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Ohio Union Bill Vote As Possible '12 Bellwether

NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Herman Cain's past raises questions about his future. We can't wait auditions as the next yes we can. And Rick Perry takes himself off-base. It's Wednesday and time for a...


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.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.


CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. This week, voters in Colorado reject taxes left and right. New polls put Herman Cain in front in Iowa and in Texas, but past allegations of harassment arise. Mitt flips on climate change, and the president tests out a new slogan.

In a few minutes, next week's elections in Mississippi, Kentucky and in Ohio. We'll talk with Mike Thompson from member station WOSU about a ballot measure that could overturn a controversial public unions bill.

Later in the program, NPR foreign correspondent Mike Shuster about the power struggle inside Iran. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, you know, the Texas Rangers of course lost the World Series this year, and they lost last year, as well. They lost back-to-back World Series, which leads to...


RUDIN: OK. Well, the Texas Rangers, as you know, used to be the Washington Senators.

CONAN: The second Senators.

RUDIN: That's right, and therefore, which current U.S. Senator lost back-to-back elections in the same year?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question - which sitting U.S. senator lost back-to-back elections in the same year - give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And of course the winner gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. And Ken, as usual, when we can, we begin with actual votes this week in Colorado.

RUDIN: Well, of course, election day is next Tuesday, but yesterday in Colorado, there was - it's been years of budget cuts, drastic budget cuts on education. The state legislature cut $200 million just this week, just this year, from education. So there's a thing on the ballot that would raise $2.9 billion for public schools and colleges. Basically, it would raise taxes, increase the sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, increase - anyway, it failed. It failed overwhelmingly on the Colorado ballot.

CONAN: And this is interesting especially in Denver.

RUDIN: Well, it is because, you know, first of all, education is a very important thing. This is supposed to be a liberal thought about taxes in a place like that. But this was statewide, and Republicans and conservatives are heralding this as basically a feeling that we've been taxed enough. And that, of course, is the Republican theme for 2012.

CONAN: Well, moving ahead to the election that comes on January 3rd - not election of course - but a caucus in Iowa. The Des Moines Register poll put Herman Cain in the lead; Romney, though, a very close second.

RUDIN: Well, what's interesting about those numbers - yes, I mean, they're basically tied. It's Cain 23, Romney 22; so obviously within the margin of error. But neither candidate has been in Iowa that much lately. Cain hasn't been - I think he's been there once since the middle of August.

CONAN: An event last night, both skipped it.

RUDIN: Exactly, and there was the Ronald Reagan dinner, and they both skipped it, for different reasons, of course. So, you know, you always wonder if - whether the people in Iowa might be, you know, kind of like put off by the fact that these guys are ignoring the state.

Well, of course, they're not ignoring the state. Mitt Romney, of course, needs to know how serious he wants to contest it, whether a loss could be not damaging for a likely win in the following week in New Hampshire, which by the way named its date today. It'll be January 10th.

CONAN: January 10th, yes indeed.

RUDIN: So that's the top of the field in New Hampshire, in Iowa.

CONAN: And everybody else, eh, pretty far back. And meanwhile, the University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll puts Cain in the lead in Rick Perry's home state.

RUDIN: Right, and of course Texas is, it's a March 6th primary date. So I mean, none - there's also another poll out, came out today, or this week, Quinnipiac poll, that had Herman Cain 30, Mitt Romney 23, Newt Gingrich 10, Rick Perry 8, Ron Paul and the others behind. But first of all, these national polls, you should ignore because there is no national Republican primary. It is really - the name of the game is Iowa, and whatever happens in Iowa will obviously affect the subsequent primaries certainly in New Hampshire a week later.

CONAN: And the news of the week regarding the, well, front-runner in both Texas and in Iowa, Herman Cain, is that he's been confronted for the last three days by a story that first ran in Politico, that back when he was the head of the restaurant association, the lobby here in Washington, D.C., that there were two female employees who signed - who left amid charges, allegations of sexual harassment.

RUDIN: Well, you know, when Herman Cain announced for president, he always said he had hands-on experience. No, I'm sorry. I would never make fun of a charge like that, but I couldn't help it. I just couldn't help it.

But anyway, we don't know what this means for Herman Cain's campaign. We don't know if there's more to it. Right now, all we're hearing is Herman Cain's argument because the other women, the alleged two other women, have signed...

