Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 5, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


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

View Transcript

Ted Simons
>>> Tonight on Horizon, we'll have reaction on the Republican National Convention held in Minnesota this week, the reaction on G.O.P. Presidential nominee, John McCain's speech and that of his running mate, Sarah Palin. And we'll also take a closer look at Arizona's primary next, on Horizon.

Ted Simons
>>> Hello and welcome to Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic, Matt Benson of the Arizona Republic and Mike Sunnucks of the Business Journal.

Ted Simons
>> It was the Republicans' turn to hold their convention this week. Dan Nowicki, you've just gotten back from St. Paul. Let's start with John McCain's speech because it's still freshest in your mind. Describe the atmosphere, if you will, in the hall for the presentation.

Dan Nowicki
>> This is one of the strangest conventions in probably recent history. The first day was washed out because of Hurricane Gustav. The first couple of days was very somber and almost a little depressing especially in contrast to the celebratory Democratic Convention before. What it did was Sarah Palin's speech, I think, it helped McCain. She energized the crowd. They were ready for McCain. His speech was a little disappointing for those who follow him around the country. It was a greatest hits of John McCain and a lot of famous stump lines, rolled up in the speech. They ate it up and acted like they were hearing it for the first time. Probably some were--they probably heard it for the first time. I'm not faulting the strategy there. He got a very warm reaction and they were ready to cheer McCain.

Ted Simons
>> Was the reaction as strong or surprisingly strong when McCain repeatedly mentioned how much Republicans had been in power and Americans had lost their trust of those in power?

Dan Nowicki
>> That was a little bit surprising. Usually at these conventions, you see the candidate throw out red meat to the delegates. In this case McCain was throwing out the opposite. He was talking about how he wants to appeal to Democrats and he'll put Democrats and Independents in his administration and he'll work with anybody to solve problems. This is not normally what a lot of hard-core partisans are used to hearing.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Isn't that the function of Palin because of the base of the party love her, the social conservatives and this allows him to go to people in the middle.

Dan Nowicki
>> I think that's part of it. Obviously the Republican brand is a mess this year. The delegates know it. A lot of guys were disappointed that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn't show up. They are not idiots and know it's a tough year for Republicans. I think they are giving McCain leeway.

Mike Sunnucks
>> It's down obviously. McCain is running on maverick brand. He and Palin are outsiders and I think it was a godsend they were not there.
Dan Nowicki
>> At the Democratic Convention literally speaker after speaker just a handful of talking points they were contractually trying to say that McCain was and they are trying to anchor to the Bush administration and they can't let that happen.

Ted Simons
>> Early on in McCain's speech he was gracious in acknowledging his opponent, Barack Obama. Take a look.

John McCain
>> We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator. No country, no country had a greater cause than that. I would not be an American if I didn't honor Senator Obama and their supporters for his achievement. Let there be no doubt, my friends, we're going to win this election.

Ted Simons
>> Did it seem, Dan, as if they wanted anti-Obama rhetoric? If some of the folks after Palin's speech were looking for more of that same?

Dan Nowicki
>> I don't think so. They were happy with McCain's speech. Obviously Sarah Palin was the attack dog, the attack pit bull with lipstick, as she put it. They understood what McCain's trying to do. They understand coming across as a strong supporter of Bush will not work this year.

Ted Simons
>> You mentioned outsider status and being a maverick was played during the speech. During the speech here is John McCain commenting on his outsider status.

John McCain
>> My greatest accomplishment, I've been called a maverick. Someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it's meant as a compliment and sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you. [ cheers and applause ]

Ted Simons
>> And again, he is speaking in front of the faithful here. He's preaching in front of the choir and he's kind of telling the choir you haven't done all that good. Here I am to save you. This is kind of strange.

Dan Nowicki
>> Right, very unusual and a consequence of this unusual year at least as far as Republicans go. McCain has two things going for him. He has the compelling Vietnam War record and his maverick image. That's what he has to emphasize and pretty much what he did last night.

