Wed November 11, 2009
NARAL Pro-Choice To Challenge Moderate Dems?
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
The House voted on health care a few days ago. The president may decide on Afghanistan as soon as few days from now. And, of course, in New York theyre still sweeping up ticker tape. Its Wednesday and time for a championship edition of the Political Junkie.
President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, Im reminded of that ad. Wheres the beef?
Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, California): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, youre no Jack Kennedy.
President RICHARD NIXON: You dont have Nixon to kick around any more.
Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: But Im the decider.
Former Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Vermont): (Screaming)
CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us for a roundup of all things political. And as always, theres a lot to talk about. The Stupak amendment fires up pro-choice Democrats. Later, well talk with the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America about possible challenges in congressional Democratic primaries.
The Club for Growth snubs Governor Charlie Crist and endorses Marco Rubio for the Republican Senate nomination in Florida. Connecticuts governor will not run again. Seattle gets a new mayor - not so fast in Atlanta. Later, the story - the story of senior citizens in Bangor, Maine, who turn out to greet every flight of U.S. troops to and from Iraq and Afghanistan.
But first, political junkie Ken Rudin is with us here in Studio 3A. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal.
CONAN: And as always, well start with a trivia question.
RUDIN: Well, today is Veterans Day and to all the veterans out there and to the families who loaned us their veterans, the appreciation is very heartfelt. Of course, happy Veterans Day to everybody. So a Veterans Day question - two questions and you have to answer them both correctly.
RUDIN: Okay. Who was the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress? Who was the first Iraqi War veteran elected to Congress?
CONAN: So if you think you know the first Vietnam War veteran and the first Iraq War veteran to be elected to the U.S. Congress, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. And, of course, the winner gets a fabulous no prize T-shirt.
Ken, the big political news of the week - were going to be focusing on some of the political ramifications a bit later in the program - nevertheless, the House vote on health care is a landmark.
RUDIN: It is a landmark because its the first time - obviously, weve been talking about health care only, I guess, since the days of Harry Truman.
RUDIN: And the House, by negotiation - by offering its opponents some bones -and well talk about those bones later. But the vote was 220-215, in favor of the Democratic plan to - for health care. Only one Republican - Joe Cao of Louisiana was the only one Republican who voted for it. But it also lost 39 Democrats, and so that was pretty interesting too. Its one thing for Nancy Pelosi to be able to lose 39 Democrats and still pass it. Harry Reids task is obviously much greater in the Senate. You lose one and youre in big trouble because you have 58 Democrats plus the two independents. That gets you at the magic number of 60.
CONAN: And weve already lost one, Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who caucuses with the Democrats. Hes counted as part of that 60 -says he wont vote to bring this to the floor.
RUDIN: He wont. He doesnt like the public option, and there are a lot of other Democrats who are nervous, too: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas who has a potentially tough reelection battle next year. Theres - even Evan Bayh of Indiana. There are several moderate, centrist Democrats who are nervous about either not having the abortion language - and Kent Conrad talked about that - Kent Conrad of North Dakota talked about that too, that he wants that language in there. Ben Nelson of Nebraska also talked about wanting the kind of Stupak-type language in the Senate bill. And then, you have the public option battle. And of course, Olympia Snowe, another Republican, say theres no way we come on board if Harry - as Harry Reid asked, we have the public option in the Senate version.
CONAN: Unless theres some sort of trigger, which is what she wants.
CONAN: This would only take effect if certain numbers of things happened down the road. Anyway, its important to remember, yes, the House voted to approve this. But you do need a vote in the Senate to get a Senate bill out. Then, the Senate and the House would have to meet and agree on one version of the bill, which would, again, have to pass the House and the Senate. All that before it would go to President Obamas desk.
RUDIN: Right. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said there will be a vote next week in the Senate, a vote basically to bring the issue to the floor. And, of course, youre going to need - youll need 60 votes for that too. Some Democrats - or many Democrats actually have said that maybe its perhaps time for President Obama to start twisting arms. Hes been very conspicuously absent even though they're very involved in the negotiations. But publicly hes basically let them write out the language. We now have the language in the House which passed on Saturday. Well know next week the language in the Senate and then, perhaps, the White House will step up its lobbying.
CONAN: In the meantime, we still have some things to clean up from last weeks elections. The mayors race in Seattle finally decided.
RUDIN: Yes. Its a - you know, Seattle has a - one of the reasons its - it took so long is because its mail only and, of course, that means women cant vote.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: By the way, I used that joke once before and I got a lot of complaining emails so...
