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GOP Candidates Turn Attention To South Carolina


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Mitt moves up, Paul scores a solid second, Santorum sinks, and Newt gnashes. It's Wednesday and time for...

NEWT GINGRICH: ...pious baloney...

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?

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

SEN. LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

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

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.


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


CONAN: Every Wednesday Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. He's at New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord, which played host to both of us last weekend. And the big surprise is no surprise. Next door neighbor Mitt Romney wins big and early. Ron Paul seems set for the long haul and everybody else faces major questions as they head toward the Palmetto State.

In a few minutes we'll speak with former Representative Bob Inglis about the primary there, plus a shakeup at the White House congressional resignations in California. The Supreme Court hears arguments on Texas redistricting and we'll remember conservative gadfly Tony Blankley. Later in this hour, hour-long Junkie, New York Times columnist Bill Keller on that much-rumored, loved, hated, unlikely Obama-Clinton ticket. But first Political Junkie joins us today from Concord and we begin, as we always do, with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. As they say up here, I came, I saw, I Concord .


RUDIN: Yeah, OK. Well, I thought I'd try that one. OK. Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm much funnier in Washington than I am...

CONAN: You are. Yeah.

RUDIN: Yes. OK. The trivia question is, who was the last person - since we're looking ahead to South Carolina - who was the last person to win the South Carolina primary but not be his party's presidential nominee?

CONAN: A state with a reputation for picking winners. The last person to win the South Carolina primary but not be his party's presidential nominee. If you think you know the answer, give us a call 800-989-8255. You can also zap us an email, Of course the winner will get a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize t-shirt.

And Ken, we waited till 3:00 in the morning to get the results from Iowa. Not so much drama last night.

RUDIN: No. I think NPR called it at 8:00 and 30 seconds. It was disappointing for those of us junkies who love protracted and exciting nights, but it was an interesting night nonetheless. I mean there was always the question about Mitt Romney and the expectation game. Would he win by as much as he should have won? Did his win convince people, those who had doubts after the close race in Iowa? And I think Romney got out of New Hampshire what he wanted.

He got a convincing win. He is clearly, I mean, here we go again, but he is clearly the frontrunner. And with polls have him leading in South Carolina on January 21 and Florida January 31, there are some people who think that this nomination battle could be ended by the end of the month. And another thing we also learned about Iowa is the fact that we've seen in the past social conservatives do very, very well there, as Rick Santorum did, as Pat Robertson did in '88, as Mike Huckabee did last time. And all three did not so well in moderate-leaning New Hampshire.

CONAN: Well, you talked about Mitt Romney re-established, if there was any doubt at all, as the frontrunner. And for the most part, in New Hampshire and last night in his victory speech, running as the presumed candidate, not against his rivals we'll hear more about that a little later in the program - but against the president.

MITT ROMNEY: He promised to bring people together. He promised to change the broken system in Washington. He promised to improve our nation. Those were the days of lofty promises made by a hopeful candidate. Today we're faced with a disappointing record of a failed president.

CONAN: A failed president. And that's going to be a theme he's going to continue. He can afford to raise his sights, if you will, while others are going to be sniping at him.

RUDIN: Well, to be honest with you, that's been Mitt Romney's strategy from almost - from the onset, that he has almost ignored or decided to ignore his fellow Republicans and go after President Obama at every opportunity. He did that throughout most of the debates. It wasn't until they started going after him - Rick Perry was one of the beginners - where Romney not so much would respond in kind, but he would have these super-PACs that would do the dirty work on his behalf.

We saw that in Iowa when his super-PAC virtually demolished Newt Gingrich with negative ads, and of course Newt Gingrich is going to try to return the favor in South Carolina. But for the most part, Romney's strategy's always been - the domination is not so much mine but the real target should be President Obama.

CONAN: In the meantime, there is a credible second place finisher and that is Ron Paul. He, of course, called to congratulate his rival, Mitt Romney, but then took a dig at the conservative establishment.

RON PAUL: I wanted to thank the Union Leader for not endorsing me.


CONAN: Pretty enthusiastic crowd there at Ron Paul headquarters of the union leader - of course the Manchester union leader a long time a kingmaker. In New Hampshire this time around they endorsed Newt Gingrich.

RUDIN: Well, yes, you could say it's very influential and it is very influential. When it endorsed Gingrich, it was filled with anti-Romney broadsides, but if you go to the history of the Union Leader endorsement, Steve Forbes in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1992, Pete DuPont - you remember President Pete DuPont, right?

CONAN: Of course. Yes.