CONAN: Nondisclosure...

RUDIN: Nondisclosure clauses with the National Restaurant Association. Who knew that the NRA would backfire on the Republican Party?


RUDIN: But so we don't know exactly what's going to happen with that yet, but something may happen. And again, Cain says - denies it, you know, denies anything untoward ever happened, and we'll just have to see.

We did see - look, you know, Bill Clinton was hit with the same allegations - not the same allegations, but...

CONAN: Same kind of...

RUDIN: Same kind of allegations 1991 and 1992, and I remember all of us thinking at the time that he was finished politically, and of course he was not. So we'll see what happens here.

CONAN: One of the aspects of this story that is perpetuating it is the fact that Herman Cain has not been able to get his story straight. Much anticipated visit to Washington, instead of talking politics, he spent Monday afternoon at the National Press Club denying any settlements were arrived at in sexual harassment allegations.


HERMAN CAIN: I am unaware of any sort of settlement. I hope it wasn't for much because I didn't do anything.

CONAN: Just a few hours later, he told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren maybe things had changed.


CAIN: Yes, there was some sort of settlement or termination, and I don't even know what the contents of that was.

CONAN: Now, he says there was confusion over the terminology used, and nevertheless, what we now have is the lawyer for one of these two women approaching the National Restaurant Association, saying we would like her to be released from her nondisclosure agreement so she could tell her side of the story. Herman Cain is out saying nothing happened; she would like to tell her side.

RUDIN: Well, you know, you just summed it up perfectly. That's exactly where the situation stands right now. A lot of Republicans are sitting back not knowing where to turn. And of course there's a lot of references. Some of the conservatives saying this is all about race.

CONAN: High-tech lynching has been mentioned.

RUDIN: As we reference to Clarence Thomas 1991 hearings. And of course, you know, conservatives were saying race had nothing to do with the opposition to Barack Obama, but why does it suddenly have something to do with the attacks on Herman Cain? So there's a lot of interesting angles here that everybody's playing. But you just wonder if one of the Republicans, one of his fellow Republicans, Herman Cain's fellow Republicans, may have leaked this story or at least unearthed this story because obviously Herman Cain has taken out the oxygen from a lot of these other candidates.

CONAN: Well, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. And that is, again, the sitting senator to lose two elections back to back in the same year. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And we will start with - this is Jason and Jason with us from Lansing in Michigan.

JASON: Diane Feinstein?

CONAN: Diane Feinstein, the senator from California.

RUDIN: Well, Diane Feinstein, actually before she was elected to the Senate, she lost two races for mayor of San Francisco, and she was defeated in the 1990 race for governor of California to Pete Wilson, but she did not lose two back to back the same year.

JASON: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks, Jason. Let's see if we can go next to Howard, Howard with us from Cleveland.

HOWARD: Yes, it is Joe Lieberman?

CONAN: Joe Lieberman the now-independent from Connecticut?

RUDIN: Well, the only two races he lost, he lost a race in 1980 for Congress, and then he was elected state attorney general. And then of course he was defeated for re-nomination in 2006 to a Senate seat, which he later won as an independent. But again, no back-to-back losses, certainly not in the same year.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's go next to Diana, Diana with us from Charlotte.

DIANA: Hey, is it Lamar Alexander?

CONAN: Lamar Alexander, famous for the flannel shirt, from Tennessee.

RUDIN: And he did lose a race for governor in 1974. Of course lost two bids for the presidential nomination; again, not the same year.


CONAN: Diana, thanks very much. Come on, people, there's 97 chances left. 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. In the meantime, let's see if we can go next to - this is Mitt Romney, the other front-runner, along with Herman Cain, in a lot of these early primary states. And Mitt Romney, well, critics have been attacking him for this line he wrote in his book.

MITT ROMNEY: I believe that climate change is occurring. The reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.

CONAN: And then this week, in an appearance in Pittsburgh, at an arena named after the biggest coal company in the area, this is what he had to say.

ROMNEY: My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet.

CONAN: Mitt Romney.

RUDIN: See, this is the big problem with Mitt Romney. I know there are a lot of Conservatives who said he's just not a true Conservative, not a true believer. But the thing that he's most vulnerable on - and the Obama White House has picked this up from the beginning - is that he does have a history of, to put it mildly, flip-flopping.

