GOP Delegates From Swing States Talk Issues Presidential candidates look to red states and blue states for their voting base, but it's the purple states, or swing states, that decide the election. NPR's Tony Cox speaks with three Republican delegates about the issues they think will influence voters where they live.

GOP Delegates From Swing States Talk Issues

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TONY COX, host:

Presidential candidates look to red states and blue states for their voting base, but it's the so called 'purple states' or 'swing states' that can decide the election. Last week, we speak to Democratic delegates from some of those states that are still up for grabs. We talked about the issues they thought would swing voters in their states. Today, we have that same discussion with three Republican delegates, Linda Lee Tarver from Michigan, Dan Williams from Minnesota and Jim Brady from Ohio. Welcome to News & Notes.

Mr. DAN WILLIAMS (Republican Delegate): Thank you.

Mr. JIM BRADY (Republican Delegate): Thanks for having us.

Ms. LINDA LEE TARVER (Republican Delegate): Thank you.

COX: Linda, let me come to you first. What's your impression so far of what you have seen and what are the people in your states are saying about it?

Ms. TARVER: I have spoken to the delegates from Michigan here. We're revved up and excited about Sarah Palin. We are definitely excited and behind John McCain.

COX: Now, recent polls are showing that while Ohio is still in play, that Minnesota and maybe Michigan are beginning to turn a little bit blue but Ohio, Jim Brady, seems to be one of the keys. What are you sensing and hearing and feeling?

Mr. BRADY: Actually, what we're sensing in is again, that it's going to come down Ohio as it's done in the last two elections. Ohio is a relatively purple state. We've been pretty red in the past but due to some economic factors, I think folks are looking for changes, as Senator was talking about and I guess the one caveat with that is sometimes promises aren't always as easily fulfilled as they sound.

COX: Dan, Minnesota has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last two presidential elections and your governor, Tim Pawlenty, was reportedly on Senator McCain's shortlist for VP and Republicans did chose your state to host their convention, and I mentioned just a moment a got that recent polls, understanding that they are just polls, suggest that Minnesota may be turning blue, again. What do you think it would take to turn Minnesota red?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Minnesota is in play and certainly, we have a great governor. He has a two-decade plus history with Senator McCain and being on that shortlist, that brought attention to Minnesota and with the convention being here. What will it take? I think people seeing the party as a whole being showcased here in Minnesota and with the speeches, we had a situation where if you look at the bases being loaded and the bottom of the ninth down by one and our VP candidate came up and hit a grand slam. And so with that grand slam, people heard the opportunity for a governor with executive experience to come in and leverage that experience on behalf of the McCain administration and say, here's how governors around the country can work with the McCain to reduce frivolous spending, to be responsible and accountable, and these type of things really hit at the heart of people that expect something of their legislators.

Also, with her history and certainly Senator McCain's history at the legislature and as military, that hits at the heart of the working people that are saying, OK, what's going to happen with my family? How do I work with my family? How do I work within my community? And so that causes people to say, OK, now we are moving beyond just rhetoric of change. We're looking at positive change, real change, and that's going to move Minnesota into our column."

COX: Let me bring Linda Lee Tarver in to the conversation because I want to ask you - I'll ask all three of you but I'll begin with you, Linda. It's this: the war, the economy, social values - of those three, put them in priority order for the people of your state in terms of which way they are likely to vote in November.

Ms. TARVER: It's the economy, stupid. That's what the mantra is in Michigan. We have the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and we didn't have Hurricane Katrina to attribute to that. We also have an exodus of our manufacturing, our GM and our car industry is going away in Michigan and we have a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled house and our major city which is controlled by the Democrats. The mayor of our largest city and our jewel has pled guilty to two felonies and so in terms of Michigan and change, I believe there will be a change. I believe John McCain can win and will win Michigan as a result of the leadership that we've seen in a Democratic Party.

COX: Let me ask Jim Brady because Jim, you're a councilman from Shaker Heights, if I understand that correctly, right?

