Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 8, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
It's Friday, February 8th, 2008. In the headlines this week we'll look at John McCain's shot at the White House now that his rival, Mitt Romney, has dropped out of the presidential race. The latest on the employer sanctions law, and we'll look at the issues the Arizona legislature dealt with this week. That's next on "Horizon."

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Ted Simons:
Good evening. I'm Ted Simons, and this is the "Journalists' Roundtable." Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," Paul Giblin of the "East Valley Tribune," and Bob Robb with the "Arizona Republic."

Ted Simons:
Mitt Romney dropped out of the race this week, which effectively paves the way for Arizona senator John McCain to snag the republican presidential nomination.

Ted Simons:
Paul, probably doesn't matter much anymore, but did McCain get enough votes in Arizona to make a good showing.

Paul Giblin:
His supporters wanted him to win big. They thought it would be a McCain election, but they wanted voters to come in. He got just a little under 50\% here. More than Romney got in his home state.

Ted Simons:
As far as McCain getting conservatives, is he able to win those folks over yet in Arizona?

Paul Giblin:
That is the most interesting thing that came out of Super Tuesday. That was a question that the media core was asking him on Wednesday, what he was going to do with the conservative voters. He didn't get as many as some might think. People are asking what are you going to do to move to that core of conservative voters. His answer was interesting, I'm me, they're them. I'm going to be the nominee, and they can come to me. That was his short answer.

Bob Robb:
On Thursday, he did go to them delivering a speech to the conservative political action committee which generally was well received. But in order to run effectively in the general election, he does need to shore up his support among the conservative rank and file, even though some are unwilling to coming over. He understands that. And he understands that he is winning the nomination in states that aren't likely to go republican in the general election, and even though a plurality of the republican vote is conservative, he has run behind Romney with that particular demographic. He understands it. It is a challenge. By locking it up earlier he will have time to work on that before having to turn to what he needs to do for the general election.

Ted Simons:
Paul.

Paul Giblin:
I don't see it that way at all. From what I heard him say, he said my record is my record, years long, everyone knows who I am. He mentioned that he was going to go speak at that convention, he was going to give them the regular spiel. He said he doesn't respond to them, to the bloggers, he was going forward and let everyone come back to him.

Bob Robb:
Well, I think we're talking about a distinction without a difference. He is not going to change who he is. He's not going to say I have recanted my positions, he has recast his immigration position quite significantly. He recognizes this is an audience he has to appeal to, maybe not the talk show host but the rank and file voter. His ads going into Super Tuesday depicted himself as the true conservative. He understands that he has a case to complete, even though he's got the votes soon to be the nominee before he can turn himself over to the general election. He essentially is. He is going to stress those things.

Paul Giblin:
You and I are reading this completely differently. I don't see that at all. From what I've seen, he is going to wait for everyone to come to him.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What that might mean for presidential picks, how that plays into the equation for the general election.

Paul Giblin:
That might be the most telling story. If it goes for -- if he goes for somebody like Huckabee, that would bolster his line of thought.

Ted Simons:
The dynamic play for McCain, shore up conservatives, get them on your side, go to the mountain or the mountain comes to him. He has this attraction to independents, some democrats, how does he play that?

Bob Robb:
Well, that's why I think he has benefited from the fact that this appears to be over early. Although Huckabee says he will stay in until McCain gets the magic number. There are primaries tomorrow that Huckabee might do well in, for instance, Louisiana. But it gives him the time to do what he needs to do with respect to the republican base, while still having time to stress in the general election what it is that appeals to independents and what he calls Reagan democrats, particularly given that the democrats are so divided and don't appear anywhere close to coalescing behind a candidate. He has the advantage of time. He doesn't need to do both simultaneously, he can do them sequentially.

Paul Giblin:
It gives him time to act as the leader of the Republican Party. Which by all arguments he is. There is no one -- he can act very presidential, he can act like the leader of the party all of that time while the democrats are still fighting it out.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
How much will candidate McCain align himself with the president and how much will he maybe not be mentioning George Bush in the coming months? Do you have any sense of that -- I haven't followed the campaigns closely.