He was pro-choice when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in '94. And as his presidential aspirations became better known, he became more of a social Conservative. And so the charge of being flip-flop, not being true to his ideals, that's the thing that's really bugging people about Mitt Romney.

CONAN: And we've been talking a lot about redistricting in Arizona last night, something of a coup. And...

RUDIN: Independent.


CONAN: An independent who is named the head of the redistricting commission; two Democrats, two Republicans, they elected an independent, removed by the state Senate and the governor.

RUDIN: Well, you know, the idea of an independent redistricting commission was to take politics out of the redistricting system. And yet Jan Brewer, the Republican governor, and the majority of the state Senate, which is overwhelmingly Republican, felt that this independent head of the commission, the redistricting commission, was consorting with Democrats.

They hired somebody with a Democratic firm to work on these maps and something, and they thought that was gross misconduct, and that gave them the reason to get rid of that person.

CONAN: Does that mean the lines change?

RUDIN: The lines, well, the lines, they're still working on them, and of course the commission itself appealed to the state Supreme Court to reinstate that person.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some more answers on the line of people who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. Let's go to Charlie, Charlie with us from Sausalito in California. Charlie, are you there?

CHARLIE: Yeah, how are you?

CONAN: Good, thanks. What's your guess?

CHARLIE: I'm taking a shot at this because I gave some thought to it - how about 1990, gubernatorial nomination in Florida, Bill Nelson, and then he lost his congressional seat.

RUDIN: No, actually, no he gave up his congressional seat to run for governor in 1990, and as you point out, he did lose to Lawton Chiles...

CHARLIE: Yeah, I know he lost to Lawton.

CONAN: Lock'n Lawton.

CHARLIE: All right, I thought he gave it up or he - nah. That was my shot on that because I had...

CONAN: Good try, Charlie. Let's see if we can go...

RUDIN: Charlie had that T-shirt all over him.

CONAN: He did. Yeah, JJ's on the line from Las Vegas.

JJ: Hi.

CONAN: Got to go quick, JJ.

JJ: Harry Reid lost the senatorial race to Paul Laxalt, and I think the next year he lost the race for mayor.

RUDIN: No, no. The answer is: Debbie Stabenow defeated in Democratic governor primary in Michigan 1994 and then lost as a lieutenant governor nominee the same year.

CONAN: JJ, thanks for the call. We'll have more with the political junkie as we focus on next week's elections. And of course we'll get the name of the ScuttleButton Puzzle winner, as well. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is here as usual. You can find his latest column and that infamous ScuttleButton Puzzle at npr.org/junkie. No trivia T-shirt winner this week, Ken Rudin, but is there a ScuttleButton winner?

RUDIN: There is absolutely, and the winner is Bob LeBunne(ph) of New York City, Or Manhattan, as we like to call it. And the reason he got it because there was a cows button, there was a Omar Moreno baseball card, there was a Kuh for district attorney, and there was a Daffy Duck button. So if you add the cows, the Omar Moreno, the Kuh and Daffy Duck, you have Moo-omar Ka-Daffy.


CONAN: That was the recycled ScuttleButton Puzzle.

RUDIN: Well, yes, but this is the first time there was a T-shirt that went along with it.

CONAN: Oh, a T-shirt at stake. So anyway, he will get the fabulous political junkie no-prize T-shirt. It's the 2012 election that drives the headlines, but we have plenty of important votes this year to talk about. Election day comes Tuesday in many places, mayoral elections in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Charlotte and other cities; gubernatorial races, as well, in Kentucky and in Mississippi, where voters will also decide on the definition of personhood.

Ohio voters will decide whether to keep or scrap a controversial bill that limits the rights of public unions in that state, more about that in a moment. If the polls in your area are open next week, what's at stake there? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And Mike Thompson joins us now, news director at member station WOSU in Columbus. Nice to have you back with us.

MIKE THOMPSON: Great to be here.

CONAN: And Issue Number 2, Ballot Issue Number 2, that's the big issue there in Ohio this week.

THOMPSON: Yes, it is. After really a campaign that began last February, when the lawmakers passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's collective bargaining law, which severely limits the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, Tuesday is the day where it finally gets decided.

CONAN: We saw a huge reaction when similar laws were passed in Wisconsin. There were attempts to recall some of the state legislators that were involved on both sides of that contretemps. You remember the members of the state Senate decamping across the border to avoid having to take a vote for a while. One big difference in Wisconsin: The law does not cover police and firefighters. In Ohio, it does.

