The Best And Worst VP Candidates Of All Time
NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. The Texas Tea Party cruises to victory. Congress actually acts to avoid a shutdown, and former Veep Dick Cheney pans the Palin pick. It's Wednesday and time for a...
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: A mistake.
CONAN: ...edition of the Political Junkie.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?
SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
SENATOR LLOYD BENTSON: 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)
CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. Yesterday, Ted Cruz defeated David Dewhurst to get the GOP Senate bid in Texas, Romney's bumpy trip to London, Jerusalem and Warsaw, two congressional departures - one expected, one not. New polls put the president up in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, and Democrats give star slots at the convention to previous POTUS Bill Clinton and up-and-comer San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
In a few minutes, we'll be talking about the best and worst vice presidential candidates. Later in the program, to the Olympics and the big news on badminton - yes, badminton.
But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. And we begin, as we always do, with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. OK, who was the first badminton champ - no, that's not a trivia question at all. Actually, we're in the middle of Olympics fever, as you know, with records being broken every day. Michael Phelps now has more medals than anybody else. So why not a trivia question about records and the Olympics?
CONAN: "Big Boy Pete" was a record by the Olympics.
RUDIN: I - it's a 45. OK, now we're going to give - we're going to have two trivia questions. And since we're not going to give away any T-shirts, we're now going to not give away two T-shirts.
RUDIN: No, the T-shirts are coming.
RUDIN: OK, OK. But anyway, so the two questions are: Who holds the record - since we're talking about records. Who holds the record for the most votes in a gubernatorial race, and who holds the most - the record for the most votes in a Senate race? Now, when you call in, you can only give in - you can only answer one of the two questions with only one answer.
CONAN: So there's two possible correct answers. You may only try for one - one bite at the apple per customer. Who holds the record for most votes in a gubernatorial race? Who holds the record for most votes in a Senatorial race? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Eventually, the winner will get a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt. And...
RUDIN: The winners.
CONAN: Exactly, if there are two. But Ken, we begin when we can with actual votes, and yesterday, Texas, well, the Tea Party candidate crushed the establishment candidate.
RUDIN: Now, you know, we keep talking about whether the Tea Party is still relevant, about how it's been doing all year. It's one thing, for example, Richard Mourdock in Indiana to defeat Dick Lugar. Dick Lugar was kind of moderate. I mean, you know, it's all depending on your point of view, but he was certainly more moderate, more willing to work with Democrats, President Obama.
In Texas, David Dewhurst, who was Rick Perry's loyal vice president - vice president - Rick Perry's loyal lieutenant governor for nine years, very conservative, really - you know, very tough conservative, got clobbered by Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general who is like 25 years younger than Dewhurst. And Cruz basically said that he was too much of somebody who is willing to compromise with Democrats.
He wasn't a true change that we believe in, according to the Tea Party, and he clobbered him. So Ted Cruz, of course, who was born in Canada, but he will be, if he's elected, and he probably will be elected - no Democrat has been elected to the Texas - to the Senate from Texas since Lloyd Bentsen.
CONAN: Yeah, the word tantamount comes to mind.
RUDIN: Well, certainly in Texas, although we can talk about the future of Texas later when we talk about the next keynote speaker of the Democrats. But anyway, Ted Cruz would probably be the third Cuban-American in the Senate, following Marco Rubio - who he's been compared to - and Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
CONAN: There was also a primary in Georgia yesterday involving one congressional district, the last white Democrat in the Deep South.
RUDIN: That's John Barrow, and it's pretty remarkable. Until 1994, it was a majority Democratic state in Congressional districts. And now John Barrow is the only white Democrat left in the South in the congressional - in the House delegation, anyway. So it's pretty remarkable what's happening to Democrats in Georgia and, of course, in the South, as well.
Now, there's also a primary tomorrow. For some reason, Tennessee always has its primaries on Thursdays. And one of the congressional districts, Chuck Fleischmann, who's a freshman member of Congress, has a tough three-way primary, as well.