RUDIN: In 1988. John Ashbrook against Nixon in '72. So yes, they're very influential. Yes, they are a large conservative voice in New Hampshire, but kingmakers, not always.

CONAN: And anyway, Ron Paul was saying he is the challenger to the Republican establishment.

PAUL: But I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous.


PAUL: That's one thing they are telling the truth, because we are dangerous to the status quo of this country.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: President Paul, President Paul, President Paul...

CONAN: President Paul, the chant there at the end, and boy, you take out the new voters that Ron Paul brought to the caucuses in Iowa, and if you take out the new voters that Ron Paul brought to the primary in New Hampshire, Republican turnout is lower than it was in 2008 in both places.

RUDIN: And that is surprising because everybody thought that the Republicans were on the defensive, in a funk, in 2008, on the defensive over President Bush, the war in Iraq, the faltering economy. And yet here it is, 2008, when they're supposedly on the ascendancy. They have the backing of the Tea Party, which has put new dynamism into the party, and yet the numbers aren't that much different than 2012.

But one thing about Ron Paul that we learned. First of all, of course he's not going away, nor should he go away, but we always thought that his strength would always be in the caucuses and the fact that he was organized, his supporters very fervent true-believers, but not do as well in the primary. Yesterday in New Hampshire we show that - we saw that he could be very strong in both.

CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the last person to win the South Carolina primary and not get his party's endorsement for president of the United States. 800-989-8255 if you'd like to weigh in. Email We'll start with Catherine. Catherine with us from San Antonio.

CATHERINE: Yes. I thought that it was going to be John McCain his first time around.


RUDIN: Well, that is true. John McCain did not win the South Carolina primary the first time around, but he was also not the nominee the first time around in 2000; that was George W. Bush.

CONAN: Nice try, Catherine. Let's see if we...

CATHERINE: It was worth an effort.

CONAN: Sure. It's always worth the effort. Ken's wrong half - no, he's not wrong half the time. Let's see if we...

RUDIN: Some, some...

CONAN: Some of the time. Let's see if we go next to – this is...

RUDIN: I came, I saw, I Concord.

CONAN: ...Scott. Scott's on the line with us from Birmingham.

SCOTT: Yeah. Was it Hillary Clinton?

RUDIN: Hillary Clinton did not win the South Carolina primary. As a matter of fact, that was a big Barack Obama victory, and Bill Clinton caused a lot of controversy back then when he said, well, you know, you know, other people have won the South Carolina primary, it's not a big deal.

But Barack Obama did win it.

CONAN: Scott, thanks very much for the call. Here's an email from Joe: Lyndon Baines Johnson.

RUDIN: Lyndon Baines Johnson is an interesting answer. There was no South Carolina primary back then.


In '64 or '68.

CONAN: Troy's on the line from Iowa City.

TROY: Elizabeth Dole.

CONAN: Liddy Dole.

RUDIN: Liddy Dole, well, she's from North Carolina but also Liddy Dole who tried for the Republican nomination in 2000 never lasted that long to make it into the primaries.

TROY: I think she won South Carolina.

RUDIN: No, no, no. She was elected to the Senate in North Carolina but by the time the South Carolina primary happened in 2000, she was out of the race. As a matter of fact, I think she was out of the race in 1999.

TROY: I think it was '88.

RUDIN: Elizabeth Dole didn't run for president in 1988.

CONAN: Troy.


CONAN: Thanks very much.

RUDIN: I'm sorry.

CONAN: That's OK. Lisa's(ph) on the line calling from Chapel Hill.

LISA: Hi. I'd like to guess John Edwards from 2004.

RUDIN: John Edwards is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

LISA: Oh, yay.

RUDIN: I was waiting for the ding, ding, ding. Nobody – no Republican has ever – every Republican who has won the South Carolina primary has gone on to win its party's nomination but on the Democratic side John Edwards beat John Kerry in 2004 but did not get the nomination.

CONAN: Well, congratulations, Lisa. Stay on the line. We'll collect your particulars and mail you off a Political Junkie no prize t-shirt in exchange for your promise of a digital picture of yourself thusly attired that we can post on our Wall of Shame.

LISA: Will do. Give my love to Ron Elving, please.

CONAN: We will.

RUDIN: Ugh. Why? OK, I'm sorry.


LISA: Love your broadcast.

CONAN: Thanks very much. And we also have to note Kurt Fredrickson(ph) – this bulletin just handed to me – sent us an email winner from Renton, Washington. So we have two Political Junkie no prize winners this week. He had the correct answer: John Edwards. Of course, arriving at that answer a real trial. In any case, as we move ahead...

RUDIN: Do we know how Kurt – do we know how Kurt feels about Ron Elving?

