1. In Arizona today, what do you regard as the main differences between Republicans and Democrats?
MCCAFFREY: Arizona Republicans are getting the job done. We're working to protect the border which the governor failed to do, protect Arizona veterans which the governor failed to do, and protect our children which the governor failed to do. Next, we'll try to keep the Democrats in the legislature from raising taxes to pay for the crisis the governor's budget proposal would lead the state into.
2. Democrats are doing a bit better than Republicans in registration lately in Arizona, but both parties continue to lose voter registration share to Independents. Why do you think your party is not getting as many registered voters?
MCCAFFREY: Through the first six months of this year, GOP registration fell 2% and Democrat registration fell 2.9% while Independents gained 9.8%. In September, Republicans out-registered Democrats in Maricopa County and we believe that trend will continue and expand. While Democrats with their 11-percent approval rating in Congress don’t appear to have learned their lesson from past mistakes, Republicans have returned to their core principles of smaller government, lower taxes, stronger families, safer communities, better education for our children, and a secure border. Independents and, I hope, conservative Democrats, will again find a welcome home back in Arizona’s Grand Old Party.
3. Why do you think Independents largely vote Democrat in 2006 and appear to be strongly leaning that way in 2008?
MCCAFFREY: First, independents moved to leftward in 2006 not as a shift toward the Democrats in Arizona, but as a protest vote and a wake-up call for Republicans to hold true to Republican values, predominantly on fiscal issues like taxes and spending. Independents and conservative Democrats rejecting their own party are now responsible for the Democrat Congress having recently earned its 11-percent approval rating (the lowest in history). The challenge now for Republicans is to earn back those swing voters once more – like we did between 1994 and 2004.
4. Why do you think Democrats did so well in Arizona in last year's election, particularly in picking up two Congressional seats with the election of Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords? What are GOP strategies to retake them?
MCCAFFREY: First, I wasn't in Arizona and started at the state party on March 1, but it appeared to be something of a perfect storm: Democrats masquerading as Republicans, unhappy Independents, and a Republican Party that needed to find its way again. But three important factors to remember: this wasn’t a vote *for* the Democrats, these remain heavily GOP districts, and the freshmen Democrats now have a long, difficult record to explain and defend.
Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords have voted with Nancy Pelosi 89% and 92% of the time, respectively. For record-breaking budgets, against securing the borders, for secret union ballots, for the largest tax increases in history – for the liberal Democrat agenda they neglected to campaign on.
5. Republican Rep. Rick Renzi's decision to not seek re-election in the sprawling 1st Congressional District has thrown that race wide open. How do you win this seat, which has been held by Republicans despite a voter registration that favors Democrats?
MCCAFFREY: The first district is a classic swing district with a Republican edge because of several factors. The voters have been served well by Republicans in the US House and US Senate and the same reasons to vote Republican yesterday apply to voting for a qualified Republican candidate tomorrow.
6. Are GOP scandals threatening the core of Republican supporters? And is the Iraq war weighing heavily on GOP candidates this year?
MCCAFFREY: Scandals certainly had an impact in 2006, but we've always been good about learning from our mistakes. Democrats may promote their own congressmen who are caught by the FBI with $90,000 in corrupt money hidden in their freezer (Harry Mitchell voted for him), but we don't. We take these matters far more seriously, and voters recognize that.
Today, Arizona Republicans take extra care in our candidate recruitment and we teach extensive campaign finance and ethics at our campaign schools. Going the extra distance to prevent others' past mistakes is an important step to cleaning up government.
As for Iraq, the tide is turning very clearly in our favor. The President has just announced that our force in Iraq will be reduced by an entire brigade before the January. Even the left-leaning Washington Post is writing articles about how Al Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgents have been dealt “perhaps irreversible blows in recent months”. All this is detrimental to the Democrats and MoveOn.Org’s “America Can’t Win” election strategy.
The fact is, America can win and we will. That might not be how Nancy Pelosi or CNN wants to brand the war on terror, but that doesn't stop it from being the truth.
7. Immigration sharply divides the Republican Party. Until that issue is settled, how do you create a unified party going into an election? And are you afraid of losing the Hispanic vote, given the perceived racially charged rhetoric coming from the ultra-conservative right?
MCCAFFREY: First, 80% of Arizonans support border security. It’s hardly a divisive issue. The American people want to be secure. It’s the primary responsibility of government, and government isn’t doing its job. It’s about competence.
The Democrat Party loves trying to make this a racial issue. The critical distinction to make is a vast majority of Hispanic Arizonans are concerned about the guns, drugs and gang violence permeating the schools their children attend, too. The problem for the Democrat Party being morally-bankrupt and scaring people toward liberalism is that at the end of the day, Democrats still haven’t helped anyone.
8. Some social conservatives are saying they cannot vote for a pro-choice candidate such as Rudy Giuliani. If pro-life Republicans won't vote for a pro-choice nominee, why should pro-choice Republicans vote for a pro-life nominee?
MCCAFFREY: When it’s all said and done, I think you'll look back at this election cycle and see there were very few single issue voters.
9. I keep hearing about Arizona being a key state. In fact, all of the Southwest could play a major role in deciding who's elected president. For instance, if a Democrat wins the Southwest, he or she wouldn't need Florida or Ohio. What's your take on the Southwest?
MCCAFFREY: I think Southwest voters are no-nonsense voters who tolerate less of the politics and look for candidates with real solutions. Silliness like Democrats suggesting their congressional staff need to be vaccinated before going to NASCAR events or the Superbowl here in Arizona next year doesn't sit to well with bright, free-thinking voters in the Southwest. Results matter here.
10. Is having George Bush a plus or minus for GOP candidates? Most seem to be disassociating themselves from the president.
MCCAFFREY: Would you prefer a Democrat in the White House right now? Can you imagine the budget Hillary Clinton would be signing into law as your readers read this (assuming they could still afford their newspapers – and assuming you could still afford to print)? Seriously, though, 2008 is an open seat and I think you've seen candidates from both parties eager to talk about the need for change. What's will be interesting is if voters who are expecting more this election cycle buy into Senator Clinton's "I'm a DC-insider, I get it, I've got the DC experience" campaign.
11. Is there even such a thing as a Goldwater Republican anymore? His name is often evoked, but his principles less so.
MCCAFFREY: There is indeed a Goldwater Republican, and I would ask all those who read this to do two things: head to a bookstore or the library and take a look at Senator Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative. The first time I read it, I was shocked at how the conservative message hadn't really changed. Goldwater gave rise to a conservative movement which elected President Reagan, who set the stage for the 1994 Republican Revolution. Together, they put forth the notion that we can bring fundamental change to government. Real change, however, usually takes time – and that's not easy to accept in this age of 24-hour news cycles.
12. Which politicians or public policy experts do you admire? Why?
MCCAFFREY: I grew up with Ronald Reagan who said "What I'd really like to do is go down in history as the man who made Americans believe in themselves again." I grew up in politics with the Republican Revolution of 1994, and admired former Speaker Gingrich and those with him who tried very hard to change the way Washington did business: John Kasich, Dick Armey, John Boehner.
As Gingrich put it: "I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it." For me, it's not about amending the tax code; it's about scrapping the code and starting fresh with something fair for everyone. It's about proving that no matter how big our nation is, government can indeed be reined in to again work for the people.
And, of course, as Victor Hugo said: "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." That idea is change, and I think many of the answers are being brought forth from our reinvigorated Republican Party.