Rick Santorum will get out of the race for the Republican presidential contest when he feels it's the right time, and the incessant "when will you drop out" questions to him are not going to change that. Will he last until the April 24 Pennsylvania primary? Will he end it this week? I think we can let Santorum leave the race when he wants.
Even Newt Gingrich, another candidate who doesn't have a chance for the nomination and who happened to opine last week that Mitt Romney is "conservative enough" to be the nominee, continues to insist that he's staying in the race all the way to the Tampa convention, or until Romney officially gets the 1,144 delegates needed to go over the top.
And when host Piers Morgan asked Ron Paul on CNN the other day, "Why don't you just do the decent thing and just pull out?" — and who knows more about decency than CNN? — Paul quickly responded, "Why don't you do the decent thing and not pester me with silly questions?"
I have no problem with candidates deciding on their own timetable when they want to end their campaign. However, after having witnessed some three dozen primaries and caucuses thus far, it is a fair assumption that Romney will be the nominee.
And so the question left before this summer's convention is, who will be his running mate. And that leads to a new Political Junkie contest.
This arrived in the mailbox this week:
Q: Ever since you correctly picked Dan Quayle as George Bush's VP candidate in 1988, I feel like you are the go-to guy for VP picks. So, (should he win the nomination), who will be Mitt Romney's choice as a running mate? — Gus Sperrazza, Washington, D.C.
I am not about to make a prediction this early in advance; after all, I have a reputation to uphold. But that doesn't mean you can't. Send your pick, along with your name, city & state, to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must be received by Monday, April 30, 2012. Winner(s) will be announced once Romney makes his choice. And yes, there will be prizes.
As to Gus' e-mail, I was, for the record, quite proud of my Quayle prediction in '88. And, as some friends from Camp Lokanda might remember, I also picked Thomas Eagleton as George McGovern's running mate that summer of 1972. What's less known is that, aside from guessing John Edwards for the Democrats in 2004, I've been wrong on a running mate every other time since Eagleton:
GOP Prediction: Howard Baker
GOP Actual: Bob Dole
Dem Prediction: John Glenn
Dem Actual: Walter Mondale
GOP Prediction: Richard Lugar
GOP Actual: George H.W. Bush
Dem Prediction: Michael Dukakis
Dem Actual: Geraldine Ferraro
GOP Prediction: Dan Quayle
GOP Actual: Quayle
Dem Prediction: John Glenn
Dem Actual: Lloyd Bentsen
Dem Prediction: Jay Rockefeller
Dem Actual: Al Gore
GOP Prediction: John McCain
GOP Actual: Jack Kemp
GOP Prediction: Jim Gilmore
GOP Actual: Dick Cheney
Dem Prediction: Dick Durbin
Dem Actual: Joe Lieberman
Dem Prediction: John Edwards
Dem Actual: Edwards
GOP Prediction: Tim Pawlenty
GOP Actual: Sarah Palin
Dem Prediction: Jack Reed
Dem Actual: Joe Biden
Anyway, don't forget to enter the Name the Veep contest.
The 2012 story so far:
Mitt Romney (24 contests won): New Hampshire (1/10), Florida (1/31), Nevada (2/4), Maine (2/4-11), Arizona (2/28), Michigan (2/28), Washington (3/3), Alaska (3/6), Idaho (3/6), Massachusetts (3/6), Ohio (3/6), Vermont (3/6), Virginia (3/6), Wyoming (3/6-10), Guam (3/10), Northern Mariana Islands (3/10), Virgin Islands (3/10), American Samoa (3/13), Hawaii (3/13), Puerto Rico (3/18), Illinois (3/20), D.C. (4/3), Maryland (4/3), Wisconsin (4/3) = 660 delegates.
Rick Santorum (10): Iowa (1/3), Minnesota (2/7), Colorado (2/7), North Dakota (3/6), Oklahoma (3/6), Tennessee (3/6), Kansas (3/10), Alabama (3/13), Mississippi (3/13), Louisiana (3/24) = 281 delegates.
Newt Gingrich (2): South Carolina (1/31), Georgia (3/6) = 135 delegates.
Ron Paul (0) = 51 delegates.
Delegate total as of April 8 according to Associated Press. A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to win the nomination. Because many caucus states don't officially award delegates until later in the year, NPR is more conservative in tabulating delegate totals and thus our numbers for Romney and Santorum are smaller than the AP's.
Tim Johnson to retire. Rep. Tim Johnson, an Illinois Republican who has been in Congress since 2001 and who only last month won renomination in the primary, announced April 5 that he changed his mind and intended to retire, citing family obligations. The move came as a total shock and left the GOP scrambling to find a replacement. Johnson, 65, is usually returned to office with considerable landslides, though Democrats this year did what they could to redraw his district and make life uncomfortable for him in November. (The new 13th district, as currently formulated, went to Barack Obama with 55 percent four years ago.) But his Democratic opponent, David Gill, is the same guy he defeated three times in the past, most recently in 2010 with 64 percent of the vote.
Johnson is a bit of a maverick, having called for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also has endorsed Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination.