CONAN: You did and I cant imagine why.
RUDIN: ...so I wont use it again. But you can postmark your ballot for Seattle mayor as - Tuesday night, so thats why it took so long. But they do have a result as of Monday. And a guy named Mike McGinn, who is a Sierra Club activist, a community activist, basically the least well-funded, the least well-known of the three candidates, or the initial three candidates, and somebody who, basically, had total - just volunteer - volunteer army and, yet, he won by like 4,900 votes out of 190,000 cast.
CONAN: In the meantime, we have a runoff yet to go in Atlanta.
RUDIN: Right, we have a runoff in Atlanta. And whats interesting there is that Mary Norwood was the - is a white candidate - of course, there were other issues other than race, but its interesting to know that Mary Norwood is one of the two candidates going into the December runoff. And if elected, shed be the first white mayor there since the 1970s - early 1970s.
CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this weeks trivia question. Again, youve got to get both parts of this right: the first Vietnam War veteran to be elected to the U.S. Congress and the first Iraq war veteran to be elected to the U.S. Congress. 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. And well start with Mark(ph). Mark with us from Wynnewood in Pennsylvania.
MARK (Caller): Hi. I think - Im probably wrong at this but I think, I'm putting down Kerry for first Vietnam.
CONAN: John Kerry of Massachusetts?
MARK: Right. And Murphy, congressman from Pennsylvania for Iraq.
CONAN: Patrick Murphy.
MARK: Patrick Murphy.
RUDIN: That is not correct. That is not the correct answer.
CONAN: Mark, good try.
MARK: Thank you.
CONAN: Lets see if we can go next to - this is John(ph). John with us from Newtown in Pennsylvania.
JOHN (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
JOHN: Im going to guess like the previous caller, Patrick Murphy for the first Iraq war vet and my Congressman from the PA 8th. And Im going to guess John McCain for the first Vietnam War veteran.
CONAN: Naval aviator, long-time prisoner of war, Annapolis graduate, John McCain.
RUDIN: And the same - as with the same - the first person, you got this - one of them correct and one of them incorrect so you are thus incorrect.
CONAN: Totally wrong.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Nice try, John.
JOHN: Thank you.
CONAN: Lets see if we can go and lets try next - this is an email from Marge(ph). She says, Murtha and Sestak. Thats John and Joe, I think.
RUDIN: Right. And that is not the correct answer either.
CONAN: All right. Lets see if we can go next to Chris(ph). Chris is with us from Springhill in Tennessee.
CHRIS (Caller): Hi. Theyre both from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John Murtha was the first Vietnam vet, and my old law professor at West Point, Patrick Murphy was the first Iraq vet.
RUDIN: And that is the correct answer.
CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. All right, Chris. Youre the winner of a fabulous no prize T-shirt.
RUDIN: John Murtha was elected in a special election in 1974, one of those so-called - the Watergate elections that proved bad news for the Republican Party in '74. And so, obviously, that was - John Kerry was 1984 - when he was elected in the Senate. John McCain was 1982 so they came after Murtha. And Patrick Murphy is correct for Iraq war.
CONAN: All right, Chris, we're going to put you on hold. And you're going to get that T-shirt in exchange for a promise to take a digital picture of yourself and mail it to us so we can put you on our wall of shame.
CHRIS: Well, thanks so much.
CONAN: All right. Hold on.
RUDIN: Can I just say one thing about the famous wall of shame? There was an -last week's winner was a state representative from the state of Idaho and there was a very nice article in this week's - well, it's a daily paper, of course. The Idaho Statesman talked about how excited, which is very scary to me, how excited...
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Thats before he gets the T-shirt, right?
RUDIN: Thats right - the winner was. It's a very nice article. It's in my blog.
CONAN: All right. Well, that's very nice. And...
RUDIN: I told you I wrote a blog, right?
CONAN: You write a blog? Where could somebody go to see your blog?
RUDIN: I have no idea. Oh, at npr.org/junkie.
CONAN: Npr.org/junkie. I think there's a podcast available too.
RUDIN: There is. There is.
CONAN: So if you don't get enough Ken Rudin, there's always a way to get more.
Anyway, as we begin to look ahead towards 2010, that's the first thing - the day after the last elections, well, theres some new polls out that suggest that people are very dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country and the way things are going with their politicians.
