JOHN DONVAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm John Donvan in Washington. Ryan steps center-stage, Biden sparks outrage, Romney says let's turn the page, it is Wednesday and time for an...
MITT ROMNEY: Intellectually exhausted...
DONVAN: 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.
GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.
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DONVAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins TALK OF THE NATION to recap the week in politics. Well, Mitt Romney ended the speculation and picked a running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. What it means for the race in just a moment.
Current Vice President Joe Biden says a Romney win would put people back into chains, and that started a fight. Both campaigns are charging that the other has now reached a new low. And in yesterday's Florida primary, little-known Tea Partier Ted Yoho upset 12-term Congressman Cliff Stearns, who led the House committee investigations on Planned Parenthood and Solyndra.
Later on in the program, former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner tells us why campaigns cost so much and why they're actually a bargain. But first political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. And we begin, Ken, as always, with one of your famous trivia questions.
KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, John. Well, as you know, Paul Ryan, who I always predicted would be the running mate - no, not really - but Paul Ryan is only the third member of the House to be named to a national ticket since World War II following Bill Miller in 1964 and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. Paul Ryan is also 42 years old. Here's the question: Of all the major-party running mates, winners and losers, since World War II, who was the youngest?
DONVAN: Since World War II.
RUDIN: Since World War II. That was the good war.
DONVAN: If you think you know the answer, give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And the winner gets that fabulous no-prize T-shirt in exchange for a promise to send us a digital image for our wall of shame. Ken, let's begin as we always do. There was some actual voting this past week. What happened?
RUDIN: There was, yeah. In yesterday's primaries, there were four states, but the two states most closely watched were in Florida and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, that was the Senate race there. This is the one where Senator Herb Kohl is retiring. And Tommy Thompson, 70 years old, the former four-term governor, was nominated over split opposition.
Eric Hovde and Mark Neumann backed by conservatives, Tea Party Express, Club for Growth, but they kind of split the anti-Thompson vote. Thompson's seen as kind of like a moderate, a squish - you know, squishy RINO, as some conservatives have called him. But he won the nomination narrowly, but he will be the Republican nominee against Tammy Baldwin, a very liberal congresswoman from Madison, Wisconsin.
DONVAN: Squishy RINO is - what's the allusion there?
RUDIN: Well, no, no, just the fact that he's not as strong. Like he backed some Obama stuff, he supported some...
DONVAN: He's not an elephant.
RUDIN: Well, he's a RINO not as in rhinoceros but RINO as in Republican in name only, not the rhinoceros.
DONVAN: OK, Florida.
RUDIN: Florida was a - Florida was fascinating. I mean, the Senate race was not a surprise. Congressman Connie Mack IV, son of the former senator, will face off against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. But - and also interesting, two members of the - two Republican members of the House, John Mica, who's been there for 10 years, 10 terms, he is the chairman of the Transportation Committee, he was up in a member-versus-member Republican district. Sandy Adams, who's a freshman member of the House, backed by the Tea Party, backed by Sarah Palin, but anyway, they ran against each other.
He had far more money, even though some of the territory was new to him, but he clobbered her like 61 to 39 percent. But the big shocker, and you alluded to it a few seconds ago, Cliff Stearns, been in Congress for 12 terms, he led the Republican charge on Solyndra and Planned Parenthood, things like that, he lost to this Christian conservative Tea Party veterinarian backed by, as I said, the Tea Party, Ted Yoho, who nobody ever saw this coming.
I think what happened was Cliff Stearns really just took the race for granted. He had $2 million in his bank account, never - that he still didn't spend...
DONVAN: What did Ted Yoho spend?
RUDIN: He had about $1 million, or, you know, he was far outspent. But he had very interesting kind of oddball kind of advertisements. He alluded to Cliff Stearns as a pig in, you know, in the mess of Washington, the dirt in Washington. He had kind of really interesting campaign commercials. But again, nobody saw it coming. About an hour or two ago, Cliff Stearns conceded defeat, big shocker.
DONVAN: All right, let's move on. What other primaries did we have?
RUDIN: Well, there was also Connecticut, not much of a surprise, although the margin was pretty big. Linda McMahon, the former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment, she ran two years ago for the Senate, spent $50 million, 5-0, $50 million of her own money but got clobbered in the race to Richard Blumenthal in a big Republican year.
