NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The president pivots to taxes, Romney says he's just ducking the jobs number, and Palin pleads for partisan passion. It's Wednesday and time for a...
SARAH PALIN: Hair on fire...
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 BENTSON: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
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. Thad McCotter completes his political self-immolation, Shelley Berkley's Senate race side-tracked by an ethics investigation. The mysterious medical leave of Jesse Jackson, Jr. Team Romney swamps the president's supporters by more than $30 million in June. A new poll shows a huge political rift between marrieds and singles.
In a few minutes, we're going to take your questions about this political year. Later in the program, what actually happens when a broke city files for Chapter 9. But first, political junkie joins us here in Studio 3A, and as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Well, actually, before we do that, we have some - a little announcement to make, that we're proud to announce that member station WUIS in Springfield, Illinois, has just picked up TALK OF THE NATION, actually only because of...
CONAN: The political junkie. Have they heard this show yet?
RUDIN: Well, what happened was I was actually at a station visit at WUIS last September, and yet they decided to pick us up anyway.
CONAN: Pick us up anyway.
RUDIN: OK, so therefore...
CONAN: They thought it was the other Ken Rudin.
RUDIN: There is no other Ken Rudin. But I am forced to make an Illinois-related trivia question. And so name the number of governors in Illinois who have not gone to prison - no, that's too easy. Here's the question. The question is: Last night, the National League shut out the American League in the All-Star Game, and here's a ridiculous question that fits in somehow: Who was the last - even I can't believe this question.
Who was the last Illinois senator elected the same year as an All-Star game shutout?
CONAN: Well, if you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, you're probably spending much too much time thinking about it. The last Illinois senator to be elected the same year as an All-Star Game shutout. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And the winner, of course, gets a fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt, eventually, in exchange for a promise to take a digital image of themselves wearing said shirt, when and if it arrives, so we can post it on our wall of shame.
RUDIN: Just let people know that there will be these T-shirts.
CONAN: There will be T-shirts.
RUDIN: We're redesigning them, and, you know, the corporate bigwig upstairs...
CONAN: Getting the Nike swoosh right, exactly. So Ken, the National Governors Association, meeting this weekend in Williamsburg in Virginia. At this point of the year, are we looking forward to any interesting gubernatorial races?
RUDIN: Well of course we always love to see who the new gubernors will be, and if I use that joke one more time - but, you know, in presidential races, there are very few - there are only 11...
CONAN: In presidential years.
RUDIN: In presidential years, there are only - this is year there's only 11 races for governor this year, and a lot of them, I should say, are not big-name states. I mean, you've heard of these states, they're in the top 50, but they're not, you know, big states where people are following them. It's Vermont and Delaware and Utah, and things like that. There are some to watch, though.
North Carolina may be the big one. It's probably the biggest - the most likely chance of a party's - of a gubernatorial seat switching parties. And it looks like the Republicans, who have been out of office in North Carolina for a long, long time, Pat McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, is the Republican nominee, and Walton Dalton is the lieutenant governor.
But it's interesting that it's happening in North Carolina because that's where the Democrats are holding their national convention this year, and it's been - the state itself is not looking very good for the Democrats, not great for President Obama, who won the state four years ago. And so - but it looks like the Republicans may pick up North Carolina.
CONAN: In fact the incumbent governor declined to run for re-election, sensing the political wind.
RUDIN: Absolutely, Bev Perdue's numbers were really, really awful. She's the Democrat who did not seek a second term. And the Republicans, the Republicans are also looking at picking up New Hampshire and Montana. Those are very, very close. And maybe Washington state, too, but that's also very close - where Christine Gregoire is retiring.
CONAN: In the meantime, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, went before a tough crowd today. He decided to address the NAACP Convention in Houston. Interestingly, the president decided not to, he's sending Joe Biden, who will be addressing the convention tomorrow.
But in any case, it was a - well, a polite reception until, well, one subject came up.
MITT ROMNEY: If our goal is jobs, we have to stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we take in every year.
ROMNEY: And so to do that, I'm going to eliminate every nonessential expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare. And I'm going to work to reform and save...
(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)
CONAN: And that went on for a little while.
RUDIN: It did. Well, you know, Mitt Romney's argument is that a bad economy hurts everybody - blacks and whites alike, and that's why he's trying to say that. But to criticize Obamacare, the principal, the primary accomplishment of President Obama before the NAACP, before a group that is overwhelmingly in favor of President Obama's re-election, was tough - tough - tough decision.
