Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 1, 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:
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Ted Simons:
It's Friday, February 1st, 2008. In the headlines this week, Senator John McCain moves closer to the republican presidential nomination after winning the Florida primary and picking up a couple of key endorsements. Democrats focused on Arizona this week. Senator Barack Obama has a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, while former President Bill Clinton appeared at Gammage Auditorium last night on behalf of his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton. And also in the news this week, Scottsdale had to toss out nearly 600 photo radar tickets because of faulty equipment. That's all next on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Good evening, I'm Ted Simons, and this is the "Journalists Roundtable." joining me to talk about these and other stories are Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," Paul Giblin of the "East Valley Tribune," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal." just days to go before the Super Tuesday presidential primary, there are big developments this week in the race for the White House. Let's start with Senator John McCain, who officially became the front-runner this week. It was really his first big win where republicans only voted.

Mike Sunnucks:
The other states that you won, independents could come in. That's kind of his core, moderates and independents. It was a big tough fight between McCain and Romney in Florida. Last-minute endorsements by Charlie Cris, the governor down there, McCain is ahead in all the big states going up to Super Tuesday. He looks like he's on the path. One thing that's happening here with Romney is the democratic race is sucking the oxygen out of the attention to the presidential race, so the Republican side is not getting a lot of attention. You've got a lot of folks lined up with McCain after this win. Giuliani dropped out and endorsed him, Rick Perry in Texas, newspaper endorsements are coming his way. We wrote him off before, and he seems to have bounced back. Republicans are looking at tea leaves. They're so down, its such a democratic year, they're trying to pick out who could actually win this. McCain is their pick, much like democrats picked Kerry in 2004. Of course that didn't turn out very well for him.

Howard Fischer:
Except for the big problem of how many republicans stay home. There are a lot of republicans who don't trust him. They remember his sponsor of the quote, unquote, amnesty measure. He aligned with Democrats to keep bills from being blocked in the U.S. Senate. And so it's all very fine to say this. Now, obviously, the issue, coming back to your point, is can he get crossover votes, can he pick up independents. One out of every four registered voters in this state that becomes the real issue.

Paul Giblin:
I think the analysis here is flawed. The reason why, if you look at the early states, they were all -- had populations that are this or that or something else. Florida is more of a melting pot state. You get a lot of different cultures there. It's more representative of America as a whole. McCain represents Republicans as a whole. I think these other candidates, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, these are your specialty fringe candidates who did well in particular states.

Mike Sunnucks:
There's no conservative candidate in this. Romney and Huckabee are splitting it for various reasons. Huckabee is not strong on foreign policy. Some people are deferring to McCain because he's the known quantity, the safe bet.

Howard Fischer:
You're talking about the primary, and I agree with you. I'm talking about assuming that McCain is the nominee, assuming he's in November. That's my point about Republicans staying home. They think he's the guy who can win.

Mike Sunnucks:
You've got folks like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter who will not support McCain. So there's no coalescing around a conservative anti-McCain candidate.

Paul Giblin:
That type of personality that you mentioned shanghaied the entire republican party for a number of years, and they represented that fringe of the Republican party. I think the majority of the party are people that have real lives who don't spend their time talking to people about politics. They're looking at McCain, someone more approachable by the vast majority, and they're going for it.

Mike Sunnucks:
The chance is you'll have conservatives stay home because they don't like McCain, don't trust him. You have people in the middle going for the democrats because McCain is such a hawk.

Howard Fischer:
Obama -- and we'll talk about his visit to the valley a little later -- including a lot of Republicans, that comes down to the question of, a, can any republican win in November; and b, more specific to McCain, if the war goes badly between now and then, after all of the stuff about the surge is working, we've got another 3,000 dead between now and November, the surge ain't working.

Ted Simons:
The thing is, can he get out of the republican party. With Arnold Schwarzenegger in California offering his endorsement, does that help him among republicans in California? Paul, you're saying yes, but I wonder. A lot of conservative Republicans are not happy with what Arnold's doing over there in California.