But anyway, she ran against Cliff Shays - I'm sorry, Chris Shays, former congressman who's been, you know, a darling of the media or, you know, he's kind of a moderate guy, and a lot of the media - got a lot of media endorsements. But she clobbered him in the primary, and she'll be running against Chris Murphy, a member of Congress. And no Republican has won a seat - Senate seat in Connecticut since 1982, 30 years. So it's been a while, and Linda McMahon is the Republican nominee.
DONVAN: And we have Minnesota.
RUDIN: Minnesota, not big results. Amy Klobuchar is going to run against State Representative Kurt Bills, who's backed by Ron Paul supporters, who seem to have taken over the Republican Party in Minnesota. And Rick Nolan, who's a Democratic member of Congress in the 1970s, he didn't run for re-election in 1980, 32 years later he's back running for another term, running for a term challenging Chip Cravaack, who's a freshman in northeast Minnesota. So interesting races.
DONVAN: Let's talk a little bit about Joe Biden's remarks and how that has sort of stirred a new theme or stirred up a new theme in the campaign. First of all, set this scene. We're going to listen to Joe Biden. What was - where was he, and what was he talking about?
RUDIN: Well, he was in Virginia, and he was talking about basically what would happen to the country if Republicans and Wall Street - if the Republicans won the - if the Republicans won the election in November.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchained Wall Street. They're going to put you all back in chains.
RUDIN: Well, the Republicans took that as a, you know, pandering, dishonest, despicable comment. Of course everybody gets up in arms whenever they hear something, and a lot of it is fake outrage, and both sides play it very well. But this was a crowd in Virginia, sizable African-American crowd, and, you know, he'll put you all in chains, Romney and the Republicans said this is just one step too far.
They blamed Obama for demeaning the campaign, and they went ballistic.
DONVAN: But we're heard the theme from the Republicans a few times that the Democrats keep bringing it to a lower and lower point. Is that in itself a part of their message?
RUDIN: Well, except for the fact that the Republicans have been saying similar things about Obama, that he would - you know, he's destroying the country, ruining the country, unhinging everything that's going on since 2009. Both sides play the game. Both sides use pretty harsh words. But the sad part of this is: One, with the naming of Paul Ryan, a lot of people say well now, we're going to start talking about the serious issues, there are major things, you know, involved here, major issues at stake. It's no longer about the dog on Mitt Romney's car. But President Obama in the campaigning in Iowa this week made several references to the dog on the car.
So it's - you know, we'd like to think it's supposed to be, you know, the issues will come to the forefront, but the same old same old is going on, and it's still - we still have some 85 or 83 days to go before the election.
DONVAN: Remind me of the trivia question today.
RUDIN: The trivia question was/is: Paul Ryan, who is 42 years old, who was the youngest running mate, winner or loser, since World War II?
DONVAN: Let's see what answers we're getting. Let's go to George(ph) in Norman, Oklahoma. Hi, George, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.
GEORGE: Hi, back in 1960, I got a chance to see Richard Milhous Nixon when he was campaigning in California, but eight years before that, when he was elected vice president, he was only 39 and 40 when he took office.
RUDIN: Well, that is the - on the very first call, that is the correct answer. And eight years ago, in 1952, even before that, Richard Nixon was 39 years old when he was named to the ticket, and Richard Nixon is the youngest running mate since World War II.
DONVAN: Congratulations to you. Stay on, and we'll be right back in touch with you. All right, that was pretty quick.
RUDIN: It was very quick.
DONVAN: That's a lot faster than most people...
RUDIN: It was, and actually only Dan Quayle and Thomas Eagleton was also 42 years old. Dan Quayle was 41. Richard Nixon, 39 years old, the youngest, yeah.
DONVAN: What about Geraldine Ferraro?
RUDIN: Geraldine Ferraro was up there, but actually she was 48 years old when she became the first woman on a major ticket in 1984.
DONVAN: You think 39 is actually pretty astoundingly young, and...
RUDIN: Well, no president's been elected that young. Of course, John F. Kennedy was elected at age 43. Teddy Roosevelt became president because of the McKinley assassination when he was 42. But to be vice president at 39, that's pretty remarkable.
DONVAN: We are - we'd had some discussion over the last several days about who were the moderators in the presidential debates, and where has that conversation gone now?
