Democratic strength in the Southwest has improved in recent years, but Arizona has proven to be a tough nut for the party to crack. President Obama lost Arizona twice, while former President George W. Bush won it twice. In fact, looking back over the last several decades, Arizonans have backed the Republican presidential ticket in 15 of the last 16 elections, making the Grand Canyon state one of the nation’s most consistent “red” states.
Arizona has a Republican governor, a Republican-led legislature, two Republican U.S. senators, and a Republican-led U.S. House delegation. And yet, according to a report from ABC News, Hillary Clinton’s campaign nevertheless sees an opportunity worthy of investment.
On Friday, the campaign will begin airing negative ads against Donald Trump in the Grand Canyon State, according to a senior campaign official…. The six-figure ad buy will begin with their previously released spot titled, “Role Model” – which an aide described as their “most effective ad of the summer.”The one-minute ad, currently airing in battleground states, shows young kids watching Donald Trump’s comments on women, guns and minorities. “Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?” text on the screen reads.
There have been rumors about Clinton’s team eyeing Arizona as a possible battleground, but so long as the campaign wasn’t on the air in the state, the chatter was easy to ignore.
If the ABC News report is accurate, however, the campaign’s interest has moved from rumor to investment. Team Clinton’s ad buy is bolstered by some recent polling showing Trump ahead in Arizona, but by modest margins.
Though a little surprising, none of this is coming out of the blue. The Washington Post reported in June on Democrats feeling increasingly optimistic about their chances in Arizona.
…Democratic and Republican strategists said private research shows the presidential race as a toss-up.Asked whether presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a path to victory here, GOP strategist Charles Coughlin conceded: “I believe it’s there if she wanted to do it. Everybody always says, ‘This is the election when Latinos turn out,’ and it’s never happened. But I can actually see that happening this time.”
As we discussed soon after, while Clinton has hired former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) campaign manager to oversee her operation in Arizona, Trump has no dedicated director in the state. When a Washington Post reporter visited Trump’s Arizona headquarters, there was little in the office to suggest an active campaign: “There was one worker eating lunch at his desk, a roomful of empty cubicles and, other than a small pile of plastic yard signs, no Trump paraphernalia, brochures or fliers.”
Given its history, Arizona still seems likely to remain a “red” state, at least for now, though the Clinton campaign’s interest will likely force Donald Trump and his allies to fight to keep Arizona in the Republican fold – which necessarily means fewer resources for other competitive states.
Note, for example, that Trump’s big immigration speech was delivered last night in Arizona, a state that a Republican nominee ordinarily wouldn’t have to worry about.
For all the talk about the GOP candidate trying to “expand the map” in 2016, this isn’t what Republicans had in mind.
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