But look, he wasn't going to flip-flop. I mean, we've heard that before. Romney had to do what he had to do, and it's not going to help him with the African-American vote, President Obama got 96 percent of the black vote in 2008, perhaps a similar percentage is expected this year. Of course, the real story is what kind of enthusiasm and what kind of a turnout you can get compared to 2008.
CONAN: Well, it was interesting that Artur Davis, the former Democratic congressman who switched parties and moved to Virginia, he's now a Republican...
RUDIN: From Alabama originally.
CONAN: Was quoted in the Washington Post this morning saying look, Mitt Romney is not doing this to get any votes this time around. It's important for the Republican Party that he be seen to be reaching out. He may get some independent voters, some who think it's important to see him reaching out to African-Americans.
But he's really doing this for the future of the party, showing, you know, eventually there's going to be a presidential nominee not named Barack Obama.
RUDIN: And that's true, but, you know, but you could also make the case that the Republican Party for the longest time has been talking about stringent ID law, voter ID laws, which many say are discriminatory against African-Americans. You can say that the Republican Party, the rhetoric we heard during the debates, were very critical of Latinos and immigration, and while Republicans would love to get more Hispanic votes in 2012, there is that record, that rhetoric they have to balance.
So it's tough act for Romney to try to reach out to blacks and Latinos when - given the rhetoric of what we've heard all year long.
CONAN: Mentioned Joe Biden will be at the NAACP Convention, I believe, tomorrow. He earlier address the National Council of La Raza and brought up the immigration issue. He tied it to Mitt Romney's tax returns, as well.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his. It's kind of fascinating.
CONAN: Not a bad line.
RUDIN: No, it's not a bad line, and this is basically the White House design. First of all, the White House was rudely informed last week with some very bad economic numbers that only 80,000 new jobs were created, that unemployment remains at 8.2 percent. And so the White House clearly says, well, look, we can't defend the economic climate in this country. What we have to do is just talk about the differences between us and Mitt Romney and focus on Romney's problems, which is perhaps his wealth, his tax issues and things like that.
CONAN: And we'll have to see if that has any traction. The - Mitt Romney says he's got nothing - it's a blind trust, he doesn't even know what's in those numbers. Anyway, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last senator to be elected from the state of Illinois in a year in which there was a shutout pitched at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
RUDIN: Who comes up with these questions?
CONAN: I can't imagine. 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. We'll start with Tom(ph), Tom's on the line with us from Des Moines.
TOM: Yeah, I was going to say Jim Thompson.
CONAN: Big Jim Thompson.
CONAN: Well, you only get one bite at the apple, Tom.
RUDIN: Except the problem of course is Jim Thompson was governor of Illinois, never senator.
TOM: Oh, senator.
CONAN: Yeah, we're looking for senators. Nice try, though. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Bob(ph), and Bob's with us from Sacramento.
BOB: Yeah, Carol Moseley Braun?
RUDIN: Carol Moseley Braun was elected senator in 1992 in Illinois. There was no shutout in the All-Star Game that year.
CONAN: All right, thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Jim(ph) - excuse me, Travis(ph), Travis with us from Sacramento.
TRAVIS: Hi. My answer is Jim Edgar
RUDIN: Well, Jim Edgar is similar to Jim Thompson. Jim Edgar was also governor of Illinois, matter of fact he succeeded Jim Thompson. But he was never senator, and we're looking for the last senator to be...
TRAVIS: Oh, senator.
CONAN: All right, let's see if we can go next to, this is Albert(ph), and Albert is with us from Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead, Albert.
ALBERT: Yeah, listen, how about Dick Durbin?
RUDIN: Dick Durbin is the correct answer.
CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.
RUDIN: Dick Durbin, in 1996, he was elected to succeed Paul Simon, and in 1996, the National League won with a shutout six-nothing. And because Albert is from Arizona, you know he has a sense of Yuma.
CONAN: Of Yuma, yeah.
ALBERT: We need it.
CONAN: He needs it listening to this program.
RUDIN: So that's the correct answer
CONAN: All right, congratulations, Albert, and we'll put you on hold and collect your particulars and send you a political junkie no-prize T-shirt future in response for your eventual promise to take a picture when the shirt arrives of yourself to be posted on our wall of shame.
