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National Public Radio (NPR) Transcript - Morning Edition

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National Public Radio (NPR) July 22, 2004 Thursday

SHOW: Morning Edition

July 22, 2004 Thursday

HEADLINE: Governors Janet Napolitano and Tim Pawlenty discuss their states' economies, presidential politics and the public's view of the war in Iraq




This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The economy was on the minds of the nation's governors earlier this week when they met in Seattle. Some Republican chief executives joined many Democrats in suggesting voters haven't felt the benefits of an economic recovery. We talked to two governors about the state of their states, Democrat Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who says the economic improvements are real.

Governor TIM PAWLENTY (Republican, Minnesota): Well, in Minnesota, it's a heck of a lot better than it was a year and a half ago and our job numbers are coming back. We're still not quite back to the pre-recession level of early 2001, but we're about two-thirds of the way back and our state revenues are starting to look up. So we see some sun on the horizon.

MONTAGNE: And, Governor Napolitano, Arizona?

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): I would say that our economy is coming back as well. We didn't take as large a dive as many of the other states because we're not a manufacturing based economy in Arizona, so our job level always stays the same. Where we are having difficulty is high-wage jobs that have benefits with them. We have lots of jobs, but the high-wage jobs that have health insurance and so forth, we are below the national average on. That's what we're working on.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm curious how much that part that is the good news is communicating to voters, your constituents.

Gov. PAWLENTY: Well, I think that voters are starting to feel it. There's always a little bit of a lag time between the economic numbers that economists talk about and then it showing up in people's pocketbooks, but I think they're starting to feel it. And my sense in talking to people is they recognize the economy's coming back. So I think the economy as a political issue I don't want to say is diminished entirely but certainly some of the sting has been taken out of it.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: And I think that what's happening here in Arizona is people are still feeling the squeeze. They may have a job, but they're paying increasingly high health insurance premiums if their employer offers health insurance at all. Things they need to pay for-the cost of gasoline has gone up a lot, and so from an economic standpoint, even though at a macro level the numbers are coming back, I think at a pocketbook level people are feeling the squeeze.

MONTAGNE: Let's go to the war in Iraq. What is its effect on voters as best you can tell in your states?

Gov. PAWLENTY: Well, it's interesting. In Minnesota, we just had a new poll out from our St. Paul paper. Sixty percent of the folks who responded to the poll show that the Bush administration responded either excellent or good to the 9/11 attacks and the handling since then, and they also, a significant plurality, believe that there was some good reason to invade Iraq. So that surprised me a little bit, and I think pleasantly from a Republican standpoint, that they are still supporting the actions of President Bush post-9/11.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: And I would say in Arizona it's not the same. In fact, they just ran a poll in our major daily paper, and if you ask the question the war on terrorism, the public gives Bush a few more points above Kerry in terms of the war on terrorism generically, but if you actually ask the question, 'How do you think President Bush has done in the war on Iraq?' 55 percent of the respondents said he hadn't done well in Arizona, which is a big change for Bush in Arizona, about a 12- or 15-point swing over the last 60 days.

MONTAGNE: Last question: Who is going to carry your state in the presidential election? Let me start with Governor Pawlenty, Minnesota.

Gov. PAWLENTY: Minnesota's a state in transition. You know, along with Hawaii and Massachusetts, it used to be one of the most liberal states in the nation and those two other states now have Republican governors, too. So we're in a bit of a transition from what would be a classic liberal state to one that's now truly politically competitive and our recent public polls show it to be a dead heat. So I think over time as Republicans get the benefit of their convention, the economy continues to improve and hopefully democracy takes hold in Iraq that that will give President Bush the edge and he'll carry Minnesota. I'm also in interest of full disclosure the co-chair of his Minnesota campaign. I have a bit of an admitted bias.


Gov. NAPOLITANO: Fair enough.

MONTAGNE:, Governor Napolitano, Arizona?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: We are almost exactly the flip side. We are a state in transition from what has been a very conservative Republican state to a very moderate, what I would call, pragmatic state. The poll out this morning shows Kerry at 42 and Bush at 41 in Arizona, but over time and as people continue to pay high prices for gas and figure out how to buy health insurance, I think they're going to say, 'We need a change in the White House,' and Arizona will be in the Kerry column.

MONTAGNE: Janet Napolitano is the Democratic governor of Arizona. Tim Pawlenty is the Republican governor of Minnesota.

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