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When Conscience Conflicts With Constituents


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Sanford trails in South Carolina, the Democrats get it on in Massachusetts, and the lady from Maine scoffs at sequestration. It's Wednesday and time for a...

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Manufactured crisis...

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: It's Wednesday, and as usual Ken Rudin, our political junkie, joins us to review the week in politics. Celebrity sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch takes the lead in South Carolina's special House election. A week out from the Senate primary, Massachusetts Democrats Ed Markey and Steve Lynch start to throw punches. Max Baucus joins the stampede toward the Senate exits, and the president fumes after the Senate fails to close the gun show loophole.

Later in the program, readings, seminars and signings, the gigs of a poet. Charles Simic joins us. But we begin, as usual, with a trivia question. Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us and Ken, welcome to Studio 42.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: The first trivia question in the new building.

CONAN: How about that?

RUDIN: I can't believe how exciting. OK, the question is: Montana, as you said, Montana's Max Baucus yesterday became the eighth senator to call it quits for 2014. The question is: Of all the senators who are retiring, which one ran statewide the most?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question.

RUDIN: And it is a trivia question, very important.

CONAN: Of those senators retiring, who have announced their retirement.

RUDIN: For 2014.

CONAN: Which one has run most often statewide? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. The winner of course gets that free political junkie T-shirt and a fabulous no-prize button.

RUDIN: Unbelievable. You know why we asked that question, Neal?


RUDIN: Because we can.

CONAN: Aha, OK. In the meantime, Max Baucus, and you would think initially this is going to worry Democrats, but in fact they think they have an even better Democratic candidate in the wings.

RUDIN: Well first of all, before we even get that far, remember in 2012, we kept saying that Jon Tester is in big trouble because it's a Republican-leaning state, and of course - and Mitt Romney's going to do very well in Montana, and he did. It was really a Butte for him.


RUDIN: He won by 14 percentage points. But Jon Tester did win against the best Democratic candidate. Anyway, Max Baucus, the announcement, he will not seek a seventh term, is surprising. He's been in the Senate, he'll be in the Senate for 36 years. He had $5 million in the bank. But he has riled some supporters of the Democrats, are not - his numbers are not great.

He's angered - he's one of the four Democrats who voted against the gun...

CONAN: The filibuster.

RUDIN: Well, the filibuster and of course the background checks, he was one of the four Democrats to do that. Anyway, former Governor Brian Schweitzer, who was two-termed, who was term limited, left office last January...

CONAN: Very popular.

RUDIN: Very, very popular. He's kind of a - he's kind of a Chris Christie kind of guy. He's very bombastic. He's very sure of himself. Democrats love him, the opposite of New Jersey, and Republicans don't necessarily care for him. But he is very popular. If he runs, and he says he's leaning toward running, you could probably expect that the Democrats will hold on to this seat.

But of course who knows? You know, we always predict - you shouldn't predict anything a year in advance, and of course a lot could happen in 2014, when perhaps the - when President Obama is not on the ballot.

CONAN: Well, speaking of Senate seats, there is one open at the moment in Massachusetts, occupied just a few weeks ago by the current secretary of State, John Kerry. There is - of course in this state winning the Democratic primary is usually tantamount to victory in the...

RUDIN: Neal loves that word.

CONAN: I love that word. In the meantime, there was a debate last night between the two Democrats touted for the nomination, and these are both members of Congress. This is Congressman Ed Markey and Rep. Stephen Lynch, and they traded barbs over homeland security. Here's Congressman Markey.

REP. ED MARKEY: He's taken a page right out of the Karl Rove Swift Boat playbook, and it's very sad, especially just one week after what just happened in Boston and Cambridge and Watertown.

CONAN: And here's Congressman Lynch responding.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH: I didn't take the page from Karl Rove's playbook; I took the page from your voting record. That's where this page came from.

CONAN: And this had been a very civil conversation up until this point, Ken.

RUDIN: It was. Lynch says, you're a liar; then Markey says, you're insulting. And let me just tell you, I got this tweet today from Sally Gore(ph), who writes: Because nasty is exactly what we need in Massachusetts now, after all that happened on last Monday. And so the Democrats - look, it looks likely that - and the primary is next Tuesday.

Whoever wins between Markey and Lynch - and Markey is favored, although the numbers have narrowed a bit - whoever is likely to win the general election on June 25. But all that civility, that nice Massachusetts stuff that they're known for, certainly went out the window in last night's debate.