CONAN: I think probably we do but we're not going to discuss that on this program. In the meantime, there were some other candidates, of course, and we can throw out Rick Perry. He did not compete in New Hampshire. He goes right on to South Carolina. We're going to get to South Carolina in a couple of minutes. But Rick Santorum, as you mentioned, has to be very disappointed. Newt Gingrich thought he could maybe recover some of that momentum he lost. Not so much.

RUDIN: True. And although neither Santorum nor Gingrich put that much money into New Hampshire, the feeling from the beginning – I think one of the reasons why New Hampshire primary didn't get as much notice as in previous cycles is a lot of people thought that Mitt Romney had it won for the longest time and only when it got close did the candidates start to appear. But nobody really competed in New Hampshire other than Romney, Paul, and Jon Huntsman.

CONAN: Jon Huntsman came in out in third position and this is what he had to say.

JON HUNTSMAN: And here we sit tonight, ladies and gentlemen, with a ticket to ride and to move on. Here we go to South Carolina. Thank you all so very much.

CONAN: Well, he may not feel so good about that when he gets there. We're going to talk more about South Carolina and how the candidates will fare there when we come back after a short break. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin will stay with us. We're also going to be talking with Bob Inglis who represented South Carolina's 4th Congressional District for 6 terms.

And we'd like to hear from you as well. Those of you in South Carolina, what questions do the candidates have remaining that you have not heard answered? Give us a call 800-989-8255. Email us, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us today from the studios at New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord. And Ken, do we have a ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: We actually do. We actually do and it's not Jon Huntsman. It is Brad Bergman of Apple Valley, California. The last puzzle was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I'll explain some other time how we got to that puzzle.



RUDIN: But Brad Bergman is the winner.

CONAN: If you'd like to see this week's ScuttleButton puzzle or read Ken's column, you can go to Mitt Romney's campaign has been crafting, and some might argue perfecting the aura of a general election candidate. By and large he's been laser focused on the president.

ROMNEY: President Obama – President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days we've seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him.


ROMNEY: This is such a mistake for our party...


ROMNEY: ...and for our nation. The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.

CONAN: In other words, an attack on me is an attack on the Republican Party as well as capitalism. Just try to take me down in South Carolina. That state votes 10 days from now on a Saturday. It's the first primary in the south with a more conservative electorate than New Hampshire for sure, and has a history, as we mentioned, of picking winners.

We'd like to hear from those of you will vote in next week's contest. What questions still need to be answered by the candidates? 800-989-8255. Email us: You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Joining us by phone from New York is former representative Bob Inglis, a Republican who represented South Carolina's 4th District in Congress for 12 years.

Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

BOB INGLIS: Great. Thanks for the opportunity, Neal.

CONAN: And Mitt Romney has won the first two primaries. Will South Carolina make it three in a row?

INGLIS: My guess is probably so, although I'm sure that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have different plans in mind for that. But I would assume that Romney is in the lead.

CONAN: Yeah, we don't see him as a natural fit for what we always hear is a more military, more conservative, more evangelical Republican electorate.

INGLIS: Well, I think that that may be true, but on the other hand, I think people are looking for – Republicans are looking for someone who can win and so you've got somebody in Mitt Romney who's already won two contests and perhaps that sets him up with some look of inevitability. And so I think what takes over is mostly the desire to win against President Obama.

CONAN: Have you endorsed anybody?

INGLIS: Have not. I don't want to hurt him. You know, I lost a primary in 2010, so it might him if...


INGLIS: ...if I supported him.

CONAN: Be the Union Leader of South Carolina.

INGLIS: Exactly.

CONAN: So avoiding being the kiss of death, if you had a druther, might you lean one way or the other without issuing an endorsement?

INGLIS: Well, I think that what needs to happen here, as a Republican and a guy who's very committed to a pro-growth kind of free enterprise, kind of answers, is we as Republicans need to aim at solutions and realize that at some point the scapegoat hunt will not be very effective, that if we just focused on beating Obama without a message about what we would do if we were elected, I worry about that as a successful governing strategy.

I think, you know, my idea of a great president, Ronald Reagan, came in with a real clear vision about what he wanted to accomplish and I hope that that's the posture that we would take to the White House if we were successful in retaking the White House, is go in with a message rather than, gee, we just weren't that guy that we just beat.


RUDIN: Congressman Inglis, you're talking about the general election, but before we get there, we also have, obviously, the South Carolina primary on the 21st and in the past, the history of South Carolina has always been that of a mud bath or a cesspool or whatever you want to call it. Four years ago – no, wait, I'm sorry – eight years ago in 2000, John McCain was – there were anonymous fliers that said that he had an illegitimate black child out of wedlock.

