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CNN Inside Politics - Transcript

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January 29, 2004 Thursday

HEADLINE: All Shook Up: Revamped Dean Team; Crunch Time in South Carolina

GUESTS: Steve Grossman, Evan Tracey, Janet Napolitano, Bill Richardson, Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile

BYLINE: Judy Woodruff, Candy Crowley, Frank Buckley, John King, William Schneider, Kelly Wallace

How is Howard Dean doing with insider Roy Neel in his camp and Joe Trip out?; Democrats debate tonight in South Carolina.; Just two days after the Democrat showdown in New Hampshire, President Bush is following in their trail.; Interview with Steve Grossman.; Political ad wars: strategic spending.;

WOODRUFF: Bill Clinton on John Kerry.

Races for presidential nominations are usually long decided by the time western voters get to have a say. But for Democrats in Arizona and New Mexico, this year is different. The Arizona primary and the New Mexico caucuses are on the same day, next Tuesday.

I'm joined now by the governors of both states, and they are both Democrats. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, she joins us from Phoenix, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is in Santa Fe. Governor Napolitano, let's start with you. Arizona has, what is it, 55 delegates up?

GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Yes, 55 delegates up on Tuesday.

WOODRUFF: Now that the presidential candidates are heading to the West, to the Southwest, what is it that they are -- your voters are looking for? How is a contest for votes going to be different than what we've seen in Iowa and New Hampshire?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think some of the issues will be the same. Our voters are looking for candidates who have a positive plan on the economy, on creating jobs, on health care, on education. They're looking for candidates with a strong record in foreign policy, but they're also are going to be looking very carefully to what the candidates say about issues such as immigration that particularly impact the border states.

WOODRUFF: And what about this whole question of electability, who can beat President Bush? How much of a factor?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, for Democratic primary voters in every state, I think that's a very important factor. Ultimately the nominee is going to be someone that we put in the field, who will be running a very strong race against the incumbent.

WOODRUFF: Governor Richardson, New Mexico, 26 delegates up for grabs. What are voters in New Mexico looking for here that's different from what we've seen in New England and Iowa?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, as Governor Napolitano said, New Mexico voters care about jobs, health care, foreign policy, Iraq. But what is different at least about New Mexico is a majority of those voting in the caucus are going to be minorities, primarily Hispanic, a little sprinkling of Native Americans, close to 55 percent. So this won't be the first time the presidential candidates, with both Arizona and New Mexico, will face significant number of Hispanic voters. So issues relating to bilingual education, immigration, issues relating to civil rights are important, border issues, trade with Mexico, NAFTA-related issues. But also in our state, we've got four military bases. So, a good national security background is important.

WOODRUFF: Governor Napolitano Arizona, how would you size up the state of the race in Arizona?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, I think it's wide open right now. The latest poll that came out had half the voters still undecided. To dovetail on a point made by Governor Richardson, a lot of our primary voters are going to be veterans, so the military issues are important. I think that's why General Clark made Arizona his first visit after New Hampshire.

WOODRUFF: But you've already had some, what is it, General Clark spending money on ads there.

NAPOLITANO: Yes, he's had a lot of media. Senator Lieberman has purchased a lot of media. Howard Dean purchased a lot. I understand Senator Kerry has a buy in. So, there's a lot of activity in Arizona right now. It's very exciting.

WOODRUFF: And Governor Richardson, what about the state of play in New Mexico? How would you size it up right now?

RICHARDSON: Well, enormous interest. Record number of request for absentee voters, a lot of signs, TV up. I would say right now, General Clark and Governor Dean are perhaps the top at this very moment. But with Senator Kerry surging dramatically, and at the same time Senator Edwards, too, has been here many times, a big organization. But I would say it's going to be between the three, General Clark, Governor Dean and Senator Kerry. But the explosive momentum that Senator Kerry has at this moment here in New Mexico is quite noteworthy.

But it's going to be very close. I would say in the three top tier candidates are at about 20 percent, with close to 40 percent, undecided at this very moment.

WOODRUFF: Governor Napolitano, we're now hearing Governor Dean say that he does not have to win any of the February 3rd states, that he can look beyond that. He can wait for Michigan, Wisconsin, later on down the line in February. Is that a smart strategy from your perspective?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I'm not going to second-guess Governor Dean's strategy. I think he may be leading the predicate in case he doesn't win any of those February 3rd states that he's going to keep going on. But in my view on February the 3rd you have a great test of a national race. You've got a state in the south, you've got a large Midwestern state, and then you've got two states in the Southwest with burgeoning Democratic populations, but also burgeoning minority populations. So I think Tuesday the 3rd gives us the first true national test of who will be the national nominee.

WOODRUFF: And Governor Richardson, on that point, can Governor Dean afford to wait for a win until after February 3rd? Can he afford to put more of his eggs in the February 7th and 17th baskets?

RICHARDSON: No, I believe he needs a win. He's been in second place in the last primary. He needs a win here in the seven states on Super Tuesday.

But I would, at the same time, agree with his strategy that this is going to be protracted nomination battle. There are other important primaries. But, he needs a win here. I do think that Senator Edwards needs a win somewhere in the seven-day primaries. But, again, Arizona and New Mexico, two barometer Western states, battleground states. I think they're the two that are going to be most closely watched.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly Governor Napolitano, momentum. Governor Kerry -- I mean, sorry, Senator Kerry coming into your state having won Iowa and New Hampshire. Does that help him and if so, how much?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, I think it does help him. I think it helps him materially. He is going to have momentum from those two major victories. No doubt about it. Particularly with the significant percentage of the voters who are still undecided.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Governor Bill Richardson New Mexico. We appreciate both of you joining us this afternoon. We're going to be watching both your states on Tuesday. And always.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.


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