CONAN: A few elbows being thrown.

RUDIN: Oh, yeah.

CONAN: In the meantime, they're - talk about elbows, after the terrible bombings last week in Boston, there is now a new part of the controversy on the immigration reform effort. Those - some on the right are citing the case of these two immigrants, saying maybe we ought to rethink this reform effort.

RUDIN: Well, you know, of course people play politics with everything. There's a new - just to go off the subject for one second, there's a new gun bill, gun ad proposed by the Gabby Giffords group, and basically they're attacking Mitch McConnell and Kelly Ayotte for their votes. But they're not attacking Democrats. So everybody can - you can play politics with Newtown, you can play politics with guns, but there are Republicans...

CONAN: Probably attacking Jeff Flake, too.

RUDIN: Well, they are, exactly, but this group is not attacking Democrats, at least not yet. But anyway, a lot of Republicans are saying well, look, you know, Russia warned the FBI about these two brothers. Why didn't the FBI come forward?

CONAN: Just asked about one of them.

RUDIN: Exactly, about one of them. And of course if we're having this immigration bill, I mean, you know, what about - why aren't we following all these people who come into the country? Of course they were naturalized citizens, so I don't know what this would change. But I think what some Republicans are trying to do is say look, this is not about us dissing Latinos, it's about protecting our borders, and they're trying to use the tragedy in Boston to help them in that goal.

CONAN: In the meantime there is another special election coming up and that one in South Carolina. Mark Sanford, of course, the former governor of South Carolina, appears to be losing ground in his race for the Palmetto State's 1st District, a district he previously represented. In an ad released by his campaign earlier this week, he went on the attack against his opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch for her ties to organized labor.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Colbert Busch is funded by labor union special interest money, even the one who's trying to shut down Boeing. In Congress she'll return the favor.

CONAN: And now Elizabeth Colbert Busch has an ad out, as well. As opposed to that one you just heard, this one goes for the high ground.



ELIZABETH COLBERT BUSCH: After my first marriage, I had three young children to support. So I went back to school and made a career in business. I know the importance of a good job because I really needed one. And I know how to create good jobs because I've done it.

CONAN: And Ken, Mark Sanford has to do something because, well, Mark Sanford has to do something. He's trailing.

RUDIN: Well yes, this has nothing to do with Elizabeth Colbert Busch. We always like to talk about, you know, his sister is Stephen Colbert, and it's a good story and all the things like that. This is all about Mark Sanford, and of course the recent news that his ex-wife Jenny Sanford filed a complaint that he trespassed in their home on several occasions...

CONAN: Violating the court order.

RUDIN: Exactly. So the NRCC, the congressional committee run by the Republicans, are pulling out of the race. The Republicans have held this seat since 1981. They should be favorites. It was a big Romney district. Again, if they win, if the Democrats win it's not because of Colbert Busch, it's because of Mark Sanford.

CONAN: And he could be in some trouble. In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question.

RUDIN: A very important question.

CONAN: And that is: Of the eight members - the current members of the Senate who say they will retire before 2014, or after the 2014 elections, which one has run the most often statewide? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we have Jeremy(ph) on the line with us from Birmingham.

JEREMY: Yes, my guess is Max Baucus because he also served as Montana's U.S. House member.

RUDIN: That's true. It's a very good guess. Max Baucus did run for the Senate six times, and he did run for the congressional seat for the House...

CONAN: And it's statewide because...

RUDIN: But it wasn't statewide because when Max Baucus was in the House, Montana had two members of Congress. So he didn't run - two members of the House. So he didn't run statewide. So Baucus ran statewide six times, not part of the House campaign.

CONAN: Jeremy, thank you very much.

RUDIN: Does any of that make sense?


JEREMY: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go next to - this is Will(ph), Will with us from St. Paul, Minnesota.

WILL: Well, I was going to guess Tim Johnson from South Dakota, but as I was sitting on hold, I remember that Jay Rockefeller used to be governor. So I'm going to guess Jay Rockefeller.

RUDIN: Well, Jay Rockefeller is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: And let me tell you why. He not only ran statewide nine times, once he ran - he was elected secretary of state. Once he ran for governor and lost. Twice he was elected governor, and the rest of the time, the five times, he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

CONAN: Oh wait a minute, Ken, we're giving away two T-shirts and two buttons today. Here's a correct email answer from Corey Heaton(ph), who is going to get one, too.