CONAN: And we should note the Republican presidential candidate, that is Mitt Romney, just had a trip to Europe to bolster his foreign policy standing, and...
RUDIN: How'd he do?
CONAN: Well, I think (unintelligible) was mixed.
RUDIN: Yeah, I don't think you could say that when he went to Israel, he had a mitzvah. Yeah, well, I'm sorry. It's a Jewish...
CONAN: We're going to bar you from that joke.
RUDIN: But anyway, so in some ways, he had a tough time. I mean, I don't know how it plays back in the United States. I don't know what it means regarding his chances in November, but certainly, there were gaffes when he went to London, said the British - the Brits were not prepared well enough for the Olympics.
And for Mitt Romney to have a gaffe about the Olympics is kind of ironic. Then he went to, of course, Israel, perhaps campaigning for Jewish votes in the United States, more so than making any difference there. But...
CONAN: The first four rows were filled with American donors.
RUDIN: Exactly, exactly. And he did say that one of the differences between the Israeli economy and the Palestinian economy is because of cultural differences, not talking at all about whatever the United States did as far as imposing trade restraints, border closings...
RUDIN: Israel, yeah - trade restraints and border closings with the Palestinians. So he got into a mess with that. And then Poland went a little bit better, but it was tough. You know, I don't know what it means. I don't think it - it certainly didn't get the kind of headlines that Barack Obama got in 2008 when he went to Berlin and Europe and things like that.
But ultimately, look, the Olympics end on Sunday next week. It ends next Sunday the 12th, and Romney's back in this country. And we expect a VP next week, and maybe the whole dynamic changes.
CONAN: If we've got the app, we will find out. Otherwise, we'll have to wait to hear it on the radio.
RUDIN: That's right.
CONAN: Interesting polls published by the Quinnipiac organization on the behalf of the New York Times and CBS that show President Obama with a hefty lead in Pennsylvania, where the Republicans hoped to make inroads, and six-point leads in both Ohio and Florida. Win two of those three, everybody thinks you're going to be elected president.
RUDIN: That's absolutely right. And it's 11 points in Pennsylvania, and Romney and the Republicans still think that this is a state that they can possibly be competitive in, if not win. But again, all three states went for Barack Obama in 2008. Romney's going to have to win at least Ohio and Florida if he's going to make a difference, because the rest of the remaining tossup states are states like Colorado and Virginia, with far fewer electoral votes.
CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is a two-part trivia question, two T-shirts available: the Senate candidate, whoever got the most votes in a senatorial race and the gubernatorial candidate who got the most votes in a governor's race. 800-989-8255. Email talk...
RUDIN: They have to tell us which answer they're - which category they're going to answer.
CONAN: And let's see if we can begin with Jim. Jim's on the line with us from Binghamton, in New York.
JIM: Hi. For the Senate race, I was thinking Daniel Patrick Moynihan from New York.
CONAN: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
RUDIN: Well, Daniel Patrick Moynihan certainly has won more votes than any other senator in New York, but not nationwide.
JIM: Thank you.
CONAN: Nice try. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Mitch, Mitch with us from Des Moines.
MITCH: Hello, gentlemen. I would - U.S. Senate, Lloyd Bentsen, state of Texas.
CONAN: You're no Lloyd Bentsen.
RUDIN: Actually, Lloyd Bentsen doesn't even hold the Texas record. The senator with the most votes in Texas is John Cornyn, the current Republican. But John Cornyn does not even break in the top numbers of the best - the most votes for a senator.
MITCH: Thanks for the opportunity.
CONAN: Thanks very much, Mitch. And here's an email that we have from Jeff in San Antonio, this is for the Senate side: Barbara Boxer.
RUDIN: Barbara Boxer is the correct answer. Barbara Boxer, when she ran - not in her most recent time, but in 2004 - she got 6.9 million votes. No senator has gotten more. So as long as we're not giving out T-shirts, Jeff, you will not get a T-shirt.
CONAN: Not for a while. Ding, ding, ding.
RUDIN: But that's the correct answer, Barbara Boxer with the most votes for a Senate race.
