While Wednesday's presidential debate airs nationwide, at least some of the pitch by the four contenders will be toward someone sitting front and center: Gov. Jan Brewer.

The governor has so far withheld her endorsement for who she believes should be her party's standard-bearer in the November race to oust incumbent President Barack Obama. Brewer said she wants to hear what the four remaining contenders have to say when they face off in Mesa.

Top issues for her are jobs and the economy, the border, states' rights and natural resources. And Brewer is expecting the two-hour event hosted by CNN to be far more educational than those that have come before.

Some of that is simply the fact that there are only four people to answer questions, as other would-be presidential candidates have fallen by the wayside. But the governor said she also believes the discussion will be far more focused.

"I think that the issues will be answered more concisely," Brewer said.

But that focus is a two-edged sword now that the remaining candidates have had a chance to hone their message.

"They're more experienced and they know what the people want them to talk about and the problems the people want them to solve," she said.

At this point, the governor is not tipping her hand on who might get her backing.

"I think all the candidates are notable on several different issues that make it more difficult for us as voters to determine exactly who we are going to support," Brewer said.

The fact that this is the last currently scheduled debate - and definitely the last one not only before next week's Arizona and Michigan primaries, but also before Super Tuesday the following week - is going to put pressure on the contenders to break away from the pack.

"Someone's got to jump out front and shine," she said. "I'm thinking that we might see that."

Brewer said she believes that her backing will make a difference in the outcome of the Arizona vote, especially with a recent survey showing Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a virtual dead heat among Arizona Republicans questioned.

"I think endorsements are important, more so probably on a national race than a local race," she said. "Locally, you're able to know your candidates."

Brewer said it may not make a difference among those who already have made up their minds.

"But if there's any doubt, I believe they will go with someone they respect (in casting a ballot)," the governor said. "They will support that person because of that endorsement."

That Public Policy Polling survey which found the virtual tie between Romney and Santorum concluded there can be some effect - though not always what the endorser intends. While a quarter of Republicans questioned said a Brewer endorsement would help sway them in favor of that candidate, another 21 percent said her backing would help convince them to vote for someone else.

Brewer said while she wants to make Obama a one-term president, her decision will go beyond the question of who likely has the best chance of beating the incumbent. She said debates about "electability" are often nonsense.

"That's what they said about Jimmy Carter," she said, who unseated Gerald Ford.

The chances of border and immigration issues coming up at a debate in a border state are good. But Brewer said these issues should not be seen as regional.

"People across America care about our borders being secure," she said. "It's not just the border states being affected."

While Wednesday's debate includes four contenders, the race for the moment has come down to just two: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. In fact, a recent survey showed the pair in a virtual dead heat among Arizona Republicans questioned.

Brewer acknowledged that Santorum has all but ignored Arizona and has no organized campaign in the state.

Still, the governor said she is not surprised that he is doing so well. She said it is no longer as necessary as it once was to have campaign workers on the ground to build a base of support.

"With the technology today, a lot of people are getting their news off the news stations and from the debates," Brewer said, and are making up their own minds without being bombarded with campaign materials and commercials "People have listened."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.