RUDIN: OK, well there it is. Jay Rockefeller is the correct answer. Second place, for the record, record with an R in that word, was Tim Johnson, who was - when he ran for the House did run statewide.

CONAN: Only one district.

RUDIN: Well, he wanted to be among his peers.

CONAN: Oh my God. All right, thank you very much. Stay on the line, Will. We'll collect your particulars. Congratulations. We'll be sending you a free political junkie T-shirt and the fabulous no-prize button.

WILL: Wonderful. Thanks much.

CONAN: Thanks very much. In the meantime, Ken, there is some other political news in Hawaii, where of course we've had a senator appointed a replacement, but, well, there could be some opposition in the Democratic Party.

RUDIN: Exactly this seems to be all about ambition. Colleen Hanabusa is one of the two House members of Hawaii. She was not chosen to succeed the late Daniel Inouye.

CONAN: Over his choice.

RUDIN: Even though Inouye obviously wanted Hanabusa. But Governor Neil Abercrombie just picked Brian Schatz.

CONAN: His lieutenant governor.

RUDIN: His lieutenant governor, and it looks like that Hanabusa will challenge Schatz in the Democratic primary. Of course this is a Democratic seat; the Republicans don't look like they'll play a force. So whoever wins the primary is...

CONAN: Tantamount.

RUDIN: Exactly, I know you love it. But anyway, so a little split in the Democratic Party in Hawaii.

CONAN: And there is also some sad news, a couple of national political figures who passed away since the past week, among them Bob Edgar.

RUDIN: Well Bob Edgar, one of the most liberal members of Congress, he was one of those Watergate babies who was first elected to the House in 1974, winning a Republican district that had not gone Democratic since 1858, when we first started this show. But anyway, he was also - he was in the House from '74 to '86. He challenged Arlen Specter. Then he headed up Common Cause, a real - you know, he was very concerned about the danger of money in politics, a very liberal guy.

Anyway, he died on his treadmill yesterday morning at the age of 69, big shock.

CONAN: The very liberal Bob Edgar and the very conservative Howard Phillips.

RUDIN: Howard Phillips, right. I mean, he once was a Republican, he once was a Democrat. He later became chairman of the Conservative Caucus, and he ran for president on the Constitution Party and also the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992, 1996 and 2000, very, very conservative, opposed Sandy Day O'Connor because she was pro-abortion.

CONAN: Ken, stay with us. When we come back, we're going to be talking about difficult votes in Congress with former Congress members Marjorie Margolies and Chris Cannon. They'll weigh in on what it's like to vote with your gut instead of with your constituents. And, well, sometimes that can cause a high price to be paid, at least for the politician.

Stay with us. We'll be back in just a moment. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. It's Wednesday, which means we're here in our brand new studio with political junkie Ken Rudin. And so Ken, ScuttleButton winner this week?

RUDIN: There absolutely was. Yes, let me just quickly go over what the buttons were. The first button said save Voorhees Campus, it was from the New York City Community Colleges; there was an A button for the Anarchist Party; Vernon Jolly for Congress from New Jersey; Wilson Goode for mayor of Philadelphia; and there was a Buck Fella button...

CONAN: Oh, even I can get this one.

RUDIN: Which is?

CONAN: For he's a jolly good fella.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. And but the winner - you don't get the T-shirt.

CONAN: No I don't.

RUDIN: But Jerica Mercato(ph) of Blackfoot, Idaho, gets the button and the T-shirt.

CONAN: Well, and political junkie column back next week?

RUDIN: It will be back next week, yes.

CONAN: A week ago today, the Senate voted down a proposal to expand background checks on gun buyers. Four Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor of the measure; four Democrats voted against it. Several senators from pro-gun states supported the checks, despite polls showing that voters in those states opposed them.

In a representative democracy, we expect politicians to make decisions in our interest, but what does that mean when it comes time to cast a vote on a specific piece of legislation? What happens if a politician's conscience does not match the desires of their district or their state?

We're going to talk with two former representatives about their voting experiences in Congress. We want to hear from you, as well. Tell us about a time when your elected official cast a vote that later cost him your vote. Give us a call.

RUDIN: Or her.

CONAN: Or her. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Marjorie Margolies is a former Democratic congresswoman from Pennsylvania's 13th District and served in Congress from 1993 to 1995. She joins us now from her office in Philadelphia. Good to have you on the program.

MARJORIE MARGOLIES: Oh, nice to be here.