Paul Giblin:
I think conservatives are finding themselves suddenly on the outside, and the majority is taking the party back, trying to align behind McCain.

Howard Fischer:
What's the alternative? As was pointed out, you have two quote, unquote, conservatives splitting the vote. Lord knows, the guy's been all over the place. Mike Huckabee is certainly a religious conservative, but is not a social conservative, so you don't really have an alternative. Everyone else has dropped out. That's part of the issue of the early primaries. Normally we'd be going into May or June with a cast of characters to choose from. We're down to Ron Paul.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think Romney's got to go super negative super fast, and he's got to hit him on the personality, on the temper, that he's bucked the party on big issues, the tax cuts, answer, the judges.

Ted Simons:
The economy was number one, the issue for those voting in Florida is the issue of the economy. Romney has placed himself as the guy who knows how to fix a bad economy. McCain says that's not his strong suit.

Mike Sunnucks:
He was very successful over the weekend before the primary, switching the debate to the war. I think a lot of people think he accused him of trying to get out of there, and he's strong on the war on foreign policy. Romney had some momentum coming out of Michigan.

Howard Fischer:
And the other part is, nobody believes Romney. When he goes there and says, I'm going to bring the auto industry back, everyone was sort of laughing in their sleeves.

Mike Sunnucks:
He won there because the guy's the home state. His dad was the governor.

Howard Fischer:
But the issue is, Romney's -- it's like being a Kennedy in Massachusetts. It's like being a Udall in Arizona. It suggests, I'm going to bring the auto industry back, it makes no sense.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's partly because of his religion, a lot of them do not like the L.D.S. church. He's not getting the kind of populist vote that Bush got. They're going to Huckabee.

Paul Giblin:
Romney's biggest enemy is himself. He's just kind of robot candidate, not genuine, not real, and not getting my vote.

Howard Fischer:
Are we talking about Hillary here?

Ted Simons:
Not yet! If and when Huckabee drops out, who does it help most?

Mike Sunnucks:
Oh, Romney.

Ted Simons:
You think so?

Mike Sunmucks:
Those are conservatives, he is more in line with the conservative win against McCain. It becomes the anti-McCain vote.

Paul Giblin:
Yeah, I agree. He's going to help a dying cause.

Ted Simons:
Let's go to Barack Obama, who visited the valley this week along with President Clinton. Howie, you were there. Give us a visceral reaction to the man in a big room.

Howard Fischer:
I've covered a lot of them. This guy knows how to work a crowd. He had the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, took the temperature of the room, and knew all the grace notes. He knew how to get to them, he knew how to get them to address the issues of who his people are. What he said is the argument is we need to stew him and simmer him a little longer. We need to boil all the hope out of him so he sounds just like us.

Mike Sunnucks:
What specifically did he say? Did He talked about hope and change and hope and change? What did he talk about?

Howard Fischer:
He talked about immigration, sending kids to college without pay. He said if you work in America you should have a living wage, health care and everything else. Which is why this campaign is turned into the question of new versus experience. Both sides talk about change. Hillary's line is, if you're ready for change, I'm ready to serve. Barack's line is, we can't afford to send the same old morons back to Washington who screwed it up for the last two, three decades.

Paul Giblin:
I was surprised with how similar their messages are. They deliver it differently like you alluded to but what they're talking about is a lot the same.

Mike Sunnucks:
What they're talking about is a lot of spending and tax increases, because it's a laundry list of things they're going to promise you. They're promising sending your kids to school, job training, and tax increases probably on the wealthy.

Howard Fischer:
Are you wealthy?

Mike Sunnucks:
I don't think I qualify for wealthy.

Paul Giblin:
That's how they're going to pay for it, they will raise certain people's taxes.
A lot of these programs obviously cost a lot of money. And then the last time the budget was balanced was under a democrat. Thank you, they don't exactly have what it takes to make it happen.

Howard Fischer:
They both have figured out the war is less and less popular. Each tries to outdo each other. When she was here at Cesar Chavez high school, she said, I will take on the troop withdrawal as soon as I take office. Barack Obama says he will start the withdrawal as soon as he takes office.