Bob Robb:
He has been quite admirable. Someone who busted the president's chops early on, on a variety of issues and went in a different direction, but he has been steadfast with the president on Iraq. Credits him for, even though McCain was the chief advocate of it, of changing direction in Iraq, and in his speeches says the president deserves credit for this. The president deserves credit for fighting for the rights to have a surveillance law that enables us to track the terrorists. So, George W. Bush is a big problem for republicans in the general election, but I don't think McCain, to use one of his phrases, is going to cut and run. He is going to -- he is going to make distinctions as to where he agrees with the president and where he disagrees with the president.

Paul Giblin:
He's done that for years. The president has come along with him, McCain out in front of that, and Bush picking up some of that rhetoric. You mentioned the war, immigration thing similar on that. McCain, and that's why people love him or hate him, he picks his fights. He doesn't necessarily do everything the way you might expect a traditional conservative republican to go. That's why he has that difference with the core of the party.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to the democrats here in a second, Mary Jo, as far as voter turnout and any problems at the polls, did we see more than usual there? We saw more than usual in turnout, anymore problem with the polls than usual?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That is hard to gauge. This is only the second time they've done the elections with both parties involved. The turnout was up compared to '04. You have to compare apples to apples. Problems with the polls, we heard a lot from independents who showed up and just thought they could vote, because, guess what, they voted in last September's primary, they walked in and voted in the gubernatorial G.O.P. primary. This time they were turned away. That upset them. We heard anecdotal reports, hard to quantify. I was supposed to have an early ballot. I never got it. The bottom line on that, Maricopa County has more than 40,000 provisional ballots to count which will take a while.

Paul Giblin:
What happened there a lot of people didn't understand the distinction between the presidential preference election, which is what we just had, and the primary election. The difference what we just had, preference election, insider deal for each party, kind of providing a service, help out the party to do their private thing. The primaries are different; everyone can get involved in a real election. That's the difference. A lot of voters didn't pick up on that.

Ted Simons:
A couple of bills addressing the idea of allowing independents to vote in preference elections.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Make presidential preference elections comport as our primaries do. Anybody can vote. A Republican -- an Independent can go into the Republican booth and vote that way without having to reregister. That's sponsored by the representative from Phoenix, a democrat, along with a couple of other Democratic colleagues. Senator Jack Harper, whose bill is more convoluted and difficult to explain, Harper would open up the primaries and allow republicans to vote and independents to vote in democratic primaries, but not allow anybody who is registered as a democrat to vote in the republican primary. You are trying to figure out why is it that way? It is because senator Harper thinks that Democrats are the party, I forget what his term was, but he doesn't think they're very nice people. Before you get too far into trying to understand that, these bills aren't going anywhere at the moment. They are signed to the judiciary committees. We don't like these bills. We are busy. We have lots of other things to do. Presidential preference elections are where you pick your team. If you want to have a voice in the republican primary, be a republican. Likewise if you want a say in who the democrats choose, you be a democrat. Independents, you can't just choose to sit out.

Paul Giblin:
Interestingly a lot of states allow independents to come in. They allow you to walk in on the voting day and choose a ballot. You don't even have to be -- if you are a democrat, you can pull a republican ticket, vice versa. Arizona is taking a hard line approach on that.

Bob Robb:
I would not be surprised for an initiative to open up the primaries to independents too. Based upon the argument that independents are helping to pay for these elections and so they ought to have a chance to participate in them.

Ted Simons:
They're people too, apparently --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There won't be another presidential preference election for four years. You run something either through the legislature, you try and try, take it to the ballot in two years and you have time.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about Super Tuesday on the democratic side, senator Clinton wins, and wins by a greater margin than most thought.

Bob Robb:
The exit polls initially indicated a close race. The assumption, my assumption, was that Arizona was a state where Obama's pitch for more politics that moves beyond the partisan divide would resonate. We're a state of crossover voters, ticket splitters, and he had the endorsement of the only democrat in the state that really matters, Governor Napolitano. But Clinton won Arizona going away, and won seven of eight districts. Because of the proportional way the democrats divide the vote, she only walked away with a net of five more delegates than Obama did. That's part of the reason it is such a neck and neck race, because of the way the democrats have chosen to award the delegates. McCain wins the state by nearly the same margin as Clinton, walks away with over 50 delegates and Clinton walks away with a net of five.