CONAN: And in the meantime, let's go to Bob. Bob's on the line with us from Rochester, Minnesota.
BOB: Yes. And since this is not for a T-shirt, I'm just going to have to guess Ronald Reagan for governor.
RUDIN: Ronald Reagan of course was elected governor twice in California, 1966, 1970, not close. Ronald Reagan is not close to the answer. But the winner does get a T-shirt.
BOB: OK, not for the T-shirt.
CONAN: The winner will get a T-shirt, eventually get a T-shirt.
BOB: OK. Thank you.
CONAN: All right, in the meantime, let's go next to - this is - well, we've already done Senate, but Will, you're on the line from Berkeley.
WILL: Yeah, I was going to guess Dianne Feinstein, but I just heard that the correct answer was our other senator, Barbara Boxer. So it was one out of two.
RUDIN: And Feinstein is number two in the Senate.
WILL: Yeah. Dang.
CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Ted, Ted with us from Tallahassee.
TED: Hey, there.
CONAN: Hi. Go ahead, please.
TED: Yeah, I think I would guess Mario Cuomo, New York.
RUDIN: Mario Cuomo not only is not the most - got the most votes in New York, actually Nelson Rockefeller to this day got the most votes when he ran for governor of New York, but Nelson Rockefeller is still not the answer.
TED: Well, thank you.
CONAN: Nice try. Let's see if we can go next to Cathy(ph), Cathy with us from Ann Arbor.
CATHY: Hello, how are you doing?
CONAN: Good, thanks.
CATHY: My guess is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
RUDIN: Schwarzenegger ran for governor twice, in the recall election and again three years later, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the right answer.
CONAN: Nice try. Let's go next to - this is Barry, Barry with us from Blackfoot in Idaho.
BARRY: Hey, I was thinking George W. Bush in Texas.
RUDIN: No, it's not George W. Bush. But obviously, people who were on the right track, you've got to obviously think of the big states.
CONAN: Big states.
RUDIN: And Idaho is not one of them.
CONAN: But he was guessing Texas.
RUDIN: That's true. Butch Otter is not one of the answers.
CONAN: No, not one of the answers. All right. Let's see if we can go next to - this is - oh Troy, you have the same answer. No, go ahead, Troy. You do.
TROY: Jeb Bush?
CONAN: Jeb Bush in Florida, a big state, but I don't think it's big enough, do you, Ken?
RUDIN: No, it's not. Not Jeb Bush.
CONAN: All right. Well, let's see if we can get some more callers up. We've been going through them quickly. In the meantime, we have two departures from Congress - we'll get to that a little later in the program. We have to remember Gore Vidal, the great writer, but who was also a politician of sorts.
RUDIN: Well, yes. I mean, of course he used to - if you remember during the 1960s, he used to be battling William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer on those talk shows all the time. But he also ran for office two times, as you well remember in 1964, against J. Ernest Wharton. He ran supporting recognition of Red China, Upstate New York, got clobbered. Then he ran again in...
CONAN: Mid-Hudson, not Upstate.
RUDIN: That's true. And in 1982, he moved to California, ran against Jerry Brown for the Senate, lost that nomination, as well.
CONAN: And one of the most erudite candidates ever to lose an election in this country, Gore Vidal.
RUDIN: Absolutely, yeah. He was not the best man.
CONAN: His play, it's actually pretty good. I saw it on Broadway.
RUDIN: Thank you.
CONAN: All right. In any case, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us. Up next, the best and worst VP candidates in history, candidates whether they helped the ticket or not. It's not what they did once in office, if you can remember. Call and tell us your nominee: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us, as usual. We'll talk about the best and worst vice presidential candidates of all time in just a moment. But Ken, do we have a ScuttleButton winner?
RUDIN: We do absolutely. It was Kurt Mitsmeyer(ph) of Louisville, Kentucky. The buttons were - there was a Robert Byrd button, a Dr. Martin Luther King button. There was Fred Mock button, who ran for the Senate from Oklahoma. And there was also a communism number one killer in America. So when you add those, you get "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the...