RUDIN: Well, what happened, it's interesting that no woman has been a moderator for a presidential debate since Carol Simpson of ABC News in 1992. So that's been 20 years ago. And actually the Commission of Presidential Debates announced this week that two women will be moderating debates: Candy Crowley of CNN will be moderating the second Bush - the second Obama-Romney debate October 16th at Hofstra. And of course ABC's Martha Raddatz, former NPR's Martha Raddatz, will be moderating the vice presidential debate.
Now Gwen Ifill of PBS also has done the last two vice presidential debates, but this is the first time since 1992 a woman is doing a presidential debate.
DONVAN: And this - these announcements follow some discussion over the last couple of weeks where it was noticed that women had not been doing...
RUDIN: Well, there were a bunch of high school girls, I believe, somewhere around the country who said - because we've always had Jim Lehrer, you know, been the nominee - the moderator for many, many cycles now. And, you know, they said: Are women not good enough to be debate moderators? And I don't know if was because of pressure, but I mean, Jim Lehrer will still do the first one, and the third presidential debate, it will be Bob Schieffer of CBS. But Candy Crowley will do the second one, and Martha Raddatz will do the VP.
DONVAN: So we're very close to the Republican convention at this point. Any insights on what we'll be seeing?
RUDIN: Well, I mean, the announcement this week, first of all Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, the very opinionated and excitable Chris Christie of New Jersey, will be the keynote speaker. Of course everybody remember a recent Democratic keynote speaker was Barack Obama in 2004, and four years later, he moved into the White House. So that could happen with Chris Christie.
Also Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, will be introducing Mitt Romney at the convention.
DONVAN: All right, we are talking with political junkie Ken Rudin, and up next the question is who is Paul Ryan, what does he believe. We will talk about the new GOP running mate. So stay with us. I'm John Donvan. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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DONVAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm John Donvan. It is Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Well, nobody picked him to be their running mate, so our Ken Rudin is back here with us as usual. And Ken, did you get a ScuttleButton winner last week?
RUDIN: We did. The puzzle was - the answer was Usain Bolt for an assortment of reasons, the fastest man in the world. And David Steves(ph) of North Olmstead, Ohio, was the randomly chosen correct winner. And he gets - also will get a T-shirt as soon as these T-shirts become available.
DONVAN: Congratulations to him. And you also had a challenge going to predict who Governor Romney was going to pick as his running mate.
RUDIN: Yeah, in my Political Junkie column back in April, I asked, you know, readers to write in who they thought their nominee would be. Of course I was predicting Rob Portman until about five minutes ago. But anyway, Brian Rich(ph) of Boise, Idaho, back in April was the first person to say Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. And he wins something, I'm not sure what.
DONVAN: He was early and correct.
RUDIN: He was early and correct.
DONVAN: OK, well, the dynamic of the race has definitely changed since Governor Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his running mate. In a few minutes, we're going to focus on the implications of that in Florida in particular and how it changes things in that swing state.
And as we learn more about Congressman Paul Ryan, who he is and what he believes, what do you want to ask Ken Rudin about him? So give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255. Or email email@example.com. Your questions to Ken Rudin about Congressman Paul Ryan.
Ryan hosted his new boss back in his home state of Wisconsin on Sunday, and Romney commended his running mate's ability to work across party lines.
ROMNEY: And this is a man who recognizes that people who have differences of opinion, if they're honest, those differences can also be honest. And so he reached across the aisle. He worked with people in the Democratic Party. He did so with dignity and respect, and as a result he's a man who in Washington is liked, is recognized, is acknowledged, is admired, is seen as an intellectual leader, and he is respected.
DONVAN: And Ken, so Romney describes Ryan as somebody who can work with the other guys on the other side of the aisle and is respected as such.
RUDIN: Well, he certainly is respected. I mean once - you know, the fact is he was not even House Budget Committee chairman when he came up with this plan to revamp Medicare years ago. And he did work with Democrats like Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. That name has been thrown out a lot by Republicans saying this is proof that Paul Ryan can work with Democrats.
But for the most part, though, he is less somebody who talks to Democrats and somebody - more somebody who is trying to put his economic imprint on the Republican Party, and he has certainly done so as House Budget Committee chairman.
DONVAN: Well, let's hear a little bit from Ryan himself.
PAUL RYAN: In this country, every generation fixes their problems, makes things better and leaves their kids better off. It is our duty to save the American dream for our children.
DONVAN: So Ken, tell us about him. Who is he?