Mr. BRADY: Yes, sir.

COX: All right. So, economy has been an issue for Americans across the board in some senses, but there are other issues that seem to be of interest particularly with regard to the Republican social values being one of them. From your state's standpoint, which of those three issues is the key?

Mr. BRADY: From the state's perspective, I think, obviously, the economy is the most important thing. Ohio, very similar to Michigan in demographics, but Ohio is kind of split. You got the northeast, where it's primarily manufacture-based, where you got automobile plants, you got Lordstown and GM. The farther south you go, it's more rural. What I've found is of the folks up north, primarily Democratic, under Democratic rule for as long as I can remember, I have to echo Linda's sentiment in that the African-American community up in northeast Ohio, I think that they're ready for change, too, because they've been under Democratic leadership. And then Cleveland, we've got county commissioners who were being indicted by federal agents and there's just a lot of corruptness in this party and I'm not just saying it's from a Democratic perspective but it is what it is.

And so, I think that addressing the economy is obviously the most important thing but me, personally, I'm more of a hawk, I'm a former army officer. I'm involved with my company directly with the global war on terror and I also think that a McCain administration is going to keep us safe.

COX: Let me bring to you, Dan, this point, it was made late last night by Mayor Giuliani who said that there's change and then there is change and some change is good and some change we don't want. Following up with what Jim Brady just talked about, needing change certainly from an economics point of view in his state as well as what Linda said in Michigan, what kind of change do the people from Minnesota want? Do they just want change inside the beltway or do they want change for America?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Minnesota participates not only nationally but globally. You've got 3M here. This was the headquarters for Honeywell. You've got a number of CEOs out of Minnesota and you've got a number of people migrating here from other states. I was raised in Detroit. Actually, I remember living through the riots in '67 in Detroit and that was the next year, '68, the reason I became a Republican.

So, in Minnesota, we're looking at and I think, it's the same as a country, we're looking an economic change that will meet the day to day for both the small business owners, those that are underemployed that they know that they can both buy the gas, buy the groceries, buy the medicine. And also, for the small business owners, that they are able to hold the payroll that they have in looking at revenue-generating opportunities to expand their business and also, that there's a responsible relationship with the state and the federal government for large business that they can continue to expand and to compete globally.

So the good change could be that we build an infrastructure where if you look at the economy, if you look at the numbers over the last eight years, we have been doing well. We have lost some jobs and there have been some circumstances and situations that hit individual homes. So the change that we're looking with the McCain administration is have a good balance that the federal government performs the way it should, stop wasteful spending, let that money come back to the small business owners, come back to those that have paid the taxes and have good corporate citizens from the large business. So that is a change...

COX: Let me stop you there only because our time is running really short. I want give one more question in. I'd like all of you to get an opportunity to respond to it so be as brief as you can. And the question is this. This is an historic election whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. How much of a factor is that do you think in the race? The historic nature of voting either for the first woman as VP or the first African-American as president. Linda.

Ms. TARVER: Personally, I'm not voting for history. We've done that, I've done that in Michigan. I voted for the first term of our governor for historic purposes, the Democrat, and I regret it to this day. So in terms of my own personal historic vote, I'm not voting for Barack Obama because he is black nor am I voting for McCain because he has a woman on the ticket.

COX: All right. Let me ask Dan because our time is really short, unfortunately.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Same reason. Content of character and ability to lead. We will make history either way but you never vote for a color or gender.

COX: Jim Brady.

Mr. BRADY: Just real quick. It's obviously an historic moment. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was excited to see an African-American being nominated but again, I don't vote with my emotions. I vote with my values and with my ideology and that's why I'm voting for McCain.

COX: I appreciate all three of you. Thank you so much. Linda Lee Tarver from Michigan. Shaker Heights Councilman Jim Brady, a Republican delegate from Ohio. And Dan Williams, a Republican delegate from Minnesota. They all joined me from the NPR special studios at the RNC Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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