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CONAN: Well, the winner of the ScuttleButton puzzle, Kurt, will eventually get a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt.
RUDIN: Oh really, is that how it works?
CONAN: It's in the rules. In the meantime, we did not get an answer to the other half of today's trivia question. So who was the governor who got the most votes in American history?
RUDIN: Jerry Brown. Again, California is obviously a good guess. Jerry Brown in 2010 5.4 million votes. So both answers came from California, not a surprise.
CONAN: In the meantime, if you want to go see the new ScuttleButton puzzle or inflict on yourself the new Political Junkie column, you can go to npr.org/junkie. Earlier this week, the Romney campaign announced that if you'd like to be among the first to know the Republican vice presidential pick, you need to download their new app. That announcement likely won't come until after the Olympics have concluded.
So today, call and tell us your pick for the best and worst vice presidential candidates of all time. Again, these are candidates, it's not what they did in office, 800-989-8255. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And, well, Ken, this is a rich category.
RUDIN: Well, it is. I mean, of course, there's a lot of great stories that came out of it, and there's a lot of reasons why people pick.
CONAN: Oh wait a minute, I apologize, I apologize. We have a junkie T-shirt winner. This is Reese(ph) in Laramie, Wyoming, sent us an email that came in well before this, and I just hid it under a piece of paper and forgot all about it. So we do have a winner for the other - for the trivia contest.
RUDIN: And what does Reese get?
CONAN: He gets pieces. Anyway...
RUDIN: Oh, no. OK.
CONAN: Go ahead.
RUDIN: OK, so anyway, back to the VP stuff. I mean, in the old days, we would talk about geography or uniting the party or balancing the ticket, but we've seen a lot of VPs picked for different reasons. I mean, certainly I think the best one by far is Lyndon Johnson in 1960. He probably brought Texas, perhaps other states in the South. John Kennedy, although he picked a rival, he probably - Johnson may have been more effective than any other vice presidential choice affecting the election.
But, you know, we hear the word vetting a lot, and we heard that a lot with Sarah Palin in 2008 on the Republican side. Vetting obviously wasn't used in 1968 when Spiro Agnew was picked. I mean, if anybody vetted Spiro Agnew, they would have known he was taking bribes not only as governor of Maryland but as Baltimore county executive.
And certainly very few people did a complete vetting of Thomas Eagleton in 1972; he of the former electroshock treatment, George McGovern's running mate.
CONAN: Behind him 1,000 percent but then behind him not at all when Tom Eagleton withdrew gracefully. He said he was going to be a distraction.
SENATOR THOMAS EAGLETON: If I remain on the ticket, all the attention and all the debate would be about Eagleton - as George calls it - his past medical history.
CONAN: And so then there was going to be - had to be a new candidate.
RUDIN: Yeah, well, Eagleton lasted 17 days, and then of course the DNC met in Washington, and Sargent Shriver was the pick for George McGovern. And it was a very effective choice. The ticket lost 49 out of 50 states that year, but of course not to blame it on the VP.
CONAN: On Sargent Shriver, no, indeed...
RUDIN: And his lonely hearts club band.
CONAN: Or his...
CONAN: In the meantime, it is difficult to say how much of an effect a vice presidential candidate, even a turkey, will really have. Dan Quayle impressed nobody as a candidate.
RUDIN: Well, the thing is, on paper he was a good choice. I mean, he was a giant-killer. He beat Birch Bayh. He was working with Ted Kennedy in the Senate. But for the most part, we spent all the time in the beginning of him, of his choice: one, figuring out how he got out of Vietnam; and two, of course we remember that disastrous debate he had with Lloyd Bentsen.
(SOUNDBITE OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)
VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE: I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.
BENTSON: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
CONAN: Right in his wheelhouse. He's prepared for it.
RUDIN: I mean, it was a great moment. But, of course, Lloyd Bentsen didn't carry the state of Texas for the Democrats. He disagreed with Michael Dukakis as much as he agreed with him. So - but I would make the case that the Bush-Quayle ticket in 1988, winning 40 out of 50 states, may have won despite what Dan Quayle did or did not bring to the ticket.