RUDIN: Well, he's 42 years old, as I learned from the trivia question today. He's married with three children. He's Roman Catholic, and of course Joe Biden is also Catholic, Joe Biden is the first Catholic vice president, another trivia question. He's from Janesville, Wisconsin, which is in the lower southeast corner of Wisconsin.
He was elected to Congress in 1998. Before that, he worked for Senator Bob Kasten of Wisconsin, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. He worked for Empower America, he was a speechwriter for Empower America, under Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett, and he was a bit supporter of Jack Kemp.
I mean, the kind of Jack Kemp supply-side economics is really what has guided Paul Ryan through his term in - his tenure in Congress. He believes in less government, cut back on government spending and of course in doing so, he will cut back drastically food stamps, Medicare spending, Social Security. He wants to raise the requirement for Medicare from 65 to 67.
And while he talks about yes, the future is grim for Medicare, and that's why the country - something needs to be done in advance, of course Democrats are almost relishing the thought of running against Romney-Ryan, saying that he will end Medicare as we know it.
Now, Paul Ryan will say first of all, this doesn't affect people currently over 55 years old. It won't affect them or their parents. It won't affect the baby boomers. This is - but this is the problem that if Medicare's going to be in big trouble say in 2024, something has got to be done now.
DONVAN: You listed a lot of the people he's actually worked for, but who would you say are his influences? Who shaped the way he thinks?
RUDIN: Well, Jack Kemp certainly in the modern day, but when he was a kid, when he was 16 years old, his father died, and he was really reading a lot of stuff. And Ayn Rand is somebody that he read very profusely back then.
DONVAN: But are you saying that in - as I understand the story, he actually discovered his dad, after his dad had a heart attack. He's the one who came across him and found him. And are you saying that in a way, he made a move, and to change his focus he started doing this deeper, philosophical reading?
RUDIN: Well, I mean, when I read about his biography, and this is all just kind of new stuff coming out, but, you know, when he found his father, and of course neither his father nor his grandfather nor his great-grandfather lived to see the age of 60, and he just feels that - he's a self-starter and feels that if you want to get something done, you do it yourself. And he learned that after his father died. And he just liked the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand. Now, he's since said that he doesn't like - he's moved away from that because she believes an atheist philosophy, and he's - of course he's a very strong Catholic.
DONVAN: What do you see in him in terms of demeanor?
RUDIN: Well, he's a wonk. He's serious. He's a gym rat. You know, he's always constantly working out in the gym. He's not an angry guy. I mean, he's - you know, you think of him, he's not a real, real partisan. He's criticized George W. Bush for all the deficits he's run up. But he's not totally ideological as well, in the fact that he voted for TARP, he voted for the auto bailout.
But I think in the last few years, he just felt more and more certain that, you know, we're going over a financial and economic cliff, and the way to do it is to cut back. But of course I should also point out that he's not talking about cutting back in military spending, just domestic spending.
DONVAN: All right, so we're asking your questions to Ken Rudin about Paul Ryan. Our number is 800-989-8255. And let's bring in Tim(ph) from (unintelligible) in New Jersey. Hi, Tim, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.
TIM: Hi, Ken, how are you?
RUDIN: Hi, Tim.
TIM: I have a question. Everybody's talking about the Ryan budget, the Ryan budget, the Ryan budget, you know, good or bad. But that's not what the Republicans are going to run on. Mitt Romney has already stated that he has his own budget, and it's not exactly, you know, the imprint or the same imprint as Ryan's. So everybody's just saying, you know, Ryan budget, Ryan budget, Ryan budget, but that's not what's really going on.
RUDIN: Well, it actually is what's going on because whether or not Paul Ryan was - and I appreciate your question, Tim, and I understand what you're saying, but whether or not Paul Ryan was going to be the vice presidential nominee, the Democrats were going to run against the Ryan budget no matter what.
You know, they - I mean, they call it Mediscare. Just as Sarah Palin was talking about how Obama's health care bill would kill grandma, the Democrats are talking about how the Medicare proposals by Paul Ryan will destroy seniors.
But at the same time, in fairness to the Republican Party, Mitt Romney does - is the nominee. We will be running on Mitt Romney's plans and not Paul Ryan's plans. But two things: One, Mitt Romney was asked how he differs from Paul Ryan on Medicare, and he says yes, I have some differences, but he would not be specific; and two, the Democrats have, you know, shown that anytime a Republican talks about changing Medicare, the Democrats run against it, and it's effective for them.