Ted Simons
>> For those watching at home, during McCain's speech we saw pictures in the background, the images. I know at times even one of the clips we saw, the colors would change dramatically. I know in the hall it probably played pretty well. You guys watched at home and maybe elsewhere but obviously away from the convention. A little off putting, a little strange.



Matt Benson
>> I thought it was off putting reminded me of the green screen background and when he was talking on the backdrop. Yesterday was similar and not as bad and started with dark green and fade today blue. It was odd to watch it on T.V. In the hall it looked fine. We're talking about 20,000 people in the hall. The people who matter are the 40 million watching a home. Time will tell if that played any impact.

Mike Sunnucks
>> It was distracting. He had more viewers than Obama. All the circumstance and coordination with Obama at the temple and fireworks. He didn't expect McCain who is not as good a speaker as Obama to attract more. He got 500,000 more. I think it was Palin who caused them to tune in. He was spirited. He talked about the Vietnam War experience and talked about how it changed him from being a self-centered pilot, hot-shot pilot. I think it changed him and made him humble and most effective part of speech.

Ted Simons
>> On the floor in the hall did it feel like the people who left the convention were willing to walk through a wall for John McCain?

Dan Nowicki
>> Yeah. I think so. It gave the impression. the speech went over really well for the delegates and maybe more than journalists expected. They were excited about it. It was a long speech for McCain. It's not a great oratory. Anyone judging Obama and McCain, Obama will runaway. For McCain standards he exceeded lower expectations. There's speech on his past performances.

Ted Simons
>> Gets to the apparent star, Sarah Palin. What was mood in there before she spoke?

Dan Nowicki
>> I think there was a lot of anxiety. People didn't know what to expect. The whole 24 hours prior to her speech, she was getting beat up in the media. A lot of delegates didn't know what was going to come next. They didn't know if everything that was going to come out was going to come out. There was a lot questions about the vetting. I think Tuesday when the Palins announced that their daughter was pregnant, their 17-year-old daughter, the delegates I was talking to were not outrage how could this happen. But oh, brother, what's next? What have we gotten ourselves into? When she came out and was beaming, I think the way she carried herself was part--she was not intimidated and came out smiling and gave a power-house performance.

Ted Simons
>> I want to look at part of speech and you mentioned the media going to the family and these sorts of things. Palin at the convention did refer to the media.

Sarah Palin
>> Here's a little news flash for those reporters and commentators. I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country. [ cheers and applause ]

Ted Simons
>> Did you see anything more in the way of excitement among women at the convention?
Dan Nowicki
>> In that particular line?

Ted Simons
>> Throughout because of Sarah Palin's speech.

Dan Nowicki
>> I think so. A lot of women especially women in their 40s and late 30s, the reaction I got--totally antidotal she seemed to work with the women of that generation. She's conservative and has an opinion biographical to the women.

Mike Sunnucks
>> She appealed to the hockey mom and soft Republicans and Independents and moderates. The people that will decide this election in Ohio, West Virginia and Florida. They can relate to her. They can't relate to most of the politicians out there. They are career politicians. Wealthy and ivy leaguers and she is real. She's everybody. Everybody knows what her family went through. As long as she can prove herself confident and smart.

Matt Benson
>> Everybody knows her and doesn't know her. The question going forward is how much of the details come out. At this point her popularity couldn't be higher. The polling came out and she's the most popular figure among the four of them. A lot is because people don't know her. They project on to her things they like. We'll see where that goes from here.

Dan Nowicki
>> She is pretty popular in Alaska and certainly they know her.

Mike Sunnucks
>> She has appeal and a lot of politicians don't have. Hockey moms and social suburbanites like her. A lot of women relate to her because of her story.

Ted Simons
>> You mentioned people relating to her and knows someone like her and they can relate. Is that what America is looking for right now in terms or leadership as opposed to the ivy leaguer, the person that might be smarter than you is the person like you?