Paul Giblin:
The exit polls were curious on that too. Every other poll leading up to the election showed that Obama was gaining quickly, but as you mentioned, he didn't. I don't know what is going on with the polls.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
What killed him is the early vote. People that did get the early ballots and voted them early, that vote was heavily for Clinton. It was very much neck and neck, the classical surging challenger. Little too much -- not enough -- a little too late.

Paul Giblin:
Another interesting thing, I believe this was the ASU poll that identified Clinton supporters were the long-time party faithful, those are the people who show up and vote. Obama was getting it from the new voters, young voters, and they are the people who don't vote.

Ted Simons:
Some of the exit polling showed Clinton was helped greatly by the Latino vote in Arizona to a certain extent, a lot in California. Can we figure out why that is?

Bob Robb:
In California, the Latino vote there is very much leadership driven, and the Clintons have cultivated relationships with Latino political leaders all over the country for a long period of time. Here in Arizona where you had some of the younger Latino leadership actually supporting Obama, it was much closer. In California, Clinton won the Latino vote 66 to 33. Here it was more, 54\%, and, in fact, among Latino males in Arizona, Obama was even. So, the question is going forward, will the rest of the nation sort of reflect the California experience? Or will the younger Latino population gravitate more toward Obama and his pitch of a new politics as this thing progresses.

Ted Simons: Who would John McCain rather face in a general election?

Bob Robb: I don't think there is any question that his prospects are better if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. Right now national polls show him beating Clinton, but losing to Obama.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Are you sure about that, though, Bob? Isn't Ann Coulter going to campaign for Hillary in that scenario?

Bob Robb: That would be worth the price of admission to see. But I think you might actually enjoy -- he might actually enjoy a race with Obama more. I think you would then have the kind of discussion we have not seen in presidential politics in a long time. Neither one prone toward personal -- they tend to be civil. They're tough targets for the independent slash and burn campaigns. There is only so much you can do to a former P.O.W. or the first black candidate with a legitimate shot to be president. I think the tonality of the race would be quite different and more to McCain's liking even though his prospects are much better with Clinton because Clinton galvanizes his base.

Paul Giblin:
McCain and Obama are the two candidates that get the independent vote. Who knows where the independents go. Whereas if McCain ran against Clinton, you would think the independents would go toward McCain.

Bob Robb:
McCain has two election problems. Their support for McCain in polls declined during that period as well. To the extent the economy becomes the salient issue, it is the weakest part of his portfolio. Even though he has a history of appealing to independents, and he has attracted the independent votes to the extent they chose to participate in the republican primary, I think his appeal to independents has deteriorated since the high water mark in 2000.

Paul Giblin:
It has gone down since 2000, but as we spoke about earlier, the majority of the Republican party, the majority of the American people, that fringe, more that direction --

Bob Robb:
To the extent they're driven by the war and they think the war was a mistake, that hurts his pitch to those people.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to employer sanctions here. Before we do, to what you guys were talking about, as an issue in this presidential campaign, what happened to immigration?

Bob Robb:
Well, it played big in the Republican race. There was an attempt to make that one of the Romney agenda items that showed that McCain is not a true conservative. McCain changed his formulation on it. He said I will not go for legalization until we do border security first and it is independently certified, usual formulation is that border state governors will have to certify it. I've heard the message. We're not going to go for comprehensive reform to begin with, go with border security first. Now, as has happened before, it turned out not to be a decisive factor. He was able to survive it. But it was a big issue in terms of the debate, and he did have to change his formulation on the issue.

Ted Simons:
All right. Let's get to employer sanctions now. Mary Jo, we finally got a ruling on this thing, and it sounds like employer sanctions shall stand.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yeah. We had Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, I think super sanctions. The third time before the judge, some of the earlier issues were more technicalities, yesterday, the judge ruled the sanction law was constitutional. He rebuffed a challenge brought by civil groups and - the plaintiffs are now appealing it to the ninth circuit.

Ted Simons:
Surprise?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No, I don't think anybody was terribly surprised by it, including the plaintiffs who were hoping he would rule in their favor. They already appealed.