House dress code. The recent move by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to take off his suit jacket and put on a "hoodie" while addressing his colleagues — in solidarity with Florida shooting victim Trayvon Martin — put a new focus on what is and isn't allowed to be worn on the House floor. It also reminded many of us about an incident involving then-Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.). In the book Changing Differences: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy, 1917-1994, author Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones writes that on her first day in Congress, in 1971, House Doorkeeper William "Fishbait" Miller asked Abzug to remove her trademark hat in conformity with House rules. To which Abzug reportedly replied, "Go f*** yourself."
Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin.
Last week, there was a reader's question about 2012 likely being the first time since 1944 that neither major-party presidential nominee will have had military experience. That elicited this note from Jeff Rundell of Seattle, Wash.:
No big surprise Tom Dewey did not serve in the military. He was too young for World War I, and educated young men of the day did not join the peacetime military unless they were going to make it a career. Besides, with Taft, Hughes, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, the GOP had recently had a string of seven nominees in a row who had not served. Of course, served does not mean combat. During Ike's long and storied career he never saw a moment of combat. FDR (whose polio didn't come until 1921) went to France in the summer of 1918 to inspect the troops. Though Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he found his way to a front line army artillery unit that let him fire the guns a few times.
Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, the Political Junkie segment appears on Talk of the Nation (NPR's call-in program), hosted by Neal Conan with me adding color commentary, where you can, sometimes, hear interesting conversation, useless trivia questions, and sparkling jokes. Last week's show focused on the Wisconsin recall campaign.
Wednesday's show will be the last for Junkie producer Peter Granitz, who is leaving NPR after two years to be the Washington correspondent for Alaska Public Radio. Peter has been an absolute delight, always fun, cheerful, inspiring and creative. And he will be sorely missed.
And Don't Forget ScuttleButton. ScuttleButton, America's favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can be found in this spot every Monday. A randomly-selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation. It's not too late to enter last week's contest, which you can see here. Not only is there incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets a TOTN t-shirt!
Previous winner: Jenny Trapp of Wilmington, N.C.
By the way, I offered up a special Sunday edition of ScuttleButton last week, with four buttons assembled to ostensibly lead to a solution. Of course, last Sunday was April 1st, and only Jim Hopp of San Carlos, Calif., figured out it was an April Fool's joke.
Some folks were amused, or at least appreciated the effort. "Good April Fool's, it definitely got me," wrote Brett McQuillan of Boulder, Colo. Will Thanhauser of New Orleans called it "very sneaky." Nora Levine of Oakland, Calif. said she was "dreaming about that April Fool's puzzle!!!"
Some were pleased that they didn't see it in time. Joe Franklin of Citrus Heights, Calif., wrote on Monday, "I'm glad I only looked at the Scuttlebutton today. I would have gone crazy trying to figure out your April Fool's edition." Barb Baumann of Damascus, Md., added, "Luckily I didn't see the April Fool's puzzle or I would have been cursing you too!!! :)"
Some were ready to storm my house. David Nelson of Madison, Wis., demanded, "I want back the four hours I spent trying to figure this one out." @Smedette wrote on Twitter, "I spent hours on that damn Scuttlebutton. F-bombs were uttered. Fists were shaken in your direction." Also on Twitter, @ginpeck wrote, "I knew it! And yet I still spent time on it!" And @cemlane added, "Arrrgh! Well THAT was a waste of a day! Well done."
Then there was Michael Ruffin, Pastor at First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, Ga. He somehow came up with a solution to the four buttons — "NCAA Finals Championship Week." Here are his thought processes:
Button 1: Letters "N," "C", "A," and "A" all appear on the button.
Button 2: "Final" with the "S" in "Answer" directly underneath = "Finals."
Button 3: "Championship."
Button 4: For all I (or anyone else) knows, "Slawek" is pronounced 'Sla-week," thus "Week."
Michael adds, "Anyone can solve the real ones. It takes a genius to solve the fake one."
Podcast. There's also a new episode of our weekly podcast, "It's All Politics," up every Thursday. It's hosted by my partner-in-crime, Ron Elving, and me. This one focuses on the de facto opening of the Obama-Romney general election and speculation on Paul Ryan for VP.
ON THE CALENDAR:
April 21 -- Utah state Republican convention. Sen. Orrin Hatch seeking renomination.
April 24 — Primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Congressional primaries in Pennsylvania.
May 8 — Presidential and congressional primaries in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. GOP Senate primary to watch: incumbent Dick Lugar vs. challenger Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Also: Wisconsin Democratic recall primary.
May 15 — Presidential and congressional primaries in Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon.
May 22 — Presidential and congressional primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky.
Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at email@example.com.
******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********
This day in political history: Some 150,000 people turned out in Atlanta for the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4. It was the largest funeral ever held for a private citizen in U.S. history, and it was broadcast on national TV. Its attendees included Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Jacqueline Kennedy, and current and former presidential candidates such as Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox (D), a segregationist, remained in his office in Atlanta (April 9, 1968).
Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: firstname.lastname@example.org