One of the speakers headlining the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night is the two-term governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, who has helped Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama by laying out his economic policies to Western voters.
And, although Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain will presumably be the winner in their home state, Napolitano says he is not there yet.
"For him to be at 40 [percent] in his own state and 30 percent undecided is indicative that people are really wondering if he should be the next president of the United States," she says.
Her assignment at the convention is to speak about Obama's plans for the economy. While his speeches have primarily revolved around change and hope, voters are not always sure what Obama means to change, or how he expects to bring about that change.
Napolitano says Obama has very specific plans. "Obama's been very specific about a tax cut for the middle class — part of that in the form of a rebate for universal health care coverage by the end of the first term," she says. "His economic policies are going to be aimed at the broad middle: the people who have been the most squeezed by the last seven years."
Obama's program includes two things that will be especially important in Arizona, including immigration reform and incentives for small businesses to develop programs for alternative energy.
Obama On Immigration Reform
Napolitano says that in order to get the nomination, McCain backed away from his own immigration reform policies, which were not selling in Republican primaries.
"He knows in his heart of hearts that you simply can't build a wall and call that an immigration policy," she says. "That doesn't work. That backing away has been noted, and particularly noted in the Latino community in Arizona."
"That will be noted at the polls," she says.
Selling Himself Out West
Napolitano is one of five Democratic governors in the eight Mountain States — a big change from over a decade ago, when those states reliably tilted Republican. It's a change that Democrats want to continue to see.
Napolitano says the Western states are young and filled with young families who feel that the economy is not working for them. When they hear about Obama's middle-class tax cuts, they're interested, and they like the idea of help with health care.
But Napolitano says that Obama needs to keep it simple and act like himself to woo Westerners.
"What he ought to do is lay out there what he wants to do — why he wants to be president, what he wants to do to lead the country — and let Western voters decide," she says.
Many of those Western voters, Napolitano says, are independent, and party affiliations are not particularly important to them.