THOMPSON: Yes, it covers all public employee unions, including police and fire. And, you know, the second-guessing is starting to begin because the polls show that the repeal effort, the no on Issue 2 to get rid of these limits pulling away and winning by 25 points now in the latest public poll.

The second-guessing is beginning, and one of the things that folks are second-guessing Republicans on is why did you include police officers and firefighters in this bill because...

CONAN: What's their answer? We know it's not been politically advantageous, but what's their answer?

THOMPSON: Well, the whole public reason for this bill has been to give cities and towns, and state governments, the tools they need to cut costs. And if you're going to cut costs - if public employee unions are driving up costs, it would seem disingenuous to eliminate two public employee unions, which are pretty sizable throughout city and town budgets. So they were consistent in that regard.

If this was about cutting costs, they included all public employees.

CONAN: But they may pay the price. Initially when the recall, the referendum on the bill was announced, it looked like it was ahead, that it might pass. What changed it?

THOMPSON: Well, $30 million on the part of the opponents. They've raise $31 million to defeat this. So that's one number to remember. They have run a lot of TV ads basically saying that if this bill is not repealed, if this law is not repealed, that their firefighters won't be able to do their job.

You see burning houses. You see firefighters, and everyone loves firefighters, and that's one reason why the polls - the gap has widened. The other one is another math problem. There are 360,000 public employee union members in Ohio. They collected one million signatures to put this on the ballot.

Two years ago, there was a casino issue on the ballot, in an off-year election. It took 1.7 million votes to pass that. So you could say the unions already had, because of their organization, a one-million-vote head start, and ultimately that has been a big hurdle for the supporters of these limits to overcome.

CONAN: And you talked about the amount of money that's gone in for ads to the – for the no vote. What about on the other side? Has that been well-funded, too?

THOMPSON: No, well, well-funded being - I mean, they've raised $8 million, which is a good deal amount of money, but it's only about a quarter of what the opponents of the collective bargaining limits have raised. It really is a record campaign as far as what is being spent on this issue.

I mean, the entire governor's race for last year, very hard-fought governor's race raised $38 million. The opponents to these limits have already raised $31 million.


RUDIN: Mike, last year's elections in Ohio, John Kasich elected governor, the Republicans win the Senate seat, they pick up seats in Congress. Democrats were defeated. Their heads were down. Organized labor was seen as irrelevant. This obviously gives the Democrats and labor a big boost should they defeat Issue 2 on Tuesday, what do you think it portends for 2012?

THOMPSON: Well, I think they've awakened the unions. I mean, really what's surprising, I think even to the most veteran statehouse reporters and observers, how strong the unions came out because there were kind of - many union folks were on the sidelines last year. Ted Strickland didn't garner the enthusiasm among the Democratic base and the union base that perhaps he could have, and that might have helped him win last year.

Those folks are awake now, $30 million awake. Granted, some of that money has come from out of state, but those folks, their organization has really awakened, and it could have a spillover effect to next year.

CONAN: And next year there's an awful lot at stake in the state of Ohio.

THOMPSON: Yeah, obviously the presidential race, I don't know what - I mean, Ken would know better than me. No president I believe since, I don't know, Jack Kennedy, has won the presidency without winning Ohio.

RUDIN: No Republican has won it without Ohio, right.

THOMPSON: Yeah, so Ohio is key, even though you only have 18 electoral votes now. It's one of those half-a-dozen swing states, and the president needs to win Ohio if he's going to win re-election, and the Democrats need to be mobilized again next year to help him do that.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get a caller on the line, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. What's at stake in the elections next week where you live? And we'll start with Tom(ph), and Tom's calling us from Cleveland.

TOM: Thanks for taking my call. My name's Tom. I am a firefighter in the greater Cleveland area. I'd say that I've always been very conservative in my politics. I find a lot of my brothers, both as firefighters and police officers, are very conservative in their politics. But this has just really left a bad taste in our mouth for the Republican Party, the amount of lies that have been told about, you know, how much we do or do not contribute in our pensions, whether or not we get free health care from our cities. It's just been a pack of lies.