Ted Simons:
It's difficult to get your arms around policy in terms of Barack Obama. To that end, back to the last week, can you compare and contrast?

Howard Fischer:
Hillary Clinton is very measured and seasoned, and to a lot of people very plastic, it was your standard speech, all the right notes. But there were people literally leaving the high school while she was still speaking. Nothing new there, nothing special. Nobody walked out on Barack. I'm not saying that she's a bad person, the whole issue of, was the tear natural and everything else, she's perceived as being sort of robot candidate, whereas Barack isn't.

Mike Sunnucks:
We know what we'll get with the Clintons. They're caretaker, very moderate. They'll find the middle of a lot of issues.

Howie Fischer:
It's called triangulation.

Mike Sunnucks:
With Obama we're not sure how far left he could possibly lean. I'm anxious to see how it'll come out.

Paul Giblin:
Well, it's good timing for him right now because it's so crappy, the economy is so bad, so many people hate the president, it's a good time for someone like Barack Obama to come on the scene and say, I'm going to do something different.

Mike Sunnucks:
Because there's a void there, and a lot of liberals enjoy the fact that they're able to vote for an African-American.

Howard Fischer:
I wanna go a step farther on this. When Barack first announced, I think he thought he'd get his name out there and then sometime down the road. It shows how disaffected the democrats are with everyone else, with Edwards, with Gore who danced with their wives and are so unhappy about the party and where it's been going that they will grasp it. He made two references to John Kennedy that night. The party is hungry for Camelot.

Mike Sunnucks:
Hillary is still ahead in most of the big February 5th states, she'll probably win here, she's up in the polls here. It's going to be hard for him to close the gap.

Paul Giblin:
I'm not sure. I would have agreed with you about two weeks ago. Now she's only six points ahead.

Ted Simons:
Let's take it here. We'll do Obama first and then mix on the statistic. How does that affect state and congressional races here and in Arizona, with Obama on the ticket and conversely with a McCain on the ticket?

Paul Giblin:
You can go to those Obama events and you see that he brings in people who don't usually go to those events. Not only do they come into Obama's parties, they come in happy, charged up, thinking they're going to have an effect.

Ted Simons:
Even against a McCain who might bring out a smaller Republican ticket.

Howard Fischer:
Let's assume John McCain is the nominee. Does the Democratic national party kiss off Arizona? Then they don't bring in the money to help out Gabby Giffords and Harry Mitchell. The kinda stuff you would need. If the state's in play that's the kinda thing you need.

Paul Giblin:
If the state's in play that become a whole lot of influx. The numbers, the dems are gaining on the republicans at a swift pace. And the independents vote like democrats.

Mike Sunnucks:
If McCain is on the ticket they write off Arizona. There are so many other states that they can try to obtain numbers.

Ted Simons:
Do they do if Obama is also on the ticket, because of his galvanizing nature.

Howard Fischer:
We're still back to the fact we only have ten electoral votes. You go look at California, look at New York, Illinois, the Carolinas, and they've stopped here, but only the democrats stopped. There are so many other states where a democrat can take on McCain, in the Midwest and the south and southwestern states.

Paul Giblin:
Look what's happened already. Hillary has been here, Bill has been here.

Mike Sunnucks:
They're here for the primary. Because we're an easy stopover to California and there's a competitive democratic primary. This is not a home state senator who's very popular.

Mike Sunnucks:
They have much better chances of winning in Nevada and New Mexico than here.

Howard Fischer:
That shows what realism is going on in the democratic party.

Paul Giblin:
Do they think there's still four states left? They like the media market here, they think they can get the media that's going to play in those other smaller states.

Howard Fischer:
But the reverse is true. Colorado has a single media market, in terms of Denver. You take Albuqueque, except for an old market. Here you leave aside the stations of Flagstaff, and that makes it a harder state to play.

Mike Sunnucks:
He might be able to compete a little bit in California with kind of the moderate around him. You think you could see them go to California a little more than you've seen in the past.

Ted Simons:
You saw President Clinton at Gammage last night?