CONAN: And of course some of us will remember you as a broadcaster on I think it was Channel 4 in New York.

MARGOLIES: And well right, and Washington and worked a lot for "The Today Show."

CONAN: But you were the deciding vote in Congress on Bill Clinton's 1993 budget, and, well, it involved a tax increase on the rich.

MARGOLIES: It did, and they all lived in my district.


CONAN: And some of them voted against you after that.

MARGOLIES: Oh my gosh, yes, true.

CONAN: And what - did you know when you cast that vote that it was a potential career killer?

MARGOLIES: Well, let me - can I take you back there?

CONAN: Sure.

MARGOLIES: I had - you know these bills are so complicated. I agreed with a good portion of the bill, did not agree with some of the - it hasn't happened yet, but it only addressed entitlements on the margins, and there were other things. And I thought that the cuts were not deep enough.

But when I got to the floor that night, I got a call from the president, and basically he said that, you know, that this thing had to pass. And I believed that it had to pass. And all day long on the floor, Republicans, although they were not voting for it at all, and Democrats said it had to pass. And everybody was - the Republicans were high-fiving, and the Democrats were saying they were switching their votes.

And I got on the telephone with him, and I said we had to discuss entitlements, we had to discuss deeper cuts, and I will only be your last vote if you need me. I think that it has to pass. And there had only been two votes like that in history, one for the draft and one for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

CONAN: And that last one was one of those profiles in courage that John Kennedy wrote about.

MARGOLIES: Yeah, that's true. So I, A, thought I was pretty safe; B, I really did know that it had to pass. And we came in with Clinton. So when it came down to - in the House, 217-217 tie, you lose. In the Senate, the vice president breaks the tie. And it came down to that. And so - and I said to them on the phone, because chairs of committees are voting against this thing.

I said and you know you lose this - my district. You've never had this district ever. I mean, it was the most Republican district represented by a Democrat in the country. I said, you know, you lose this district, but I won't let this thing go down. And that's what happened, and it was - it was a bizarre moment in my life.



RUDIN: Congresswoman, of course now people know you as Hillary Clinton's mother-in-law, but of course...

MARGOLIES: No, no, no, Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law. Hillary Clinton had another mother-in-law.

RUDIN: Exactly, Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, but back then of course - and of course you failed to say, and of course everybody remembers, that when you made that dramatic vote, and that was a dramatic vote, I remember it very well, the Republicans stood up and sung and serenaded you goodbye Marjorie because they knew that was the end of your career.

MARGOLIES: But actually, actually, it was - the picture was much prettier than that. Bob Walker was jumping up and down. I didn't see it until the next day, jumping up and down saying bye-bye Marjorie. He was right, and he's a fantastic jumper.

RUDIN: But here's my question, though: If - why - I mean, we're talking about profiles in courage, and ultimately you feel that you made the right vote, but why did you wait until the last second? In other words, why did you have to become the ultimate vote? Why not somebody in a safe Democratic district?

MARGOLIES: That's what - that's a good question. That was my question exactly. It just wasn't there. They were all switching their - I mean, they were all threatening to switch their votes and everything. And it had to pass. I mean everyone said the same thing. They didn't know what was going to happen. We - nobody knew what was going to happen with this piece of legislation.

The sense was that it was going to create an environment where small businesses in districts like mine could grow. And that's exactly what happened. But there was a - 1.2 percent of the population with incomes that were pretty substantial were going to be - their taxes were going to be increased by a bit. And there was a 4.3 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax increase.

Now I had said, and it's been reported incorrectly a whole lot, that I never promised that I wouldn't raise taxes at all. I said that I was against certain kinds of increases, et cetera, but that I didn't know what was going to happen when I got down there. I said repeatedly I was not going to be a read-my-lips candidate. And yet I was - you know, I was accused of lying - and but I didn't.


MARGOLIES: Can I be cranky? I didn't, yeah.

CONAN: Go ahead, Ken, quick question.

RUDIN: Just quickly, OK. It ended your career. The vote basically ended your career. Any regrets about voting that way?

MARGOLIES: No, I mean I revisit it in a strange way, but I think that's the reason - and I don't want to sound this way, so excuse me all of you who are listening. I think that's the reason we send people down there. I think there is a difference between representation and leadership, and I think sometimes they cross-pollinate, and sometimes they don't.

And I think we should send people down there who are not only worried about having a primary, who are not only worried about coming back, and many people down there are that way. But they should take the tough votes.