It's rough and dirty in South Carolina and they expect that, you know, with the super PACs going on down there you're going to see more of the same come the 21st.

INGLIS: Yeah. Unfortunately, we've developed quite a reputation, haven't we? But it is a place where some key kind of contests have been decided because it's first in the South. I surely hope we'll avoid those kind of things this time around. But the key will be – I think South Carolina is looking for electability but also sort of split with this notion that, no, we want somebody that's truly conservative and truly reflects our values.

So the question is which one of those wins come Saturday. Is it the let's pick a winner, somebody that can win not just in South Carolina but elsewhere, or do we want somebody that we really would choose as somebody to enter into a business partnership with, somebody that we can actually agree with on most of their points?

CONAN: And starting with the second of the debates over the past weekend, I think Mitt Romney's rivals tried to pin him with, wait a minute, we really don't agree with you on any number of points. And we're just going to play an excerpt from an ad that Newt Gingrich is running in South Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his position from pro-abortion to pro-life? He governed pro-abortion. Romney appointed a pro-abortion judge, expanded access to abortion pills, put Planned Parenthood on a state medical board but failed to put a pro-life group on the same board. And Romney signed government-mandated healthcare with taxpayer-funded abortions. Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney. He can't be trusted.

CONAN: Bob Inglis, is that going to sting in South Carolina?

INGLIS: Yeah, that's a stinging commercial for sure. Massachusetts moderate is a – let's just say that those are not positive words in South Carolina among Republicans. So – and it does remind of some of the likening people to Ted Kennedy Democrat.


INGLIS: And so Massachusetts moderate is sort of like that at times and with that heritage of loving to hate Senator Kennedy. So, yeah, that's a pretty effective commercial. It's also effective because abortion really does matter to many in the Republican primary electorate.

CONAN: Ken Rudin, I wanted to ask you, Newt Gingrich has just gotten an injection of $5 million from one of his supporters, a casino mogul from Nevada. He is promising to expend those sources in South Carolina. Is this going to be his last stronghold?

RUDIN: Well, it looks like it. You wonder if Newt Gingrich is now thinking whether he wants to win the nomination or he just wants payback against Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney ran those, you know, his super PACs ran the anti-Gingrich ads in Iowa and Gingrich has shown – says he's going to show no hesitation going after Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital in South Carolina, although Rick Santorum has not followed that model.

He said, look, is our own party going to be attacking capitalism? And then a lot of people are saying what Newt Gingrich is doing is an anti-capitalist kind of strategy. Now, Congressman Inglis is talking about a moderate for Massachusetts may be dirty words in South Carolina, but that doesn't mean that the South Carolina electorate will buy it, because I always feel that South Carolina is more of an establishment state.

If Iowa is evangelical, if New Hampshire is independent, maybe South Carolina's the one who says, look, this is the guy we need to right our party and if that's the case, then Romney should do better than expected.

CONAN: There is also – you mentioned Bain and this is a super PAC which supports Newt Gingrich with a 30 minute documentary about Romney's time at Bain Capital.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Their greed was only matched by their willingness to do anything to make millions in profits. Nothing was spared, nothing mattered but greed.

CONAN: And Bob Inglis, Mitt Romney counters, hey, Bain created 100,000 jobs, a claim has come under some scrutiny, but nevertheless, he says this is capitalism. This is the Republican Party.

INGLIS: Yeah. It's interesting what Ken was just saying there. It really does reflect a sort of a new kind of discussion that's going on, really, it's been the last – it's certainly the case in the 2010 cycle but if you – and it is in this cycle – the conversation between the Libertarian weighing at the Republican base and the more traditional Republican base, and it's going to be very interesting to see how much Ron Paul polls in South Carolina.

In more normal economic times, I think that that slice is a lot smaller. In these very difficult economic times, the Libertarian plus I'm just mad as heck and I'm not going to take it anymore kind of feeling drives those numbers higher.

CONAN: And South Carolina hit more strongly by the recession than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Let's see if can get a caller in on the conversation. We want to hear from those of you in North - in South Carolina, excuse me. What questions left do you have for the candidates before you decide? Kevin's on the line, calling us there from Charleston, South Carolina.

KEVIN: The question I have that they're really not addressing is: What are they going to do about Social Security and Medicare? I have an older parent, and she's dependent on that for her livelihood. And, you know, they don't have a really good reputation of wanting to sustain those programs.

CONAN: And, Bob Inglis, we've not heard a lot about this since, I guess, Newt Gingrich described the Ryan plan as rightwing social engineering.

