Ariz. Governor: Obama Should Plainly Lay Out Plans Arizona Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano says that to woo the West's young, largely independent population, Barack Obama needs to lay out what he wants to do once he is president. She says many in the region feel the economy is not working for them.
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Ariz. Governor: Obama Should Plainly Lay Out Plans

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Ariz. Governor: Obama Should Plainly Lay Out Plans

Ariz. Governor: Obama Should Plainly Lay Out Plans

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Another speaker tonight, the governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano.

We talked with her last week about the Democrat's platform. She chaired the drafting committee. Tonight, she took the stage as one of five Democratic governors in the eight mountain states.

Those states have been shifting toward the Democrats over the past decade, and Barack Obama is hoping to win them in November.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer talked to Governor Napolitano about the presidential campaign and her home state senator, John McCain.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Janet Napolitano is one of Barack Obama's leaders at this convention, and she's been leading the cheers for her candidate at state delegation meetings starting, of course, with her home state of Arizona.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): Well, good morning, everybody.

Unidentified Group: Good morning.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Ready to rock and roll?

Unidentified Group: Yeah.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Me, too. This is going to be a great convention and I'm just so pleased to see everyone here. So how many…

WERTHEIMER: The Arizona governor says the economy is the big issue in her home state, starting with the falling value of housing, the biggest asset most people have. I asked her about Senator McCain's many homes and if that's likely to be an issue in Arizona.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I don't know about that. Most people in Arizona only have one house, so…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Gov. NAPOLITANO: That's all I'll say.

WERTHEIMER: Although, sometimes, she does add that paying for one home is hard enough for most Arizonans. Presumably, John McCain will be the winner in his own home state, but Napolitano says he's not there yet.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: For him to be at 40 in his own state and 30 percent undecided is indicative that people are wondering really whether he should be the next president of the United States.

WERTHEIMER: What about the tussle between the Obama campaign and the Clinton delegates at this convention? Will that battle be settled tonight, when Hillary Clinton speaks?

WERTHEIMER: Well, most of her delegates are already in the other direction. I think you're talking about a select few who everybody in the media talks to. So that's the way that dynamic works. But I think her own delegates need to listen to their leader. I mean, because she's been saying we need to be together and we are going to be for Barack Obama.

WERTHEIMER: Napolitano's assignment at the convention is to speak about Obama's plans for the economy. While Obama speeches around the country during this campaign season have been about change and hope, voters are not always sure what he means to change or how he expects to bring about change. Napolitano says he has very specific plans.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Obama has been very specific about a tax cut for the middle class, part of that in the form of a rebate, universal health care coverage by the end of the first term. His economic policies are going to be aimed at the broad middle, people who have been the most squeezed by the last seven years.

WERTHEIMER: Obama's program includes two things that will be especially important in Arizona, incentives for small businesses to develop programs for alternative energy and immigration reform.

Napolitano says that in order to get the nomination, Senator John McCain backed away from his own immigration reform policies, which were not selling in Republican primaries.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: He knows in his heart of hearts that you simply can't build a wall and call that an immigration policy. That doesn't work. That backing away has been noted, and particularly noted in, for example, the Latino community in Arizona, that he didn't stick with his guns. That may show up at the polls.

WERTHEIMER: What about the Democrats' efforts to sell Barack Obama in the Mountain West? Napolitano says the Western states are young, filled with young families, who feel the economy is not working for them. When they know about Obama's middleclass tax cuts, they're interested, they like the idea of help with health care, but do they like him?

Napolitano keeps it simple.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Barack Obama needs to be Barack Obama. I think that Westerners have a pretty keen sense of the phony. What he ought to do is just lay out there what he wants to do, why he wants to be president, what he would do to lead the country, and let Western voters decide.

WERTHEIMER: Many of those Western voters, Napolitano says, are independent, party is not particularly important to them. Presumably, these voters could go either way, and it might depend on how much they know about Barack Obama.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Denver.

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