CONAN: In the meantime, let's get some callers in on this conversation, 800-989-8255. Email is email@example.com. And Vivian's with us from Little Rock.
VIVIAN: Yes, I'd like to say first of all, for the record, I'm at lunch.
CONAN: OK, in other words, you're not skipping out work.
VIVIAN: No, I am eating, and I'm on lunch, on drive time. But I just wanted to make a comment, and I hate to make it because I think in recent history, they are the most high-profile, perhaps the only women who were on vice presidential - or on the ticket as a vice presidential running mate, and that would be Ferraro and Palin.
I think for Ferraro, the timing was bad, and I think that because the person who she was supporting needed a whole lot more help than she could ever offer. I just think that was the worst pick. And then I think Palin, I don't even know if I need to say anything to the audience about her.
CONAN: Well, Geraldine Ferraro, both of them, it's interesting to say, electrified the convention. Just listen to this introduction of Geraldine Ferraro at the Democratic convention.
(SOUNDBITE OF DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION)
REPRESENTATIVE GERALDINE FERRARO: Ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my name is Geraldine Ferraro.
RUDIN: That was an amazing moment. I was sitting - stand there, right there in San Francisco when she made her speech. It was a great convention. It was an exciting pick. But of course Mondale-Ferraro did lose 49 out of 50 states, and a lot of people said well, she was a distraction because the media focused more on her husband, John Zaccaro's finances than they did on Geraldine Ferraro herself.
But ultimately, nothing was going to save Walter Mondale, but for a brief shining moment - same with Sarah Palin too - for a brief shining moment, these were very exciting picks.
CONAN: And Sarah Palin, again, electrified the convention but had a little more trouble with Katie Couric.
PALIN: All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.
RUDIN: That was a specific answer on what newspapers do you read regularly. And again, for the most part, for the longest time, John McCain was trying to convince Joe Lieberman to get on his ticket, and of course the harder part would have been trying to convince his own Republican convention to get a Democrat, and a pro-choice Democrat, on the ticket. That was not going to help.
And again, he - you know, he did a Hail Mary with Sarah Palin, and that - for a brief moment, again, it helped, but ultimately it was a failure.
CONAN: Vivian, we hope the rest of your lunch goes better.
VIVIAN: Thank you.
CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Rob, and Rob's with us from Skaneateles in New York.
ROB: How are you?
CONAN: Good, thanks.
ROB: I'm going to pick the first vice president, John Adams, on the basis of before being vice president, representing the colonies in England, Denmark and in France, once he is vice president for being the (unintelligible) that he was for the Federalist Party.
CONAN: But we're only talking about his role as a candidate, and in...
ROB: Oh well yeah, then as a candidate, it would be his spokesmanship(ph) role as a Federalist.
CONAN: Yeah, but they didn't run as a ticket in that election.
ROB: The second time they did.
CONAN: Not the first time, though.
RUDIN: But we do have some tape of John Adams here on CNN...
ROB: I knew you would.
CONAN: But that's an interesting argument.
RUDIN: Thank you.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the phone call. Let's go next to - this is - let me try another one. Oh, there we go. Ronald, you're on the air.
RONALD: Hi, my vote for the worst, either John Tyler or John C. Calhoun.
RUDIN: I was such a kid back then.
CONAN: Ken, neither got...
RUDIN: Well, Tyler...
CONAN: Tippecanoe and Tyler...
RUDIN: He didn't get elected on his own, but Tippecanoe, who was William Henry Harrison, died not of pneumonia, but he got sick at his inauguration, died shortly after, and John Tyler became president. But it certainly was a meaningful choice, whether he was effective or not.
RONALD: He became a turncoat during the Civil War, too.
RUDIN: Yeah, right. I was so young back then.
CONAN: Ronald, thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can go to - this is Charlie(ph), Charlie with us from Ann Arbor.
CHARLIE: Oh, hi. I can't - got to go with Sarah Palin, but I'd also go with Aaron Burr.