RUDIN: Yes, that's true. And we saw that in the election day last Tuesday when there was seemingly a clear anti-incumbent sentiment. The Democrats were voted out of office in both the Virginia and New Jersey governorships, even though the Virginia - the incumbent wasn't at stake. And also, Mike Bloomberg in New York City spent $100 million, which is more than I make in two years at NPR.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: And he barely won, 51-46 over William Thompson. So we saw that around the country that there are a lot of people - nervousness. But the other reason - other people who should be nervous perhaps are Democrats because there seem to be an indication - you can't only go by the Gallup poll that came out today, but it still was interesting - that showed that independents are moving well - clearly towards the Republican Party. Back in July, the Democrats had a one-point lead among independents. Now, the Republicans have a 22-point lead, 52-30. Gallup is probably more GOPtimistic than other polls. They chose Democrats. But in a generic 2010 battle for Congress, Republicans have a four-point lead in the Gallup poll and it's something to watch.
CONAN: The Pew poll does not show that big a switch. And, nevertheless, it could be a very interesting time. Interesting, the Pew poll showed that President Obama's approval ratings are not down. They're 51 percent - not great, but holding.
RUDIN: Right. And I think that's why a lot of people say that it's wrong - and I agree with this analysis that it's wrong - to say that last Tuesday's elections were a referendum on President Obama. I think that's oversimplifying things. But it didn't - it did show worrying signs for the Democrats.
CONAN: One other item we should mention: There is going to be a new governor of Connecticut.
RUDIN: There will be. Jodi Rell, who was probably one of the more popular politicians in Connecticut. She took over when John Rowland, another Republican, resigned in - and went to prison.
CONAN: Scandal, yeah.
RUDIN: Scandal, right. And - but no Democrat has won that governorship in Connecticut since 1986. For a blue state, that's a pretty long time. There's a bunch of Democrats running, including Ned Lamont who defeated Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Senate primary, but then, of course, lost to Lieberman. But he is among the many Democrats who are hoping to win that seat in 2010.
CONAN: And many Democrats, of course, also awaiting the president's decision on Afghanistan, which have - could have quite an impact on how they do next time around.
RUDIN: I think the agreement is - the understanding is that there will be more troops sent and the question is how many. Joe Biden's kind of way of looking at it is, like, 10 to 15,000 more troops. General Stanley McChrystal, of course, is talking about 40 to 45,000 more troops. It will probably somewhere in the middle there, but I suspect we won't have an answer for that until after Thanksgiving.
CONAN: It's the Political Junkie. Coming up next, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, plus your calls on this question: Should pro-choice Democrats challenge pro-life members of their own party? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Or zap us an email, the address is email@example.com. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
If you're just joining us, NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin is with us for our weekly Political Junkie segment. And we turn now to one of the political controversies among many that has been brewing within the larger debate over health care reform. Earlier this week, Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said her organization would oppose a final health care bill if it includes the so-called Stupak amendment, which would ban federal funding of most abortions, and she means business. Keenan has also hinted that when the next round of primaries roll around, NARAL might fund pro-choice opponents of conservative Democrats who voted for the amendment. She'll join us in just a moment.
If you're a Democrat, would you like to see pro-choice Democrats challenge moderate and conservative Democrats where you live? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Nancy Keenan, very nice of you to be with us today.
Ms. NANCY KEENAN (President, NARAL Pro-Choice America): Well, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: And the Stupak amendment, give us your take on it.
Ms. KEENAN: Oh, gosh. The Stupak amendment, it is an abortion ban. That means that women in this country cannot buy health care insurance that would cover abortion care with their own money - with their own money.
CONAN: Well, wait a minute. The idea was an extension of the Hyde amendment, which prevents the spending of federal money on abortion.
Ms. KEENAN: Correct. But let's keep in mind that the Hyde amendment is the status quo, that the bill originally had language in it that prohibited federal monies to be spent on abortion in this country. That was in the bill. So the Stupak amendment goes far, far beyond the status quo and, actually, is denying women, denying women to access insurance coverage that covers abortion care with their own money in the exchange. Right now, in America, about 80, 85 percent of private insurance companies cover abortion care. So they would lose that if this Stupak amendment eventually prevails.
CONAN: And now, some people disagree with your analysis. But even if it's right, is this so important that this - on this issue alone, it would be enough for you to oppose a health care plan that would bring tens of millions more people and get them covered?
