Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 31, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

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Guests:
  • Daniel Scarpinato - Arizona Daily Star
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Ted Simons:
>> Tonight on Horizon we'll preview the 2008 election. We'll look at Senator John McCain's latest poll numbers and we'll go over some of the more hotly contested races for congress and state legislature and county offices. That's next on Horizon.

Ted Simons:
>> Hello and welcome to Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Daniel Scarpinato of "the Arizona Daily Star," Mary Jo Pitzl of "the Arizona republic," and Dan Nowicki of the "Arizona republic." well, we're just days away now from election 2008. And Dan, I want to start with you because you've been following John McCain through just about all of this.

Dan Nowicki:
>> Two years.

Ted Simons:
>> Indeed.

Dan Nowicki:
>> Senator McCain.

Ted Simons:
>> Where is he now, where is he going to be as he wraps up the campaign?

Dan Nowicki:
>> Well, he's going to wrap it up in Prescott on the steps of the Yavapai County courthouse in a traditional manner. Traditionally pinched from Barry Goldwater. But he usually would stop at the courthouse every time he ran for the Senate. I don't know if it's a superstitious thing this time or bowing to the tradition. He'll be back there at 9:00 p.m. on Monday night. But generally speaking Senator McCain in the McCain manner shaking his fist at the vultures circling over him and his political career. There's a conference called to with Rick Davis, his national campaign manager and Bill McInturf, his pollster. Rick Davis claims that this'll be the biggest political comeback since McCain's political comeback in the primary. So a lot of people scoff at that and they just kind of remember maybe, pardon me, back in September or October of last year when Rick Davis was laying out these elaborate scenarios of how McCain was going to come back and all these pieces had to fall in order. And lo and behold they all fit into order. So McCain is definitely a lucky guy. Maybe his luck will hold out.

Ted Simons:
>> What is the conventional wisdom out there among everyone observing this up close-- how much she helps or hurts how much his campaign -- Sarah Palin.

Dan Nowicki:
>> I think the emerging conventional wisdom is that she's being a drag on his campaign. There was a point that Davis addressed today. He says that's completely wrong. And you have to kind of wonder. In terms of energizing the G.O.P. base, she did it. I don't think McCain could have done it. She's pulling 20,000 people in Colorado, McCain couldn't do that, I don't think, by himself. So definitely she contributed to the campaign in that sense. She got, you know, a lot of unenthusiastic Republicans excited.

Ted Simons:
>> As far as openings that McCain may have missed along the way -- and again we're saying this only because he's behind in the polls now, not saying he's going to lose the thing but he is behind -- again conventional wisdom from those who have been closest to the campaign. Were there things that he should have jumped on or avoided out there?

Dan Nowicki:
>> I would say the conventional wisdom is just the Wall Street meltdown just took the wind out of his sails. He had momentum going out of the Republican National Convention. He was leading in the polls. And the sense is that he really bungled his response in the crisis.

Ted Simons:
>> With that in mind, so much dissension between the camp, being pulled this way and pushed that way. Is that really going on there? Does it seem like there's that much confusion going on?

Dan Nowicki:
>> About Sarah Palin and the back and forth between the unnamed aides, some defending Palin, some calling her a diva, et cetera, I think there was one report that referred to her as a whack job quoting an unnamed source. I take that with a grain of salt. I don't know everybody in the campaign. But I do have my own sources in the campaign. And they're rolling their eyes at some of that stuff.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Do we know -- will Palin be with McCain in Prescott on Friday?

Dan Nowicki:
>> That's not been confirmed. Actually the McCain campaign has not even confirmed that Prescott event yet. [laughter]

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Don't jump in your cars yet, huh?

Dan Nowicki:
>> It's been reported. It was on my blog. So you can believe it.


Ted Simons:
>> Okay. All right. We do. As far as McCain's relationship with the media, how has that changed over the months?