Last year, upstate New York, there was a special election in a historically Republican district, and they just ran after the Paul Ryan plan, and they won with Kathy Hochul to win the seat, basically running against the Ryan plan. So yes, Romney is the nominee. It will be Romney's platform that you're going to see being passed in Tampa at the convention, but, you know, Romney-Ryan will be one word if you're a Democrat.
DONVAN: Tim, thanks very much for your call. Let's go to Shannon(ph) in Davenport, Iowa. Shannon, hi, you're on TALK OF THE NATION. Hi.
SHANNON: Hi, I have, yeah, kind of a Political Junkie trivia question. I hear a lot about the budget, but in terms of social issues, is it true that he sponsored a bill at the - a personhood bill at the federal level? This is a bill that would state that life begins at conception, effectively outlawing, obviously all abortion but also many forms of birth control?
RUDIN: Well, I don't know about the birth control part, but I do know that the Republican Party, as they were in 2008 when there were no exceptions to any abortions, not health, life of the mother, no exceptions at all, I understand - it's my understanding that that will be the Republican platform again on abortion.
This is - if there's any question about Paul Ryan's commitment to anti-abortion causes, there should be none. He is steadfastly opposed to abortion, and - I think in every case, although I haven't seen specifics about health or life of the mother.
DONVAN: Thanks very much for your call, Shannon. We have a question that came in on Twitter from TriangleMan(ph).
DONVAN: TriangleMan is asking this: Why is Paul Ryan as a choice being treated as quote-unquote "bold" when he and his positions are already central to the Republican base and philosophy? First of all, is it being called bold?
RUDIN: Oh, I called it bold. No, I think it is bold in the sense that everything that - Mitt Romney is a risk-averse, cautious kind of guy. The reason I thought it was going to be Ron Portman or even Tim Pawlenty is that he just - basically when you're putting Paul Ryan on the ticket, you're waving a red flag in front of a lot of Democrats who were just, you know, chomping at the bit to run against the issue of Medicare.
And for Romney to pick somebody who is such a lightning rod for criticism, now they'll make the case that the system is broken, it's got to be fixed, it's got to be saved. What Ryan is suggesting is salvation of this Medicare system, but it's bold in the sense that it's - I mean, maybe bold is a synonym for risky because it certainly is bold, and it certainly is risky.
DONVAN: Let's go to Jim in Wichita, Kansas. Hi, Jim. You're on TALK OF THE NATION.
JIM: Hello. I was wondering about the age dynamic. It seems like this is the youngest vice president pick, and yet, the second youngest would be the, I believe, the president. Is a young person asking seniors to lose or to change Medicare? Is that a dynamic? Also, the thing is Salt Lake City going to somebody be a target like the Twin Towers was? Thank you.
DONVAN: We'll take the first question, first part.
RUDIN: Well, I think if you're talking about the differences in age, we did see that on the Democratic ticket in 2008 in reverse. I mean, President Obama was very young, and Joe Biden, his running mate, was not very young, and I think that was perhaps part of the dynamic there. So, look, there's been differences in age before. I think McCain who was 73, I believe, in 2008 picking Sarah Palin who was 44. There was a huge difference there. We've seen it before. But I think it just talks about what the future of the Republican Party is.
That even though we're talking about 2008 - I mean, 2012, and we have plenty of time to talk about 2016, but there seems to be a young bench for the Republican Party, being it - be it Chris Christie, Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, Paul Ryan for the future. As far as Salt Lake City, I don't know what's that in reference to but...
DONVAN: I think we'll pass on that (unintelligible).
RUDIN: We will.
DONVAN: Let's bring in Sergio Bustos. He is the politics editor for The Miami Herald and joins us from their offices. Sergio, nice to talk with you on TALK OF THE NATION.
SERGIO BUSTOS: Nice to be here.
DONVAN: So our question is, is the Medicare issue, given as Ken's been describing, Paul Ryan is committed to some serious overhaul of Medicare, is that going to be a big issue in Florida given the makeup of your population?
BUSTOS: Oh, by a very, very, very much so. I mean, Medicare will shadow the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign from now till November. That's our feeling.
DONVAN: How come?