Ms. KEENAN: Look, we're going to take this a step at a time. I've been around politics long enough that this road is very long. And the first thing that we're doing right now, weve turned our attention entirely to the United States Senate. We are going to make sure and are already contacting Senator Reid to say that language is not acceptable and it can't be in the bill. We then will be contacting every one of those senators on that side of the equation and making sure they understand that this goes beyond the status quo, that this goes beyond Hyde. And that its not acceptable and we expect them to stand with us and stand with women in this country to not lose ground under the health care reform bill.
CONAN: And we keep mentioning the Hyde amendment. Henry Hyde of Illinois, of course, the former long-time member of the House of Representatives. Ken.
RUDIN: Nancy, obviously, it's a shame that we have to have a choice between health care and abortion rights, and I think that's what put a lot of -that was a choice among many members. But having said that, do you understand what Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, was up against? She needed it passed and there are some pro-life Democrats who said that there's no way I vote for this without a Stupak amendment. And Nancy Pelosi's goal from the beginning was to have - get this passed and get it over to the Senate.
Ms. KEENAN: Yeah. Let's be clear here. There was a compromise in that original bill in the House. It was called the Capps amendment. And that compromise, basically, reinforced that there would be no federal dollars spent on abortion in this country - the status quo, if you will. And then what happened, kind of in the late of night - and I understand, I've been in politics all my life as a former elected official. I know it comes down to votes. And what the speaker was up against was somehow, basically, finding enough votes to pass that bill. What's sad here, and who the true enemy here, and where the blame lies here is on those anti-choice politicians who wanted to hijack the health care reform bill in this country, who wanted to - who want to outlaw abortion care in this country. And they ultimately want to defeat any bill from ever passing the United States Congress. So I lie this squarely on the shoulders of those anti-choice politicians who have made this, the issue of abortion, a political football in the health care reform debate, and that is wrong.
RUDIN: It was 64 Democrats out of the - that's a pretty sizable number.
Ms. KEENAN: That's right. And let's keep in mind that even though there is a pro-choice majority of Democrats in the United States House, there are only 185 pro-choice members in the House. There are 203 anti-choice, and there's 47 that are kind of in the middle. We call them mixed. So the numbers were challenging.
But, nonetheless, the fights not over. We turn our attention to the Senate and we expect and we'll fight to make sure that the Stupak language does not prevail.
CONAN: In the meantime, are you serious about funding challengers to Democrats - in Democratic primaries - challengers who would be pro-choice to Democrats who voted for the Stupak amendment?
Ms. KEENAN: You know, absolutely - you know, like I said, I'm a former politician so I'm not going to talk about all my strategy on the radio. I want my opponents to...
CONAN: Don't you hate these people, Ken?
Ms. KEENAN: You know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. KEENAN: I've been there, done that, you know? In a sense that, you know, I've got to keep them guessing. But, yes, it is not off the table and I am very serious. And it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican or an independent. We will put up a primary challenger against you. If these people stood with Stupak, then they stood against the women of this country and we will not tolerate it.
CONAN: Most of these people are from districts which could go either way. Even if it means electing a Republican, this is more important?
Ms. KEENAN: Well, we're very strategic. We're very pragmatic. And we're going to go where we can win. Let's make sure that we're going to go where we can win. But we are not - we don't have a party. And our party is pro-choice and we're just going to make sure that this kind of nonsense doesn't continue and that we eventually have a pro-choice majority in the United States Congress.
CONAN: Just talking tactics: There were some conservative Republicans who thought they could win in the Maryland 1st, and they could win in the New York 23rd, and they were wrong.
Ms. KEENAN: Well, that's true. That's true. And, you know, politics, it is the game and its votes on the margins. And so again, as I said, I'm not going to discuss all the strategy here. I love surprising our opponents. But my bottom line is that if they - those politicians that stood with Stupak and stood against the American women, you know, were prepared to set some challenges up.
CONAN: Let's see if we get some callers in on the conversation. 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. Our guest is Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us.
And let's start with David(ph), David calling us from Denver.
DAVID (Caller): Hello. Thank you for taking my call. I am a Democrat and a lifelong, in terms of my adulthood, Democrat. And I agree that we should run challengers to those who have supported the Stupak amendment. And I'm glad to hear the vigorous difficulty that has been expressed here with the Stupak amendment. I would take exception to the use of the word pro, or the term pro-life to describe those who support...
CONAN: David, let's have that - David, can we have that argument at another time? We're talking about political tactics here.
DAVID: Well, we're also talking linguistics and pro-life is - pro-life is anti-choice. Pro-life is - back alley abortions are not pro-life.
CONAN: Well, the other side would say you're pro-abortion. So let's not get into the argument.