Dan Nowicki:
>> I think definitely over the past few months it's changed completely. McCain in the primaries, one of the big benefits of going to Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina in those months was we had almost unlimited access with him. You'd ride in the back of the bus and run out of questions and he'd keep talking. You'd wish he'd stop talking because if he had any work to do. But everyone had to be with him. And you know, that really changed once he became the nominee. You can understand that to some degree. You'd feel running the campaign you don't want McCain out there for six hours just waxing editorially on every topic that comes into his head the way he used to from movies or books on the best seller list. He'd talk about everything, sports. But they seem to have tightened the spigot even further on that and cut off the press's availability. It's a little bewildering. He's not somebody you need so keep sequestered from the press. He's a veteran politician.

Ted Simons:
>> Dan, what do you think regarding Arizona and John McCain? Our Cronkite Eight poll showing 2\% lead, well within the margin of error. Is Arizona in play?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Well, it looks like over the past couple of days both campaigns have kind of started to act like it is in play. Obama is now running an ad here, moveon.org is running an ad here, McCain is doing robot calls to people's homes. And there was even a little bit of talk about Obama coming to the state, although they confirmed today that that's not going to happen. The interesting thing is, on some of the internals on these polls, Obama has a huge lead in Pima County. One poll I saw he had a 20-point lead. And McCain's lead in Maricopa County, in the same poll, was only like 3 or 4\%. So it looks like Obama is getting his surge from southern Arizona, which frankly is what helped launch Janet Napolitano into the governor's office in 2002. So it's the conventional wisdom has always been that a Democrat needs to win big in Pima County to win the race. It looks like Obama's got some support down there.

Dan Nowicki:
>> Do you think Dr. Merrill's poll -- in the times I talked to him over the past few months he's said McCain's always done well with the conservative rural Democrats. I think that's the case.

Ted Simons:
>> Those who were supportive of both candidates, very supportive. It sounds like there's not a heck of a lot of undecided.



Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Merrill's poll found of the independents they were breaking 60\% for Obama, 40\% for McCain, which doesn't bode real well. And that's why those numbers are moving closer and closer together in this state.

Dan Nowicki:
>> Really it's not surprising if you look at the number and the way the demographics have been changing in Arizona. Had McCain not been in the race, not been the nominee, you'd probably see Arizona along with Colorado probably leaning blue now.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Imagine all the phone calls and all the mailers.

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Dan might remember this, but I recall early in the campaign the McCain campaign put a PowerPoint presentation on its Web site with Arizona labeled as a battleground state. And everybody then at that point started talking about what they meant by that.

Ted Simons:
>> Talk about the changing demographics of Arizona. Is this a watershed election for this state? Will this state now be more in play than it has in the past regarding close contests?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Yeah. I think what Dan is saying is right on. I mean, before McCain was the nominee, when it looked like he wasn't going to be the nominee, everyone was talking about Arizona being in play just like Nevada and Colorado. And the demographic changes that have made those places battle ground states are the same thing as happening here. I think, didn't the Democrats just hit 1 million registered voters in the state for the first time? I think there's only a 4\% advantage that Republicans have over Democrats.

Ted Simons:
>> Yeah. Okay. Let's say just entire speculation here that John McCain should lose this election. What happens to him politically? His political future? Mary Jo, does he run again for the senate? What do you think would happen?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> I don't have any insight into it. But he has another two years left on his senate term. It doesn't come up until 2010. At that point he'd be 74 years old. You know, one argument is that, gee, you know, you're 74. You know, go play some golf.

Ted Simons:
>> Right.

Ted Simons:
>> The other argument is this is what he's been about all his life is politics. How could you let that go.
Ted Simons:
>> Yeah.

Dan Nowicki:
>> And you know, he's not signaled one way or the other. And I assume McCain will take it to the last minute, you know, wringing his hands. He did this in 2004. Has my time passed? Do I need to go back? Can I still serve my country? That whole routine he does. But it's kind of interesting that 1980 when Barry Goldwater ran for his fifth term, I think he was 71. He was considered ancient. That was the big rap against Barry Goldwater in those days, he was passé', too old. McCain will be 74.

