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NBC News Transcripts - Sunday Today

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NBC News Transcripts July 18, 2004 Sunday

SHOW: Sunday Today

HEADLINE: Governors Janet Napolitano and Mike Huckabee discuss the annual meeting of governors and presidential politics



LESTER HOLT, co-host:

The nation-National Governors Association's annual meeting is taking place in Seattle this weekend. Among items on the agenda, several issues that are important to voters this election this year. Two governors attending the conference are Arizona Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano and Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee.

Governors, good morning to both of you. Thanks for joining us.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Attending 2004 National Governors Association Meeting): Good morning.

Governor MIKE HUCKABEE (Attending 2004 National Governors Association Meeting): Thank you. Good morning.

HOLT: Governor Napolitano, if I can begin with you. What are the overriding issues at this year's meeting? And is it difficult to come to a meeting of minds when you have the atmosphere of a-of a presidential election?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, these meetings are always focused on issues on-that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. And-and the big theme of this year's meeting is to look at issues of long-term care, affordability, accessibility, new strategies, new technologies that can be used as our population ages.

HOLT: And-and aging and health care in particular?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: That's correct. Because as governors, on the ground we have Medicaid programs, we have large senior populations and we are, in effect, the persons on the ground most responsible for making sure our people are taken care of.

HOLT: And, Governor Huckabee, as we are in a presidential race, are these issues-do they appear to be front and center in the presidential race?

Gov. HUCKABEE: I doubt they're as front and center in the presidential race as they are with governors. But even though we're all political animals and-and we have our own politics to take care of both at home and-and for our parties, the truth is we're pragmatists at heart. We have to solve real problems that affect everyday people, whether it's kids going to school, safe neighborhoods or the issue that we'll focus on here, the issue of the aging population and its impact upon our state budgets. So governors have a unique fraternity. We get together, we lay our politics aside when we get in our discussions, and we talk to each other really as colleagues sharing ideas of how to solve some of the problems that we face whether we're Democrat or Republican.

HOLT: All right. Well, let me turn your attention to the politics. When you leave that meeting, you'll both go to your respective states where you're pulling for your respective candidates in the presidential race. Governor Hucklbee***(as spoken)***much has been talked about the South and the appeal of the candidates to the South. What are the issues in Arkansas and in the South in general the candidates need to know when they visit?

Gov. HUCKABEE: Well, I think in many Southern states, you have some fundamental issues that-that are going to drive whether or not John Edwards and John Kerry are going to get a foothold. I don't think they will. The liberal voting record that Kerry and Edwards will bring to the South just won't play. Second Amendment issues very important in the South. Issues of faith and family. The-the fact that the Kerry-Edwards ticket has opposed faith-based initiatives is going to not go well. I-I think-you know, let me put it this way. You can have a dog that barks, but the real question is can it hunt? John Edwards has the Southern accent but he doesn't have a Southern voting record, and it's just not going to play.

HOLT: And-and, Governor Napolitano, I would think that the world liberal is kind of a third rail for voters especially in Arizona, tending-tending to be a more centrist state. Obviously, you disagree with the notion that Senator Kerry is a liberal, but how do you, as-as his chief campaigner in that state, convince voters otherwise?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards have a very positive message to send to Arizonans. Arizonans are concerned with the problems of the day. They want their kids to have access to a quality education, they're concerned about employment and the future of employment. They're concerned about our foreign policy and the fact that we've been going it alone, and they think we can do better.

HOLT: Let me ask you about the impact of Senator McCain-Arizona Senator McGain-McCain who, of course, is campaigning actively on behalf of President Bush. He had been in discussions apparently with Senator Kerry at one point about possibilities of working with that administration. How much of an impact will he be on voters in Arizona?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, voters in Arizona are pretty independent voters, and I-I'm sure I'll be out there campaigning for Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards. I think that's an excellent ticket. Senator McCain will be out campaigning for President Bush. But Arizona voters will make up their own minds.

HOLT: And, Governor Huckabee, we talked at the outset of this interview about the issues facing the nation's governors, at the same time, domestic issues. They poll that Americans are very clearly interested in-in economic issues, health care, about Iraq, and we'll soon learn more about intelligence failures with the 9/11 commission report coming out. How much do you think those issues, Iraq and-and national security, will be overriding issues in the election?

Gov. HUCKABEE: Well, I think that it-it's certainly going to play, you know, a role. But when people go to the polls on Election Day, I think they're going to ask, 'Do I really believe this president is going to do what he says? And-and does he mean what he says, and does he say what he means?' And I think the-the credibility problem that John Kerry has, a person who's voted both ways on virtually every issue that's faced him, until he quit voting this year. And he's been absent so much in the Senate his face is going to appear on milk cartons soon. So I think that's going to be the real question that people are going to be raising.

HOLT: All right. Unfortunately, we have to end right there.

Governor Janet Napolitano and Governor Mike Huckabee, appreciate both of you coming on. Best of luck in your meetings.

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