CONAN: Well, thanks very much.
RUDIN: And thank you, again, WUIS Springfield for picking us up.
CONAN: In the meantime, some news of Congress, and, well Thad McCotter, what happened?
RUDIN: Well, where do you want to start? I mean, of course last year Thad McCotter, the six-term congressman - five-term congressman from Michigan, decided to seek the Republican nomination for president, which made no sense, not even in the McCotter household. And he decided against it after a few months of testing the waters.
Then he couldn't get 1,000 signatures to get on the August 7th Republican primary ballot in Michigan, which astounded everybody. They were just not valid. They were fictitious and duplications and photocopies but not real signatures. So then he said OK, maybe I'll run as a write-in, and then he said no, that's not going well.
So he announced last Friday forget it, I'm quitting, and he just quits. And then that's it. I mean, I'm not - it's not that I'm not going to seek re-election and bide out my time through January 3rd. I'm just - I'm out of here, goodbye, and he's out of here.
CONAN: So a special election has now been set for, I think, September?
RUDIN: Well, here's the weird thing. August 7th is the primary in the new 11th Congressional District of Michigan. But in September, there's a special primary election for the old district lines because we have to fill the rest of McCotter's term. So it's kind of confusing.
CONAN: And then that person will serve until the election in November, when it'll be in the new district lines.
RUDIN: This sounds like one of Ken's trivia questions.
CONAN: It does, very confusing. In the meantime, Ken, stay with us. We're going to be talking more with Ken in just a moment. Of course it's political junkie day. If you have questions about this political year, give us a call. It's your big chance to ask Ken Rudin a question that, well, he'll make something up. 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. And political junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. Ken, was there a ScuttleButton winner last week?
RUDIN: There actually was. I'm glad you asked, Neal. The puzzle was, there was a picture button of JFK, and under that was two picture buttons of RFK. So when you add the JFK and the two RFKs, you have...
CONAN: And airport and a football stadium.
RUDIN: Or you have John Roberts.
RUDIN: And he - remember he's the guy who sold out America by voting to keep Obamacare.
CONAN: That's right.
RUDIN: So anyway, the winner was Karen Mittnick(ph) of Haworth, New Jersey.
CONAN: And she will get a political junkie no-prize T-shirt...
RUDIN: Lots of luck with that, Karen.
CONAN: The latest ScuttleButton puzzle, you're very fond of this one.
RUDIN: This was. This week's one I like very much. Not many people are getting it, but I'm very happy with this one. And where can you find it, Neal?
CONAN: You can find it along with Ken's political junkie column online at npr.org/junkie. And Ken, there's so much to talk about. It's just you and me for the rest of this segment this week. There are - by the way, if people have questions about this political year, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk...
RUDIN: The phones are lighting up. It's unbelievable.
CONAN: At npr.org. There's still some more congressional news to get to, one of which is a member of Congress being investigated for ethics. Sadly, that isn't much news anymore, but it affects the Senate race.
RUDIN: Absolutely. We're talking about Shelley Berkley, the Democrat from Nevada, and this is based on a New York Times story that was from last fall. Basically what Shelley Berkley is accused of doing is that she helped a kidney transplant center, and this is connected to her husband's medical practice.
So there's lots of talks about conflict of interest, and the House Ethics Committee announced - voted this week, unanimously, unanimously to start a subcommittee to investigate. And she is locked in a very, very tight Senate race in Nevada with Dean Heller, he is the Republican who was appointed to succeed John Ensign.
And aside from Maine, which is gone for the Republican Party, and Massachusetts with Scott Brown, which is pretty close - very close, this Nevada Senate is one of the top three ones for the Republican Party that they have to worry about because they need four seats to get a majority in the Senate. But Nevada is going to be very, very close, and this certainly helps the Republicans.
CONAN: Those three are the opportunities for Democrats to pick up, and that assumes that Angus King in Maine will caucus with the Democrats, he's running as an independent, but everybody expects he will.
In the meantime, there was, well, a very strange and awkward moment in a congressional race in Illinois. This is Joe Walsh, the incumbent, who's running against Tammy Duckworth, the paraplegic injured in - flying a helicopter in Iraq when it was blown up. She's regarded by many people as a war hero, and Joe Walsh criticized her for politicizing her injuries.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE WALSH: Now, I'm running against a woman who - I mean, my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, the last thing in the world they talk about, that's why we are so indebted and in awe of what they have done.