BUSTOS: Well, you do the demographics, and it's pretty straightforward. More than half of voters are older than 50. Then you've got one in five voters who is at least 65 years of age. And for Romney really to get to the White House, he really has to win Florida's 29 coveted electoral votes, and those numbers are tough. And when you talk about Medicare, you're just going at the heart of the voting bloc that could decide Florida.
RUDIN: Sergio, two points, first of all, the charge about Medicare against the Republicans was used four years ago as well, and John McCain won the Florida senior vote in 2008 pretty handily, as I recall. And two, if you listen to Paul Ryan's plan, I mean, basically, people currently over the age of 55 will not be touched by this. So if you're talking about all the seniors in Florida, they're not going to be affected by the changes that Paul Ryan is proposing.
BUSTOS: Yeah. Those details, however, aren't getting to the voter. They still have that Mediscare kind of message in mind. I think that's what's kind of mudding the whole argument about it. It's just one of those that the 55 and older details just getting lost in the message at this point. But, again, we're in August, so we'll see come October.
DONVAN: We're on with Sergio Bustos, who is politics editor for The Miami Herald, and our Political Junkie Ken Rudin. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Sergio, what - in Florida, how is it going to play out? What is the sense of how this is going to play out with Latino voters?
BUSTOS: Well, that's always a very tricky question in Florida because the Latino vote is so diverse. You know, you've got the Puerto Ricans up in Central Florida. You've got the Cuban Republicans down here in Miami. But as far as a voting bloc, Medicare is a big issue for Cuban Republicans because most of them are older. When - back in '94, in those times, when there were threats to Social Security and the like by the Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich, that was a huge, huge mover. It actually pushed a lot of folks to - the Latinos to become citizens and vote because of the threat of losing those entitlements.
RUDIN: You know, you talk about the Republican risk in attracting Latino votes, and I don't think whether Paul Ryan or Rob Portman or anybody who's going to be the nominee, unless Marco Rubio was the nominee, but if you listen to Mitt Romney's rhetoric during the debates, that was pretty harshly - many people thought of it as anti-immigrant. So whether it's Ryan or no matter who's on the ticket, Romney had a lot of ground to make up trying to attract Latino voters.
BUSTOS: No. And there's a big issue down here that kind of got lost in the Medicare or Mediscare fight is that Ryan might have another problem because he once opposed the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Now, he's reversed that stance, and the exile community here in Miami is fine with it, but that could prop up again as we get closer to the election.
DONVAN: All right. Sergio Bustos is politics editor for The Miami Herald and joined us from their offices. Thanks for talking with us, Sergio.
BUSTOS: Thank you.
DONVAN: So we're also still talking about Paul Ryan and questions to Ken Rudin. Let's go to Judy in Milwaukee. Hi. Judy, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.
JUDY: I heard a pundit say a while back that Obama had to win Wisconsin or he couldn't take the White House again, and I just don't know if that's true. I'd like to know if that's true because the last election here was really close. I think it was about half a percentage point that gave it to Obama, and I think Ryan could really give Wisconsin to Mitt Romney.
RUDIN: Well, let me just say - correct you on one thing. The last election actually Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points but...
RUDIN: Yes. But in 2002 - in 2000 and 2004, the two Bush victories, he lost Wisconsin to Al Gore and John Kerry respectively by less than a percentage point. Those were very, very close. 2008 were not close. Now, perhaps, Paul Ryan could do very well in southeast Wisconsin. We did see Scott Walker win a big race, the recall race. He had a labor and the Democrats lined up against him, but polls still showed that Obama still has a five-, six-point lead in the state. I think - I don't think Obama needs Wisconsin as much as both sides need Florida. I think if Romney loses Florida, he's in big trouble for winning the White House. But Wisconsin may be in play with Paul Ryan. My gut tells me, though, that Obama still wins it again.
DONVAN: Judy, thanks very much for your call. And, Ken Rudin, thanks once again for joining us on TALK OF THE NATION.
RUDIN: Thank you, John.
DONVAN: Ken is going to be back next week for another edition of the Political Junkie. And in the meantime, his latest column and ScuttleButton puzzle are on npr.org/junkie. Ken, thanks so much for joining us.
RUDIN: Thanks, John.
DONVAN: Up next, all of this campaigning costs a lot of money, $6 billion by one count. We're going to talk with the former head of the Federal Election Commission who says that is a bargain. Stay with us. I'm John Donvan. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.