservatives are not excited.

CONAN: In California's primary, a lot of, well, redistricting there as well, but it sets up the famous Sherman-Berman race.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Right. You have two pairs of Democrats running against each other because of redistricting - Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, in the Los Angeles district. Also, in Compton, Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson, two Democratic members of Congress are running against each other in the primary. And the Senate race, Dianne Feinstein seems to be a shoo-in. Remember, everything in California, all the candidates run on the same ballot, so there are 23 people challenging Dianne Feinstein. It's like the bar scene in "Star Wars."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: I mean, it's just really wacko stuff, but they're all in the same ballot. And the top two finishers - nobody ever heard of any of the Republicans that are running. And some Republicans, or maybe some Peace and Freedom candidate, somebody will show up against Feinstein in November.

CONAN: We're going to do the show live from the "Star Wars" cantina next week. Ken Rudin, thanks very much. Also a Democrat on Democrat race in New Jersey next week. We'll have details and results with the Political Junkie next Wednesday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.