CONAN: Well, joining us now is another former member of Congress, Chris Cannon, who represented Utah's 3rd District, and he joins us on the line from Provo, Utah. Good of you to be with us today, congressman.

CHRIS CANNON: A pleasure. Good afternoon.

CONAN: And I wonder, we just mentioned primary. Does that ring a bell?

CANNON: Yeah, I actually had a primary, you know, and lost.


CONAN: And was this another similar circumstance, where you cast a vote, and your constituents said wait a minute?

CANNON: Well, you know, actually constituents is a lot of people, and the people who voted in the primary were not many. And the people that did vote were highly motivated and frankly, they just didn't like the idea that we should do something with 12 - or more - million people in America illegally. And so rather than want to solve the problem, they decided to elect someone who yammered loud about it.

CONAN: It's interesting - we have you on the line, and the issue was immigration; and of course, Rep. Margolies, and that was on raising taxes on the wealthier in our country. I'm sure glad we've resolved those problems.



CANNON: Leadership will do wonderful things, won't it?

CONAN: It will. But I wondered, when you cast those votes, Chris Cannon, did you think this was going to be - well, you know, cost you your seat in Congress?

CANNON: Well, in my case, we never got to the point of a vote because the Republican leadership decided that wedge issues were more interesting, and more helpful to them, than resolving problems. And so it was actually not a vote but a position. And yeah, it was significant, and clearly people would scream at me at the town hall meetings.

On the other hand, you know, if you can get from a scream to a conversation, most people ultimately agree. In fact, in the case of immigration, there's like 85 percent agreement on all the issues, and it's only the people who grab the harsh extreme issues that - for purposes of dividing people instead of solving problems that - where you have differences.

MARGOLIES: Well, you know, the reasonableness comes in, sometimes, at three or four minutes. The commercial on television is 30 seconds. And that...

CANNON: You're right.

MARGOLIES: I mean, it really kind of kills you every time. And the other thing that happens is that small - between 10 and 12 percent of the people who are impassioned, come out. And that...

CANNON: Right, on both sides of the spectrum.

MARGOLIES: Right, but they come out for one issue and that...

CANNON: Right.

MARGOLIES: ...so that kills you every time.

CONAN: We want to get some callers in on this conversation. When was there a time when your senator, your congressperson, or your representative of some sort or another, cast a vote that eventually cost them your vote - 800-989-8255; email us, talk@npr.org. We'll start with Susan(ph), and Susan is on the line with us from Cedar Rapids.

SUSAN: Hi. How are you today?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

SUSAN: Good, good. Charles Grassley just recently voted against the increased gun checks, and I voted for him a couple of times in my past - in the past 40 years that he's been in office. But I won't ever do that again. The other one that he lost my vote on was, he's the one that coined the phrase "pull the plug on Grandma," with regard to Obamacare. And that lost me, too.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. So you're - one way or another, Charles Grassley cannot count on Susan from Cedar Rapids.


SUSAN: That's correct. And he can also count that I will talk to every person I know, to make sure they don't vote for him, either.

MARGOLIES: And Susan has a big mouth.


CONAN: Well, we're glad Susan used it to call us. Thank you very much for the phone call.

SUSAN: Thank you. Bye.

CONAN: I wonder - Marjorie Margolies, did you ever hear from constituents like Susan, individually?

MARGOLIES: Oh, my gosh. I mean, in my town meetings and things like that, I often had to be taken out with help of police. But it was extreme. Either they said I was - you know, a heroine; or that I was just, you know, the antichrist. And neither was right. It was just - but it was very extreme. The - I had no idea how really awful it would be.

CONAN: Chris Cannon, some people can be pretty passionate on that immigration issue, too.

CANNON: You know, I noticed that there was probably a correlation between high passion and low IQ



RUDIN: Congressman...

MARGOLIES: You're not running for anything, are you?


CANNON: No, no. I have the pleasure of saying, I will never run for public office again.


RUDIN: Congressman Cannon, that's exactly what I was going to ask you. You were one of the most con - it's not that you're a liberal Republican; you were one of the more conservative members of your party and yet, you were defeated from the right. So it gives you - it says something about what's happening to the Republican Party.