Paul Giblin:
What can they appeal on? What are they appealing?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm not quite sure, because I haven't seen the language, but they already have the shell of an appeal and a request for a stay of the law with the court that they filed back in December.

Bob Robb:
On the stay, that the balance of the burden falls on them because they have to pay to comply and might have the nature of the work force affected. On the merits, federal law preempts this and that Wake misread it, that the federal law only permits the sanction -- the sanction of licensing by states after there has been an adjudication by the federal government that the employer has hired an illegal immigrant. So, they have a variety of others, but that's the main appeal on the challenge that Wake has misread the federal law.

Paul Giblin:
This would really be a model for other states to start following along.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
They already are. There is a lot -- Arizona lawmakers and staff have been consulted a lot by other states about how the sanctions law worked. How did you put it together? This ruling comes one week after a case in Missouri in which a city had put in sanctions against employers who hired illegals, and that was challenged and that law was upheld. You're starting to build up a body of case law which everybody assumes this will ultimately land before the U.S. Supreme Court on the ability of states to have a say over this portion of employment law.

Paul Giblin:
The interesting thing is will congress get ahead of what the states are doing? Will congress drag behind and argue about it on the campaign trail.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
That is just an excellent question.

Ted Simons:
Correct me if I am wrong, the judge did not seem to rule on the question of what employ means.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
No. And this is something that bothered him from the get-go. The issue, to whom does this law apply? Does it apply to folks hired since January one, or does it apply to anybody on somebody's staff? And left unclear, the judge said we don't need to decide that until somebody brings a case, and I'll tell ya, the judge says, I have been assured by the county prosecutors, at this point they're looking at hires from January 1 going forward. Not spending much time on somebody hired in 2003, but you never know what might wash up. He said bring a case forward and we will rule on it then.

Paul Giblin:
Right, when Andy Thomas spoke about that a few weeks ago, he was focusing on new hires but not ruling out the ability to go backwards.

Ted Simons:
Make the visa program a little easier, but it sounds like the labor secretary has one idea, and the governor says we will take it on and then some in Arizona.

Bob Robb:
This is a program specifically targeted for agricultural workers, but it is so burdensome to comply with and a lengthy process that by and large it is unused. Issued new regulations to streamline the process, make it more friendly to use, but it would require employers on a specific case by case basis to make a demonstration that they've tried to hire native labor and have been unsuccessful. What the governor wants is the ability of the state to declare, in essence, a labor shortage for an industry, for a specific period of time and relieve the employers of the burden of going for each individual group of workers that they want to import to make that demonstration.

Ted Simons:
Is this the kind of thing that's viable?

Bob Robb:
I think it will -- I think it's unlikely that the labor secretary will agree to do that. At the national level, there is a very big desire to require an unquestioned demonstration that there is not native labor available before any kind of guest worker program or guest workers are permitted in. So, it sort of flies in the face of where the national tendency is, even though in terms of administrative usability, I think the governor has the superior idea.

Ted Simons:
We have 30 seconds. It sounds like pretty soon we will be able to carry our side arms but not our shotguns and rifles into restaurants.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There is a bill, and, yes, it would allow people to bring side arms into restaurants as long as a restaurant would post a sign in plain English that says we allow gun owners to carry in here.

Ted Simons:
It looks like it will make it through.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
It got through a senate committee after some amendments. So far sailing forward.

Bob Robb:
The governor may shoot it down.

Ted Simons:
Oh, that's it. We have to stop right there. [laughter]

Ted Simons:
Thank you very much all of you. Appreciate it.

Ted Simons:
The man who spear-headed the initiative that removed affirmative action considerations in state hiring and state university admissions, a conversation with Ward Connerly Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." Tuesday a look at the flu in Arizona, earning the state the highest flu activity designation. Wednesday, senate president Tim Bee and house speaker Jim Wiers talk about legislative issues. Thursday what must be done to improve education in Arizona. Friday we'll be back with another edition of the "Journalists' Roundtable". Coming up, a seasoned campaign manager looks at the political battles ahead. What are the candidates' next moves? That's next on "Now" on PBS. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us, have a great weekend.

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