CONAN: And this is causing quite a firestorm.
RUDIN: Absolutely, as it should. First of all, a little explanation on Tammy Duckworth. She was co-piloting a helicopter in 2006 when it was shot down over Iraq, and she lost both legs, and she went through a horrific rehabilitation process.
Joe Walsh is a first-term Republican freshman, backed by the Tea Party, whose district has really been completely redrawn to help elect a Democrat, in this case Tammy Duckworth, and just - Walsh just seems to be - I mean, he always says what he thinks, he's that kind of Republican, but this one drew a lot of eyebrows - raised a lot of eyebrows.
CONAN: Another Republican famed for saying what he thinks, this is the governor of Maine, Paul LePage, another Tea Party candidate. In his weekly radio address, stirred up controversy, as he, well, denounced Obamacare.
GOVERNOR PAUL LEPAGE: We the people have been told there is no choice: You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo, the IRS.
CONAN: The new Gestapo?
RUDIN: You know, we've heard this kind of rhetoric from both sides, going back for several years now, and it's just getting out of hand between George W. Bush being a Nazi, Barack Obama being a Nazi. It's like, you know, as I remember from reading history books, the Holocaust and what happened back then was pretty horrific, and to describe arms of the government as being Gestapo-related or Nazi-related or fascist-related or communist-related, you are inciting people, and it's just a very dangerous bit of rhetoric that just doesn't seem to stop.
CONAN: One more piece of constitutional news, and that is in the state of New York. Charlie Rangel looked like, the day after the primary, he was going to - tight but fairly - then some votes showed up that hadn't been counted in The Bronx, and it turned into a very close election.
RUDIN: Well, once upon a time, I mean, it got to a point where it was 1,900 votes, right after the primary on June 26. Then it got down to 802 votes, because they found these votes in this Latino area of The Bronx where the Latino challengers to Charlie Rangel, Adriano Espaillat, was hoping to pick up votes.
CONAN: And you learned how to pronounce it, that's good.
RUDIN: Because I thought he had a shot of winning. But as they've been recounting and counting absentee ballots, Rangel has picked up the lead, and he will be re-elected for his 9,000th term.
CONAN: If you have questions about this political year, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email is email@example.com. We'll start with Kim(ph) - Tim(ph), and Tim's on the line from Cambridge in Massachusetts.
TIM: Yeah, hi, Neal, this is Tim. And I was calling to follow up on Romney's comments earlier on the Affordable Care Act.
CONAN: Yes, before the NAACP Convention in Houston.
TIM: Yeah, exactly. So the thing I wanted to say was, you know, Romney was commenting that he'd cut the Affordable Care Act in order to reduce deficit spending. But the problem with that is that the Affordable Care Act is actually paid for entirely, partly through tax revenues and partly through spending cuts. So it doesn't actually make sense.
And overall, over the next decade or so, it's projected to save money. So I just thought it was important, not just to comment on the politics of what he said, but also to try to get the facts straight about the actual policy.
CONAN: Well, there are expenditures in the Affordable Care Act. It's a very intricate and lengthy bill, as people have pointed out, but there are expenditures in there that Republicans can point to. Yes, people say it should save money or reduce the growth in spending over the next 10 years, but this is a highly debatable issue.
TIM: Well, sure. I mean, we can debate about the cost savings because projections are projections, but in terms of whether it's paid for or not or whether it's going to contribute to the deficit, I think that's pretty clear. The law states that it will be paid for through tax revenues and spending cuts in other areas.
CONAN: All right, well, Tim, thanks very much. There is - Ken?
RUDIN: I just wanted to say something before we get - just in case we miss it, because we talked about Joe Walsh, the Republican from Illinois. There's also Jesse Jackson Jr., the Democrat from Illinois, who's involved in this very odd - I don't know how to describe this story. But about a month ago, he announced that he was taking a leave, a health-related leave of absence from the House, and he hasn't been heard from since.
There's some discussion whether he entered a mental health facility, but a lot of Democrats like Dick Durbin, the winner of the ScuttleButton...
CONAN: The trivia question.