Ted Simons:
>> Something else that plays into this, who would the Democrats put up to run against him, and what do some of the other Republicans who are eyeing a senate run, how would they feel about McCain running yet again?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Well, I think obviously if he weren't to carry the state in this election it would change things a bit. I think, though, there's a number of Democrats who are waiting for an open seat. And so I'm not sure if some of the people who have been discussed would want to go up against him. The other thing, just to introduce a note of caution here, I mean, everyone is focused a lot on the polls. And it's become cliché' to say a poll is just a poll. But it does seem that this election is very different than what we've seen in the past with high turnout, not knowing what kinds of voters are going to vote. And so a lot of the projections in these swing states are based on a few polls. More people are polling than ever, they're not all very good at it. So that's something we need to --

Ted Simons:
>> Yeah.

Dan Nowicki:
>> and specifically to that point is, all these pollsters are weighting their samples different ways, trying to figure out what the turnout is going to be. Giving the democrats a turnout advantage which i think they're going to get. Today bill McInturf saying the Democrats will have an advantage but it will be smaller than some of the polls have it. They're thinking 3 or 4\%. Some of these polls show like 12\%, 15\%. Something to look for.

Ted Simons:
>> If Obama were to win, Governor Napolitano, does she become -- I mean, we had a blogger I think in the Atlantic monthly saying that basically she could pick what she wants to do. We have all the way from that to she's lucky if she gets the homeland security. Thoughts, any ideas?



Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Apparently there was a column number Politico today, doing a depth chart on cabinet positions, on this one she was number four for attorney general. Which is pretty low down the list. So it's all over the map. And again, the folks I've talked to, Republicans are convinced that if Obama wins that she's out of here. And why not? State's got a big budget deficit. How the heck are you going to close that? And why not go after the glories of Washington. A lot of Democrats are saying, we're not so sure. And there is an argument to keep this state blue and to retain what people view as the best chance for a Democrat to pick up a senate seat, which would be Janet Napolitano. Whether she runs against John McCain or she runs against some Republican yet to be determined.

Ted Simons:
>> Does her stock, though, in stories like Politico go up if Arizona winds up going Obama?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Probably. I don't know one person who's gone to law school who wouldn't jump at the chance to be attorney general of the United States. It seems like if the offer comes up it's a very enticing thing.

Dan Nowicki:
>> doesn't it seem like recently the speculation kind of shifted off Justice Department to Department of Homeland Security?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> I think that's the question. Will an offer come up? Will there be an offer made? That's one of those behind the scenes thing. It is a favorite parlor game after trying to figure out who will win the presidency, what will happen in this state because so many dominos tumble.

Ted Simons:
>> If John McCain wins the presidency you've got real fun and games going on there.
A lot of fun and games going on with congressional races here. Daniel, I know you've kind of been following these things. We've got, 1, 3, 5 and 8. You're down in Tucson mostly. Giffords beat. Has Giffords done anything to make you think she's done something wrong as far as her campaign's concerned?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> No. Just like she did in 2006 she's run a very well-oiled campaign. Tim Bee, who's challenging her, the senate president, has also run a good campaign. There were some concerns early on that he by staying in the legislature he had potentially bungled things. But it's been a real fierce campaign. The issue with this race and really all of these, though, is this continued national mood that's very anti-Republican. And people like Tim Bee are taking the brunt for some of the economic issues and so forth. And even some of these pollsters have said that despite early talk that John McCain would be a boon to Republicans down the ticket, even here in Arizona he might be a bit of a drag on some of these candidates. Just because of this whole anti-Republican mood.

Ted Simons:
>> Would he be as much of a drag on Republican candidates who are conservative? In other words, do the harder conservative you are, does that help you in a situation in which he might be a drag otherwise?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Well, not in a race like CD8. And some of these other once where you really need to be appealing to independents. But you do bring up a good point, because what allowed people like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords to get into office two years ago -- very low turnout among Republicans who didn't vote for Republicans. In a presidential election like this and presidential year like this you might see more of a consolidation among the parties than you did a couple years ago.