CONAN: Aaron Burr, that's bad company for Sarah Palin.
CONAN: In honor of Gore Vidal, we ought to talk about Aaron Burr. Of course, he wrote a book about him, but in any case, this was a person later tried for treason, not something that comes up often in American political history.
RUDIN: And you talk about his duel with Alexander Hamilton, which is very similar to Katie Couric's duel with Katie Couric, exactly.
CONAN: Thanks very much.
CHARLIE: You're welcome.
RUDIN: I think we were actually looking for more recent choices.
CONAN: Sort of recorded history. Maybe we have some recordings.
RUDIN: So we could have some sound of them, but these are good guesses.
CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - oh, boy, I'm having trouble with this machine again today. I apologize. And we're just having a problem hanging up on people. That's normally not my problem.
RUDIN: You know, there are some vice presidents, of course, who fill the gap that was basically lacking in their resumes. When Barack Obama took Joe Lieberman - I'm sorry - Joe Biden, even though Obama wanted change, Joe Biden was in the Senate for, like, 36 years, but he gave him a resume building that he didn't have. He was only in the Senate for 15 minutes. And the same thing with George Bush picking Dick Cheney.
CONAN: And he was from Scranton.
RUDIN: He's from Scranton by way of Delaware. But also George Bush picking Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney was the head of the search committee in 2000. But Dick Cheney, again, gave George W. Bush the Washington gravitas...
CONAN: Gravitas, yes.
RUDIN: ...that he sorely needed.
CONAN: That's another big political word...
CONAN: ...like tantamount. Colleen is on the line from Boise.
COLLEEN: Yes. I'm, you know, thought it was kind of an interesting pick for a vice presidential candidate, Admiral Stockdale.
CONAN: James Stockdale was, of course, the - Ross Perot's choice for president on an independent ticket. And this is what he had to say when he came up to introduce himself to the American people in a televised debate.
(SOUNDBITE OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)
JAMES STOCKDALE: Who am I? Why am I here?
RUDIN: You know, he was, you know, Colleen has an interesting point. I mean, he was a very fascinating guy, had a fascinating career. But when Hal Bruno, the moderator of the debate, said, Admiral Stockdale, your opening statement, sir, and he says who am I, what am I doing here, a lot of people just laughed at him. And basically, he was really saying, like, who is Admiral Stockdale and how did I reach this point? But instead, it seemed like everybody was thinking that he had no idea where he was. He'd just wandered into the studio, and he was mocked for the rest of the campaign.
COLLEEN: Yeah. It was one of those things where coming in as an independent candidate, I felt that Perot really needed somebody with a little more substance to him that came across as a little more serious when he was kind of an interesting character himself. So, you know, here in Idaho, there were a lot of people that were voting for Perot and - but, boy, when he picked Stockdale, that was - and that first debate really kind of threw a wrench in that one.
RUDIN: Absolutely. And people forget that in early July of 1992, Ross Perot was leading both Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush in the polls. So, you know, again, there was a while there that Perot was on his way to something, but Stockdale did not help.
COLLEEN: Yeah. And that - I mean, that opening debate there was a one-liner on "Saturday Night Live" forever.
CONAN: Forever, yes. Sadly too, a war hero, and I think the only American admiral to ever win the Medal of Honor as - something he did as an admiral. So that's very unusual. Colleen, thanks very much.
Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. And Christopher emails: Without a doubt, the worst candidate had to be Lieberman by Al Gore. He failed to excite the Democratic base, convinced many on the left that Democrats and Republicans are both the same just probably prompted enough people to cast a protest vote for the Green Party and Ralph Nader.
RUDIN: Yeah. Well, the thing about Joe Lieberman is that I think Al Gore was tortured how to use Bill Clinton, to either embrace him or run against - or run away from him. And Joe Lieberman gave a very famous speech where he was very disgusted with Bill Clinton's conduct. He gave this speech in the Senate. And perhaps one of the reasons that Gore went with Joe Lieberman was to, like, distance himself from Bill Clinton. And a lot of people thought that may have been a mistake.