Mike Sunnucks
>> The Congress is the single digit. You have the guys that have been there for 25 years whether it's McCain or Biden or John Kerry. Why can't she do it? If she's smart and capable why can't she do it?

Ted Simons
>> President Bush did speak at the convention but not in person which is first time in quite awhile that a President hasn't done that and talked about John McCain in national defense. Check it out.

President George Bush
>> We live in a dangerous world. And we need a president who understands the lessons of September 11th, 2001. That to protect America we must stay on the offense, stop Attacks before they happen and wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain. [ cheers and applause ]



Ted Simons
>> Again, Dan, on the floor President Bush. There's the image. There's the speech. Reactions?

Dan Nowicki
>> He went over well, too. You have to remember on the floor he had the, you know, 20\% who supports President Bush though. Most of them were on the front row there in St. Paul. They went over--I talked to a lot of delegates who were disappointed that he didn't speak that he wound up not showing up on Monday.

Ted Simons
>> Bottom line we wrap it up with 20\% that support the president and enthusiastic to see him speak at least by satellite. By the end of the convention those in the arena enthusiastic about to change what Bush did?

Dan Nowicki
>> I think so. Is McCain too close to Bush. Certainly on a lot of issues, foreign policy, McCain is close to Bush. I don't know how he can distance himself from Bush other than to say he would have been more competent.

Mike Sunnucks
>> What went down in the end it helps McCain and Dick Cheney is overseas. The narrative of the convention of Palin and McCain. We didn't see George at all. Like Matt said, the folks that will decide this, the swing voters, will not see McCain tied to Bush. The Obama campaign's main charge is to tie him to Bush.

Matt Benson
>> The dynamics have not changed. The numbers are virtually tied. The question remains--if the democrats can make this--McCain is the third bush term and tie him to make it four more years of more of the same, they will probably win in November. If McCain is successful in saying Sarah Palin and I are in change and reforming mavericks, he will probably win.

Mike Sunnucks
>> The economy is bad and the view is on that. Palin makes it about culture and Republicans that's why George won against Kerry and Gore. They are out of touch and here's Sarah Palin a hockey mom who relates on a cultural level.

Dan Nowicki
>> It's where the country is in and what mood they are. One side can do something right and if the country is in the mood, it could work out for them.

Ted Simons
>> We had primary elections. Was illegal immigration kind of why we saw a conservative turn?

Matt Benson
>> Certainly on the state legislature level. We saw Russell Pearce mop it up in the state senate. We saw Karl Seal beat Tony Buoy and Pete Hershburger. That will be surprising.

Ted Simons
>> Any surprises?




Mike Sunnucks
>> When the mediators turnout and probably happened to some of the guys. They sided with her on key votes. The conservatives win in November. Most cases they do in these types of seats, it will tough for her.

Ted Simons
>> John and Senator Robert Blendo didn't accomplish what they wanted there.

Mike Sunnucks
>> When you see the turnout there's not that many people that turnout. They get squeezed out. And they are counting the votes there. The big race of Russell Pearce where a lot of Republicans did not like the tone of immigration went after him. I think the base of the party especially in the east valley is with him.

Ted Simons
>> If nothing else the conservatives are very much in charge with the Republican party?

Matt Benson
>> There is a no question. Especially in the East Valley no question. Like Al in southern Arizona will be more vulnerable. They get their guy in the primary and he loses in the general.

Ted Simons
>> What does that say about the general election? The folks that made it in the primary. It seemed like they were for Republican primaries than Democratic primaries. What happens in November?

Matt Benson
>> It depends on who you ask. Democrats think they can pick up one or two chambers in the house or senate. The Republicans say no chance. The Democrats picked up a number of seats in 2006. The Republicans expect to gain some back and reclaim them. We'll see about in 60 days.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Most are not that competitive. I think after the convention, it looks like the Republicans are Energized and ready to turnout. They may turnout in better numbers if they are energized by the top of the ticket. You will not see the money for the presidential race. They are going after Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. They will not be pouring that much case.