RUDIN: But I mean, there are people like Dick Durbin and others who are saying look, you can't disappear for a month and not tell us what's happening. You're a public figure, and therefore you're - and he's running for re-election, for another term, and your medical story is part of public concern.
So there's very - it's a lot of non-information going on about Jesse Jackson Jr., and a lot of people are just asking what's going on with that.
CONAN: In the meantime, some people are wondering when Mitt Romney is going to announce his vice presidential candidate, his running mate, and there is some questions of timing here. He is about to go on a trip to London and then on to Israel - a foreign trip, and...
RUDIN: Those are foreign countries.
CONAN: Those are foreign countries, indeed. But then you run into - towards the end of the month - a sort of, the noise, the communications noise from all the London Olympic Games, that's going to drown out anything else you want to announce. So you've got to time the Veep stakes carefully. He was at a town hall event in Colorado, and a Romney supported asked him, well, when is going to make the announcement.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You'll be announcing your vice president selection before or after Orlando?
ROMNEY: Tampa, you mean the Republican convention?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.
ROMNEY: I - yes.
RUDIN: But, if that's not a John Kerry Mitt Romney answer, I don't know what is. But you're absolutely right, Neal. I mean, timing is everything. Obviously the convention doesn't begin in Tampa until the end, the last week of August, but with the Olympic coverage probably blocking everything out, one would think that it's going to come sometime in August.
Once upon a time, this was the excitement at a Republican convention. I remember in Detroit, 1980, when Ronald Reagan came out the third day of the convention and said look, I'm not supposed to come out a day early, but I just want to let you know that I announce George Bush as my running mate. And everybody said wow, unbelievable.
I mean, these were exciting times, and now conventions, which - I mean, they don't mean the same anymore. So I assume it's going to happen several weeks in advance.
CONAN: Let's go next to - this is - let's see if we can get Herman(ph) on the line, Herman's with us from Houston.
HERMAN: Hello, folks. I would like to ascertain if Barack Obama's fundraising came up short, behind Romney, after he made that gay marriage announcement, or how was he doing before? Could you answer that for me?
CONAN: The effect on Obama's fundraising of his announcement on gay marriage, he was outpacing the Republican candidate before that. He has fallen behind the last two months. Ken?
RUDIN: Well, you know, that's an interesting question, because when President Obama announced his evolution on same-sex marriage, a lot of critics said, well, the reason he's doing that is because there was a big gay fundraiser going on, I think, in Hollywood.
CONAN: And then another one coming up in about 10 days in New York.
RUDIN: Right. But - so a lot of people say that that was...
CONAN: That was the motive.
RUDIN: That was the motive for changing. But the fact is that the last two months that Mitt Romney and the Republicans - and I'm not talking about the superPACs here. Mitt Romney and the Republicans have out raised President Obama and the Democrats. Now, four years ago, Obama out raised John McCain three to one or four to one, and it was - and so now, they'll see the Republicans doing the same. But the last month, President Obama raised $71 million and Mitt Romney $106 million.
So - and the, you know, we also have to remember what the superPACs when they come with - I think they'll come in with at the end of - in the fall. It's going to be a lot of money.
CONAN: But would you attribute it to the gay marriage evolution or for the fact of the matter in June, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act? And I know that a million dollars came into the Republican coffers that day.
RUDIN: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of it is not so much about President Obama being hurt by his decision on same-sex marriage as it is about Republicans who just want Obama defeated despite their, perhaps, reservations about Mitt Romney. There's a lot of - there are a lot of people with a lot of money who just want Obama out after one term.
CONAN: And it's interesting as you look at the response from the Democrats - of course, they tried to play it down and say one thing they do say, though, is we've invested a lot of money upfront in the ground game where the Republicans are apparently - their strategy, of the Romney campaign, is to invest that money on the air - broadcast commercials.
RUDIN: Yeah. That's absolutely true, and we'll see who wins out, but you're absolutely right. The Democrats and the Obama campaign have spent a lot of time, of course, in the half or dozen or so - a little more, maybe a little more of swing states, so-called swing states - the Ohios, the Floridas, the North Carolinas, the Virginias, the Colorados of the world and - or across the country, and they're doing a tremendous ground game organization - staffers, headquarters around the state, getting at the vote efforts well in advanced where the Romney campaign seems to be focusing more on buying ad space.
