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NPR's Cokie Roberts In EL To Talk Politics

Scott Pohl and Cokie Roberts
Jim Blanchard
WKAR's Scott Pohl, with NPR's Cokie Roberts. Roberts speaks Tuesday night at the Governor Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum.

For decades, NPR listeners have heard the political reporting and commentary of Cokie Roberts. Tonight, she’ll appear at the Governor Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum in the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre, starting at 7:30 p.m. Before the event, Cokie Roberts spent a few minutes with WKAR’s Scott Pohl.

SCOTT POHL: This is not the first time we've met. Back in 1992, Michigan State University hosted one of the Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential debates, and you were here for that debate. You came to WKAR the next morning to talk on "Morning Edition," and you even indulged me in a short interview for our local listeners that morning. What I most remember about that morning is how terribly sick you were, and yet you sounded great on the air! You had a bad cold, but every time the microphone was on, you sounded great. Welcome back to East Lansing.

COKIE ROBERTS: Thank you! It's great to be back. That was quite a night. I was remembering it as I was approaching this trip. A quite remarkable debate. It was cold here as I recall, even though it only October, so that's probably why I wasn't feeling so well.

SP: People are hearing you these days on the "Morning Edition" "Ask Cokie" segments. I wanted to ask you what you like about that, and do you get to be involved in picking the topic of the week?

CR: Oh, I'm very involved, I generally do pick the topic. It's fun to do. It's a little bit hokey, but people love it, and I get to tell stories. I particularly like the opportunity to give the history of something. I write history books, and to be able to tell people what the history of any part of our government is something that they find fascinating.

SP: So now, I get to "Ask Cokie"! To what extent would you say Michigan politics is on your radar?

CR: Oh, very much so. Michigan is a terribly important state. We always are aware of things going on here; unfortunately right now, we're aware because of the GM announcement. The fact that a Democrat took the state and the Governor's mansion is something that was very much on the top of the political radar screen.

SP: We've all been analyzing the 2018 election results, but there's always something that we're missing. What story do you think maybe has been under-covered from this election?

CR: I think that one of the things that people are unaware of is when they talk about the suburban vote, how much of the suburban vote is a minority vote. People tend to think of the suburbs as white, and in fact, white people in the suburbs voted Republican, both men and women, but the suburbs went pretty evenly to the two parties, and that's because there is a sizeable minority population in the suburbs.

SP: Names are already starting to emerge as possible Presidential candidates in 2020. I wanted to ask you if you have any thoughts at this very early stage, maybe names we're not hearing yet, maybe even Republicans who might challenge President Trump?

CR: Republicans are talking about it. John Kasick is saying he thinks about it every day, and he talks about it quite honestly in the sense of saying "I don't know if I'd be running to win, or running to make a statement." We know that if somebody does run, that it very much damages the President. When a President has a primary challenge, he often loses. Think Pat Buchanon against George Bush, Ted Kennedy against Jimmy Carter, Eugene McCarthy basically knocking Lyndon Johnson out. It's very hard for a President to sustain the challenge of a primary, so that's something that it would seem to me that the anti-Trump Republicans should be thinking about. 

On the Democratic side, it's anybody's guess. We're way too far out, and the party is very much figuring out where its soul is at the moment. I think that there are a lot of good candidates, there are a lot of interesting people, and it's going to be fun to watch.

Scott Pohl has maintained an on-call schedule reporting for WKAR following his retirement after 36 years on the air at the station.
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