CANNON: Yes, it does. And let me just say, I have a lovely sister-in-law who knows that I don't like the extremism that's happened on both sides. I mean, I think you can be very clear in your principles and your ideas, and then negotiate and discuss and come to conclusion. I passed a lot of legislation doing that. But - so we're - finished an evening at her house and as we're leaving - a couple of years ago - she stopped me at the door, and she said, you know, Chris, I sort of like the Tea Party. I looked at her, and I said, do you like the Tea Party, or do you like the idea of limited government and a balanced budget, and those kinds of things?

She said, well, no; I like the idea of a balanced budget and a limited government. I said oh, OK. She's a high-IQ person. And to the degree you get people thinking and using whatever rights they do have, and wanting to work out and solve problems, America goes forward. But if you say, you know, those lousy Mexicans - and start driving wedges along racial lines, then you end up with - and presidential elections where 2 million fewer Mexicans voted for the Republican candidate. And that cost the Republicans the presidency. At some point, you hope that people actually start thinking about these things instead of just being driven by their flattering leaders, to harsh and untenable positions.

CONAN: We're talking with former members of Congress Marjorie Margolies and Chris Cannon, both of whom lost their seats after casting - or taking some positions their constituents - or at least, some voters in their districts - were unhappy with. Wasn't it Sen. Bob Bennett who later found out that he'd been canonized also in Utah? Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And Congresswoman, I'm sorry. I cut you off.

MARGOLIES: No, no. That's OK. Last semester - I teach at Penn - University of Pennsylvania. I taught a class with David Eisenhower, who was, you know, Ike's grandson, and...

CONAN: You would have thought he would have graduated by now.


MARGOLIES: You're cute. He's fantastic.

RUDIN: She's also David Eisenhower's mother-in-law too.


MARGOLIES: But we took both - we took a class to both conventions, and it was extraordinary. It was great. But both of us, both David and I feel that the same center and the moderate middle had been neglected. There are very few issues that David and I disagree on. But it's this extreme that's driving both of us crazy, and a lot of the class seemed to feel very passionately about this.

CONAN: Chris Cannon said he would never run for office again. Do you hope to represent the sane middle again, Marjorie Margolies?

MARGOLIES: Wouldn't that be fun?

CONAN: I'll take that as a yes.


MARGOLIES: I'm thinking about it. I'm - we're talking - the person who now - Allyson Schwartz now represents the 13th District is running for governor. So it would be an open seat, and so I've been talking - I've been surprised at the number of people - not huge numbers - but the number of people who have called and said why don't you think about it, and I am doing just that.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Chris(ph), and Chris is on the line with us from Baltimore.

CHRIS: Yes. I'm actually going to seriously reconsider voting again for Barbara Mikulski. In the new farms bill that just went through a couple of weeks ago, there was something stuck deep into it that basically makes Monsanto completely immune from prosecution for anything that might happen down the road with their genetically modified food. Among other things, I mean, it's basically been called the Monsanto provision in this bill, and as many farms as we have in Maryland and in this country, I think it was just really egregious for someone who's been in D.C. as long as Barbara Mikulski to just vote without even reading the whole thing.

CONAN: So that one part of a very large bill, that's going to decide your vote?

CHRIS: So far, yes.

CONAN: It's interesting. Thanks very much for the call, Chris. And, Ken, single-issue voters are very important, as Chris Cannon discovered, often in primaries, less so in a place like Maryland where Senator Mikulski, should she choose to run again, would be heavily favored.

RUDIN: Well, that's regards - what the same with what Susan from Cedar Rapids said earlier, that she was going to vote against Chuck Grassley. But Chuck Grassley always wins big. Barbara Mikulski always wins big. But what I want to ask quickly about, Marjorie Margolies, is that you have been used as a figure - when the Republicans had Obamacare, when that vote, they used you as the example of taking that kind of risk. Do you - are you proud of that as a badge of honor for you?

MARGOLIES: I became a verb. I was really surprised, sure. I mean, I think that if you do something that - that's you think is fundamentally right - although I just hate the way it sounds: I did the right thing. I don't mean to sound it that - I don't mean to sound that way. But, see, if you do something that's fundamentally right - and I think people should be taking tough votes. I think we're foolish to accept folks down there not taking tough votes.

CONAN: Marjorie Margolies, thank you very much for your time. Our thanks as well to former Representative Chris Cannon. Appreciate your time. And Ken Rudin will be back with us next Wednesday with another edition of the political junkie.

Up next, partying in a foreign city until four in the morning with just enough time for a change of clothes. It's a poet, right? It's TALK OF THE NATION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.