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Arizona governor campaigns in New Mexico for Obama

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By Melanie Dabovich -- Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano was in New Mexico campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, bringing his message of change to the state where she grew up.

Speaking to about 125 Obama supporters at a performing arts studio Jan. 22, Napolitano said Obama has impressed her by respecting, listening to and engaging Americans in issues such as the economy, education, immigration and the war in Iraq.

''He has the unique ability to walk into a room and get people to think beyond themselves and about the greater good,'' she said.

Napolitano, who endorsed Obama earlier in January, said she will go wherever his campaign asks her to travel to take his message around the country.

Napolitano's New Mexico appearances came to weeks before the state's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential caucus. She stopped in Santa Fe before moving on to Albuquerque, where she had specific instructions on the talks she said campaign volunteers should have with voters.

''Talk about how he reaches out to everyone and how is the voice of change and embodiment of change,'' she said. ''Now it's up to us, voter to voter, neighbor to neighbor.''

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The Arizona governor, who grew up in Albuquerque, said Obama's campaign considers New Mexico a key state in the most rapidly growing region of the nation.

The campaign has begun running ads in New Mexico - on health care - and has opened offices in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.

''He's working hard to earn the nomination of New Mexicans,'' Napolitano said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''He wants New Mexico in his column.''

She said she's had ''very substantive'' conversations with the U.S. senator from Illinois over issues that affect the West and Southwest, including what a president can do to maintain government-to-government talks with American Indian tribes and the West's changing demographics.

''He's someone who can reach out to our area of the country,'' Napolitano said.

''We're talking about having a president who will work with families, who will make life better for families, who will talk about education ... who will talk about the affordability and accessibility of higher education that's so necessary for families to climb up the economic range,'' she said.

Napolitano, 50, was elected governor of Arizona in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. She previously was the U.S. attorney for Arizona during most of the Clinton administration and then served a four-year term as the state's attorney general.