INGLIS: Yeah. Well, Kevin's onto something very important, and that is in order to fix a structural deficit, you have to address Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And the thing that I'm disappointed, really, in the debate we've had thus far in the Republican presidential primary is very few are willing to address that directly. We sort of have heard a lot of blame about the Obama health care package, and we sort of tie in with that anger about that. But we haven't seen many people rising to the occasion of being able to say to folks that are very upset about the Obama health care package that it's really Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that it is a long-term structural deficit.

So figuring out a way do that while making sure that Kevin's relatives there that are needing Medicare and Social Security, their needs are met, that's a real challenge. And it takes some courage to address it. Thus far, we haven't seen a great deal of courage in that way.

CONAN: Kevin, thanks very much for the call.

KEVIN: Thank you.

CONAN: And Congressman Inglis, I wanted to ask you, you mentioned earlier you hadn't endorsed anybody. Isn't it curious that so far, Jim DeMint, the senator from South Carolina who's, well, been something of a kingmaker - or aspiring to be elsewhere - he hasn't endorsed anybody, either.

INGLIS: Yeah. I think it is unusual. It seems, to me that the natural pick for a lot of South Carolinians who would follow in sort of Jim DeMint's kind of train would have been Rick Perry. He's a, you know, cut their pay and sent them home, so it ties in with the Tea Party thing. He's an evangelical, so he clearly ties in shared faith. But his entry was very spectacular. But then also the face plants that followed were equally spectacular. And the result is that what looked like the guy that was going to sweep South Carolina, I really thought two weeks after he announced that he was going to clearly be the one that would win in South Carolina. And now that's part of the reason this is so sort of confused, I think, is Rick Perry's rather dramatic fall here.

CONAN: We're talking with Bob Inglis, a former congressman from South Carolina. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Congressman, it seems - kind of seems that when Rick Perry announced shortly after Iowa that he was going home to Texas to reassess his candidacy, it seemed to send a signal that perhaps South Carolina was his last gasp, and any candidate who's approaching a last gasp, it's hard to support him. But going back to Newt Gingrich for one second, you were elected to Congress in 1992. You were there, the rise of the Republican majority. You watched Newt Gingrich up close. Some of them think of - some people think of him as, you know, brilliant, and some of them think of him as infuriating. What was your relationship with the speaker?

INGLIS: Back then, I'd go to Republican conferences and try to take notes on what Newt said. It was always fascinating to hear him speak. And then you'd go out and you'd try to say it half as well as Newt had said it. He's just a fascinating fellow to listen to, an idea an hour, and most of them back then were pretty good. Maybe one in a 24-hour cycle needed to be discarded quickly, but, you know, things go on and maybe those percentages have changed around a little bit.

But it used to be about 23 out of the 24-hours cycle where that 23 ideas were good. And so - and then, of course, he's had some reversals since then on - that caused people, I guess, to wonder about the stability there, but - the stability of his ideas and the stability of his commitments. So I think that will surely haunt him, but a very interesting fellow and very thoughtful, particularly back in that time when we were first taking control after 40 years of Democratic control in the House.

CONAN: We just have a couple of minutes left. Do Governor Perry and former Senator Santorum have much hope of going on after South Carolina, do you think?

INGLIS: I think it depends on how well they do. Obviously, if - and, of course, Rick Santorum has the benefit of having a brother who lives in South Carolina who's a fine fellow, who helped me in a Senate race in 1998. Dan Santorum was on Hilton Head. And so he's got some connections there, and he does have - I think he will attempt to take up the Rick Perry mantle to the extent that Rick Perry is, as I said, has had these spectacular face plants. It does raise a - that the challenge for Rick is that he's sort of at odds with Jim DeMint over earmarks, and that's becoming a front-page-news item in South Carolina at this point, because that's been such a topic for us.

So that's where there are a lot of interesting crosswinds in this primary. It's a - I think Ken had it right earlier. Typically, you'd expect South Carolina to pick the business expert, but then there's - in this economic time where there's dislocation, there are people that are mad, and they might just pick somebody that expresses that anger in a way that - maybe that business guy would not.

CONAN: Bob Inglis, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

INGLIS: Good to talk with you.

CONAN: Bob Inglis represented South Carolina's 4th District for six terms and lost a primary to a Tea Party rival back in 2010. He joined us on the line from - on the phone from New York. When we come back, well, Political Junkie Ken Rudin will stay with us. And Bill Keller of the New York Times has a modest proposal: Mr. President, trade Joe Biden in for Hillary Clinton. He thinks it's just the ticket. Stay with us. He joins us after a quick break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.