Debate could focus on immigration to famous finger-wagging incident - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Debate could focus on immigration to famous finger-wagging incident

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Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:41 pm | Updated: 8:23 pm, Wed Feb 22, 2012.

Of course, a presidential candidate debate in Arizona will trigger questions about immigration and the border.

But what about Gov. Jan Brewer wagging her finger at President Barack Obama or the explosive allegations levied against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu?

"Oh, yeah," said Bruce Merrill, a pollster and senior research fellow at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy. "The media loves that kind of stuff, so you can absolutely be assured that you will see that."

In advance of Wednesday's Republican presidential primary debate at the Mesa Arts Center, several political observers offered questions they anticipate or would like candidates to address.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is looking for a clear vision of how each candidate would lead the nation. His top issue is rebuilding infrastructure to invest in the economy.

"We've fallen so far behind on that. There's a lot of people screaming, ‘You can't do that and balance the budget,'" Smith said. "Well, what's your plan?"

For some Republicans, immigration was top of mind.

State Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, held a media event Tuesday to call for border security questions in the debate. He's already generated national news coverage by establishing a fund for U.S. residents to donate funds for a border fence. Other debates haven't focused on the issue enough, he said.

"The talk has certainly slowed down and it's a shame because anybody looking to be president, their number one duty is to protect the United States," Smith said.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey had another take.

"What are they going to do to help fix the challenges of our neighbor, Mexico, to get to the root cause of all this illegal immigration?" Morrissey said. "I honestly believe that that's the answer to this problem, to help stabilize that government."

Richard Herrera, an associate professor of politics at ASU, said he wants candidates to tell voters more detail about their economic plan, and how they envision a safety net working until things turn around.

"What exactly would you do to create jobs?" Herrera said. "And it's not enough to say, ‘Once I'm elected, there's going to be an outpouring of corporations that say we have a Republican, so let's start hiring.'"

Herrera expects CNN moderator John King will likely ask Romney uncomfortable questions about Babeu, who was co-chair of Romney's Arizona campaign. Babeu resigned last week amid allegations from an ex-lover.

"I wouldn't be terribly surprised if King uses the finger-wagging and Babeu as ways to ask questions. Whether it puts Arizona in a bad light, I don't think so. I think Arizona benefits more than it suffers by having a national debate here, by far."

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