DAVID: Im not. I am pro-choice...
CONAN: All right.
DAVID: ...and they are anti-choice. Its very simple. And this is an important linguistic discussion.
CONAN: All right. David, this is why were not going to get into this conversation. Thanks very much for the phone call.
This is - people that are going to get into this, it's a very emotional issue. And, obviously, for NARAL Pro-Choice America, it is the issue.
Ms. KEENAN: Absolutely. You know, and look, I - there are strong emotions on both sides of this. And, you know, maybe we can agree to disagree. There are people that are never going to agree on the pro-choice position and we will probably never agree on the anti-choice position. But, nonetheless - and I think there are some areas that we can agree on. I believe that contraception should be made available to women in this country. I believe that we should teach honest sex education. I think that that's a place where people could agree and while still making sure that abortion is kept safe and legal in this country.
But, nonetheless, yeah, there are - emotions run high. You have to respect that. But at the same time, I think what happened this Saturday night in the United States House of Representatives was unacceptable. And I think their ultimate goal - ultimate goal - it was to basically stop health care reform in this country and overturn abortion coverage in this country.
RUDIN: Martha Coakley, who's running for the Senate in Massachusetts, said the other day that if the Stupak language is included in the Senate bill, she wouldve voted against it. My question is if lets say the final the Senate does its thing and the final language that both the House and Senate have to vote on does not include the Stupak language, its possible that many, or some of the 64 Democrats who voted for Stupak may sit out that vote the final vote.
Ms. KEENAN: You know, I dont think we can predict that yet. I mean, again, weve got a long way to go and I politics is about that step at a time and it is about that strategic move, its like a chessboard. You make a move and somebody else moves. I think at the end of the day, if the Stupak language is removed from both bills and we have what was known as the Capps compromise, I think ultimately that will prevail and that the people of this country and those members will vote for health care reform. Again, because it is the status quo. It is not going as far as Stupak wanted.
And I think theres good common sense on the Senate side, cooler heads prevail. And I think that absolutely well find that there is that Capps compromise, maybe a little bit more tweaking. And folks will find their way to vote for it.
CONAN: Heres an email we have from Keith in Minneapolis: Im a Democrat. I think running pro-choice candidates against moderate and conservative Democrats is a terrible idea. The only thing it would achieve is to guarantee conservative pro-life Republican candidates who are firmly against abortion rights will be elected to replace moderate Democrats.
Ms. KEENAN: You know, its a very good point. And look, like I said, Ive been around politics all my life, and we look at the district. We are not so foolish to go into somewhere and actually take out, in this case what hes arguing, a moderate Democrat and end up with a very, very conservative Republican. But there are districts that we could win that could have a majority of Democrats, a Democrats going to win that district no matter what, and if I can take out an anti-choice Democrat with a pro-choice Democrat in that district and still hold on to that district. Those are the kind of politics of pragmatism that were talking about.
CONAN: And again, sometimes you think you can and maybe you cant. But well talk about that later. Lets go next to Raymond. Raymond with us from Pontiac in Michigan.
RAYMOND (Caller): Hows it going? Happy Veterans Day.
CONAN: Happy Veterans Day.
RAYMOND: Im a 28-year-old centrist, center-leaning Democrat myself. And I think doing this could end up being cutting off your nose to spite your face. It sounds a lot like what the Republicans are doing by marginalizing and literally kicking out their moderate and maybe little more liberal-leaning Republican brother.
Ms. KEENAN: You know, yeah, Raymond, again, like I said, this country is a very diverse country. And people that represent the country from all over - I come from Montana originally - it would have been a pretty red state at one time. But when I was growing up it was a very, very progressive state. And the fact of the matter is, is again, were very pragmatic about this. We will make sure that if we go into a district and challenge a sitting incumbent that anti's choice, you know, were not going to be so foolish to allow an anti-choice Republican independent or a Democrat to retain that seat.
So you know, were not foolish here. Again, were pragmatic, were strategic. But my bottom line is these folks, this time around, and some of them were pro-choice, these folks that voted and stood with Stupak, is unacceptable. And I have consistently said when they stood with Stupak, they stood against women in this country. And for us, they have to be held accountable.
CONAN: So in a way this is a this is a luxury its the luxury of having a big enough majority that even if you should lose one or two seats on this issue, its not going to make a difference to who controls Congress, you think.