I'll tell you my next door neighbor believes the governor over me. I show my paycheck. I show my pay stubs, he still doesn't believe it. Even in our own family, we have division of family members who are voting for Issue 2, and then they don't believe in what we have to say.

And I come from a family of firefighters and police officers. It's become a very divisive issue in our house, where we go to parties or holidays right now, and we're not even allowed to discuss Issue 2. So...

CONAN: Well, much like the rest of the country, politics is not usually a popular issue at the dinner table or at parties. But Tom, do you think the people who have been, as you say, left a bad taste in their mouths, is that bad taste going to continue for another year?

TOM: I don't know. As you know, the political climate and the temperament changes very rapidly, especially in a state like Ohio.

CONAN: Mike Thompson, you may want to hire Tom as your political analyst. I think he got that right.

TOM: Thanks for taking my comments.

CONAN: Oh, sure.

THOMPSON: Tom is not alone. I think John Kasich, who won the governor's race just a year ago, his approval rating is down to 36 percent, and I think a lot of that, those weak numbers come from the fact that he had to cut a lot to balance the state budget.

But also a lot of police officers and firefighters, who may have been like Tom, a little more conservative, even Republican voters, see what's happened with this collective bargaining bill, and John Kasich has been one of the faces of it. They're taking it out on him when the pollsters call.

CONAN: Well, thanks very much, Mike Thompson, pleasure to have you on as always.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

CONAN: WOSU news director Mike Thompson joined us from the station there in Columbus. And Ken Rudin, those are not the only elections underway. As we mentioned, two state houses.

RUDIN: Right, you have two governorships, in Kentucky. Now, President Obama is very unpopular in Kentucky, but for some reason - not for some reason, for many reasons, the state continues to elect Democrats as governor. They've only elected one Republican since 1967.

CONAN: Anyway, Steve Beshear, a heavy favorite for re-election. Also in Mississippi, more and more a Republican state, that's a state that Haley Barbour is term-limited. Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant is a likely winner. The Democratic candidate, though, is Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, the first African-American major-party candidate for governor in that state. So a little history there, but it doesn't look like DuPree wins.

There's another issue, though, on the ballot in Mississippi that's of interest nationwide, and that is the personhood amendment.

RUDIN: This - well, this is - yeah, this is pretty - I mean, it's pretty out there. It would give fertilization human eggs legal status. Basically, embryos would be considered human beings. They would be considered people. And so, basically, the law itself would not only wipe out abortion, but it may wipe out birth control as well because it just depends on the timing and everything.

CONAN: And it would define life as beginning at the moment of conception...

RUDIN: Exactly.

CONAN: ...and then you get into a lot of arguments about various birth control devices.

RUDIN: Now - and there are other states who were also looking at that personhood amendment, and that's the new thing in the anti-abortion movement.

CONAN: And then, a lot of big city mayors are up for re-election or election.

RUDIN: Right. Not too many big contests. For example, in Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter is assured of a second term. Re-election likely in Baltimore for the mayor there, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. But some interesting things. In San Francisco, Edwin Lee, he was appointed mayor after - he became mayor after Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor. He's the first - the city's first Asian-American mayor, but he's some under ethics questions about voter fraud.

Some groups aligned with him are accused of things, so there's a lot of controversy out there, too. And also, it's interesting in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx, who's African-American, working very closely with the Obama campaign in the city where the Democrats will hold their convention, has a huge fundraising lead over his Republican opponent.

CONAN: And just one slight correction in Baltimore, the mayor would be elected for the first time in her own right. She was succeeded to the office after her predecessor was...

RUDIN: Sheila Dixon, right.

CONAN: ...kicked out because of an ethics violation.

RUDIN: Embezzlement, right.

CONAN: Embezzlement charges. As we look ahead to these elections, other than Ohio, is there anyway to read anything into what's going to happen in 2012?

RUDIN: No. It never is - I mean, we always talk about - look, the 2009 election in upstate New York, the famous Dede Scozzafava race, where the Democrats won a historic Republican seat. And everybody said this is great news for the Democrats. And in 2010, the Republicans just wiped the floor with the Democrats in congressional races. You know, there's a little blip here. It might be something interesting, but as far as a message for 2012, I think the most interesting thing may very well be what's going on in Ohio with Issue 2 and whether that re-vitalizer excites the Democratic and labor base.