CONAN: We're talking with political junkie Ken Rudin, as we do every Wednesday. You can find his ScuttleButton puzzle and his Political Junkie column at npr.org/junkie. You can find him here every Wednesday on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And let's go to Jim, and Jim is on the line from Iowa City.
(SOUNDBITE OF COUGH)
JIM: Excuse me. Hello. I just wanted to comment on - is it Ken, the one talking about Governor LePage's Gestapo comment? Just brushed it off as name-calling on both sides and created some sort of equivalency, and there really is no equivalency. The vitriol and name-calling from the right is much, much more extreme. This doesn't come from Democrats and the opposition to the extreme right anywhere near as much. The Republicans are serial abusers in this regard.
RUDIN: Jim, my point is not so much that the Republicans do it is the same as the Democrats. I'm just saying that the word Nazis and fascists I saw that a lot when George Bush was in the White House. I see it - certainly, I see it much more with Barack Obama in the White House. My only point was that...
CONAN: It's usually socialist for Obama.
RUDIN: Yeah. But I see it with a Hitler mustache and the swastika and all that stuff. My only point is that once you start talking about Gestapo and Nazis, I think, you just crossed a lime. I'm not equating or saying that the Republicans do it as much as the Democrats, I'm just saying that any time you do it, it's crossing the line.
JIM: Oh, you got it backwards. Republicans are doing it a lot more than the Democrats and the...
RUDIN: Well, they may have done it so - but I do remember them - the Democrats doing it during the Bush administration.
JIM: Oh, I don't - I can't name a single incident of that but - and we do have to remember how Mussolini himself, the inventor of fascism, defined it as the perfect marriage of the state and the corporation.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Jim. Appreciate it.
JIM: You bet.
CONAN: As we look ahead, the next event, we forget there are still some primaries and still some interesting congressional races coming up in August.
RUDIN: Yes. And actually, you don't even have to go to August - end of July. I think, it's July 30th or 31st. You have a big...
CONAN: It's almost August. Give me a break.
RUDIN: Well, that's true. And you have a runoff in Texas, and this is another example of the Republican establishment and the Tea Party opposition, basically. And you have it - this is a race for Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat, and David Dewhurst is the lieutenant governor - very conservative guy. He's the establishment's choice, but Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, is getting a lot of support from the Tea Party, from the Jim DeMints and the Sarah Palins of the country.
And this could be a very interesting battle. Again, they claimed they almost knocked off Orin Hatch but - and they did knock off Dick Lugar in Indiana, but it will be a very interesting race to watch in Texas.
CONAN: And then there is the vote in the House of Representatives today to repeal Obamacare. The 31st time, the House of Representatives will have voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act since they seized the majority in 2010.
RUDIN: Well, the Republicans will make the case that, look, this is what we were elected on. We were elected to repeal Obamacare, and here's what we're doing. At the same time, everybody knows that such a resolution is not going to anywhere in a Democratic-controlled Senate. And so a lot of people are saying that this is just politics, and perhaps, it is. But, again, the Republicans said you elect us, we're going to repeal Obamacare. And the Republicans in the House are doing what they said they would do.
CONAN: Obamacare passed with a procedural maneuver so that the...
RUDIN: In the Senate.
CONAN: In the Senate. Reconciliation, it's called. And there are a couple of things called reconciliation. This is one of them. But any case, reconciliation might be available to the Republicans should they win a majority in the Senate and have a Republican president come 2013, but it's going to be difficult to disentangle the funding from everything else in the law.
RUDIN: Yeah. Absolutely true. And remember, everybody talks about that nothing gets done in the Senate unless you have 60 votes. But as you point out, that when health care overhaul was passed, it was a procedure in the Senate with reconciliation, which meant all you need is 51 seats - 51 votes to pass it. And so the Republicans are arguing, well, if that's the case, then all we need is 51 seats to overturn it, if and when we get the majority. And that still remains to be seen if they get the majority.
CONAN: Ken Rudin will be back next week with another edition of The Political Junkie. In the meantime, you can see that latest column and the ScuttleButton puzzle at npr.org/junkie. Ken, thanks very much.
RUDIN: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: When we come back, we're going to be finding out what actually happens when a city declares bankruptcy. San Bernardino is the latest town in California to seek the protection of Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The city council voted four to two in favor of that earlier this week - the third city in just this month. So what happens to the police and the fire and the garbage collectors? Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.