Ms. KEENEN: Absolutely. And again, even though we have a pro-choice - or we have a majority - Democratic majority right now, I think that people of American didnt realize that we did not have a pro-choice majority. We are still very challenged, as I said. The people that are right now in Congress, the majority are anti-choice. And we do have to change that balance here, if we are going to really make womens lives better.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Raymond. Appreciate it. Were talking with Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Ken Rudin, our Political Junkie, is with us.
Its the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And lets see if we can go next - this is Paul. Paul with us from Marylands Eastern Shore.
PAUL (Caller): Howdy.
PAUL: Yes, Im calling as a lifelong Democrat in my mid-50s and I would oppose that strong consideration of that strategy in two years to even the primaries, because I see it as opponents of health care reform at all, from the other side of the aisle, are no doubt firing every torpedo they can think of to try to sink it. And I think this is one of them. If they succeed in driving the debate to the point where the Democrats whether, say, for NARAL, split the party in the next election, the other sides going to clean up, just like the Republicans found out in upstate New York. And many people in many other elections you split one major party, the other sides going to clean up.
CONAN: And Paul, is your congressman Frank Kratovil?
PAUL: I believe - the first year Democrat?
CONAN: Yes, indeed.
CONAN: Hes one of those Democrats who voted for the Stupak.
Ms. KEENAN: Well, lets look broader than just the Democratic Party here. And lets take a look that in the last two election cycles NARAL Pro-Choice America ousted - 06, 08 - 44 anti-choice Republicans, 44 anti-choice Republicans that we defeated with pro-choice Democrats in the 06, 08 cycle. So weve gotten kind of hung up on the primaries here and keeping people accountable, but I am every day working to defeat just as many anti-choice Republicans and independents, if thats the case. In the Senate, same cycle 06, 08, we picked up nine, nine pro-choice seats in the Senate. And we so we those were held by anti-choice Republicans.
So in a way we have advanced this partys majority by by electing pro-choice Democrats over anti-choice Republicans in the last two cycles.
PAUL: And could I ask your guest for one more take on my home turf, Maryland? I was actually recruited in an interview by the family of a strong Republican contender who doesnt think hes canon fodder for Mikulski.
CONAN: Who doesnt think he would lose to Barbara Mikulski in a in a Senate race?
PAUL: In two years, when shes up. He's putting...
CONAN: Barbara Mikulskis prospects in two years, Ken Rudin?
RUDIN: Her chances of losing - slim and none.
PAUL: Yeah, I looked at that, with the what, 68 percent vote-back-in majority. Is that it?
CONAN: Yeah, thats it.
Ms. KEENAN: Well, and Barbara Mikulski is one of our biggest champions. I mean, lets be clear about this. She understands the impact of this kinds of bad legislation have on women, not only in Maryland but across the country.
CONAN: Paul, thanks very much for the phone call. Very quickly, Ken.
RUDIN: Nancy, I was just going to say, but of course a lot of pro-choice Republicans like Chris Shays, like Nancy Johnson, also went down to defeat in this anti-Republican tide. And if Democrats want to have this majority, theyre going to have to - as Chuck Schumer says - will have to have pro-gun, pro-life candidates as well, and it puts you in a strange position as well.
Ms. KEENAN: Well, sure. But I think, you know, let me tell you. I believe that this country is fundamentally pro-choice. I believe this country understands that politicians dont belong between a woman, her doctor, and her God. And that yes, it might be reflective that you see the country being conservative in some areas and a little bit more liberal in others. But fundamentally this right to privacy, this right to freedom, is something thats not only held by Democrats, its quite honestly held by Republicans as well. And thats a fundamental freedom that we should protect.
CONAN: Nancy Keenan, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it. Nancy Keenan is president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. And finally, Ken, in the few seconds we have left to go, a trivia question for you this week.
CONAN: Theres a big birthday coming up on Friday. It is the birthday of what former presidential candidate?
RUDIN: Fred Harris. Did you know that?
CONAN: I did know Fred Harris.
RUDIN: Fred Harris birthday is November 13th. Do you know why I know that?
CONAN: Because it is also Tom Vilsacks birthday.
RUDIN: Its also Ken Rudins birthday.
RUDIN: Yes, it is, yes.
RUDIN: Im going to be 18.
CONAN: Eighteen, again.
RUDIN: I can vote, I can vote.
CONAN: All right, Ken - in three years were all going to gather to buy Ken a drink.
CONAN: Ken Rudin, NPRs Political Junkie, joins us here every Wednesday. You can go to NPR.org and his read his blog and listen to his podcast. Well see him again next week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.