Ted Simons:
>> We see -- I know the Democrats had targeted CD1 especially. And I know Republicans had targeted Harry Mitchell in CD5 especially. Those targets working? Obviously Mitchell is the incumbent. Does it look like he's doing well? Again, has he made the kind of mistake an incumbent has to make to allow a challenger into this thing?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Yeah. I think that's the key thing in a year like this is have the challengers effectively made the argument of why these people shouldn't return? And I think it's tough to do in this climate. Because overwhelmingly people are -- but the issue in CD5, though, as well as John Shadegg as being challenged by Bob Lord, is Republicans do have a very large registration advantage. So the success of these Democrats is based on some crossover votes, but mostly what's probably a block of about 25, 30\% of voters who are independent in those districts. And they need to win big there.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> What's amazing this cycle is that here we are three days before the election and we're talking -- or four days, whatever it is, talking about John Shadegg being in sort of a tough race. Nobody saw that coming.

Ted Simons:
>> Yeah. I was going to ask. Of all the races, the congressional races, has it looked as though Shadegg among the Republicans in the hotly-contested race, is he about as safe as you can get? And that's not all that safe, is it?

Dan Nowicki:
>> Well, you know, the national Democrats have poured a lot of money into that race. I mean, Shadegg wound up being outspent I think in that race. So the Republicans I checked in with this afternoon trying to get a feel for the latest thinking on this. The Republicans who a few weeks ago were very worried, they seem much less worried about Shadegg at this point. They think he's going to pull it off. They think it may be close. In the fifth congressional district, nobody sees Schwiekert winning that one. The estimates of a double-digit win for Harry Mitchell. Some said it might be closer just because of the voter registration numbers kind of giving an advantage in that respect to Republicans. But nobody thinks Schwiekert will win in that race.

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Two years ago today, Arizona had six Republican members of congress and two Democrats. Now it's split. We may come out of this election, if things are good for Democrats, with five or six seats in congress for Democrats. That's a huge shift over just two years.

Ted Simons:
>> Real quickly last question on this. If Obama has -- say Obama is elected and these people all sweep in and Arizona gets the majority as Democrats, Obama has trouble. First few years not going that well. Does Arizona go right back red?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Well, I think it will kind of teeter totter. But the Democrats who are winning here are winning by running as moderate or sometimes conservative Democrats. And once Democrats, if they control the whole show, they are put in a situation where they're going to really be tested. And they are probably going to have to buck their party more than ever before.

Ted Simons:
>> Let's get to the state legislature. Mary Jo, we've got the house and senate and we've got a lot of races. What catches your eye? What's making the most fireworks out there?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Oh, money. Money. Today I crunched some numbers. And we've already reported there's been a lot of independent committees putting money primarily into Democratic races. I got up to about 1.2 million that's been spent or disclosed through today to help democratic legislative candidates. Republicans are coming in at maybe like a half million or so. They're very much outspent in terms of these independent committees. That has triggered about $4.22 million in matching funds from the state's public financing system. That also includes money for the very expensive corporation commission race. But a lot of this is going to the legislative races. This is the year that Democrats think they can make that push and they're going to try to prove to Arizona that the pickup that they made two years ago in the house, where they gained I think it was six seats, wasn't a fluke, wasn't a flash in the pan, and they think they can take the majority. And I'll tell you, looking at sum of the numbers, polling is hard to come by in these smaller scale races, but looking -- if money can get it for you, they've got a lot going for them.

Ted Simons:
>> If they take the house -- Is there going to be a speaker rumble? What happens there?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Well, the most interesting scenario is what if it locks up and it's 30-30. Then you have a coalition government. And we've seen that in the senate, back in I think 2002. So maybe that would be a template. But there'll be a rumble.

