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MSNBC "Decision '08" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Denver, CO

MSNBC "Decision '08" - Transcript

MR. BROKAW: The speaking slots at this week's convention here in Denver will be filled by some of the heavyweights of the Democratic roster -- political heavyweights, that is -- from the pillars of the party to up-and-coming leaders.

On Tuesday evening, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will be taking her spot on the stage to present Barack Obama's economic plan. Janet Napolitano is a second-term governor, a Democrat in one of the reddest states in the country, in Arizona.

What's your secret to success that you're going to share with Barack Obama about winning, and by handsome margins in Arizona, John McCain's home state?

GOV. NAPOLITANO: That's right. Well, the first thing I would say is it's not so red anymore. That's pretty true of all these states in the inner Mountain West; our congressional delegation now split 50-50. Republicans still have more registered voters than Democrats, but Democrats are registering a lot more voters than Republicans this last year; so an area really in transition.

The other thing I would tell Senator Obama, however, is, you know, western voters are like voters everywhere, but perhaps more so. They just want people to speak with them plainly and forthrightly about their plans and explain what the problems are, what we can do, what we should do, what the goals are, and then let them exercise their own good judgment.

MR. BROKAW: I'm going to get to those issues in a moment. But is there any way that Senator Obama can beat John McCain in his home state, realistically, Governor?

GOV. NAPOLITANO: Well, it's tough. You know, it is tough. If the election were today, John McCain would win. But the polling has been very interesting. The most recent poll last week had Senator McCain at 40, Obama at 30, and undecided at 30. So in his own state, he was at 40. And he's never been above 50 in any poll, and indeed, didn't get above 50 in the Republican primary in Arizona. So he's still got some convincing to do out there.

MR. BROKAW: We took a look at some polls that were done by The Washington Post -- pardon me, by the Denver Post in the Rocky Mountain region. And in your state, Arizonans said, "What's the biggest national issue?" the economy and jobs. Most voters say that.

Then you shifted to "What's your greatest concern in the West or in your home state?" And it was immigration, immigration, immigration. "Do something about it. Build a fence, if necessary." And I think, if I remember correctly, deportation versus legal status was about a 50-50 split. Does that seem accurate?

GOV. NAPOLITANO: It seems -- no, it seems a little harsher than really where Arizona voters overall are. I think Arizona voters understand that you need to have comprehensive immigration by reform, meaning you've really got to deal with those underlying labor issues. And that can only come from Washington, D.C.

We're all doing a lot of things in our states. In Arizona we're doing a whole lot of things on immigration because we are the number one crossing place in the country. But ultimately Washington, D.C. has got to grapple with this issue.

MR. BROKAW: But is immigration for any presidential candidate these days a kind of third rail, as we describe Social Security in American politics? You touch it and you get burned in one fashion or another, because there are so many parts and so many constituencies.

GOV. NAPOLITANO: Well, perhaps. But, you know, I just ran for re-election two years ago in Arizona, and immigration was the top issue. And I'm one of those people that I don't believe that you can solve it with a wall. I think you show me a 15-foot wall and I'll show you a 16-foot ladder. That's how immigration works. You've got to deal with it at a lot of different levels. And when you really talk about the issue with people, they will listen and are persuadable. And a lot of us won re-election in 2006 talking about immigration.

MR. BROKAW: You are very highly regarded by Republicans as well as Democrats in Arizona. I know that personally from hearing from them. You were a very successful U.S. attorney before you ran for governor of Arizona. If Senator Obama gets elected and says, "Janet Napolitano, I need a strong attorney general from the southwestern part of the United States" --

GOV. NAPOLITANO: (Laughs.) I like being governor.

MR. BROKAW: Wouldn't you be tempted?

GOV. NAPOLITANO: Well, of course you'd be tempted, and you'd be enormously flattered. But I really don't get into questions like that. My number one concern at this convention is to nominate the next president of the United States.

MR. BROKAW: And how important is it for Senator Clinton to move her very enthusiastic supporters to the Obama camp this week, either by speech or by body language or by a combination of the two, in your judgment?

GOV. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think Senator Clinton has a very important role. Many of the delegates here were originally Hillary- pledged delegates, and they will want to -- they're really looking forward to hearing from her tomorrow night. So you can't underestimate or overestimate her role. But the Hillary delegates themselves know that at the end of this week, this is going to be an Obama nomination, and we're all going to be working together for the Obama presidency.

MR. BROKAW: Is part of the problem for Senator Obama between now and the election not being able to solve the big problems that are out there and the voters expecting him to do everything for them all at once? Here we have today the stock market is cratering because of the financial difficulties of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and home mortgages are still in a crisis.

GOV. NAPOLITANO: It's tough, yeah. And Arizona has been hit particularly hard because housing is such a mainstay of our economy. So we've really been dealing with this at a fundamental level for the last year. But I think Arizonans and Americans are very practical. They understand that you don't just wave a magic wand and fix these problems, but you don't fix them unless you acknowledge them, confront them, and have a plan with which to deal with them. And that's what I think Obama will bring to the presidency.

MR. BROKAW: Janet Napolitano, thanks for being with us.

GOV. NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

MR. BROKAW: The governor of Arizona. We'll see you tomorrow night here at the convention.

GOV. NAPOLITANO: You bet.


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