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GOP senator: 'I'm worried for our party'

CLEVELAND — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a prime time speaker at the Republican National Convention, brings political experience that stretches back to her childhood. Her late father, Arch, served as West Virginia's governor.

Her topic is the economy, and the Republican promise to protect "flyover" country like her coal mining state from Democratic policies she believes cost jobs. This will be far different from her first GOP convention speech, as a House candidate in 2000. That one lasted 45 seconds.

Tuesday night, she has 17 minutes to make her case to an audience of tens of millions. The Trump campaign vetted her speech, the senator says, but the only changes requested were cuts to prevent it from going too long. Capito sat down over meatballs and salad with me to discuss her speech and the 2016 campaign. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.

HARWOOD: The governor of Ohio is not attending the convention.

CAPITO: Quite frankly, I think this is a great day for Ohio that we're here, and I would have preferred obviously, as the governor of the state, to sort of suck it up and come on in and welcome so many people into his beautiful state. I didn't run for president against Donald Trump, either, so I don't have those tender feelings.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks with CNBC's John Harwood on July 18, 2016.
Mary Stevens | CNBC
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks with CNBC's John Harwood on July 18, 2016.

HARWOOD: A lot of your colleagues in the Senate are concerned about Donald Trump. Some of them are not here, some have not endorsed him. Tell me about your concern for your party this year and in the future, on the grounds that they cite.

CAPITO: Well, I'm worried for our party. Not so much because of Donald Trump, it's just that I think parties are changing. The independent party is the one, or the nonaffiliated, is what you see growing. So I think that's a challenge for Republicans to adjust to that, and I think we have some growing pains with that.

HARWOOD: You're not concerned as some members of your party are that by accepting him now, long-term damage to the Republican brand is being done?

CAPITO: I think that we had 17 candidates in a primary. I think the voters spoke in larger numbers than ever in the Republican primaries. Is Donald Trump the first choice of many of those voters? No. That's obvious.

HARWOOD: He wasn't your first choice.

CAPITO: No, I mean, you know, I didn't endorse until after the primary. I wanted to see what my state was going to do. He's very popular in West Virginia. But I think that, you know, we are a party, we should be bigger than this. This is a bigger concept, you know, sometimes you have to be gracious and say, "I didn't get everything I wanted, but for the greater good, and we have to believe that where we're going to take this country is for the greater good, "we'll support the candidate."

HARWOOD: One particular problem Donald Trump has had is with college-educated white women.

CAPITO: Well, I've had the opportunity to talk with Donald Trump about this. My very first time I ever met him face-to-face I came right out and said, "I'm concerned about where you are with women in general."

HARWOOD: In what way were you concerned about him with respect to women.

CAPITO: I just think the tone of some of the things that he's said about well, you know, the scuffle he got into with some members of the, women members of the press

HARWOOD: Megyn Kelly.

CAPITO: And things like that. That's so useless. He knows this, I've told him this, and he seemed to understand what I was saying, he listened very well.

HARWOOD: You've worked with Hillary Clinton. Do you personally consider her untrustworthy?

CAPITO: I definitely have questions about her trustworthiness, absolutely. the whole thing about the email scandal, the fact that she was so careless with our nation's secrets. What that signals to me is an untrustworthiness, but also a bit of an arrogance that, "I'm going to play by my rules and do it the way I wan to do it."

HARWOOD: You served with Mike Pence in the House. Tell me about Mike Pence.

CAPITO: We had our differences — and I can — you know, think of a couple. But — he led our conference, he helped us with communications.

Sen. Shelley Moore speaks with CNBC's John Harwood on July 18, 2016.
Mary Stevens | CNBC
Sen. Shelley Moore speaks with CNBC's John Harwood on July 18, 2016.

HARWOOD: What was your biggest difference with Mike Pence?

CAPITO: The one thing that I remember we had a big difference on was the prescription drug plan for seniors. But I always found him to be very approachable, very genuine, good communicator as I said. And very calm, very calm.

HARWOOD: Do you like that choice for the ticket?

CAPITO: Yeah, I think it's a good choice, I do.

HARWOOD: So you have got a 17 minute speech to give on national television before millions and millions of people. You nervous?

CAPITO: Yes. I'm nervous, of course. And, but, you know, the adrenaline will get flowing. But I've been practicing quite a bit.

HARWOOD: Good luck.

CAPITO: Thanks, John