CONAN: So you said the best probably Lyndon Johnson. Quickly, who's the worst, in your estimation?
RUDIN: Well, I mean, a lot of them were bad. But I think in 1988, with both Quayle and Bentsen, both were bad. Palin didn't help. When Barry Goldwater picked William Miller in 1964...
RUDIN: Exactly. The reason he picked him, he said, well, he's an Upstate New York congressman from Buffalo. He said, well, he drives LBJ nuts. That's kind of a weird reason to pick somebody as vice president.
CONAN: In the meantime, there are some things we didn't get to earlier in the program, and that includes two departures from Congress, one - well, expected, but a little earlier than expected - and one, well, that's - LaTourette is news.
RUDIN: Yes. Steve LaTourette is a pro-labor Democrat - a pro-labor Republican from Ohio. He's been in Congress since 1994, since the Gingrich revolution. He was - already won his primary. He was a shoo-in for winning in November, but he's just tired of the toxic atmosphere. The official reason is that he didn't like his committee assignments. That seems kind of odd. But, I mean, he's just been a close ally of John Boehner, but he said, you know something? I've had enough. I'm not running. Big, big surprise.
We'll see how that affects the district, although still a solid Republican district. The other one is interesting. Jeff Davis, a Republican from Kentucky, he already announced his retirement, but because of health reasons, he announced his resignation immediately. That was a surprise.
CONAN: And we have news about the upcoming Democratic National Convention. We mentioned earlier the mayor of San Antonio will be giving the keynote address, and former keynoter Bill Clinton - also, of course, the former president of the United States - is getting the traditional vice president slot, one night before Barack Obama.
RUDIN: Actually, Bill Clinton was not the keynoter, but his introduction...
CONAN: Ah, I apologize.
RUDIN: ...of Michael Dukakis did last four weeks. It was a long speech and everything. But it's interesting. I don't know if it's about going after the Latino vote, because you'd expect Ted Cruz, the Republican, to be speaking at the Republican convention, as well. But Castro may be the future of Texas politics. You know, it's too soon for black and Latino political strings to win statewide. No Democrat has won statewide in Texas since 1994.
CONAN: Lloyd Bentsen, again.
RUDIN: Well, Bentsen in '88. It was another statewide guy in '94. But, again, this could be the future, but he's not the first Latino keynote speaker. Katherine Ortega, who was then the U.S. treasurer, was the Republican keynoter in 1984. So how do you like that?
CONAN: Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, will not be going to the convention because she wants to stay away from Barack Obama and because she's busy running for re-election - not doing so well, according to the polls.
RUDIN: Well, the Republican primary is next Tuesday. There are three conservatives who are on the ballot, and all three, according to many polls, are - show them - all of them ahead of Claire McCaskill.
CONAN: And last week, we talked about the - played a clip of tape from an odd-sounding endorsement of the - Don Young's endorsement of the Hawaii - Mazie Hirono, Democrat. It was just a very strange sounding and looking endorsement.
RUDIN: And I was very surprised by this, too, but I got this wonderful phone call from Susan Atwell of Honolulu who loves this program, loves the Political Junkie segment. And she said that there's basically a kinship between Alaska and Hawaii, 49 and 50. Remember, when Ted Stevens was in ethical problems, Dan Inouye, the senator from Hawaii was one of his biggest boosters. So there may be more kinship - it's not as surprising - between Alaska and Hawaii, the Don Young-Mazie Hirono, as Ken Rudin would've thought.
CONAN: All right. Well, thanks for the phone call and thanks for listening to the program and putting up with us every Wednesday. Ken Rudin will be back next Wednesday with another edition of the Political Junkie. I will not be here. I will be in that aforementioned Alaska.
RUDIN: Can you bring me back some T-shirts?
CONAN: I will. All right. OK. Thanks. We'll see you in a couple of weeks, Ken.
RUDIN: Thanks, Neal. Have a good trip.
CONAN: Coming up next, we're going to be going to London and the Olympic Games, where a controversy has erupted after eight badminton players didn't try hard enough. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.