Ted Simons
>> The congressional races and David Shiker over Susan Bittersmith any surprise?

Matt Benson
>> No. It was between those two. They were clearly neck and neck in most of the way. The congressional races it was basically all the front runners carried the day. On the G.O.P. side David Skhiwiker and Cindy Hay won by a slight margin. Susan Kirkpatrick won by a big number by 13 points. You have to go at it saying she came at it with more momentum and perhaps the Democrats are bloodied.

Mike Sunnucks
>> I think they have a tight go. Harry is popular obviously in Tempe. He hasn't done anything to annoy the voters. Why do you throw him out? Democrats are not on the Ramsey seat. They are social conservatives. There are a lot of social Dems.
Ted Simons
>> What do we make of the mayoral race in Scottsdale? First of all, is it close to being decided yet?

Mike Sunnucks
>> I think it's a Bush-Gore deal with the rulings and have a runoff. It surprised people a bit. There's not a ton of support and people are lukewarm towards her. She's a pleasant person and Scottsdale's done okay under her tenure. It was a little bit of a shock.

Dan Nowicki
>> It is somewhat of a dysfunctional council there in Scottsdale? It was surprising. You can kind of see it.

Mike Sunnucks
>> A lot of turnover in the city government at high levels. A lot of folks are left there and they haven't hired someone back.

Matt Benson
>> You can't underestimate the primary and fifth congressional district. This was where the city of Scottsdale coordinated it with the primary and main election last week. You had 45,000 Republicans coming out to vote in the Fifth C.D. Race. Guess what, many were coming out to vote for Jim.

Ted Simons
>> He says don't count the undervotes. She says you have to count them people who turned in a ballot without voting on the mayoral race. How will this turnout? If you count the undervotes, it sounds like a runoff, does it not?

Matt Benson
>> That's the issue. In Scottsdale you have to have 50\% plus one otherwise you go to a runoff. The question is what do you do with the all the votes of people who voted in the congressional races and others but didn't vote in the municipal election and didn't vote for mayor. They say they shouldn't count and Manrof says they counted in the past. Count them now.

Ted Simons
>> I know, Matt, regarding the Governor the bloom may be off the rose in some respects. Some political observers are saying she's not quite the power house she was a year ago.

Matt Benson
>> For the first six years she rolled. She got what she wanted. She cowed the legislature and pretty much led the Republicans around by the nose and really led to the resurgence of the democratic brand in the this state. By comparison and last year or so is a string of the difficulties with the economy and state budget being a billion in the hole and lost some of the key staff folks. The ballot measure's not going to be on there. The transportation and reform that's a significant blow to the governor.

Ted Simons
>> Is it simply you have two years left and everyone knows that? Is there something else at work here?

Mike Sunnucks
>> It's second term. You see fatigue and turnover. I think they bundled the time initiative thing. They messed around with the legislature and tried to get something through when they had no intention of putting a tax increase on the ballot. They waited until the last second to get the petition signatures. The petition signatures are flawed. When you we're in the bubble you don't see the forest for the trees. I think they dropped the ball here.

Ted Simons
>> What does this say, a, the Governor leaving for Obama administration should he win; and, b, her chances should she decide to do for open senate?

Mike Sunnucks
>> I think she goes and it makes sense. The budget will not get better and she's been in for six or seven years. The media doesn't may as much attention as you first went in.

Matt Benson
>> Don't underestimate November if the Democrats pick up one of the two chambers, that will make her exit easier. She can sake okay, Dems have a veto and check on Republican power.

Ted Simons
>> Thank you. Next week, Horizon will be pre-empted for pledge week. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the journalists' roundtable. Coming up, can the Republican party reinvent itself? Now's David Brancaccio provides insight from their convention. Next on Now. That wraps it up for this week. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. Have a great weekend.

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