Paul Giblin:
I did see him last night at Gammage. He was teetering on boring. He did the same jokes that Hillary did last week. The same anecdote about raise your hand if you know someone who doesn't have interests. The same speech, but Hillary did it in 37 minutes, but bill took an hour and more to do it. I hate to say it, the guy was boring.

Mike Sunnucks:
Some of the stuff he said about Obama in South Carolina, I think people are just tired of that. People are sick of the politics as usual. Obama does a very good job of tapping into that.

Ted Simons:
Governor Stafford leaves, who is Tim Nelson, why is he leaving, and what does it say about maybe Andrew Thomas is vulnerable?

Howard Fischer:
Maybe the four of us around the table care about Tim Nelson leaving. He's a very nice guy, was helpful to the governor in crafting issues. Obviously the democrats figure this is the year to challenge Andrew, because from the fact that unlike Sheriff Joe, he hasn't figured out how to make himself bulletproof or likeable. He hasn't even figured out the things that Joe does. He's crazy but, by George, I like what he says. Now, Tim is also pretty rigid, too. But the fact that he can say, look, here's the time we've wasted, here's the stuff we've done, the money we've spent investigating New Times and Mike Lacy, can't we do better. Will this help him in Maricopa County? I don't know. We're talking about the election. Can Obama help Tim Nelson? Does anybody care?

Mike Sunnucks:
Thomas has all kind of baggage. The public is with him generally on immigration, nobody knows who he is, and I think you'll see the Republicans search for places they'll vote republicans.

Paul Giblin:
I'm seeing vulnerable there.

Mike Sunnucks:
Nelson has the persona and people are going for focus on getting him out.

Howard Fischer:
Sorry, Tim.

Ted Simons:
Let's keep it moving here. Dan Sabin announces that he's going to retire or step down as the Buckeye Police Chief and, once again, take on Joe Arpaio. He's got that personal story that Joe kind of brought up to the news about saving his adopted mother. He has his detractors, the people get up, they love him. He's making news for DUI taskforce being out there.

Mike Sunnucks:
And Joe knows how to do it. All people in the media make a big stink, but the folks out there who vote, vote with Joe. Or at least one out of 20.

Ted Simons:
Another pressing story at the legislature regarding legislation. We talked about this a little yesterday how baked sales, baked items, they're not safe to leave the home?

Howard Fischer:
The measurement helped the health department, somebody was reading some resignations. Items offered for sale because they have to do these things. The only way you can sell those cookies is if you haven't baked in a commercial kitchen. What happened is there's two bills in the legislature, one in the senate, one in the house, unless it's something like raw eggs or cheesecake, you don't worry about that.

Mike Sunnucks:
I'm sure some of the conflict of interest and Obama advisors want to regulate every food in the marketplace.

Howard Fischer:
Where do you come up with this stuff?

Ted Simons:
9/11 memorial. It sounds like the plan now, the idea is to get all the pejoratives away and we have a time line now.

Howard Fischer:
There's 54 sayings, one of which is completely erroneous, about the bombing of a village in Afghanistan. One is talking about Osama, who -- just everyone. You still have sayings that at the time you don't win wars of terrorism, with more terrorism. The lawmaker Cavanaugh from Fountain Hills, obviously he left a lasting impression. Let's take down the 54 phrases and replace them with a time line of what happened that day. That takes the controversy away.

Mike Sunnucks:
Only our government and legislature could mess up a 9-11 memorial.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it on that. Thank you, gentlemen, so much. More than 20 states will be holding primaries and caucuses. We'll look at the most recent polling with Cronkite/Eight poll director Bruce Merrill. Tuesday we will give you an analysis of Super Tuesday and a one-hour Super Tuesday special on Wednesday -- I think I got that right -- it's an update on what high schools are doing to teach technical knowledge. Thursday, a discussion about African-American issues at the state legislature. And Friday it's another edition of the "Journalists Roundtable."

Ted Simons:
Coming up, are politicians listening to middle class families on the edge of economic collapse? That's next on "Now" on PBS. I'm Ted Simons, I think, have a great weekend.

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