CONAN: Political junkie Ken Rudin with us here as he is every Wednesday with The Political Junkie. Again, you can go to Politico at npr.org/junkie, read his column and solve that ScuttleButton puzzle, if you can. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's get a caller on the line. This is Adam. Adam with us from Roanoke, in Virginia.

ADAM: Hello. How are you doing?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

ADAM: Yeah. I enjoyed you guys when you were in Roanoke a few years ago. I got to go to that. So don't forget about Virginia. You guys haven't mentioned us, and we're one of the test cases, in my opinion, of the Citizens United case. We're two Democratic senators away from having an all-Republican legislature and executive. And it feels like a presidential...

CONAN: All Republican-controlled, yes.

ADAM: All Republican-controlled. It feels like a presidential campaign down here with the smear ads on these off-year campaigns on our senators. It's amazing. I've live here 30 years, never have seen the kind of money being dumped into an off-year local Senate election. It's amazing...

CONAN: The Citizens...

ADAM: ...and what's at stake for us is overturning a 30-year-old ban on uranium mining in Virginia and banning of abortion, basically, in the state. And it's going to be real interesting. They might actually win and lose at the same time and awake a lot of otherwise middle-of-the-road voters to their agenda.

CONAN: Adam mentioned the Citizens United case. That was a Supreme Court decision that said outside groups can provide any amount of money that they would like to support one cause or another. Ken Rudin, Virginia's legislative elections, Barack Obama carried that state, people forget, three years ago. It doesn't look too promising.

RUDIN: Well, of course, after that, the Republicans swept everything from governor to attorney general and statewide stuff on down. And now - right now, the Democrats have a 22-to-18 lead in the state Senate. And with a Republican lieutenant governor, basically, the Republicans need a net gain of just two state Senate seats, and they will have complete control of the state government.

CONAN: Adam, thanks very much for the call.

ADAM: Thank you.

CONAN: Email from Jeff(ph) in Maine. Here in Maine, we have a couple of referenda people's veto votes next week. We are one of a few states that deal with one of those Republican-led initiatives to disenfranchise Democratic-leading constituencies under the guise of preventing voter fraud - at least, that's this writer's characterization. The state Senate voted to repeal the right to same-day voter registration. Now, the voters have a people's veto initiative to vote on, do you want to reject the section of chapter 339 of the public laws of 2011 that requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election.

Another question asked whether we want to move up redistricting after the 2013 effort from 2023 and every 10 years to 1021(ph) and every 10 years. I feel like this has to be a ploy by some groups, but I don't know why or by whom. But on that - on the voter fraud, this is a change that's happened in a lot of states since the last election, as various groups, mostly Republicans, have voted to clamp down on what they regard as voter fraud, an issue that a lot of experts say doesn't really exist.

RUDIN: Well, at least not to the extent the Republicans make it an issue. The Republicans long said that the sanctity of the ballot box is very important. The Democrats said that by clamping down on these restrictions, you're denying the basic right to vote for countless number of Americans, and that's unconstitutional. That fight has been going on for decades.

CONAN: One last caller. This is Jeff(ph), and Jeff is calling us from Mishawaka, in Indiana.

JEFF: Hi. Yes. Mishawaka, for what it's worth.

CONAN: OK. And what's on the ballot there?

JEFF: Well, we just have a local mayoral election going on, and it's just a relatively small town, about 50,000 people. And what's interesting is the impact of the national issues, such as unemployment and job creation, on a small local election like this. Now, we're getting a lot of negative ads saying that the challenger in the mayoral race is saying that the unemployment rate of 9.8 percent is so strong and terrible here compared to the national rate of 9.1 percent, and there are 2,500 people out of work.

And, you know, it's just - it's interesting the spillover of the national issues, like that in sort of a local election when there's obviously a national employment problem and crisis going on.

CONAN: And that's a manufacturing area, and manufacturing has been in some places pretty good but in other places hard hit. Ken?

RUDIN: And a lot of these races are really, really nasty. There's a race for mayor of Phoenix that gay rights has become an issue. It's been the whipping boy in that race. There's not - there's no two - you can't be too small or can't be too small of a race for the nastiness and the amount of money that's been pouring into these races.

CONAN: And a lot of people anticipating a particularly nasty race next November. We'll be talking about that over the next year with political junkie Ken Rudin, who joins us every Wednesday here in Studio 3A. Ken, see you next week.

RUDIN: Thanks, Neal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.