While Arizona is leaning toward President Bush in the presidential campaign, Democrats are determined to put up a better fight than they did four years ago and reach out more to a fast-growing block of independent voters, the state's Democratic governor said Tuesday.
The last Democratic presidential nominee, Al Gore, "made a very early decision that Arizona was not going to be one of their states," Gov. Janet Napolitano (search) said in an interview with The Associated Press. At the party's convention in Los Angeles four years ago, Arizona delegates were "seated kind of up by the pigeons, behind a post, way off to the side."
She recalled that on election day, Gore's people asked her to help get voters to the polls. "I said, `Well, I have a four-door Honda."'
Bush won the state in 2000 with 51 percent of the vote to Gore's 45 percent. Napolitano, of course, would like to see John Kerry (search) and running mate John Edwards (search) reverse those numbers in her state this year.
The state's 10 electoral votes are now tilting toward Bush but Napolitano doesn't count Kerry and Edwards out.
"Democrats who have succeeded statewide are Democrats who have persuaded or have won the independent vote and have won it by a pretty good margin," she said. "So they have to be targeted and persuaded that the Kerry-Edwards team is a better team for them. The field operation will be there to bring them out to the polls."
Napolitano said Democrats will try to galvanize Hispanic voters in the state but declined to provide specifics on how they plan to attract independent voters.
Of Arizona's 2.2 million registered voters, 40.5 percent are Republicans, 35.5 percent are Democrats, and 23.3 percent are in the "other-party" category, commonly referred to as independents
By November, independents will grow to around 25 percent of registered voters, the governor predicted.
Asked if Democrats would try to make the Bush-Cheney campaign spend more time and resources in Arizona, Napolitano replied: "I think that's a plan B. I mean our plan A is to win it. I think it's winnable.
"At the very least, unlike in previous years, the Republican candidate is not going to be able to say Arizona's 10 electoral votes are going to be in my column, and I can spend my time in Ohio. I mean he is not going to be able to do that this time," she said.
A July poll by KAET-TV and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, showed Bush and Kerry locked in a tight race among Arizona voters. A poll two weeks earlier by the Behavior Research Center found Bush leading Kerry 48 percent to 36 percent.