Ted Simons:
>> Yeah. And if the Republicans hold on, are we going to see some changes there? Is there going to be a fight for speaker there?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Possibly. It depends on which -- how many Republicans hold on, how many new Republicans come in. I think the advantage goes to Speaker Weiers, who's done a good job of trying to nail down his support. Representative Kirk Adams from Mesa is still trying to make his bid for speaker. But his is a very delicate balance. He's got to hope that some Republicans lose to help his cause.

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> And again, the same with like what we were talking about with the congressional races, Democrats are targeting heavily Republican districts. So if they win there and control the house, they don't necessarily have the mandate to do what you would imagine they would like to do. So you're going to have to have Democrats who are voting with Republicans if it's a Democratic-controlled house. So even if it's not a 30-30 split, I think you're going to have to see some coalitions.

Ted Simons:
>> So you could see changes in terms of the majority in the house, possibly. Longer shot with the senate. You could see -- you could see a new governor if something --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Yes.

Ted Simons:
>> I mean, the playing field is just wide open. So that's what makes it so fascinating. We've only got a couple of minutes left. We've got Sheriff Arpaio and the county attorney, Andrew Thomas. In one race doesn't seem all that close anymore. Seems like Arpaio has a pretty big lead, according to the Cronkite Eight Poll. Andrew Thomas with a 7 point lead but 20 some odd percent undecided. Is Thomas in trouble here?

Dan Nowicki:
>> I think he's in trouble. I think he probably still goes into the election with an advantage just on the voter registration. Seems like he certainly doesn't benefit from Arpaio's huge name recognition. You know, a lot of people don't know him as well. That's hampering him, I'm sure.



Ted Simons:
>> Everyone knew -- the Arpaio poll no one was undecided. Everyone seemed to know what was going on. Very quickly, propositions. What's going on here? Anything look like --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> Well, there's been this whole discontent movement where you hear a lot of people saying we're just going to vote no on everything. I don't think it will be that clean of a sweep. I think the marriage amendment, prop 102, could be interesting in terms of how that vote comes out. I also think it will be about a week or so before we see results on that one. The real estate transfer tax to prevent that from ever happening again, that's a pretty easy sell in a time like this where people are very worried about home values and they don't want to see any kind of new tax coming on them, even though there isn't one being proposed at the moment but there might be.

Ted Simons:
>> Big ballot, though, and some confusing propositions. I've heard that, too. I've heard people say I don't know what's up or down. I'm just going to vote no. Have you heard that?

Daniel Scarpinato:
>> Yeah. I think that's what you a lot of times see when people don't understand the stuff. You also have a lot of people who I've heard say, can't the legislature just deal with this? I'm going to vote no on this and let the legislature deal with it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> What's so amazing is that there are only eight propositions on the ballot. I mean, two years ago it was 19.

Ted Simons:
>> Right.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
>> People could sort of slow down and read the materials that are sent to them. Another interesting one will be the employer sanctions, prop 202, which would be a rewrite of the state law, could very much change the playing field. And that will be a real interesting one to see how that comes out.

Ted Simons:
>> All right. Well, very good. Some fantastic stuff. And it's just beginning. I mean, come next week we got all new stuff to talk about. So thanks again. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons:
>> Coming up Monday, if you are confused about voter initiatives on the ballot make sure to watch our one-hour special. You'll learn the basics about the propositions and hear from both sides of the measures. That's Monday at 7:00 on Horizon. Next week, Tuesday, a hour-long election night special at 10:00 p.m. Join me as we look at the latest numbers on the races and analyze the results with political consultants Chuck Coughlin and Sam Coppersmith. Wednesday, Governor Janet Napolitano joins us the day after the election to discuss the results and what they mean to Arizona. Thursday, a look at the election results and we'll update any races that are still undecided. And there could be a few. And then Friday we'll be back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. Next on NOW, Election 2008. Tough decisions for undecided voters in the swing states. That's next on NOW on PBS. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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